Fifteen participants journeyed to Ecuador April 7–16 to share in an educational, service and spiritual immersion into the Ecuadorian culture and BVM ministries in Quito and Guayaquil. Our group included a BVM, an associate and associate candidate, one Mount Carmel employee, and 10 people newly acquainted to the BVM community,
In Quito the group learned about the ministry at the Working Boys’ Center, providing education, meals, trade school and certifications, and employment opportunities where graduates can use their trades. We worked in the trade school workshops, learning from the students. We were given a task or project to complete, and the students became the teachers, giving us directions and guidance. It was exciting to see their pride in themselves and in their work and to create something together.
We visited some of the younger classes at the Center and were greeted and serenaded by the children. In one class, the children challenged us with rhyming riddles, all in Spanish. Another class had prepared poems of love. Others sang songs. Our hearts were warmed by their beauty and friendliness.
Helping out in the school kitchen, we prepared an evening meal of cheese empanadas for the children and families. We were privileged to be welcomed into the homes of several families who belong to the Center, and witnessed the difficulties of everyday life that they encounter. We were inspired by their resilient spirits.
Our group took part in a “minga,” a traditional group work effort to build a home. Arriving at the site, we were welcomed by the family, who gave us directions and we got to work. Rocks, sand and gravel had been delivered to the site; our task was to help move it all down the hill and organize it into piles that they will use to lay the home’s foundation. The group shoveled gravel, carried buckets, and moved rocks, alongside the family members, who impressed us with their strength and agility. The day was fun, full of hard work and fellowship, and graced with the blessing of getting to know and work with the family!
Cory Weinschenk, IT Helpdesk specialist at Mount Carmel, was one of the immersion trip participants. He shares, “It was such an amazing trip that if I’d had more vacation time, I would have stayed longer. The people we met lived in substandard conditions yet they were so grateful for what they had, and very welcoming and willing to share.”
We traveled to Guayaquil and spend two days with BVM Annie Credidio and the residents of Damien House, a home and clinic for persons with Hansen’s disease. Annie provided a thorough tour and introduction to the inspiring residents, who greeted us with messages of love and blessing. We played various games and participated in group physical therapy sessions with them—kicking a soccer ball to help build leg strength, and exercising with the women.
We met the staff and volunteers—doctors, nurses, physical therapists, a researcher, and technology helpers—all working together for the benefit and support of Damien House. They have felt called to dedicate their lives to Annie’s vision. She works tirelessly to improve the residents’ lives. They all have a great love for her, because of her kindness, compassion, dedication and faith. This enthusiasm impacted us all and we will carry it in our hearts forever.
Each day ended in fruitful group prayer and reflection on our day of service, discovery and fellowship. Through this immersion experience, new friendships were formed, new perspectives were gained, and all came home with hearts transformed and inspired.
By Tricia Lothschutz
BVM Outreach/Volunteer Coordinator