Overall Rating:/ 10Living and volunteering in Quito was an enlightening and invigorating privilege. I worked at the Angels’ Home Daycare Center for children with special needs, and I’ll admit that right off the bat, it was a huge culture shock. Coming in as a care provider from the pristine healthcare system of the U.S., I had to bite my tongue and grit my teeth countless times. I told myself repeatedly that I was only there to support whatever structure they had in place and I needed to remember that I wasn’t there to change anything or be some kind of champion. It was clear to me within just a few days that the problems were systemic, and everyone was just trying his or her best. When it came down to it, despite the significant contrasts in practice, I found that working with the kids here was no different from working with the kids who I service back in California. These children may have more severe medical complications and much fewer resources, but they’re not unlike any other kid anywhere in the world: they just want to play. The fact that they don’t always have people to play with kills me. It was such a fulfilling experience overall, to engage them spontaneously in many kinds of activities, to get to know the staff there, and to just savour being in Ecuador every day.
As my Spanish improved, I went from chatting about Ecuadorian food (which is, by the way, fantastic) with the therapists who came to the Home to exchanging life experiences and perspectives. In addition to the many Ecuadorians who I met in Quito, I lived and travelled with people from Germany, Great Britain, Canada, and other parts of the United States. I got to swim in a waterfall for the first time in my life, and I also had to pay for toilet paper for the first time in my life. I rode a zip line over the jungle and ate Guinea pig. I learned how to salsa dance and made chocolate fondue out of homegrown cacao beans. I climbed to the top of a Gothic cathedral and also to the bottom of a volcanic crater. These are only a few of the many lasting memories that I will always hold on to – if anyone asked me if I’d go back, my answer would be: Foch Yeah!