Being invited into the home of a community member while on a service program is an experience volunteers do not soon forget. Here, Ecuador volunteer Katie Leon reflects on the home visit her team had with Alexandra, a young mother in Calderón. A certain amount of apprehension among volunteers about being invited into a stranger’s home is normal, but, as Katie describes here, that dissipates as Ecuadorians simply open their lives to share with volunteers, with special gratitude for the work being done with their children. As Katie writes here, Alexandra “simply opened her door as if to say, “Here I am. Welcome to my life.””
By Katie Leon, Ecuador Volunteer
Experiencing a Mother’s Life in Ecuador
While most of us come to Global Volunteers with intentions of making the world a little better place for others, more often than not, it is the volunteers who are equally the benefactors of having experienced the humble culture in which we are invited to work.
So is the case in yesterday’s visit to Kimberly’s home. Her mother, Alexandra, proudly yet humbly invited us into her home. We first entered her parent’s two-bedroom home in which six family members live. As we sat in their living room, Alexandra openly shared her life about work, her daughter’s heart condition, family celebrations, her son’s emotional trauma resulting in loss of speech, her wedding at sixteen years old, and the closeness of her family. There was no expression of hesitation, sadness, worry, or anger regarding all of the experiences and challenges that she faces as a married twenty-one-year-old mother of two.
At her home next door she beamed when she showed us her soccer trophies and pictures of her family. The two-room cinder-block home with a corrugated plastic roof was neat and well organized. Her entire family slept in one small room. Although there was no living room, I’m guessing the center of home life revolves around the kitchen.
“While most of us come to Global Volunteers with intentions of making the world a little better place for others, more often than not, it is the volunteers who are equally the benefactors of having experienced the humble culture in which we are invited to work.”– Katie Leon, Ecuador volunteer
In many ways the simplicity of Ecuadorian life is appealing. However, in the U.S. we tend to complicate our lives through managing our excesses, reading emails, planning vacations, working, commuting, exercising, attending book clubs, and fundraising, all the while making appointments for self-care and stress reduction through facials, massages, and yoga sessions. Life coaches and counselors have job security while we try to find a meaningful life. This life-style appears to be an oxymoron to authentic living yet many believe it to be the American dream.
Isn’t it amazing that a fifteen-minute visit to an Ecuadorian home has the potential to create a paradigm shift in the experience of being? Although I know I appreciate all that I have, it was humbling to see Alexandra trust life as it is. She did not spend days mowing the grass, cleaning the house, weeding the landscape, decorating with ideas from Pinterest, or preparing an elaborate meal for her guests. She simply opened her door as if to say, “Here I am. Welcome to my life.” The reliance of family and friends with their unconditional bond and spirit of love cannot be purchased but partnered with living life as it comes is the essence of being Ecuadorian.
“The reliance of family and friends with their unconditional bond and spirit of love cannot be purchased but partnered with living life as it comes is the essence of being Ecuadorian.”– Katie Leon, Ecuador volunteer
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