Each year during the winter holiday, students and faculty travel to Duran, Ecuador for the Rostro de Cristo Experience. The purpose of the trip is to live in solidarity with the people of Ecuador in a faith- based-community.
This year, nine students and two staff members went on the trip, which lasted seven days. The students did not have to pay to go on the trip but participated in raising money by soliciting donations and organizing fundraisers and an auction.
The attendees of the trip lived off of $2 dollars a day and learned simple options for food. They also developed relationships with the people of Ecuador by living and operating in their day-to-day life and participating in their community organizations. They built relationships with the students through the after-school program by helping them with their homework. Reflections were held nightly to discuss the events of the day and how it affected each person. Throughout the spring semester the group will have gatherings to reflect and debrief about the trip.
“A lot of what we did was going around and meeting with specific people within the neighborhood and talking with them for a hour and learning their story and how they got to where they were,” Felicia Neuber, admissions counselor, said. “Since it was the rainy season everything was muddy and it was uplifting to see kids running around with no shoes but still so happy.”
Before the trip in early January, everyone attending was prepped on what they would be doing while in Ecuador and the living environments. They met once a month and broke off into groups to develop a packing list, information on what to expect and the culture and foundation of Ecuador.
“I did not really have initial expectations. I was told we were going to live in solidarity with our neighbors but I didn’t know the actual agenda. I was kind of nervous and I had no idea that I would meet people that inspire me and change my life forever,” Hannah Wheat, junior social work major, said.
The nine students and faculty lived in a “developed” neighborhood, which consisted of paved streets and cinder block homes but by the end of the week they saw cane homes and dirt roads. They also viewed the city of Guayaquil, which is a wealthy neighboring town.
“It was a really intense experience! It made us all really think about the way we live our lives in comparison to the average life of an Ecuadorian. Every person we met though was immensely proud of who they were and what they had, which was really refreshing,” Cathy Matta, junior mathematics major, said.
Students and faculty left the trip with a new view of life, family and friends.
“Ecuador was the greatest experience I have ever had. This was the most eye opening trip I had and I wish more people could see what the 11 of us saw on this trip,” Jaclyn Rescigna, junior social work major, said. “I will always remember the people we met and the stories I heard from the children.”