By: CAITLIN SALVINO & REBECCA WONG
Hello friends, family, fellow travellers, Carleton students and anyone else curious to learn about Ecuador and its unique culture.
Our names are Caitlin Salvino and Rebecca Wong. We’re both Hillcrest High School students who, after attending Toronto We Day (a day-long inspirational event hosted by Me to We) were inspired to form a new club at our school. We co-founded the Impact Club, which is dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.
In September 2011, our club of 8 members began fundraising $8500 to build a school in Ecuador through Free the Children’s Brick by Brick campaign.
In 2012, we tried to organize a March break trip with Me to We to have members of Impact go down to Ecuador and physically build the school we’d spent the past two years raising money towards. However, due to a combination of things, the trip fell through and it was then that Rebecca and I began to organize a youth trip with Me to We for this summer, 2013.
We signed up for the Ecuador C trip from July 5th – 20th, 2013, marking not only the beginning of our journey to helping the community of Shuid, but towards personal growth. The experience changed how we choose to live our lives, and over the next few weeks, we will be sharing that experience with you through our Ecuador Blog, via Carleton JHR.
Meet Rebecca Wong:
Hola! My name is Rebecca Wong, I am 16 years old and I just returned from an incredible 15 day volunteer trip to Ecuador, on which we laid the foundation of a school in one of the poorest and most remote communities in the Chimborazo province of Ecuador, called Shuid. We had the opportunity to experience Ecuador in the most amazing way – sleeping in a hacienda in the middle of the Andes Mountains, working alongside locals and having a chance to see what real life is like for the people living in one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever visited.
I was born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario and love it! I love walking downtown in the market and along the Ottawa River. My family is originally from Malaysia and they are one of the most important things in my life. I’m very close to my family and I respect them so very much; I learned everything from them! I also absolutely love music; I play piano, flute, piccolo, I’ve just started to learn guitar and I love to sing (though not always in public). I associate certain songs to specific experiences in life. And so, with every blog post, I will also include a song which, to me, expresses what I had learned or felt that day. I wholeheartedly believe that music has the power to move people.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve felt very passionate about environmental and social justice issues, specifically gender equality and human rights. Growing up, my parents always told us that our family was incredibly blessed and that we should never take what we have for granted. I started to become actively involved after my church put together backpacks for the homeless. Because of that, I decided to ask for donations for the homeless in Ottawa instead of gifts on my tenth birthday. From then on, the gifts from the following birthday parties I had were always donations. In middle school, I did a science competition and had to study environmental science. It was then that I realized that only 1 degree of difference in our atmosphere would have immense consequences. Since then, I’ve taken steps in my own and my family’s life to choose more environmentally conscious options in everything, especially cosmetics. Now in high school, I’m very involved with our school’s Impact Club, which raises money for charities and brings awareness to environmental and social justice issues. We’ve been incredibly successful over the past two years since we started, raising over $8,500 for a school in Ecuador, 1,200 cans for our local food bank, and raising awareness for numerous other issues.
I decided to go on a volunteer trip because I wanted to make a difference and create change with my own two hands. I thought the opportunity to go to Ecuador with Me to We and Free the Children was the perfect chance to do so. I wanted to see the world, but not from just a tourist perspective. I wanted to see the world as it is – even the hard parts. And I have to say, it was one of the best decisions of my life. I thought I knew a lot about issues related to poverty around the world; about how having an education could open so many doors; about how empowering women is important. But I was caught off guard. There was so much I learned on this trip. So much I saw and experienced. So much I will take with me for the rest of my life.
Meet Caitlin Salvino:
My name is Caitlin Salvino and I’m 17 years old. I just graduated from Hillcrest high school and I will be studying a combined honours in human rights and global politics at Carleton in the fall. I’ve always wanted to move out of the house for my University years and despite living in Ottawa I will be living in residence at Carleton in the fall so that I can fulfill both my dream of living away from home and studying human rights (Carleton is one of the only universities in Canada that offers this program).
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been involved in playing sports – in particular, basketball and soccer at a high competitive level. However, I discovered my true passion for helping others at a school assembly when I was 12. We had a speaker named Sol Guy talk to us about his new reality TV show called 4REAL and at the end of his speech he said: “All it takes is one person to change the world.” It may sound extremely cliché, but it’s like a light bulb went off in my head and I asked: “Why not me?” That moment changed my life.
I formed my first Social Actions Club with a few friends in middle school and we raised $1700 towards building a well in Uganda through Ryan’s Well foundation. I continued to fuel my passion for helping others even when I graduated and moved onto high school. I was an elected member of student council, founding and organizing the annual food drive competition between Canterbury and Hillcrest that raised over 20,000 cans for the Ottawa Food Bank in two years. Rebecca and I were a few of the students to found the Impact Club that raised not only money for Free the Children but for World Vision, Shepherds of Good Hope and helped adopt the local Lynda Lane Park. I, along with one of my friends Taylor Galloway, also founded another new club called Lunch Buddies that had main stream students spending their lunches twice a week with students in the developmentally delayed class. Over 40 volunteers per week dedicate their lunches to forming friendships with students that previously felt ostracized from the Hillcrest community. This club helped break down social barriers at Hillcrest and made our school a more inclusive community. Outside of school I work as an after school counselor at the Canterbury Community Center and I volunteer on weekends at the Gloucester Association for Children with Special Needs. There I go swimming, make crafts and form friendships with children who have mild to severe special needs.
Due to all of my involvement and hard work I was lucky enough to receive the Carleton Chancellors Scholarship and a volunteer internship position with NDP MP Olivia Chow starting this year. Next year I hope to continue helping others, getting involved in clubs and telling as many people as I can everything I experienced and learned in Ecuador. I hope one day to become an international human rights lawyer and to work towards creating a more equitable world that guarantees all children the same chance to succeed, despite where or into what circumstances they are born.