- NEW! Ecuador Blog!
NEW! Ecuador Blog!
AHCC has partnered with "Adopta Una Familia" and a group of AHCC member-volunteers is currently in Guasmo Sur - a barrio in Guayaquil, Ecuador - working with families there to build homes and a community center. Be sure to check in every day as trip participants share their experiences.
Tuesday July 3
Diana Trammel: The day started like all the other days - by being woken up by roosters at 6:00 am. After a delicious breakfast, the day of hard work began. After getting little cuts from shards of ceramic tiles which were flying as we demo-ed an old bathroom, Christina (my work group leader) "fired" me! I was then put on ladder duty. Regardless of my job, I still felt as though I was making a contribution to the transformation of Mi Cometa (the community center) - my work site for the week. The work day was efficient, resulting in sanded and painted walls, filled doorways, and tiled bathrooms.
The one hour between the end of the work day and the beginning of the Chiva (an open air double decker - sort of bus) ride did not allow for relaxing. I scrubbed the plaster on my legs for about twenty minutes before deciding it didn't matter. The Chiva turned out to be a wildly fun, long ride to dinner. The wind blew through our hair as the live band played and we watched, ready to duck, for low hanging wires or tree branches. Dinner at Pique y Pase allowed for the continuation of relationship-building between north Americans, as people chatted around the tables. The quieter and cooler ride home was extremely refreshing.
Half way through the trip the bonds I have with my family and friends have already grown strong enough that I have no doubt that I will be returning to Ecuador next year for another great experience.
Monday, July 2
Charles Lantz: Today we continued work on the house. There is a lot that still must be done, but I am amazed at the amount we have completed in just two days. Between washing, mixing, and setting "granitos" (cement grout mixed with small pebbles) between the tiles, mixing cement, plastering walls, and taking out the old bathroom tiles, every pair of hands is needed and everybody is hungry and tried by lunch time. Luckily, Ecuador seems blessed with some of the best cooks I have ever met, and the portions are large enough to make you sweat if the heat hasn't.
Beyond the food, the people themselves are amazing. Everyone is genuine, kind, and welcoming and the bond I already share with "mi familia" is astounding. Even with the language barrier, we have a deep understanding of each other and share more common ground than I originally thought possible. I truly think of them as my family and I know they count me as one of their own. They have already given me so much, and what they lack in terms of material possessions they make up for tenfold with laughter, happiness, and generosity. It is definitely a gift from God to have the opportunity to see this country, help the barrio, and meet these wonderful people.
Lizzy: (a volunteer from the Chicago area). Feliz Cumpleanos, Erika! Last night I had the honor of celebrating Erika"s birthday. She is my host father's sister and was excited to welcome me into her home. While in the United States we regard birthdays as special, we also place more importance on what we are doing to celebrate the day with the "right" activity or the "perfect" gift; however in Ecaudor the family celebrates each other and time spent together. I was in awe of how much love was in one room. There were numerous hugs, plenty of food, and a surplus of laughter. By the end of the evening, Erika's face was pushed into the cake (and many others in the room found the same fate)!
What an honest celebration of what it means to be alive and happy - truly present in the moment. Our families may not own a lot of material goods, but they don't dwell on that. They spend their time immersed in love and laughter. What gifts to receive! Ecuador has given me much joy and event though I have only been here for three days, it will always have a place in my heart.
- A day at the beach
Paulina Rowe: Sunday,
also known as beach day, begins with an early awakening around 6
am. The goal is to arrive at the main road by 6:30, although
this is a rare occurrence. By Sunday, we have been with our
Ecuadorean families for two days - for some, these two days have
brought about great adjustment and possibly anxiety, and for others
it has been time to settle into a familiar and beloved
One thing that stands out for me on beach day is the excitement that the children can barely contain. Aside from special occasions, the children seldom travel to the beach, so today presents great adventure for them.
Once there, I and everyone else who sets foot on the sand is bombarded by a mass of vendors advocating their goods. But the children take no notice; the only concern they have is how quickly they can reach the chilly shore of the water.
During the day, we treat our families to lunch and pay for a plethora of hair braiding, temporary tattoos, and banana boat rides. Each activity for them is as exciting as the last, and not for one moment do the kids wish to squander their time by sunbathing.
It is a day without pause,
constantly moving from activity to activity with ever-present
smiles gleaming on the youthful faces.
Finally, the end of the day at Salinas arrives, and we pack our things to prepare for the 2 hour trek back to the barrio. The children have exhausted themselves, and to the relief of their parents, sleep on the way home. The bus ride home always seems a bit stale to me - the excitement is gone, and everyone just wants to escape the confines of his or her damp swimwear. However, in the moments before I too drifted off to sleep, I realized something: the beach to these families means more than just a day in the sun. It is an opportunity to experience new sights, to become exposed to a place other than the barrio.
Our ultimate goal for this project is to provide for the upcoming generation a means by which they can escape the walls of what they have always known. We aim to give them the potential to leave the barrio so that they can make better lives for themselves and their families. There is an immense wealth of opportunity for these children in Ecuador and all over the world, but we must show them that the dreams that they have truly are within reach.
Travel and arrival:
Betsy Andrews: We have
endured long check in lines, a crazy flight in the middle of the
night (who takes a six hour flight starting at midnight?) and
then the long customs entry lines, but then we arrived to excited
"Holas" and hugs! As if we were long-separated family, we are
embraced, and then we remember why we came back. It's been four
years for me and I see some changes, but as we walked from work
site to work site the reality of the work to be done jars the
sleep-deprived brain and once again we know why we came. Hopefully,
the rice and potato meals and a fair night's sleep will prepare the
body physically for the work to begin tomorrow!
Missy Aiello: The excitement and anticipation of seeing my family and friends in Guasmo is overwhelming! I cannot believe a year passed so quickly. The love that I received once I got off the bus was overpowering. The open arms that were filled with tons of love brought me back to a familiar place I knew was home. I knew I would be safe. I knew my family would take good care of me. Even though there was a major language barrier, we were able to express our love and how much we missed one another. I grew to know my family more and their culture through the enthusiastic presentations. I anticipate the morning when I will assist the Ecuadorians in making their community a strong, healthier, and more stable atmosphere for the future families of Ecuador. I will be participating in something that will be worthwhile, everlasting and ever changing.
Beth Vossler: We arrived in Guayaquil before the sun was up on Friday. I am always thankful when a plane lands safely. Ecuadorians take it to another level and always erupt in applause.
My 20 year old son, Robb and I have
come to Guasmo Sur for the 5th year in a row. I have been
blessed to have shared this wonderful experience with each of my 3
children. (My husband hopes to come some day). We are
excited to see our Ecuadorian families and friends - the main
reason we return each year. We are also excited to see my
daughter Sarah who left for Ecuador 1 month earlier.
There was a small, happy contingent meeting us at the airport, then a bus ride to the barrio to greet and meet others. There were lots of hugs and kisses and smiles. The question that I was asked frequently was "No Molly?" My 15 year old daughter Molly has been here the last 3 years but decided to something different this year. She is missed.
Friday afternoon we gathered
together and after meeting together we toured the work sites
(three homes and the community center). I know by the end of
the week these places will be transformed into liveable, happy
homes. I am excited for another week of work and fellowship
P.S. The youth on the trip for the first time this year have smiles on their faces.
Matt Monahan from Chicago: Whenever you go somewhere, be it on vacation or a new job, or even the supermarket, communicating basic needs is essential. Of course, it helps to speak the language, or assume most people will know enough of your language, but when neither case proves true, unsettling barely describes the feeling.
When we arrived in Guasmo, I quickly realized how little Spanish I knew and how much less Spanish I could speak. On the bright side, lacking the ability to communicate with the people caring for you, and in whose house you live, often proved comical, as I asked my family to "wash me!"
By the end of the first full day in the country, I knew enough Spanish to invite the teenagers to work with me, and together we quickly formed a union. Imagine, four people who could hardly speak a sentence to each other working cooperatively to plaster, sand and paint. I'd say we completed a fair bit of work considering our difficulties with the language.
As the trip continues, I realize more and more that our time here casts our similarities in a bright shining light. I see that at a basic level, identity and identification stretches beyond simple communication, and to something deeper. I also continue to realize that nobody wants to "wash me" no matter what country I am in.
Lou Aiello: Tired from the trip here, while working on the home my group was assigned, took a break every 15 minutes and drank a lot of water. We have a great group of Ecuadorians and North Americans. At noon I went to the street food market with my family for food. I did not bring any gifts for my family, I told them I wanted to buy a lot of food at the market. When ordering vegetables, fruits and meats I told them to get to buy more of each item. I was so fulfilled that my family would let me give to them what they needed.
Saturday night was a birthday party across the road that lasted until 7 the next morning. No problem, I just went to bed at 9 pm to the sound of the music and dreamed and prayed and fell into a deep sleep.