Trip to Ecuador inspires action against poverty

By Christine Graf
March 22, 2007

Christine Graf/Submitted Photo

Imagine walking down a street of dirt, stones, sharp glass, contaminated puddles, and then witnessing children playing soccer barefoot on those same streets. Imagine the aroma of rice and beans lingering out of cane houses; and immediately thanking God that at least today, those children will be fed. A splash of Spanish is heard dancing through the streets into the neighbor’s barred-up windows and thin walls. Sweat is pouring down your face as if it will never stop; the heat is unreal. You witness a whole family zip by on a dirt bike; with an infant on the drivers lap.

There is talk of the local hospital and how it only accepts cash; and if you don’t have cash well then you might have to bleed to death on the sidewalk outside. As you continue on your way you see a shack with some desks inside and a chalk board. You think this couldn’t be.but it is.

The governments one percent of education funding takes care of just that much. Wonder fills your head as you see that the houses are on stilts and then you notice the green water. Someone says the water comes up over houses during the rainy season and in the same five minutes, tells you hospital waste and human waste is dumped in it. A child starts to cry; it seems they have bumped an already broken finger that might have to heal itself.

A lot is going through your head. What am I doing here? Why do people have to live like this? You don’t understand why God is letting such poverty exist. What you don’t realize is that most of the world lives like this.

A weird feeling comes over you leaving you empty inside, then that emptiness is replaced by sadness, slowly raging into anger, and finally mellowing down to guilt. You don’t live like this; you have a safe house, a reliable car, enough food, clean water, and most notably a college education.

Then you really open your eyes and you see it; Rostro de Cristo, “The Face of Christ”, and a little hope fills your heart.

For Rostro de Cristo is the organization you came to learn about and participate in. There are after school programs that keep children safe, educated, and informed on moral values, which offers them somewhat of an alternative to life. There is Nuevo Mundo, a school that allows less fortunate children to receive the same education or even better as the children with money. You see discounted clinics in neighborhoods that offer a realistic approach to health care.

Then there is the Damian House which opens it hearts to people suffering from the side effects of Hansen’s disease formally known as leprosy. Side effects like lost extremities, deformed faces and hands, the lack of ability to shut their eyes; and the hardest side effect, family abandonment.

A light starts to shine through and suddenly you’re amongst laughing children. Men and women, once full of fear, are now filled with joy, pleased in the opportunity given to them through Damian House, a second chance to live a normal life.

These people of Ecuador opened up their hearts to you, a stranger from another continent, and do not ask any questions. You indulge in the new discovery you made; and somehow you accept the challenge to help make a difference. The reason for this is that you know now; there is no excuse anymore. Poverty was stared right in the face; and what was realized was the good observed came from the people who have more.

The people who have more money, have better health, have greater opportunity, and most importantly have the ability to give hope. This hope would not exist in Ecuador without donations and volunteers from the people that have. People like you.

What burdens to have on your shoulders; but you know that with knowledge follows responsibility. People have told you all your life there are starving kids in the world and sure you believed it, but you never witnessed it first hand.

You never felt what they felt, saw what they saw, and related to them in such a profound way, that these people have became a part of you, until now that is.because their faces, their fears, and their dreams, are embedded in your heart forever.

So the end of the trip leaves you at a new beginning; and that is the difference you are going to make in our world’s fight against poverty because those who don’t have are counting on you.

Christine Graf

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