Melissa, an attorney and mother of four boys aged nine to twelve, from Austin, Texas, was seeking a volunteer opportunity for two of her sons to give them hands-on experience with children and increase their global awareness. She decided on Global Volunteers’ Ecuador service program, where her boys could help take care of very young at-risk children.
While in Ecuador, Melissa, Ferrell (age 11), and Tommy (age 12) volunteered at a daycare center on the outskirts of the beautiful capital city of Quito. Because her boys had studied hand sewing at Montessori school and were learning Spanish, they were able to participate in a wide variety of projects in their one-week volunteering at the center. They worked in a classroom alongside a teacher, helping to take care of the children, do learning activities with them, feed them, wash their hands, and play with them. They also helped with a reading glass campaign in the community, distributing reading glasses to people who needed them. And to Melissa’s surprise, her boys were even eager to help with the sewing project, which was to make new curtains for the daycare center so the children would be protected from the equatorial sun during their afternoon nap.
Here’s an excerpt from the team journal entry that Melissa, Tommy, and Ferrell wrote:
“Our first day at Center 2 began with a tour of the facilities including an impressive display of many projects completed by previous teams. It is an honor to be part of this continuum of volunteer projects, all of which improve and enrich the lives of so many darling Ecuadorian children. We jumped right in and were hard at work. Our painting group made great progress on a sea theme mural by the sand box.
“Our eyeglass distribution team held the first day of “Optometry 101” for the local adults and families. We were able to fit several adults with their first pair of reading glasses and allow them to continue reading so they could work at their jobs and accomplish detailed tasks at home. Other groups assisted the busy teachers with childcare; classroom lessons; giving the kids lunch and snacks; and helping with hand washing, tooth brushing, and many other tasks throughout the day. We left with a sense of awe for what the center provides and what previous teams have accomplished. It was a true blessing to be given the opportunity to serve.”
Melissa says that volunteering together was a special family bonding experience for her boys and her, an experience they could not have had back home in Austin. She says she specifically sought out this experience to increase her boys’ global awareness.
“My boys connected with the children on a deep level. They looked forward to every day. My main goal of the trip was to expand their awareness of other cultures and others in need. Mission accomplished!”
During the goodbye celebration at the daycare center on their last day, Melissa spoke to the Ecuadorian teachers while tearing up, saying: “One of my goals for this trip was to show my children other cultures and how to care for other people. You all were the best role models for giving care and love and patience that I could have ever asked for. In addition to impacting a generation of Ecuadorians, you have impacted this generation (my children) in a very positive way. Thank you so much.”
Melissa also shared that she was so impressed by her two sons and how willing they were to jump in and help where needed at the daycare center. They looked after the children and had fun with them. They put the children’s needs before their own, making Melissa a very proud mom.
Melissa also said, “This has reminded me how good it feels to connect with others and how rewarding it is to give to others.”
She enthusiastically shared one special moment in which she knew she had increased her sons’ global awareness and they had seen that there is more than one way to look at things:
“Great lessons in how different cultures approach things. My son Ferrell said, “Mom, I used to think everyone thought the same things I do.””
When describing this moment with her son, Melissa said she was just glowing. Mission accomplished!