24 April 2010

Ecuador 2010









Hey Everyone,
This past March I was lucky enough to get to travel with Me to We to Ecuador to help build a Kitchen and Dining Hall in their first 10 by 10 community.




I have always wanted to travel the world and experience for myself the culture of other countries as well as the experience of going and seeing where the money goes to from the charities that I support.






While in Ecuador I learned some very important life changing lessons, that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. We worked with a community to aid them in the building of their Kitchen and Dining Hall for the school. The Kitchen and Dining Hall are very important to the entire community as many of the women come out to cook meals for the school children and are currently cooking in unventilated kitchens with wood stoves, which as you can imagine is not ideal for these women as the kitchen's become filled with smoke. Many of these women carry young children and babies on their back as they are cooking. This is causing many respiratory problems within the community. As well the dining hall contains a hand washing station that will greatly improve hygiene in the community. Many of the children currently eat with their hands, after playing outside all day. By building the kitchen and dining hall Free the Children hopes to teach these communities about the importance of hygiene and nutrition.





We worked closely with the community in what is called a Minga helping to build the dining hall. A Minga is when the community comes together to work together for the good of the community. Everyday there would be a small Minga of around 15 community members to help with the building of the Kitchen, along with us. We worked hard and were able to accomplish a lot in our week with the community.




While in Ecuador we met an amazing and inspiration woman named Maria. Maria was the first indigenous woman to attend university. Many of the girls only attend school to grade seven so her completion of university was a major accomplishment. She was also the youngest president of her community. She works closely with communities and women in order to develop alternative income projects for many of these women.








We were able to visit a womens group where these women sell their knitted goods in order to bring income into their households and help to create a better future for their children. Meeting the womens group showed me how important women are to their families and the running of their households in this culture. They work in the fields, take care of the family chores and children as well as try to earn money for their families. Many of the women in the women's group were well educated for women in Ecuador and it showed me first hand the importance of education and how education for girls can help to break the cycle of poverty.





One of the most important things that I took away from this experience was the importance of community. Everyone was always willing to help each other out and lend a helping hand. They did not expect anything in return. Their values are centered around family and community which is something I believe we are lacking.



This trip for me was only the beginning. On the trip we talked a lot about finding our passion and goal setting. I have set goals for myself for the next three years. We also talked about traveling with intent and what that meant to us. To me it means traveling with open eyes and an open heart. It means experiencing the culture and taking the experiences back with me. I would love in the future to travel and volunteer in other countries. It is one of my dreams to go to Kenya and volunteer with the Mully Children's Family. Free the Children is an amazing organization that was started by Craig Kilburger when he was only 12 years old after he read an article in the newspaper about a 12 year old boy who was killed by the carpet mafia for speaking out against Child Labour.



One thing that I encourage everyone to do, is to Give their 10. Free the Children has a 10 by 10 challenge and the idea behind it is quite simple. We can all do small things everyday to help change the world. Together we can make a difference. Go to giveyourten.com and pledge 10 things that you can do on a daily basis to make the world a better place. Then share your 10 with 10 people and $10 will be donated in your name. The community that I went and visited was a result of the 10 by 10 Challenge.
Here are my ten:

1. Drink water from a re-useable water bottle / mug


2. Turn off the lights


3. Hug, hug, hug


4. Volunteer somewhere new


5. Re-connect with an old friend


6. Read about a new social issue


7. Unplug unused appliances and chargers


8. Shop for vintage clothes


9. Carry a reusable bag


10. Travel somewhere new



Love,
Belle