Teens For Change
Travelling to Ecuador on a Me to We and EF Tous service-learning trip has been one of the most difficult and rewarding things I have done. Not only was this a service trip, where we volunteered, learned about Free the Children, and developed our leadership skills, but we were also exposed to a lot about the history of Ecuador.
We spent time working in Gulaghuayco, a rural indigenous village high in the Andes, where Free the Children have been involved since 2012. This was selfless and eye-opening action, resulting in a completely different perspective on life. After arriving in Gulaghuayco, we were told that we were going to be working on the clean water initiative. One of the 5 pillars set out by Free the Children. We would be digging a trench to lay pipelines so the children can access clean water in their school. As of right now, the only source of water for the school is the rain bin beside the washrooms which is exposed all of the time and sadly, is a source of bacteria and infection. Creating the pipeline was a necessity and long over-due for these people. The work was tough, especially with the effects of the high elevation, and it was hot. We took breaks often and when we interacted with children in the school, the hard work seemed effortless.
The trip made me think about everything we take for granted in our daily lives, and all the trivial things we worry about when there are much more pressing matters in life. Many times when Teens for Change students would spend hours after school working on fundraising activities to promote our adopt a village project, in San Miguel, Ecuador. Sometimes we felt like our work made no difference at all and all of it was a waste of time. Then we visited the village that Teens for Change has supported, and we saw the classrooms that our donations had created; which made every hour after school working on our small local projects and promotional events worth it! It empowered us to keep our focus and to keep doing everything that we do in Teens for Change, and encourage us to persevere through every minor hiccup that might occur, because no matter how big the issue seems to be, the larger issue is in San Miguel and creating equality among those we care about.
With all these amazing opportunities, came an equal amount of struggle. I am only sixteen and being away from all the comforts of home, took me by surprise. I had never travelled on my own outside of Canada, and having zero contact with my mom and dad at home was extremely difficult. But I was able to overcome these struggles because I knew the I was making a difference in the children’s lives. I had to become aware of the struggles they were facing and wanted to help them create a better future for themselves. Travelling to Ecuador on this trip, gave me the chance to be independent, while under the support of a group, which quickly became very rewarding. I know now that I am more than capable of travelling on my own, and I can make a huge difference in people’s lives. I would definitely travel on another Me to We trip to be able to experience these amazing opportunities again, and I would encourage everyone else to consider it as well.
This trip has changed my perspective on many things, especially now that we are back in Fort McMurray. I realize how much we take for granted and I am more grateful than ever for what I have access to here. Also, I feel very humbled to have been able to travel and experience these life-long lessons and be able to share what I have learned back to our community. It is very exciting to realize what we can accomplish, and plan to accomplish in the future through Teens for Change.