Where do we go from here?

Ecuador - Damien's House 2

It’s over already? It’s hard to believe our time in Ecuador has come and gone in what seemed like no time at all. It has been quite the adjustment being home for 4 days already. An adjustment to the body, but more importantly an adjustment to the way we all think. Im sure we all had perceptions of how we saw Ecuador before our trip, but I guarantee you, we were more surprised then anything.

It’s amazing to think this whole experience began with one conversation that led to an application, then acceptance. Acceptance led to our first meeting where we met all of the strangers that were going to become what we now all know as friends. Then we had our first class and things began to seem a little more real in the sense that we were actually going to Ecuador. Then as a group we were vaccinated, then involved in an international seminar that highlighted the do’s and don’ts during our time in Ecuador, as well as some of the differences we may experience.

Ecuador - Damien's House 3

Perl – 300 is a study abroad opportunity that follows a academic curriculum. That being said without the countless hours of fundraising, it may not have been possible. We began our fundraising with two bar nights, one of which was at Hudson downtown, while the other, was at the Ranch Roadhouse. These two events were successful in helping us raise money for our trip and also gave our Perl – 300 group the opportunity to get to know one another outside of a class setting. Next we had cookie dough sale that saw our group sell a total of 170 cookie dough tubs. Another of the fundraising, an arguably the largest was the Dinner and silent auction. A lot of time and effort went into making this night a success. From top to bottom we all lent a helping hand, which was great to see, and was truly a prequel to how well we would work as a group in Ecuador. On one of the final days before we left, some of our classmates were apart of a dirt sale that saw us move roughly two trucks loads of organic dirt compost. This was a valuable day as it proved to be practice for the time we spent digging and creating concrete at the Orphanage in Olon.

And just like that, we were off. While in Ecuador we spent the majority of our time at three agencies; Damien’s House (House for those with Leprosy), Corinion (Day care for malnourished children), and Hogar de Cristo (a School). I spent most of my time at Damien’s House and Hogar de Cristo, and I have to say spending time at these agencies has changed my life.

I really didn’t have any expectations going into the trip for Damien’s House; however, maybe 5 minutes into our first visit, I was nearly in tears. The residents of Damien’s House are elder people who have been diagnosed with Leprosy that has been treated. A lot of these residents have been abandoned or shunned by their families because of it. Despite all of these what would seem like negatives situations, theses residents were some of the happiest people I have ever met. On one of the days I spent nearly an hour playing catch with one of the residents who for every second of our time together had a smile on and was laughing. At first, I had no idea why Damien’s had such an effect on me, but being home for a few days, its quite simple. The residents of Damien’s in realistic terms have little, but are beyond rich in their spiritual health. They have found happiness in what seem like sad times. This was a valuable for me, because it opens your eyes to life in Canada. We often take things for granted or wine and complain about things that really don’t matter.

Ecuador - Damien's House

I often ask myself, now what? The trip has come, the trip has gone, but how am I going to make a difference in the lives of the people I know the same way I was affected during my time at Damian’s?

Although I may not have the answer at this moment, I intend to find it. My goal is to help people appreciate life the way the residents of Damien’s do. I want them to realize what they have and to understand that one day it could all be taken from them.

I hope that one day I can go back and see all the smiling faces of Damien’s house, but until then, I have some work to do!