Students embark on Ecuador excursion, face hardships

By Felicia Melvin
January 12, 2011

During Christmas break eight Cabrini students traveled to Duran, Ecuador, through a retreat program called Rostro de Cristo, to experience poverty first-hand and to see the face of Christ in the people of Duran, Ecuador.

Students traveled to Ecuador under the guidance of Christa Grzeskowiak, a Cabrini campus minister, to immerse themselves in the cultural and economic reality of the people in Duran, Ecuador.  Also, the students worked with the volunteers of Rostro de Cristo in afterschool programs that catered to neighborhood children.

Sapphire Griffin (lower left), junior psychology major, works with children in Duran, Ecuador. Students immersed themselves in the extreme poverty of the nation. -- Christa Grzeskowiak / Submitted photo --

“Why these kids, why are they put in these situations or the lifestyles they live? It didn’t matter how little they had, no one could take away their manners,” Maureen Browne, junior special education major, said.

While students Manuela DeOliveira, Tim Rooney, Lindsay Anderson, Ashley Natale, Maureen Browne, Felicia Melvin and Nick Kaminski, and group leaders Christa Grzeskowiak and Colleen Poole remained healthy and well, junior Sapphire Griffin became sick three days into the trip. After receiving two IV’s from a local clinic, Griffin still complained about having stomach pains and was taken to a hospital in the city of Guayaquil.

“I didn’t know Sapphire before the trip, but I found myself crying and I didn’t know why. We became our own community and just losing that person for the week was like a family member becoming sick,” Brown said.

Griffin had to receive abdominal surgery  in Ecuador as the rest of her group-mates continued on with the trip.

“My intestine was caught in my hernia. So they had to do an emergency surgery because I wasn’t going to make it,” Griffin said.

The group recalled how discouraging and unforunate the setback was.

“I was shocked that we had to continue. It put a little damper on the whole experience. It was sad because she wasn’t going to be with us,” Nick Kaminski, senior psychology and sociology major, said.

In spite of the roadblock, the group leaders helped to guide the students and ease their worries. The group came together and overcame this major obstacle.

“Although Sapphire became sick I felt motivated by our leaders. They made me excited to live in the moment and experience everything,” Lindsay Anderson, junior exercise science major, said.

“It was cool to see all of us come together and become a family for a week. It was awesome having meals together and spending free time together. What happened with Sapphire really made us strong and we were all there for each other,” Anderson said.

Early medical treatment was given to Griffin and she was taken care of by the group leaders and volunteers who were members of Rostro de Cristo.

“We were lucky to have the clinic around the corner. It was easy to get treatment, but the hospital was beyond anything the impoverished neighborhoods could receive. The clinic in Duran only offered so much,” Christa Grzeskowiak, campus minster, said.

“We don’t realize how lucky we are. You have to go to the pharmacy and buy the IV if you need it. We have so much here and still complain about it. It humbles you,” Kaminski said.

“I felt that being on the trip, with our group, made us look at each other. It made us see each other’s spirit, and we learned to appreciate each person as they are,” Griffin said. “We saw beauty, and when you see beauty you can’t help but to love.  I thought that the reaction to my surgery was unreal. I felt loved. And it amazed me how much you can learn to love a person in just a couple of days. I appreciated it.”

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Felicia Melvin

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