In addition to taking classes in Ecuador I am also participating in a service learning internship. Two times a week I go to an area outside of Quito called Zambiza and volunteer at the Gaurdaria (daycare center) for the children of the families working in the local garbage transfer station pulling out recycled material. There so much I could say about my experience and all of the lessons that I have learned, but in this post I decided to type up and share a part of a journal entry from a particularly impactful morning working in the Gaurdaria. This experience certainly made me think about the many different ways of life that exist in this world and to appreciate all that I have been blessed with in my life.
Today, I saw things that have changed my world view and my perspective on life as a whole and the society we live in. A visit to the house of two of the children that I help care for at Zambiza on a weekly basis led me to ask questions and reflect on the structures in place in our society. When we found out that the mom had been in the hospital all week with one of her six children and the other kids had been home alone all week, it was decided that we would make a visit to the house and insist that the younger ones come to the day care center and the older three stay at the homework center at least until the situation was resolved. When we walked into the house, after passing the man begging on the street corner, we found that the thirteen year old daughter had been taking care of the four younger children in nothing more than a single poorly lit room that was covered in fifth for the past week. The house was packed with five children, two cats, dogs, and the kids talked about the puppies that were living under one of the beds. I watched as the two older kids were told to gather their things to take them to the family center run by Extreme Response. With brave faces, but tear drops spilling out of their eyes they said they did not want to go. Why not? Even if your home is dirty, cold, and nearly uninhabitable it is still your home.
I looked down at the youngest boy’s bare feet, the dirty floor, the cluttered room, and the thin string that kept the door closed. I looked into all of the children’s eyes. In the older ones I saw a hardened look of determination to simply keep living as they had long ago accepted the fact that this was the reality of their life. In the younger ones I still saw life, joy, and innocence as they danced around the room and waited for their turn for me to pick them up or show me their favorite toy. Somewhere in the years between the three younger ones and the older children that innocence was lost, snatched away, never to be found again. The harsh reality of life and fighting to live just one more day set in. The poverty that grips this family and all of the families that work at Zambiza is real and seemingly inescapable. Before leaving today, I gave all of the kids at the daycare center hugs and kisses goodbye, holding on extra tight to the two little ones I had spent my day with, as my morning had revealed to me the harsh reality of their life. But then, it hit me, that in all reality, I must accept the fact that each pair of innocent eyes staring back up at me likely faces similar situations of hunger, abuse, violence, and addiction in the home
As I left Zambiza today and came home and showered off the dirt on me that I had just from spending an hour inside the home, I realized that I could wash away the physical dirt, but I couldn’t wash away or change anything that I had seen. What will I do with my experience and what I now know is a reality in the world I live in? How do I go back to living in a world that is the same, but completely different from the children that I take care of twice a week at Zambiza? If there are answers I don’t have them. But I do know that as much as part of me my want to forget the experience that I had, and pretend that that could not possibly be someone’s reality, I know that I won’t. And I shouldn’t. Just because I am fortunate enough to have a roof over my head, a loving family, and the possibility that my hopes and dreams for the future can come true, it is important to remember those that are not so fortunate so that maybe, one day I can help make a difference.
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<p>I am a junior Environmental Science Major with a Peace and Justice Concentration and Spanish minor at Villanova University. I love backpacking, traveling and new adventures. I am so excited to be spending the semester in Quito, Ecuador and I hope that these posts will help you experience the culture and beauty of life in South America through my eyes.</p>