Today is the Wednesday of my final week in Ecuador, I can't believe how quickly two months have flown by. As I reflect on my time here, I can't help but notice all of the ways that it has changed me and all of the things that I have learned. Coming into this trip, I had no idea what to expect, no ideas or presumptions of the culture or how it would differ from my own. Now, after two months of being immersed in the Ecuadorean culture, I feel that I have a much better understanding of the people and the culture in general. The Ecuadorians that I have met here are truly some of the friendliest, most family oriented and community oriented people that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I have had the opportunity to meet people from all different socioeconomic backgrounds, and the one thing I noticed that nearly everyone has in common is how truly happy they seem in their lives, regardless of their socioeconomic status. No matter where you go in Ecuador, you are bound to see and hear the motto, "Ecuador: ama la vida," which translates to "Ecuador: love life". After having experienced this country firsthand, I think it is safe to say that the people here absolutely embrace that motto.
Some of the programs and communities that Manna works with consist of children that come from broken homes or who have a history of child labor or other horrifying hardships. However, upon meeting these children, one would never guess how difficult their lives have been. Their happy-go-lucky attitudes and sweet smiles fool you into thinking that they have had a much easier go of it than they really have.We come from such vastly different backgrounds; I grew up with all the components that are supposed to comprise a rich or ideal American childhood, and I come here and I meet these kids that don't have any of what I had, rarely a stable family life, and they seem so happy and content just to have what they have. There isn't as much pressure to have things and the same emphasis isn't put on material values. It's a much simpler lifestyle and the fact that they are so happy and their society is completely functional without all the pressures that we place on ourselves in the United States is really something to think about,
As a final reflection, I want to note that Ecuador is such an incredibly beautiful country and I can't believe I have had the opportunity to see such amazing things in my lifetime. From Quilotoa to Baños to Cotopaxi to Quito, this country has never failed to amaze and impress me. As far as Manna as an organization goes, the work that we are doing here is truly meaningful to the communities that we are reaching out to, and its logical and sustainable nature works to comprise an operation that is not only beneficial to the communities, but rewarding for the volunteers as well. Thank you to Manna for such an incredible experience, and thank you to Ecuador for a summer that I will never forget.