This July, I went to Santa Domingo in Ecuador for 3 weeks to serve the local community as a STEP team member with Latin Link. The fundraising target was difficult to reach, as I’m a 17 -year-old who’s still in full time education, but WFM helped me out so much contributing almost a quarter of the needed funds.
Our main focuses of the trip were to help build a second floor onto the “Hombre Nuevo en Jesucristo” church in Santo Domingo, a city 4 hours to the west of Quito, Ecuador’s capital. We got to help out by cleaning and painting massive steel beams which would contribute to the structure of the building, and smashing holes in the wall for the beams to fit into.
As well as practical work, we were able to get alongside people in the community by helping to lead the worship music in church – in English and Spanish, and taking Sunday School. The people there – our host family and some families from the church – were so hospitable and generous with their time, and despite the language barrier we were able to form such close connections with them.
One highlight was visiting a local orphanage for children with AIDS and spending time with the children.
Between our 13 hour layover in Mexico city, and our trips to Quito (including the Equator) and the Ecuadorian coast, we also got to explore a lot.
Another highlight was work closely with a missionary, Sharon, who supports a group of disabled children and adults: they made our ‘elevenses’ every morning and brought them to us while we worked at the church, which they loved, and we were able to go for day trips with them (the picture is from when we went gardening with them in San Pablo.)
The trip was challenging in a lot of ways: Latin American culture is very relaxed and at the start we got stressed that there wasn’t a lot to do and we wouldn’t be able to help in the ways we wanted, but this proved to be a good thing as we were able to help out more in the Sunday School, with worship music and we were able to build stronger relationships with people. We also had a few accidents and health problems between us but thankfully nothing major.
We all really felt like the experience had more of an impact on us than we had on the church, but during our leaving do some people did speeches about how we had helped and inspired them and it was really moving – lots of tears were shed!
We were blown away by the hospitality we were shown every day. Their culture focuses on relationships rather than tasks, and on people rather than materialistic things, which really struck me as a good way to live and changed my perspective.
Full weekly reports that I wrote during our trip can be found at https://www.latinlink.org.uk/step-team-reports