At the beginning of summer 2017, three other engineering students and I eagerly left Ann Arbor to embark on an international volunteer trip through the Engineering Honors Program. The destination was Quito, Ecuador, where we planned to educate children whose socioeconomic background kept them from attending traditional school. Upon our arrival, the non-profit United to Benefit Ecuadorian Children, International, took us to day camps for these children, who outnumbered our group roughly five to one.
We spent the following two weeks at these day camps, located in various markets around Quito, interacting with the children, who would otherwise be working a continuous twelve hours at the markets. On top of the long workdays the children were accustomed to, many also came from challenging home situations and had limited opportunities to develop socially. The children’s disadvantaged background was evident when members of our group first presented them with toys. They played with them solemnly and alone.
Our group worked to inspire positive social interactions among the children and taught them how to wash hands, develop fine motor skills, and express feelings through words and art. It was an awesome experience to see them open up and start playing with each other within a relatively short period of time!
Apart from teaching the children, we were able to enjoy the beauty of Quito, the surrounding area and Ecuadorian culture. On our time off we kept busy learning how to salsa dance, tasting guinea pig and rappelling down a waterfall. The volunteer trip was a great experience and inspired each of us to want to get further involved in outreach in our future careers.