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By Participant December 2016

Sorry for the late post guys, but I am finally back in the states and currently suffering from Ecuador withdrawal. I’m still trying to cope with the fact that it’s all over. Well Ecuador, it has been a total blast. I’m lucky enough to say that for the very first time ever I visited a third world country and helped out people who needed it the most and actually became what I consider my friends. Between all of the traveling from place to place (from Quito to Yunguilla to Mitad Del Mundo to Papallacta and finally back), delicious food, and the community service (did I just forget an intense soccer game?), I couldn’t have possibly asked for anything more. I’m also going to be brutally honest: this experience opened my eyes to way of life that I admit to not fully understand or ever begin to imagine, yet still appreciate at the same time how people in this society help out another in times of need. It truly makes me grateful for all that I have in my life. I will never forget any of the friends I encountered here, nor any of my experiences, nor the breathtaking scenery within this incredibly beautiful country. This might as well have been one of the best weeks of my whole 22 years. Ecuador, you will be greatly missed.

By Ashley Simon

Today, we arrived in the hidden village of Yunguilla. For those of you who are not so geographically savvy, Yunguilla is about 1-2 hours away from Quito, in the middle of, well, basically nowhere. Even though this small town lives off one small store and the working mentality of its citizens, I don’t think I have ever seen such humble and content people. Upon our first day of arrival, we were greeted by the friendly smiles of home stay families. For the next week, we would be emerged in the houses of these strangers who we knew nothing about. Little did I know that these “strangers” did not posses any qualities of being “weird” or “strange.” My homestay mother welcomed Lilly and me into her home with a warm smile and fresh popcorn. Within the first few moments, I knew that I felt right at home in this hilltop abode. One of the moments that has touched me the most since I have been here is when I was working in the artesian shop with one of the most warm hearted women that I have had the chance of meeting. Being able to help out “Leely” with making crafts to sell in the little store was an experience that I would never of thought could teach me so much. As we began to work, she told me about the paper that we were drawing on. Every single piece was recycled and the materials were either second-hand or completely natural, such as leaves or flowers. As I began to draw, I realized that I did not really have room to mess up. I didn’t have paper and fresh markers at my beck and call as I do in the United States. These recycled paper cards were sold to villagers and tourists in order to further gain profit for the community. As Leely and I began to talk, she told me that she works three days a week and each day, 8 to 10 hours. She does this while balancing raising two daughters and working as an avid member and citizen of Yunguilla. Her story inspired me. Seeing her be so passionate about the glitter paint and colored pencils that went into making these heart-felt crafts reminded me of how blessed I am to be able to take art class and visit museums and buy a fresh poster board and markers any time I have an upcoming project. Being here in Yunguilla is an eye-opening experience for me, and I have become more thankful for the little things, such as making Mother’s Day cards in a little shack with the presence of genuine companions.