During spring break of my sophomore year, I traveled to Ecuador with five other students from my school. We lived with families outside of Quito for three weeks while we attended school, worked on our Spanish skills, visited popular sites in and around Quito, and just experienced a different life. I was able to taste new foods, be in both the Southern and Northern Hemispheres at the same time, barter with natives in a popular marketplace, relax in a volcanic spa, improve my Spanish, and visit the beautiful Ecuadorian coast. Those were three weeks that I will never forget; I was able to experience a completely different culture and place through the eyes of those who live there, not just as a tourist.
However, one part of the trip affected me the most. We traveled to two different elementary schools in the mountains near Quito. These schools and their students were very poor. The children rarely made it past eighth grade; by then they had to go and support their families by working in the fields. After teaching the children about our country, singing a common American song, and hearing their presentations and songs, we distributed school supplies purchased with money we had raised from our school and community. The packages weren’t much, just a little pencil case containing some basic elementary school supplies. However, the looks of wonder and gratitude on the children’s faces will never leave me. While I had always heard the saying that it’s the little acts of kindness that affect people the most, it wasn’t until that moment that I realized that I could make a difference in someone’s life.
Starting with that moment of realization in Ecuador, I hope to continue volunteering whenever I can and help those who in need. After returning, I was able to volunteer at a local hospital and participate in the Northeast Peace Jam conference, which helps raise awareness about things like the situations in Darfur and Burma, extreme poverty, and global warming. Even though my actions didn’t change the world, they still made a difference in someone’s life. I learned in Ecuador that sometimes that is more important. After this amazing trip I can now truly understand the popular quote, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”
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