Day 12: Damien’s House
Ecuador has been amazing and I’m so sad there is only two more days left of this adventure. Going to Ecuador is so exciting but volunteering, learning about the culture and making relationships with new individuals, has really taken this trip and transformed not only myself as a person but the whole team.
I did most of my volunteering at a residence for individuals with Hansen’s disease (Leprosy) and it by far impacted me the most out of this whole trip. Hansen’s disease is not contagious it is infectious and once a person has gotten treatment the disease is no longer a threat to others. Going into my volunteer placement I was pretty nervous I had never really worked with the elderly at all before this trip, I visited my grandparents and that was all. Plus knowing that some of the residents may not have all their limbs or have prostheses was going to be something very unfamiliar. Oh and not to mention the language barrier! On the first day at Damien’s I quickly realized that all my preconceived notions about the residence was clearly wrong and that the place was the most loving, caring and amazing place I think I have ever been. My anxiousness about how I may react around residents with amputated limbed quickly dissolved and it was as if they were just able as any of the other residents or even myself, sometimes they just had to maneuver in their own way.
One of my favorite residents was a lady named Esther; she has got to be the spunkiest sixty year old I have ever met. Every morning I would walk into the women’s quarters and I would just hear this boisterous cackle coming from Esther that just made you want to laugh. One day she was teaching me to make braided bracelets and I was just not catching on and she told me via the translator “Eryn this is just not your God given talent” followed by another of her laughs … thanks Esther for the words of encouragement. I had an amazing experience talking with this woman; she speaks no English and I speak really poor Spanish so our conversations were usually through a translator but one day the translator couldn’t make it so we just talked normally. Okay, so here is the thing even though I had no real idea the exact words she was saying we understood each other. I can’t really explain it but it was a crazy experience that I hope I will never forget. From this it showed me that it doesn’t matter what language you speak, your culture or what you believe in but as humans we can connect with each other no matter what. Sometimes it’s a struggle but other times its just seems natural.
Starting at Damien’s I was not sure what to expect for the residents physical health for our exercise class Shellie and I were leading. Once I was there I was super surprised cause many of the residents beat my expectations, making me have to think on my feet and come up with multiple variations for each patron. The exercise classes are the best I loved watching all their faces light up cause it was something they did not always get to do. I loved doing exercises with them so I think there may be a future career in that field, I’m not sure but it’s something I want to look into.
On the last day all the residents gave Shellie and I gifts as a thank you for working with them it was so touching I’m so fortunate that I got to know all these individuals. I really hope I can come back at some point and see everyone there again.
Even though so many of these residents have been through so much pain they always amaze me how happy and joyful they are. Damien’s house is the epitome of joy. I am so glad I was able to help out at Damien’s I feel that I have 40 new grandmas and grandpas. I’m going to miss them a lot!!