By Maya Ollie, Social Media Intern
As a Bonner Service Scholar at my soon to be alma mater Christopher Newport University (roughly 100 days left but who’s counting?), I have amazing experiences in service. One of which was our service trip abroad. It took place in Quito, Ecuador at a nonprofit known as Casa Victoria. The Casa Victoria mission is simple: shape and enhance the lives of the impoverished youth of Quito. The entire staff carries out this mission with such a spirit of service, humility and passion—it inspired me more than words can adequately express.
While in Ecuador I had the opportunity to visit in an Afro-Ecuadorian village known as Village 235. All we were told about the village, as it was a three hour drive outside of Quito, followed by a 20 minute walk into the Andes Mountains. I will admit I was slightly skeptical about walking the Ecuadorian countryside to a village that I knew absolutely nothing about. I was not sure what to expect. However, when we arrived to the village we were greeted with undeniable warmth, genuine hugs and smiles that lit my heart up. From the youngest and most adorable toddlers, to the respected elders of the village, everyone we met was so kind to us was nearly inconceivable. We received a tour of the village that consisted of a schoolhouse, a recreation hall, a concrete soccer field, and a string of small homes for the population of roughly 200 villagers.
After our tour we were able to speak with the teenagers and one of the first questions we asked was, “What would change about your village if you could”? The overwhelming response we received was fixing the soccer field. Fixing the soccer field is what a room full of teenagers wanted to change about their village. They did not want Wi-Fi or cable television, and the idea of a paved road was not even mentioned, just a better soccer field. From my perspective the village needed so many amenities and upgrades but the villagers did not seem to notice or care about their materialistic poverty. Finally, we asked what was their favorite part of the village and answers poured out from all over the room. But the that answer stood out and was universally agreed upon was, “The peace in the village. I love the peace”. In that moment I was convicted with the epiphany that the people of Village 235 were not living an impoverished life. Their life contained more wealth than I could have ever imagined. It hit me everyone can create their own Village 235, a place of peace and love. Peace exists in the village because of the people who inhabit it are humble, grateful, and love all those they meet incredibly well.
My hope is to be more grateful, humble, and love better so my life contains wealth and I owe that to the 200 villagers of Village 235.