Student visit to Equador creates memories of a lifetime

We Day is coming to Ottawa on April 9. We Day is part of a family of organizations, including Free The Children and Me to We. Intended for tweens and teenagers, We Day celebrates youth activism with music, celebrities and social activists, performances, and motivational speeches. It is about youth empowerment, and invites young people to take action on local and global issues. You can’t buy a ticket to We Day – you earn it through service. For more information go to weday.com.

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Christina, an eleven-year-old girl from Shuid, Ecuador, poses for a photo with Natasha Harris-Harb in the schoolyard. Natasha is a grade twelve student at Notre Dame.

I have always had this passion to travel and help people, and this past summer I had a chance to feed it. I went to Ecuador with 19 amazing teenagers from across North America with a charitable organization called Me to We.

We went to Shuid, an indigenous community located in the southern part of the Chimborazo province, at an altitude of 12,136 feet. Seventy-five percent of all community members in Shuid live on less than $2 a day. There, we helped to build the first middle school in the community. We dug a foundation, filled it with rocks and cement, built the structure, and painted shingles for the roof.

It is important to know that we weren’t the only ones building the school. The community of Shuid had a minga. A minga is a traditional gathering where community members of both genders and all ages work together to get a job done that will benefit the whole community.

The first day we arrived in Shuid there was a minga of two. However, each day more community members came to help with the school. We would be greeted with their warm smiles and hellos. Whether it was the man with one arm digging a trench or the women carrying stones with children on their backs, I could not help but feel inspired. These people cared so much about the children of their community getting an education. In fact, the children of Shuid faced tremendous obstacles to go to school. Some had to walk hours each way to get to school.  Seeing the children’s love of school made me appreciate my education. Girls in particular face their share of obstacles. While we were there, our group talked to a woman who became the first female president of her community. She told us the importance of teaching skills to local women so they can make an income.

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The children of Shuid learning to use a digital camera.

Aside from the building we also had the opportunity to engage with the local community. We held a children’s summer camp, teaching them how to use a digital camera, which many had never seen before. Their joy, laughter and smiles were contagious. I met an eleven-year-old girl named Christina, who stole my heart. She had nothing, yet was so happy and generous. Students like Maria, who was the very definition of a rascal, and Metise and Francisco, who were the smartest little boys. They all taught me so much.

I went to Ecuador expecting to change the lives of the people there, however they are the ones who changed my life. I experienced a different culture, met the most beautiful people, opened my eyes to the poverty outside of our city and had the most fun in my life. Learning about the world, outside of our borders, and the suffering of others, truly was inspiring.

Shuid, you stole my heart.

 

 

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