By: REBECCA WONG
I’m now back at home in Ottawa, typing on my laptop, sitting at my kitchen table. I went to Starbucks to see some friends and watched an episode of “Rookie Blue” on TV today. Two weeks ago, I was in Ecuador, sleeping in a bunk bed in the Andes Mountains.
The reintegration period has been quite difficult, to be completely honest. When I came home I got incredibly sick and my stomach is still in the process of getting used to the food here. Aside from the physical aspect, it’s been emotionally draining to come back.
It was really hard coming back to such a different place. Or maybe it only seems different to me after being in Ecuador. Coming back, it was difficult to see people wasting food, seeing couples fight over things that really don’t matter in the long run, and people being ignorant to the fact that poverty exists. It was really frustrating for me to see some people taking everything for granted. I would see someone throwing out food and think that it could have fed a few children in Shuid. I would hear people complain about how long service at the clinic was taking and I would think “Well at least we have a clinic.” I would see people leave the tap running and be reminded of how we ran out of water in Totorillas and had to use our precious drinking water to brush our teeth and wash our faces.
Though it’s been hard, and though I get super frustrated at times (wanting to hit people over the head with stories of children in Shuid, hoping it will make them change), I’ve learned to channel those frustrations into determination. Determination to do something about it. Leaving Ecuador, I was getting frustrated thinking about what I could do back at home. It’s so hard to explain to people what you experienced if they haven’t experienced it themselves. However, I plan to do the most I can and talk to our Impact Club to see if we can do some fundraising for a water project in Ecuador, if the other amazing members would like to as well. For my 17th birthday this year, I’d like to raise money to lend to women’s groups or single women through micro-loans or start an alternative income project on my own.
I also plan to do some local volunteering (at the food bank, women’s shelter, and the Ottawa Rotary Home, which is a respite home for children and adults with disabilities) since there are still problems in our very own society. If there’s anything I learned on the trip, it’s that helping out even a little bit can go a long way for those in need.
And looking to the future, I hope to study Conflict Studies and Human Rights as I’ve always wanted, but in addition, I’d like to do a minor in women’s studies since I was so inspired by the girls in San Miguel and the women in Sumak Ahuana. The trip has made me a lot more interested in studying International Law, so if I can get accepted to law school (fingers crossed), I would like to pursue that field.
Looking back now, I can’t imagine not going on this trip. It has changed my perspective on everything. I see the world so differently now. It’s so cliché to say that it changed my life, but honestly, a trip like this really does. You meet people who etch themselves into your heart and you carry their stories with you wherever you go. Many people in Ecuador had asked us to tell others about them. They hope that the rest of the world will become aware of issues they face. I hope that I never let them down.