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WHS Makes a Difference Across the Globe

by Dalton Lafferty, Technology Manager

“We only did 6 hours of service work, [but] it was the first step towards a bright future for those children,”said Junior Madison Becker of the Passport Club’s recent trip to Ecuador.” In a couple of weeks, those children will have a new classroom to learn in where they will not have to worry about getting too hot under the metal roof or being able to hear their teacher when the rain bangs on the metal.”

The club returned from their trip on April 6th, 2016. The seven WHS students and teacher departed on March 28th, and the trip was not just about touring the country. It was about volunteering for a community in Ecuador

The first day, the club toured Yunguilla (young-gee-ah), and learned how the community supports itself, as it is isolated from the rest of Ecuador. Members of the community are mostly farmers, and are noted for their milk, cheese, jellies, and jams. Next the club went to a museum on the equator to learn about the history of Ecuador. Then they traveled to Plaza de la Independencia, a square in the heart of Quito, the capitol. On day two, they hopped aboard a bus to travel to the rain forest, a seven hour trip over the Andes mountains. Once they arrived, the club, along with students from Washington D.C. and Ohio, completed a series of team-building activities. The next day they suited up in helmets and boots and got to work building a school for the community.

“We built a school classroom for a group of kids who [otherwise] have to learn in buildings with hot steel roofs and dirt floors. We bent rebar, twisted wire, dug holes and carried rocks,” said Becker.

She went on to say that the Ecuadorian people are very grateful. “I could not believe how hardworking the local people are and how, even though most families do not have a lot, they are extremely proud of what they do have. Unlike Americans, it does not seem like they are constantly desiring and expecting to get more out of life; they expect to work for it.” They are thankful and proud of what they already have. This made being around the locals one of her favorite parts of the trip.

“At one point, I was shoveling dirt and rocks that would be turned into concrete, and a young local boy around 4 or 5 helped me by standing on top of the pile and using his foot to push rocks into my shovel. He was happy to do whatever he could to help us and smiled at me the entire time. The worst part was feeling guilty when I realized how ungrateful we are for all that we have. It was frustrating that I was not able to communicate with the little boy fully. We also had to be around the local project managers and when we had to talk to them about issues with our work we would use hand gestures, but it was not as hard to communicate as I would have expected,” said Becker.

Serving the Ecuadorian people was certainly an eye opening experience for Becker, who said “I wish that people could learn to be grateful for what they have and understand that we need to be doing more to help other countries. There are people all over the world who face problems that most people in America cannot even comprehend, like struggling to get clean water, [whereas] in America we expect to have it. The trip was a once in a lifetime experience that has changed my perspective on life in many ways,” said Becker.

Passport Club mentor Katie Ford travelled to China with the club in the spring of 2014. This made her trip to Ecuador her second with the club. “It was so interesting seeing how this community lived. Their houses were much smaller than what we’re used to in the US, and anything they wanted done had to be done by hand. Without heavy equipment, hauling rocks becomes much more labor intensive. The experience has made me appreciate the lives we have here and how easy it is to get work done. If Americans had to build their houses themselves, I imagine we would have far fewer houses. The best part of volunteering was getting to work in that community and really understand how they live. While we were only there for a short time, I walked away wanting to help more and get involved with international community service more. The worst part of the experience was that we didn’t have enough time. I could’ve spent all 9 days working with that community.”

Ford wishes everyone who went on the trip brings back a sense of appreciation for what we have. “I wish everyone could learn to be tolerant of others, and to be open to new experiences. Some of the best memories from Ecuador came when we stepped outside our comfort zones and tried new, and sometimes scary, things.”

Passport Club members pose with other volunteers after their service. (Photo: Kelley Conley/Senior, Journalism Classroom Manager)

Passport Club members pose with other volunteers after their service.
(Photo: Kelley Conley/Senior, Journalism Classroom Manager)

A photograph of Pailon del Diablo, or Devil's Cauldron, a famous waterfall in Ecuador. (Photo: Kelley Conley/Senior, Journalism Classroom Manager)

A photograph of Pailon del Diablo, or Devil’s Cauldron, a famous waterfall in Ecuador.
(Photo: Kelley Conley/Senior, Journalism Classroom Manager)

A photograph of the Napo River in Ecuador. (Photo: Kelley Conley/Senior, Journalism Classroom Manager)

A photograph of the Napo River in Ecuador.
(Photo: Kelley Conley/Senior, Journalism Classroom Manager)

A photograph of a hydro-power plant in Ecuador. (Photo: Kelley Conley/Senior, Journalism Classroom Manager)

A photograph of a hydro-power plant in Ecuador.
(Photo: Kelley Conley/Senior, Journalism Classroom Manager)

A photograph of the sign marking the equator. (Photo: Kelley Conley/Senior, Journalism Classroom Manager)

A photograph of the sign marking the equator.
(Photo: Kelley Conley/Senior, Journalism Classroom Manager)

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