Why did you decide to volunteer with Global Volunteers in Ecuador?
Marie: I heard good things about Global Volunteers. I thoroughly researched volunteer abroad programs because I am a woman and I was going to be doing this alone. I wanted to make sure that I would be safe and the program as reputable as I could ensure.
Second, I wanted to work with children. I just love kids, but as anyone who works with them will tell you, they are severely underpaid, so I do not do it for a living. I was able to spend time with a group of great kids and play and learn from them (they thought my Spanish was hysterical and enjoyed correcting a grown-up).
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Marie: The first day we were given an overview, the rules (as working with small children, there are rules in place to protect them and us) and a Spanish tutorial. The girl giving us the tutorial was amazing. I would have done much better in Spanish in high school and college with a teacher like her. We also walked around a bit to get familiar with the area and were able to ask questions. We were also given safely lessons on what NOT to eat and drink.
Day to day we got up, were fed by the people running the bed and breakfast and were driven to the daycare. We played with the children or helped out the women who were in charge of the room you were assigned to, or helped in general cleaning or taking children to the restrooms…whatever was needed. We ate outside the daycare since they had enough to do feeding the children and helped clean up after lunch.
In the evenings, we would be taken back to where we were staying and eat dinner or go on one of our outings. I didn’t watch TV while we were there – my roommate, who was simply amazing, wasn’t a big TV watcher either – (all we could really understand was CNN anyway) so this was a perfect situation. We went to markets, went shopping, haggled in Spanish, went to “el mitad del mundo” (the Equator) and many more adventures.
Mari, the person who ran the program in Ecuador was amazing. I can’t say enough wonderful, positive things about her. Not that she was just a nice person, but she was a good facilitator and got us organized to do things in the evening on our own and stuff like that.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Marie: I can honestly say this is one of the best things I ever did. It really puts things in perspective for you. My mother is an immigrant and always telling me I have no idea how lucky I am to have all I have and live where I do. I thought I knew what she meant from listening to her tell me about her childhood, but seeing how these children live and trying to make just a few days of their lives more fun by lavishing them with attention changed my views.
I went to Ecuador while in grad school earning my MBA (a “top tier” program). For me, I think it was the perfect time to go. It is so easy to get caught up in grades and whatnot and this enabled me to have a much healthier point of view of what I was doing both at school and at work. A bad grade (i.e., not an “A”) was not the end of the world – only eating once a day or less when you are small child is much worse.