The time has finally come… The Leapers (group of volunteers from the company The Leap) have arrived… This means that from now on I am officially Group Leader for 11 youngsters, including 7 boys and 4 girls from the United Kingdom. After one month of hard work, explorations, reservations and organisation, I am happy to present my program for the next 10 weeks with this group.
However, this also means that I will not be able to write so much as before anymore, because there will be not always access to the internet in the volunteer projects. Therefore, I apologize and promise to do my best to write and post something every once in a while…
What is THE LEAP?
Volunteering with The Leap is unique because every Volunteer Leap combines a unique mix of projects – so they will help with conservation, community and eco-tourism development over the course of 10 weeks overseas. Even better these projects are located in different places around the country of choice, with the Leap team moving around every few weeks. The result is a massively diverse, enjoyable mix of challenges, cultures and environments.
What is THE LEAP program in Ecuador?
ECUADOR: Jungle + Galapagos + Adventure Week + Andes
Jungle (Tsachila): 3 April – 18 April
Galapagos (San Cristobal): 20 April – 9 May
Adventure Week (Quilotoa, Baños, Riobamba): 10 May – 16 May
Andes (Chilcapamba, Mindo): 18 May – 2 June
Ruta del Sol (Guayaquil, Montañita): 4 June – 7 June
Between these dates, my home base will stay Quito, where I will return with the group to wash clothes, buy stuff and give orientations about the different destinations and volunteer projects. As you could see, I’ve already visited and posted about 2 of the voluntuur projects that we are going to (Tsachila and Chilcapamba). I will also go with the group to a volunteer project in the Galapagos Islands, where I will have some time off of being Group Leader to discover the islands on my own. This is without a doubt one of my biggest dreams coming true. Thank God for all this wonderful opportunities and let’s pray that everything is going well with my Leapers throughout the 10 weeks! We are going to work hard and travel harder! 😛
As you can see, this group leading will take almost all of my time in Ecuador. And when this program is done and the group members travel further or back to the UK, I will be finishing lots of administration in the office of Yanapuma (the operating agent for The Leap in Ecuador). Then I only have a few days left until I fly back to Belgium on the 19th of June. Time will fly, as you might be able to imagine, and before you know, I’m reunited with my love, my friends, my family and my cats. ❤
The second week of my internship in Ecuador flew by. Before I knew it, it was Friday evening (while I’m writing this). I feel already ‘home’ at the Yanapuma office and more work and responsibilities are coming my way as the days pass by… But I wouldn’t like to talk about what I did at work, I would like to talk about what I experienced as a human being… Because I was sent to visit some of the volunteer projects of Yanapuma near Quito. And doing this, did make quite a movement in my heart and mind. So while reading this… Please consider volunteering at least one time in your life. Spread the word through the world, because your help is more than welcome!
The experience of volunteering is often one of the highlights of any traveler’s journey, and Ecuador offers some great opportunities for connecting with communities and worthwhile projects. And even though I didn’t come to volunteer myself, I got the chance to taste from this wonderful world of CARING and GIVING. And I start to understand it…
“Volunteers are not paid – not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.”
Or as Martin Luther King Jr once said:
“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”
And so I started my journey to one of the first projects: CAMP HOPE, or in Spanish: Fundación Esperanza, a day-school for disabled and underprivileged children in the northern area of Carcelen in Quito. Every day the local staff and volunteers take care of medical attention, rehabilitation, vocational training and recreational activities for these kids.
For me it was an eye-opening experience, as I felt so warmly welcomed by the local director. I still try to understand how these people keep smiling no matter how poor their life conditions are. Everybody, no matter in what circumstance they were living, was smiling. And the children loved to touch and hold me. I could feel they had so much love to give, and even though I felt uncomfortable being so much more ‘normal’ then them – almost feeling guilty for it – I smiled every second of the time I spend there.
It just demands so much courage and emotional stability to be working and / or living in Camp Hope. And so I figured out where they got the name from… On the website of the project (http://www.camphopeecuador.org/ ) I encountered a video which is definitely worth to take a look at:
After the story, you get some information about the project itself…
Unfortunately I was not allowed to take close up pictures, and the pictures I did take were only allowed for promoting volunteers to come and help them out. So I would like to announce via this blog also to collaborate and volunteer. For more information: http://www.yanapuma.org/en/volunteer-CampHope.php
And what we can all learn from this is maybe that the only disability in life is a bad attitude, or like Fundación Esperanza says: “prohibido decir no puedo” (forbidden to say I can’t…)
The long hour traveling on the bus was definitely worth the ride, and I had some time to meditate about it on my way back. And God, if feels so good doing something that does make a difference!
The next day it was time to go to Conocoto Public School (“Escuela Fiscal Amable Arauz” in Spanish), also located about an hour away by bus from Quito center. In this project volunteers can teach (English) in the busy primary and elementary school.
There are more than 1400 children, as I was informed and most of them come from the nearby neighborhoods in Quito. As it is a public school, parents don’t have to pay BUT it also means that there is not so much budget and the classes are too full (I counted an average of 40 students in one class room).
Although the project is a little bit far from Quito, it is worth the travelling. During the bus trip I had some amazing views over a valley in the Andes! (Why didn’t I make pictures of that?) And the town of Conocoto is also really nice: there is a small ‘plaza’ park with a beautiful little church. Right next to it is the school.
Inside the school you also have beautiful views over the surrounding mountains, but what was definitely the most impressive is the people themselves here. I met a wonderful English teacher, Lorena, who loved to talk with me about the school.
Then I got the chance to enter some of the class rooms and the children were amazingly excited to see “LA GRINGAAAA” with a camera. (My job was to make pictures of the projects for the website, and to discuss information about the project with the director).
All the teachers were also very friendly and warmly welcomed me to enter and interrupt their classes. I felt like some of them had never seen a camera before and tried to take as many pictures as I could of the children, and showed them afterwards to them.
The happiness and purity in the faces of these young human beings, which is so far away from western lifestyle, is very confronting. Even though these people have so much less than we do in Europe, in my opinion they had so much more to give. And that’s what it was all about for me. Trying to give things which are not evident for me, not to have… but to be.
I realized that as most of these children will never get the opportunity to continue higher studies or will never manage to speak good English, it is important as a further developed human being to try to help out the weaker amongst us. And we should realize that no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. See it like this:
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”– Muhammad Ali
“When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.”
The further away from home, the more home I feel.
Am I escaping reality, or am I just chasing dreams?
My life isn’t about destinations, it’s about the journeys.
I’m ready for the next step, not willing to settle. At all.
Many of our dreams have been crushed
Through all the negativity and what society breeds in us
We’ve all asked our self can I become?
But if the question or dream seems to big to someone else
They tell you that it can’t be done
You must be joking that’s impossible
That only happens to the lucky few
But why can’t the lucky be you
So many people like to bring up the negative
But why don’t they take out the positive
When everyone says no
You must start to say yes
Whatever you believe
Then I’m 100% sure you will achieve
Whatever you want to be, ask yourself, can I?
My answer will always be why not
Because the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams….
2012-2013: Studying Tourism in Belgium + Erasmus Spain
2013-2014: Studying Tourism in Belgium + Internship South America + Graduating (Bachelor Degree)
2014-2016: Erasmus Mundus EMTM: “European Master in Tourism Management”
2 years, 4 semesters, 4 universities, 4 destinations !!!
Fuck what all people say. Fuck what all people think.
Let me be me. Let you be you.
Why do I always let myself be influenced by others and especially by society?
Fuck right, fuck wrong.
Let’s make my own definition of life.
What about starting tomorrow, next week or next year?
Fuck it. I should’ve been started already.
“We all dream but only some wake up and work hard to make their dreams come true. Many times you’re discouraged by people around you telling you what you’re capable of doing and not and some might be harsh enough to make you feel unworthy of yourself.
When someone tells you that your dream will be impossible to come true, tell them you do not know what impossible is!
When someone laughs at your dream and says that you’re uneducated to achieve it tell them that many of the genius people who changed the world were also uneducated!
Always dream your dreams big and do everything you possibly can to make your dream come true! If you do not will to take the first step, you will never be able to climb up the staircase.” (squidoo.com)
Damn, I just realised I made a big mistake by choosing security above living my dream.
And damn, I did that too often already.
What about you? Do you dare to be honest with yourself admitting you did / do the same?
And even more, are you willing to change? Are you willing to give security up for your dreams?
How much are your dreams worth? Or are they only just a dream?