Three Amigas Forge Lasting Friendship
For those of you who have been lucky enough to travel to Quito and meet our WBC Family of Families members, you are familiar with the special connection that can be made with our children. David Mobley got that chance and was touched by a relationship he forged with the “Tres Amigas” pictured here. He shares his thoughts…
I met three girls at the Center who were so inseparable and friendly that I called them the “Tres Amigas.” We always sought each other out during school breaks, and it gave me great pleasure to hear them call out to me across the playground at the top of their communal voice, “Davíd! Davíd!” One day during recess I gathered their attention and asked them to tell me what was the best part of the Working Boys’ Center.
Being a pediatrician in Texas, I was familiar with the responses that would be typical in my country: recess, lunch time, PE, or perhaps even music or art class. I was astonished with the simplicity, sincerity, and immediacy of their answers. The first “amiga” told me, “We learn to read.” The second added, “And we get to write, too!” The third “amiga” quickly added, “And they give us all the material we need to do our work!” These girls were nine and ten years old. I suppose I am glad I didn’t ask any boys for their thoughts…..although I have a suspicion that their responses would have melted my heart no less thoroughly.
Former Year Long Volunteer (YLV) Aims to Benefit WBC Families through Ecuadorian Flower Business
Like a lot of former WBC volunteers, upon returning to the United States, I always dreamed of a way to get back to Ecuador. For most of us, it remains just that, a dream. And that’s alright. My two years at the Center were some of the most cherished moments of my life. A true gift that opened my eyes and heart, set me on a different life course, and made me infinitely more interesting, at least to myself.
But I always felt like I had left an important part of me back in Quito, and it became more apparent on my subsequent trips back. So after working for 5 years as the “Spanish Speaking Guy” for a Milwaukee manufacturing company, an opportunity presented itself to fulfill that dream and return to Ecuador.
It turns out, of all things, flowers held the key. (A political science major has to be open to just about anything.) Cut flowers from Ecuador, specifically roses, are world-renowned for their beautifully vibrant colors, huge head size and long stem length.
I have been working in the cut flower export business here in Quito, as the “English Speaking Guy” since 2004, fulfilling my dream to live and work here. I frequent the WBC and make sure to get invited for holiday gatherings as well. The WBC remains an important part of my life. I have a NEW dream now. I want to combine these two worlds into one. I hope to sell flowers directly to the US-based final consumer, forming a partnership between the WBC and Esperanza Flowers, my new e-commerce business. In turn, Esperanza will donate 5% of all sales to the Center, and give the person making the flower purchase the opportunity to match that, resulting in an overall donation of 10% of each sale.
We already made a huge splash at the BIG 50th anniversary celebration in Milwaukee this past August. Many of you who were there saw the beautiful flowers that Esperanza sent to adorn the shoeshine boxes, table-tops and other assorted arrangements. A few of you even made WBC donations to take one home at the end of the night. Others helped in making the actual arrangements, including the Costigan family (Bob, Pat, Claire, Beth, Anne, and Irene) who came all of the way from Rochester, NY to decorate for the BIG 50th.
A special thanks also goes out to a group of Methodists: Louann Shenberger, her friend, Shelley, and Shelley’s daughter Kirsten. Louann is a professional florist who sold us the hard goods to use at the event in Milwaukee. She really liked the mission of the Center, and also was keen to realize that we were in over our heads, trying to make arrangements for a 500+ person event. So they drove 10 hours from Jerseyville, IL to Milwaukee, and stayed two days helping us make all of the arrangements. That level of generosity has come to be par for the course with the Center, but, nevertheless, humbling to witness, and deeply appreciated.
Pat Costigan continues to help promote Esperanza Flowers. She got us our first order, a wedding for her coworker’s daughter, last month in Rochester. She also made some nice arrangements with the flowers we sent for her recent fundraising event with Madre Cindy.
There is so much passion, spirit, and willingness to collaborate within the greater WBC Family. I want to tap in to that energy with Esperanza Flowers. All of the organizations that our family belonged to growing up, sold something to help with fundraising: Cub Scout Candy, Boy Scout Christmas Wreaths, Girl Scout Cookies, Tosa League Baseball Frozen Pizzas. Flowers for the Working Boys’ Center Family of Families!
The Dream is just getting started, so please be patient. I know you will love the results. Visit www.esperanzaflowers.com to learn more!
Reciben un fuerte abrazo de parte mi familia (Silvia, Sebastian, and Mateo)
Daniel Gaus, Former WBC Volunteer
Former Volunteer/High School Chaperone Bids Farewell
John Azpell, former WBC volunteer and Marquette University High School chaperone, reflects…
Somos Amigos-Ecuador service trip this year at the Working Boys’ Center was an extraordinary experience once again. All of the students were extremely hard workers and always had a positive attitude toward their work and the people they interacted with. As always, each of us was deeply changed by this service experience.
This year the boys were able to help one family start constructing a new place for their auto mechanic shop by hauling rocks uphill in a wheelbarrow to an area where the family will start constructing the shop. One day the boys cleaned the walls at one Center and another day they painted the ceiling and pillars at another Center. Tutoring the kids and adults of the families was one of their favorite activities. One of the hardest jobs believe it or not was to sort donated clothes into different piles according to age and sex. Alexis was a huge help as always in leading the boys in various jobs, activities, and reflections, but that job would have been almost impossible without some clothes sorting advice from a woman.
At night the students’ reflections were deep. They realized that some of the work that they are doing is hard and in some ways thankless since the majority of the people who will benefit from the cleaning, painting, and sorting will never directly thank them, but they realized that all of these little deeds and jobs add up and that every job is important in order for these families to have an education. We also reflected on the jobs of the maintenance workers as well as other various jobs in our community at Marquette High School in order for them to have a successful education and how they should be thankful for everyone involved in their education.
They now see the human faces behind the poor in Ecuador and have relationships with these people. In their oral reflections I could tell that the students were affected emotionally by the real conditions of the poor in Quito after we went on the house visits. They also were struck by the happiness of the kids at the Center despite their living conditions and loved the real community that the Center brought out in all of the families. It was neat for them to see that people from various families at the Working Boys’ Center will help one family build a house or build a business. When Edison, one of the leaders of the Working Boys’ Center, was helping the boys help a family haul rocks up the hill, they were shocked by how invested the people at the Center are to make it work. They said that it was cool to see the equivalent of our high school principal of the Center wheelbarrow rocks up the hill right next to them.
Personally, I had two very happy “Eureka!” moments on the trip. One was the realization that if we all treat each other like true blood brothers and sisters and help each other out like a true blood brother or sister would help each other out, the world would spiritually and physically be in a much better place. My other moment was when I asked the students how they are going to bring what they learned from this experience back home. They came up with the idea of getting to know the people in the community around MUHS better. They want to host a cookout for the families of the St. Rose community at Merrill Park. They now know first hand that the ugly stereotypes that poor people get are not true in many or most cases. They know that breaking the ice and getting to know another person for who they really are takes guts, but that it is the first step in developing a friendship with someone in a community. The students will lead this activity with my support and they know that communication with the administration is key to having a safe and successful activity.
I donated all of my summer of 2001 teaching religion to 1st through 6th graders at the Working Boys’ Center. When I lived in Quito for two years between 2002-2004, I worked a full time job at the American School of Quito and spent two nights a week volunteering by teaching Technical English at the Working Boys’ Center. I have spent two weeks of the last three summers leading the Somos Amigos-Ecuador trip. I have donated money to the Center numerous times. I believe full heartedly that the Working Boys’ Center is a great program for young people to see families pulling themselves out of monetary poverty and spiritual poverty with the help of other young people who are full time volunteers, Madre Miguel, Padre Juan, the support staff, and the help of other volunteers such as themselves.
Unfortunately, I will not be able to lead the Somos Amigos trip to Ecuador next year. My wife just started a full time job. With two little kids at home I want to be there to support her and them in the summer for the foreseeable future. God willing, I would love to come back and lead or co-lead a Somos Amigos trip to Ecuador when my kids are a little older.
I will keep all of the families, staff and volunteers at the Working Boys’ Center in my prayers as well as the Marquette administrators and staff involved in picking the next leader, and I will pray for a willing leader to step up for next year’s Somos Amigos-Ecuador service trip. I will truly miss my trips to the Center, but I know I will be back to visit or lead a trip some day in the not so distant future.
Sincerely and with Love,
Which Teenage Girl is Truly Poor?
Chiana Roman traveled to the WBC with her classmates and was surprised by what she discovered. In her own words…
Over my spring break this year, I spent two weeks at the Working Boys’ Center – A Family of Families with three chaperones, and eight of my classmates. Our days were spent teaching in classes, shadowing yearlong volunteers, and giving lots of hugs. We were greeted by smiling faces constantly, many times we had to remind ourselves that these sweet children lived a life of poverty that none of us could begin to understand.
As our trip continued, we saw more and more of their living conditions. On one visit, we saw the home of one of our favorite kids. Seeing how our little friend lived in a one-room house, with his five siblings and mother was so hard to see.
It was strange to see how quickly we adjusted. Some of my group members would say, “Well, it is Ecuador,” or “It’s not so bad.” We found ourselves almost accepting the poverty. But as we rode through Quito, I realized it wasn’t just Ecuador. There was another side to Quito besides the poverty. The city had beautiful malls and wealthy houses.
Luckily we were faced with a constant feeling of hope built by the family we all began to feel so much a part of. The Center taught us all that it’s never OK to say “Well, it’s Ecuador.” The Center fosters an unbelievable sense of pride and love, and that pride never permits the acceptance of poverty.
But more than anything, the Center is a family and everyone who experiences it, feels its love. They also receive the amazing gift of faith. You start to see who really is poor: is it that family in the rural village or is it the family in the United States?
Which girl was truly born into poverty?
LMU Student’s Experience at WBC Forms Unexpected Bonds
By Shannon O’Brien, a junior at Loyola Marymount University
During the Spring of my sophomore year, I participated in my first De Colores trip. It ended up being one of the defining moments of my college experience. At LMU, we hear the phrases “solidarity” and “breaking bread” a lot, but I never really knew what either meant until De Colores. After spending the weekend in Tijuana, however, I felt as if I was finally beginning to better understand our school’s Jesuit mission.
Thus, when I received the email telling me I was going to the Working Boys’ Center – A Family of Families in Quito, Ecuador for an Ignacio Companion trip, it was difficult to contain my excitement. I felt blessed to have the opportunity to continue to grow in my experience and knowledge about that word, “solidarity,” about being “one with the other.” To me, solidarity was about being a companion to those one served “for and with.” That’s what the Ignacio trips were about after all, right?
However, this view was challenged during the week I spent at the WBC. Just as I bonded with the children and the community in Tijuana, I traveled to Ecuador expecting to form companionships with the people we met. Never did I expect to form such a deep feeling of companionship with the other LMU students on the trip with me.
But that is exactly what happened. Within a couple of days I found myself crying during one of our reflections, talking about experiences I hadn’t even discussed with some of my closest friends. In fact, many of us cried that night. It was liberating – being so vulnerable with people that (in some cases) I barely knew. And though I did make several connections with the Ecuadorians we met during the remainder of the week, none seemed as deep as the connections I felt we had all made with each other.
The time to return to Los Angeles came upon us all too quickly. Almost as if we had never left, we returned to the states – physically unchanged, but spiritually, invisibly, altered. And then it was back to the inevitable grind – to the homework, the tests, the deadlines, the meetings. And the people I spent every hour with for the past week suddenly became friendly faces that passed by on my way to class. While you all say more with a hug or a look than you could ever express in words, it did not make the transition back to my daily life any easier.
Shortly after the trip, as I was feeling nostalgic during one of my many “Pinterest Study Breaks,” I suddenly came across a quote that caused me to take pause. It read: “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”
And suddenly I understood. Maybe companionship wasn’t necessarily about being in solidarity with those one served “for and with.” Maybe companionship was more about keeping the people one met – the people who inspired and challenged you – inside one’s heart. I realized that maybe “more than one place” didn’t necessarily mean some foreign land, but simply another place in the same land, the same city, the same school. Maybe companionship was more about knowing that, even though the person you slept next to for a week now slept in their own room on the other side of campus, they are not any less distant in one’s heart.
Ignacio Companion trips can change you – if you let them. As much as I fell in love with the brokenness of the families at the WBC and the country of Ecuador, I fell in just as much love with the brokenness of the people experiencing it all alongside me. The IC trip, and my reflections after it, helped teach me that companionship and solidarity don’t always have to come from experiences of serving – or at least not in its usual sense. We can serve each other simply by challenging the way someone reflects on a certain situation or by supporting a friend in their struggle to overcome an obstacle. And though I may never be together with the people on my IC trip in the same way, at the same time, again, that does not mean what we shared and what we continue to share simply from having known each other is made any less important by the physical distance now separating us. Because in any one moment, we can all be in solidarity with everything and everyone around us. In the end, maybe that is what being an Ignacio Companion is all about – about simply being human with one another in the here and now, no matter the distance between us.
From Cazenovia to Quito’s Working Boys’ Center
After months of snow and ice, the Cazenovia College Alternative Break Club was eager to explore the beautiful city of Quito, but no one expected to learn as much as we did from this eye opening experience. From Mitad del Mundo (The Middle of the World) to the volcanic crater lake Laguna de Cuicocha, we were lucky to see the treasures of Ecuador, but the most important part of our journey was the people we met. Whether we were working alongside the year long volunteers, workers, or family members themselves, everyone at El Centro del Muchacho Trabajador – Una Familia de Familias (Working Boys’ Center – A Family of Families) provided inspiration and taught us what was truly important in life. We are very grateful that Father Halligan, Sister Miguel, and Sister Cindy welcomed us to their Center and shared their work with us.
Living at the Center and working alongside the adults and children was an experience I will not soon forget. Many of us had fun as we assembled 500 empanadas and peeled potatoes with the head of the kitchen, Maria. We were surprised to find out that she is responsible for baking 1,000 empanadas a day as well as preparing the daily meals for all of the families. Shadowing the volunteers was another great experience. Cazenovia students worked with various levels of English classes as well as math classes and special needs students. The hardest part of the classroom experience was to see adults struggle with basic math and other skills that we often take for granted. Seeing these students get the individual help they need and be enabled through education was uplifting. The work of the volunteers to provide impoverished children with a basic education is not only selfless but the impact is tremendous.
Our day in the vocational shops with the students was another special day. Cazenovia students joined students from the University of St. Thomas and spent the day in the bakery, salon, carpentry shop, sewing shop, and automotive shop. Personally, I have never been so impressed than I was with the group of young boys who worked in the automotive shop. They knew more about cars than I ever will and were excited to teach me how to change a tire, check brakes, and navigate under the hood. The eagerness of these students to learn as much as they can and to apply their skills was an inspiration to all of us. Volunteers, workers, and students were all so grateful to be at the Center and they taught us to be grateful for all that we have back home.
In addition to the time we spent at the Center, exploring the city of Quito put the families’ lifestyles in perspective for us. Maria, our tour guide, took us to visit four houses of member families on the outskirts of the city to show us where these families live. Hours of bus rides and many steep ascents up the surrounding mountains brought us to several small two to three room houses. Each accommodated as many as eleven people and had two or three beds. Sparse electricity, little running water, and rustic outhouses contrasted drastically to our homes and our dorm rooms at the college. It was hard to imagine what life was like for these families returning home after a long day at work or school. The most dramatic image that resonated with most students was the mother we met living in a three room hut on the top of a muddy hill with a two month old baby. She was recovering from surgery without proper sanitation and was responsible for singlehandedly caring for the baby while her family was either at work or school.
The resilience of these families to commute hours to the Center to work or receive their education regardless of how they felt or what the weather was like was incredible. It truly puts our worries and inconveniences in perspective. I am sure none of us will ever complain about the walk to the parking lot again!
Another part of the city that we were lucky enough to tour was the downtown Center and La Gota de Leche (A Drop of Milk). These Centers provided elementary education for students as well as adult classes and health services for mothers and their young children. It was extremely moving to see members of the community assist in ensuring the health and education of young children and mothers. We were greeted with cultural songs and dances from the students, and even a few jokes in Spanish. The students were very eager to teach us all that they had accomplished and were kind to give us such a warm welcome.
Staying at El Centro del Muchacho Trabajador was an incredible experience which exposed us to life in another country and taught us about how much a small group of committed individuals can accomplish. We visited the attic of the church where Father Halligan began working with the shoeshine boys of Quito back in 1964 and were able to reflect on what they have accomplished in the fifty years they have been established. Currently, the Centers serve 400 families and since they began, they have helped over 30,000 individuals lift themselves out of poverty. Approaching poverty from a spiritual perspective gives the tools to families which enables them to work hard and create better lives for themselves. These families’ dedication to the Center contributes to the beautiful community and proves that all of us can make a difference bigger than ourselves.
Sellers Family Committed to Working Boys’ Center’s Mission
In their own words…
I was 11 years old when I first remember hearing about the Working Boys’ Center in Quito, Ecuador. It was Christmas day at our Grandma’s house on Lake Erie in Buffalo, NY, where our 30-some aunts, uncles, and cousins, gathered together every year to share a beautiful meal. The telephone rang, and in the midst of the chaos, laughter, and preparation for our own cena de Navidad, the bustling house quieted for a moment when we heard Liz’s voice on the other side from Ecuador. My cousin, Liz (Sellers) Herle, was the trailblazer for our family’s legacy at the Working Boys’ Center from 1998-1999. I remember my Aunt Anne and Uncle Charlie, Liz and Charlie’s parents, explaining to us younger cousins about the significance of the work Liz was doing, while other family members, particularly our Grandmother, beamed with pride. Since then, there have been 6 other phone calls home on Christmas from the Working Boys’ Center with the same messages of joy and hope from where Madre Miguel once described to me as, “the best place on earth.” We’d like to share with you part of our journey as volunteers at the Center as our experiences have strengthened our relationship as cousins and have given us that inexplicable connection so many volunteers share. –Julia Sellers & The Sellers Family
My time as a volunteer at the Working Boys’ Center from 1998- 1999 marked not only the beginning of a line of volunteers from my family, but the beginning of some of the most significant relationships in my life. It was at the Working Boys’ Center where I first truly experienced the blessing of becoming friends with people who happen to be poor. Separated from my own family and friends through distance and time, I formed deep and lasting relationships with the families whom I worked alongside as well as with my fellow volunteers. I remember celebrating Thanksgiving Day at the bakery sharing ice cream cones with my adult education class of four dear Senoras. I told them about our customs on that day at home, and they told me not to feel sad because they were my family that year. Center cones may not compare to my mom’s turkey, but that was a very special Thanksgiving meal.
Now, I am about the same age as my adult education students were when I taught them, and I often pray for them and wonder at their tenacity and grace as I experience the ups and downs of motherhood with a small fraction of the challenges that my brave students faced on a daily basis. I think that my friendships with the families that I worked with at the Center have shaped my perspective on poverty in a way that no other experience could have. When I pray for people that I may see struggling within my own city, I know that “there but for the Grace of God go I,” because I was lucky enough to be able to share life with people who struggle economically and to understand that they are simply people like me who may need an extra helping hand. God knows how often I have been helped by friends when I need it, and how much the families in Quito helped me to understand Christ’s message and to feel His love.
The example set forth by Madre Miguel, Madre Cindy, and Padre Juan continues to inspire me to be brave, grateful, and perseverant in life. As “parents” with unceasing energy to thousands, and Christians with audacious faith, they are amazing role models for me and for hundreds of volunteers who have been blessed enough to work with them. Before I left for home, I remember Madre Miguel assuring me through my tears that I would be back. While I may not be able to visit Quito as often as I would like, Madre knew in her wisdom that they would always be with me in my heart.
I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been a witness, participant, and beneficiary of the transformative power of the Gospels through my work and continued relationship with the Working Boys’ Center and its families.
My two years at the Center had a direct impact on my career as a Spanish teacher. If I ever come across a student with a propensity to get into trouble, I always think about how Madre Miguel had a special knack for seeing everyone’s incredible potential. My friend Carlos Gomez, who went from a tough kid from the streets to one of the Center Directors, and countless others can attest to Madre’s ability for taking the most mischievous and troubled kids and finding a way for them to contribute and lead. Madre saw this potential in me too. In my second year at the Center, she motivated me to teach one of the third course religion classes with her, Padre, and Carlos and to help with the retreat that this class takes in the spring. I stopped drinking and going out with my friends every weekend in Quito that year and spent almost all of my time with the families. Just like Carlos and countless other shoe shiners and families, the Center has been an incredibly transformative experience in my life.
Before I left for my first year, my sister Liz gave me an incredible piece of advice: if I needed help with my classes, I only had to ask Madre Miguel. Madre has countless anecdotes about volunteers and their times at the Center. I would always try to talk with Madre after dinner, and she would remember the story of a certain volunteer, the year, and some creative activity or event that the volunteer planned with his or her classes: “I remember in 1978 when we had a guy who thought that he could teach karate. Well, they showed him. One of the kids broke his leg!”
Also, whenever I don’t feel like getting up to work, I think about how the Padre and the Madres would get up first thing in the morning to say the rosary together and then work until dinner at 8:30, read the paper, joke around with volunteers and guests, and then go straight to bed. They always led by example. From my time at the Center, I know that all I really need to be happy is to get up, shower, and get to work.
I never really knew if it was part of Padre’s original plan, but the very same values that they asked me teach were the values that I learned. I went down thinking that I was going to help people, and they helped me. Most importantly, the Madres and Padre helped me see Christ’s presence in others and in myself, and for this I am eternally grateful. Como se dice en Ecuador, “Que Dios les pague.” May God continue to bless you and your work, and thank you for everything that you have done for me, my family in the U.S., and the extended family of volunteers and Ecuadorians that adopted me in Quito.
After visiting Liz at the Center, I knew volunteering there was something I wanted to do. The August after I graduated from college, I showed up in Quito ready to teach. It turned out that I did a lot more learning than teaching during that year. I learned what inner strength really is. It’s hard not to when you see teenagers going to school after working a full day so they can continue their education. Or, work with a 35 year-old man who is learning how to read, so he can help his children with their homework. I learned what commitment is. You see it every day at the Center in Padre, Madre Miguel and Madre Cindy. 50 years!!! I learned just what cooperation and hard work can achieve…6,000 families moved out of poverty. And, possibly most importantly, I learned that I really don’t like bananas!
It was one of our first reflection nights as a group my first year at the Working Boys’ Center all the way back in 2011. Padre Juan, Madre Miguel, and Madre Cindy led us in a discussion about what kind of things they expected from us as volunteers and some important guidelines they wanted us to be aware of to make our time at the Working Boys’ Center fruitful. It was during this weekly reflection when I was first introduced to one of Miguel’s favorite words that would haunt me for the rest of my time at the Center: commitment. She asked us what it meant to us and explained to us why commitment would be so important for us as a volunteer community, and a member of the Family of Families.
I don’t think anyone in my amazing volunteer family that year knew what we were getting ourselves into those first few weeks, and as we discussed what commitment meant to us, Miguel, Cindy, and Padre recognized the vapidity in our dictionary responses but also the potential we had to understand commitment as young people. I knew there was something I was missing in my life when I came to the Center and felt that my commitment to the Center and the families would be part of my personal journey.
With that question in mind, I began what would become the next two and a half years of my life. Everyday, no matter how tired, sick or miserable I might have felt, I woke up with a focus, a purpose, and a smile on my face, excited to see my students and what they would bring to the classroom that day. I pushed myself physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally every time my feet touched the ground in the morning, not knowing what challenges or hardships I would face until 8:30 at night. I came to love each of my students for their own humanity, recognizing in myself my own. I learned what it meant to love a child and adult unconditionally with a corazón sin puertas. I learned what compassion is, how powerful asking someone how their family is doing can be to a person, how to listen, what it means to be present and feel the rain, and the value of sharing in a different culture. I learned what commitment meant.
I’ve been back in the States for just a month, and not a day goes by where I don’t think and pray for all the volunteers who have become my family; for my students as they push through school and start young families of their own; for my adults as they finish their education and set an example for their children; for strength and health for Padre Juan, Madre Miguel, Madre Cindy and the directors at the Center. To say you have “beautifully ruined” me would cut my transformation short, but you get the idea. Gracias a todos.
Mother Teresa once said, I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love. For me, this is what my family’s commitment has been to the Center. We have continued to carry Christ’s message of love and hope that we learned at the Center with us every day. The more of God’s love we give, the more love we receive. It doesn’t end here. We’ll see you soon, Padre and Madres ☺
The Sellers Family
Son of YLV Marvels at Center’s Community Spirit
As my flight descended into Quito early this January, the nerves and excitement that had been building in my head for the past few weeks seemed to reach a peak. I was by myself, with rusty Spanish two years out of practice and really not much of an idea about what I would be doing for the next week-and-a-half. More and more thoughts began to float around my head as I made my way through customs, but they all seemed to revolve around one pivotal question: What am I doing here?
It wouldn’t take long before this was answered for me. Awaking to my first day at the Center affirmed for me that I was in a place entirely different from anywhere I’d ever been. I marveled at the activity bustling around me. Even though I’d heard so much about it before I left for Ecuador, I hadn’t quite grasped the scale and scope of the Center before that first day. I had expected the Center to be a small, self-contained, charity-type organization with the goal of giving access to educational and financial resources to a modest number of families from a couple of neighborhoods in Quito. What I experienced on my first day and on the days that followed was an institution whose reach extended to all parts of Quito and the surrounding areas, and whose mission was not only to educate and support the working poor of the city, but also to instill a community-oriented spirit in everyone involved at the center, to build a family.
I was surprised and humbled by the fact that I could feel so welcomed by an organization comprised of countless volunteers working full schedules nearly every day all across the city. “Welcomed” may not be the right word, as whether or not I’d be welcomed at the Center never even seemed to be in question; by the end of my second or third day, I felt like an old friend who had simply been away for a time. I forgot my nerves and began to feel like part of a family. The kindness and generosity shown to me by nearly everyone I met at the Working Boys’ Center is something that I will never forget.
A few of things about my time at the Center continue to stand out in my mind a couple of weeks after I returned home. First, I was reminded almost constantly during my stay in Quito of the value of hard work and the good that can come from it. The homeowner of the house where I worked on my first minga took so much pride in her home and her work, and her handiness with a pickaxe and shovel put my efforts to shame. It was inspirational to see her devotion to bettering her family’s life, and I think everyone in the group that day learned a little about what it means to truly work hard, and what is worth working for.
I felt the same way about getting a chance to see what Madre Miguel, Madre Cindy, Padre Juan, the YLVs and all of the other workers do every single day in order to make the Working Boys’ Center what it is. Their drive to work as hard as they do for relatively little recognition or reward speaks volumes about the type of people involved with the Center; they are some of most selfless, dedicated, and kind people one could ever hope to meet. I was moved to see many of the YLVs—most of whom are my age—work long days that begin very early in the morning and often don’t end until after the sun has set. More than anything, it laid out for me not only what I’m capable of doing to help those in need, but what I should be doing. I have so much admiration for the work that these people do.
I’d like to thank everyone I met at the Working Boys’ Center for showing me such kindness and generosity during my stay. I’d also like to thank my stepmother, Sara Deeny Eide (a former YLV), for giving me the opportunity to take this trip, and giving me a lot of helpful advice about the Center and Quito. Finally, I’d like to say thank you again to the group from Le Moyne College that I was so fortunate to meet and work with over my time in Quito. I feel so blessed to have met every person that I did during my stay. It was an incredibly fulfilling and important experience for me, and I hope that I’m able to return sometime soon.