Sitting there, looking out the window, I was in awe at the beauty that the world had to offer. I was used to the dull brown desert of Las Vegas, where you’d be lucky to find a single patch of green in your entire neighborhood, yet before me a sea of clouds stretched out in all directions, dotted with spots of vibrant green where the lush, forested hills peaked above the clouds. It was beauty beyond anything I had ever seen.
You might be imagining that I was on a plane, flying over some sort of tropical rain forest, but I wasn’t. I was on a very bumpy bus ride in the mountains of Ecuador, going from Guayaquil to Cuenca. Cuenca is a city in the Andes mountains of Southern Ecuador, known for it’s safe environment, beautiful scenery, and historical sights. Despite the many amazing things to do and see in Cuenca, that was not the reason I was going there. I, and all of the other people on the bus, were going to Cuenca to help build housing for an orphanage.
After four hours of riding the bus, we finally arrived in Cuenca. It was Saturday night, and we were all ready to pass out from countless hours of exhausting travel and even more exhausting airport security checks. Despite the fatigue we were all feeling, our excitement in anticipation of things to come was not dampened in the slightest.
The next two weeks were indescribably amazing. OSSO, the orphanage at which we were working, mainly houses special needs kids, so it requires a lot of volunteers and resources in order to properly care for the children. OSSO needed more housing in order to better meet the needs of the orphans, yet funds for hiring workers and buying materials were nearly nonexistent. The goal of our group was to go and help finish as much of the construction as we could in two weeks. So that’s what we did. Each day, we went to the orphanage and laid “ladrillos”, made “mezcla”, and did whatever else the Ecuadorian workers asked of us.
Along with building, each of us had the wonderful opportunity to go and help out with the children at the orphanage for a couple of hours each week. Each night, after we had finished work, we got to visit various sites in the city such as the Pumapungo museum, the Cuenca city center, and the breathtaking nearby mountain village of Giron. Despite the excitement of these experiences, what we really looked forward to each day was playing with the kids. Although many of them were severely disabled, the smiles the spread across their faces when we took them on walks or played soccer, along with the hugs and kisses they offered us each time we greeted them, showed us how just amazing and sweet these kids truly were.
After the two weeks were up, I returned home with a new perspective on the world and the beauty that it holds. Before this trip, I had never been out of the United States, and pictures of scenery really do not do justice. But not only did I come to see the beauty of nature, but I came to understand the beauty of people, and the happiness that comes from serving them. In Cuenca I met so many wonderful children in the orphanage, whom despite the hard circumstances that they live under, they still find reasons to be happy and spread love to all of the people they meet, and that is more beautiful than any view I have ever seen.