In this journal entry, two-time volunteer Betsy Creedon covers the ABCs of volunteering in Ecuador – everything from altitude to llamas to learning phrases in Spanish. Read on to learn about what fun it is to volunteer with children in Ecuador, and bond together as a team. Betsy concludes it’s so much fun, there are zero reasons not to come back and do it again.
By Betsy Creedon
Our first day of service took us to Center Two in Calderón where we were greeted by 80 beautiful, smiling children; women from FUNDAC; and the center’s amazing staff. After a full day with the children, learning my way around a two-year-old’s classroom, unable to converse with them, I feel I need to get back to basics. So, here are the ABCs of Day One at Center Dos (Two) in Calderón.
A – is for ALTITUDE. We’re in the highest country capital in the world, and don’t we know it. The team seems to be coping, but I was in bed at 7:30 last night – not my usual bedtime.
B – is for BEVERLY – my dearest friend, travel companion, and the reason I am on this trip. She saw Maggie’s video of the children who were graduating and basically said, ‘’How can we not go?” She was right, and I am grateful.
This is the video that made Beverly decide she just had to volunteer in Ecuador:
C – is for CENTERS UNO Y DOS – helping the disadvantaged children of Calderón meet their full potential. It is a place of laughter, love, guidance, learning, and peace – well, at nap time. It is a place of color, good food, and outdoor play. It is a safe place to be a child.
D – is for DANIEL and his family – the Hoefers. I’m saving the H for something else. Daniel, Amy, Owen, and Davis are a formidable crew. The boys put me to shame with their Spanish. Daniel is the only man in the crowd – his father-in-law, Mike, did not make week one. Amy, among many things, is a fabulous mother whose grace and strength are perfectly balanced. She also has a beautiful smile.
“It is a place of laughter, love, guidance, learning, and peace – well, at nap time. It is a place of color, good food, and outdoor play. It is a safe place to be a child.”– Betsy Creedon
E – is for ECUADOR – the only country in the world named after a geographical feature – the equator. A beautiful nation of biodiversity wonders. And, to our great surprise, in the same time zone as Detroit.
No Jet Lag needed.
F – is for FUNDAC – Fundación de Damas Calderonenses (Foundation of Ladies of Calderón) and Global Volunteer’s community partner. What can you say about a group of women who had the vision and the moxie over 25 years ago to create a safe, nurturing space for children who needed it most? Elvita, Yolita, and Evita – thank you for welcoming us into your world in such a warm and gracious manner. And thank you for your wisdom and foresight.
G – is for GUSTA as in me gusta (I like) Global Volunteers. Where can you go to meet new friends, not understand what half of them are saying, eat like kings, work so hard bed time is 8:00, get dirty, try to avoid the water even in Jell-O, have a birthday cake your first day on the job, give hugs and air kisses, pay for it, and get a tax deduction? ¡ME GUSTA GLOBAL VOLUNTEERS!
H – is for “H” which is never pronounced in Spanish – unless you see a “J” in a word which, of course, you pronounce like an “H” or when “G” is followed by an “I” or “E”, which you also then pronounce like an “H”. “H” is a very sneaky letter.
“Where can you go to meet new friends, not understand what half of them are saying, eat like kings, work so hard bed time is 8:00, get dirty, try to avoid the water even in Jell-O, have a birthday cake your first day on the job, give hugs and air kisses, pay for it, and get a tax deduction? ¡ME GUSTA GLOBAL VOLUNTEERS!”– Betsy Creedon
I – is for INCAN – the culture that literally built the foundations of Quito. Quito was the second capital of the Incan Empire. It was burned to the ground to avoid Spanish conquest.
J – is for JACQUI AND PAM who bring their expertise and love of children to our team. How did we get so lucky? It’s also for JOSH who is off to New Zealand for a service summer, working on our building project, and corrupting young minds with video games.
K – is for KICHWA (QUICHUA) also spelled with “QU”. It is the second official language of Ecuador
L – is for LAUREN who is embarking on an important career journey with Global Volunteers. She is aligned with the mission and eager to learn.
M – is for, who else, MAGGIE, our fearless leader. We’ve been at this for three days with nary a hitch – although they are promised and fearfully anticipated. We have the skinny on Quito, water with and without parasites, good fruit and bad fruit, good equator and bad equator. She got her four goals quite painlessly. It is important to get all the boxes checked on Maggie’s list.
N – is for the NIÑOS (children) of Calderón. There has never been a more beautiful collection of little angels in the world. They are to be cherished, protected, and loved. We all signed up for this job and it’s the best.
O – is for HOLA – Hello! Of course, the “H” is silent and the “O” is long.
“O” is also for ORANGE which you must see on the license plate of a cab before you step in. Orange means legal! Thanks, Maggie.
P – is for PICHINCHA, also known as Rucu Pichincha because it is an active volcano. 15,696 feet high – with a great gondola ride to the top – just don’t go until you get used to “A” as in altitude.
“N – is for the NIÑOS (children) of Calderón. There has never been a more beautiful collection of little angels in the world. They are to be cherished, protected, and loved. We all signed up for this job and it’s the best.”– Betsy Creedon
Q – is for QUITO, THE highest constitutional capital in the world, the first UNESCO designated site, and our home away from home. Can’t wait to learn about you tomorrow night on our tour.
R – is for REACHING FOR THE STARS – another first for Ecuador, it is the tallest spot on earth Mt. Chimborazo is the closest to the sun. 20,577 feet above sea level at the bulge of the Earth.
S – is for SUE whose reporter mind just “wants to know.” Thanks, Sue, for the great questions. Sorry you and I share the same Spanish skills.
T – is for TEAMWORK – pure and simple. Between FUNDAC and Global Volunteers, between Global Volunteers and their volunteers, and, most importantly, between our volunteer team members. A quote from Mother Teresa, “None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things with great love and together we can do something wonderful.”
U – is for the U.S. DOLLAR, the official currency of Ecuador. Who knew?
Remember, only use small bills and don’t be surprised to get a Sacagawea one dollar coin.
V – is for VOLCANOES that define Quito’s shape – long and narrow.
Quito is the only capital city threatened by an active volcano.
W – is for WHAT one person can do to change the WORLD. Fix a swing, feed a baby, read a book, sing songs and dance, hold a crying child, teach a new word, build a new cabinet, brush a child’s hair, just be there!
X – is for EX where the “E” is silent, as in this has been an Xcellent Xperience that is Xhausting and Xceeding Xpectations at the same time.
Y – is for double “L” and is why LLAMA, a perfectly delightful animal, is pronounced like a “Y” and means “calls”, as in, “¿Cómo se llama?” “What is your name?” or “How do you call yourself?” But to be confusing, Love Llama is the name of a five-star restaurant in new Old Quito. I think they mean the animal.
“This has been an Xcellent Xperience that is Xhausting and Xceeding Xpectations at the same time.”– Betsy Creedon
Z – is for ZERO as in zero reasons not to come back!
Betsy’s final reflections after her service experience:
This has been a remarkable week. Life is complicated and stressful. This trip allowed me to just concentrate on one thing – and it was filled with much love and laughter. My profe Anita is an exceptional teacher. She had no English and I no Spanish and we got along beautifully. Sharing time together builds trust – the basic ingredient missing in so many ways. To be a “good” American, a partner, helper, and friend is just one more link in the human experience. Acceptance of what is and not should be is a great and humble experience. My fellow volunteers were wonderful. I have hope for the world when I work with the other devoted volunteers and the staff of the center. You don’t have to be a super star to be a super star in a child’s eyes.
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