If I could repeat this morning over and over again, I would. It has easily been one of my favorite experiences so far in Ecuador. Early this morning, we woke and accompanied the trip director to Primero de Octubre, a small school out in the country among mountains, rocky roads, small huts, and of course some donkeys, dogs, and horses. The school started years ago as just one small classroom, but a previous volunteer from Canada returned after his trip and started a project to raise money for schools such as this. Eventually the program was able to build two more classrooms as well as a concrete field and a bathroom.
Our goal was to repaint the bathroom and one classroom with two cans of paint and a few brushes. So, that’s just what we did. For most of the morning, we painted away. The students were so fascinated and dying to help. It was an absolute blast! As we painted and some of the children sat and watched, we sang “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” and the “ABCs” over and over with them. After completing the bathroom, we were not satisfied with the boring peach color, so we turned one wall into a mural of handprints. The students couldn’t wait to get their hands into the paint, and it turned out to be perfect.
After finishing, the teachers invited us to stay for lunch and a small celebration because it was our last day working with the school for the month. We awkwardly sat at the teacher’s desk at the front of the classroom as we were served white rice (that’s a daily meal) chicken legs, papaya, and juice. The children presented us with thank you cards, a few Spanish songs, and together we sang the songs we had taught them over the course of the month. One little boy even recited a poem at the front of the class. After lunch, it was time to say goodbye, and it was heartbreaking! The teachers expressed the impact that the active English lessons had on the kids as well as the teachers themselves for future plans, and then each and every student swallowed us in affection. As we pulled away from the school, I realized how much more was to be done for this school, and for many other schools in the country with such limited resources. Many of the students walked two hours to and from school every single day. That meant these six and seven year olds were climbing the mountains to school alone.
Today truly touched my heart, and I am inspired to return to the states and follow in the footsteps of the Canadian volunteer. I realized that a month of volunteering is simply not enough to make the impact that I want to make in a place like Ecuador, but it was a perfect way to start! After returning home to pack, we spent the remainder of the day traveling on a bus to Montanita, talking about the morning and what more we could do when we got back to the United States.