Today was an inspiration and a blessing in many ways. We woke up early to eat some breakfast at the bakery downstairs from our dormitories where we met a man from our area. This man is a year-long volunteer who lives in Hoboken and works at Goldman Sachs; he welcomed us while serving us our breakfast.
Today we toured the campuses of the working boys center. On the way to El Marin (the campus where we do not reside) I sat and talked to an elderly woman on the bus. The conversation contained a myriad of topics including soccer, thieves, and life. The most inspiring section of this conversation focused on the latter. Here is a woman who I just met and she opened up completely to me revealing that she suffers from Osteoporosis and feels like she is going to die because Ecuador does not provide good medical services. She is a native of Chile and she wants to pass to rest in her home country but she cannot afford to return there. Immediately after, she had to get off the bus and she parted by telling me to be careful and for God to Bless me. I felt at once sad and moved by her poignant tale; this, to me, was a revelation from God. However bad I think life can be at home, this story proved to me that what is difficult for me, these people would gladly accept it for their situations are much more dire than mine.
We arrived to tour the first campus in Marin and we came across a variety of rooms. I was surprised by the magnitude of the center. We first went through the autobody shop where the kids learn their trades. After touring through the building, which included daycare, a doctor's office, chapel, and normal classrooms, we met a group of children playing outside. Although most of us drew from a limited Spanish vocabulary, we were able to have a great time. We played soccer and the kids were incredibly happy and excited to play with us. Not only did the children have a great time,but also we were able to see the great hope that the children possess despite their circumstances. Along with having a fun time, our lives were put into a larger context seeing the joy on the kids' faces. It made me realize what we take for granted and the truly important things in life.
Then we took the bus back to our home center. We had not visited the center prior to today. We arrived at lunchtime and were quickly swarmed by children eager to converse with us. Some of us had a more difficult time than others communicating with the kids. My Spanish is very limited so I found myself rapping 50 cent and freestyling over the beatboxing of my friend Juan to have a good time. Edwin and Alex are fluent and were gracious in helping us translate. Some of us received nicknames such as "El perro grande" (Kyle Robinson), "El aplicado" (Alex Diaz) and "Chocolate blanco" (Kevin Cunningham). One child was so infatuated with Kyle that he offered to shine his shoes even during his lunchtime. After we finished eating we headed to the soccer field. We made teams and some of us found ourselves overmatched by the native Ecuadorians particularly the eight year old sensation "Ronaldinho" who scored three goals. This was another example of standing in solidarity with others despite the language barrier. We were able to play a very fun game even though most of us could not communicate well. After the game Diaz and I found ourselves swarmed by "ninas" thinking Diaz was the famous Domincan singer Romeo from the group "Aventura" and that I was High School Musical star Zac Efron.
After, we finished touring the center which included another auto shop and a woodshop. Our tour guides Marissa and Teresa were extremely generous and very informative. Although many people did not understand what they were saying, Edwin and I contributed by translating the tours to the rest of the group. We then returned home and participated in various activities such as playing basketball and soccer.
Today showed us that there are more important things in life than material possessions. The giving of joy was mutual between the children and ourselves. Not only did we instill hapiness and love in the children and bring smiles to their faces, but they did the same and moreso for us. We left the center with a profound sense of accomplishment and and a renewal of faith and strength which leads to our overwhelming desire to return to help the children and the people of Ecuador tomorrow.
- Alex Diaz '10 and James Kuklinski '10