An experience in Ecuador
When I learned of the opportunity to go work with multiple trauma victims in impoverished areas of Ecuador, I was both excited and scared.
I had for many years thought about volunteering my time to help the less fortunate abroad but had not found the right avenue for it. This felt like something I could do, which excited me. At the same time, I was very aware of my being raised in a medium class family where I never missed a meal; I feared I might not be able to connect with people from another culture, who had lived all kinds of trauma, poverty, abuse, racism. As the time to go neared, my fears left and I felt calmer when I realized that with their minimal resources, any help is good help.
When I met the multicultural team in Ecuador, I soon realized all of us had so many more things in common than differences and was surprised how quickly we all bonded. I loved Pedro & Benjamin’s enthusiasm as they spoke about Ecuador and we discussed topics of social justice and history. I found everyone in the team interested in who I was, interested in doing good work, supporting each other, interested in learning about themselves and growing from the experience. We shared meals, played and conversed. We shared moments of vulnerability, learning, and joy.
What impacted me most about the whole trip was the strength of the indigenous women I met during workshops and in session. These women had severe multiple trauma (sexual, social, domestic abuse, parental neglect, financial stress). Carmen, our trip leader, was very helpful prior to sessions, educating me in cultural elements that were very helpful
to me in session. One woman Naye and I
worked with had never really felt safe to talk about her struggles. She felt a huge sense of relief in telling her story for the first time. She was incredibly strong in her catharsis, coming up with a new version of her life when she saw reflected in us her own strengths and impetus to survive. She came out of session having taken advantage of each minute, with hope, and a different, stronger sense of self. It was an inspiring transformation that moved both Naye and myself.
In this 10-day trip, we had 2 days to just relax and be tourists. We went to a beautiful town in the mountains where we strolled, went rock climbing, dipped in natural hot springs, and enjoyed a fantastic day tour of the Amazon jungle. I was particularly fascinated engaged with everyone in the production of chocolate, starting from the fruit that carries the cacao seeds. My favorite, though, was overcoming my fear of climbing, carried by the team’s encouragement to continue ascending the awesome volcanic rock. I was exhilarated when I reached the top.
I’m thankful to Conexa and the team at Recuperar Vida for providing an avenue for me to explore the part of me that wants to make a difference in the world by lifting others towards overcoming trauma and living a better life. They did an amazing job at helping me feel welcome, comfortable, safe, and fulfilled in this trip.