Sitting at the airport at 4 AM doesn’t sound like it would be very fun, but when you are with a crew of summer volunteers that you have just shared a month of great adventures, wonderful triumphs and lasting memories—there could be much worse places to be. It was then, in the wee hours of the morning, we said goodbye to our beloved first summer session volunteer group (with the exception on the one eight-weeker, Elizabeth—or ‘Sista Fix’). It was a sad goodbye for me. I spent an enormous amount of time with the summer session one volunteers, being as I am the summer session one coordinator.
People have often asked me whether volunteers being here in Ecuador, helping MPI out for ‘only a month,’ really makes a difference. Well, I am here to tell you that the presence of these summer volunteers DID make a difference— in so many ways. They constructed a set of shelves for backpacks and a sturdy bench and storage box. They ran their own English classes for adults and children and worked at two different orphanages teaching preventative health and general knowledge. They painted our upstairs space where we hold cooking, English and exercise classes. They helped in Children’s Art Classes and with the Small Business Development program. They lovingly and willingly played with and taught children, teens and adults in our library—and much much more.
Not only did the summer volunteer group help in an operational capacity, but they brought a certain state of mind that we PDs sometimes lose throughout the year. They bring fresh ideas and a new and exciting energy that has such a wide reaching impact that it is difficult to describe. It is easy to merely fall into a routine here. After ten months, I know that I was guilty of that. However, when the summer volunteers came, I felt revitalized and I know that the rest of the house appreciated their insight and energy as well. The summer volunteer experience is meant to expose volunteers to another culture, while allowing them the opportunity to volunteer abroad, but the byproduct of this is much more far-reaching than I really expected. They made an impact on the communities and organizations that they worked with, but they also made a strong impact on me. I am very grateful to have had the summer session one volunteers in our house here in Ecuador. MPI Ecuador will miss them.