Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Help, Learn and Discover in Ecuador?
Jimmy: I decided to Volunteer with Help, Learn and Discover for many reasons. I was first hooked when a leader came in before a class and started talking about his experiences on the Pre-Med program with Ecuaexperience. I have also had past experiences working with communities in Mexico, and building houses. So when I heard this program offered house building, pre-medical experience as well as travel opportunities, I decided to give it a shot.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Jimmy: Although the "schedule" for each volunteer day was the same (Wake up, breakfast, go to the volunteer site, lunch, go back to the volunteer site, return to the hotel), every day was still a surprise. We worked with the community every day, and we were ceaselessly surprised at the stamina and strength of the locals. For the May 2013 group, we were responsible for building the foundations of the 20 houses, which meant a lot of hard work and digging.
Not a single job at the site was "easy", but everything we did, we could see it going towards a better future, and that is what made the volunteer work so fun. There were also a lot of fun during the breaks, such as lunch and after each day, when we would spend some time with the locals, or go back to the hostel for cards, beach walks, swimming or volleyball. The Pre-Med portion was also an unique experience, as we got to see first hand how surgeries were performed, we got to practice stitching and much, much more.
Do you feel like you made a significant impact on the local community? Why or why not?
Jimmy: I feel like we were starting to make an impact on the community, because they could see that we were putting our efforts into building houses, which in turn motivated many community members to start working hard as well. Our plan of building at least 40 houses in the future at that community will definitely make an impact on the future of the people, in which they can now spend their efforts improving their own lives and the lives of others around them.
What did you wish you knew before going to Ecuador?
Jimmy: The only thing I wish I knew before the trip to Ecuador was how to speak Spanish.
What was the best moment of the entire trip?
Jimmy: There were way too many amazing moments during the entire trip, but I think the most amazing moments were actually being able to see the houses progress and knowing that we had some part in all this. Most of us in the group were total strangers, but we could work together, bond and build towards something bigger. The view from the building site was also breathtaking, one side overlooked the ocean, and the other, jungle.