Wow, I cannot believe I am about to board a plane back to the United States! June 2nd seems like last week, but I just finished my 8th and final week in Ecuador. While the goodbyes were hard, the memories made over the summer will live on.
We spent the final two weeks of the program in Timbara, a small community in southern Ecuador. I had the true fortune of living outside the city, literally walking 20 minutes on a dirt road through the Amazon forest to get to my house (quite an authentic and beautiful walk). I made a few new friends in my house, including my host family, a gecko, and a larger than average spider (I believe in the US it’s called a tarantula). Timbara itself had an incredibly tight community feel. Every weekday night after work and dinner, the interns played the kids in soccer or volleyball, as well as participated in “Bailo Terapia” (dance therapy, basically Zumba class) with about 40 other people in the community. This was a great way for us to get to know the kids in the area and after a few days, I was receiving Facebook friend requests and accepting new twitter followers from a number of Ecuadorians.
Personally, what I learned in 8 weeks would be hard to match in a year of studies. While classroom work is a necessary and an important part of the education process, working on the ground level and getting your hands dirty (actually) is the best way to learn, engage, and make the largest impact. My knowledge of that mysterious word “microfinance” went from “what is that?” to “How can we scale it in the developing world?”, and my Spanish skills went from “hola and buenas noches” to “donde esta el baño y quisiera una cerveza.” (Please, no translations).
Most importantly, the group of interns as a whole produced tangible and impactful results. We gave 1233 eye exams, and sold 467 reading glasses, 144 seed packets, 46 solar products, and 17 water purifiers to 17 different communities, most of which were small communities in areas where these products are not easily accessible. Our impact will not end when we leave. At the end of the program, the interns were allocated some money to use at our discretion, and some of the funds are being used to help pay for water filters in every classroom at the grade school in Pulingi, another city where we stayed.
Once again, I would like to thank SIBC and its benefactors for providing myself and the other Notre Dame students with an experience we will not forget and a motivation to leave the world a better place than we found it.
A final farewell from Ecuador,
The water filter that our host family in Timbara now has in their house.
Morning run in the Amazon.