Over the summer, I spent 10 weeks serving in Guayaquil, Ecuador with an organization called Paz y Esperanza (Peace and Hope). Paz y Esperanza promotes human rights in Ecuador and works specifically in vulnerable neighborhoods of Guayaquil, which are characterized by extreme poverty, basic education, high rates of delinquency and domestic violence, and the powerful presence of drug cartels. I worked closely with the organization’s lawyer to plan and lead workshops for the women of these neighborhoods where we taught about their rights and domestic violence, with the goal of empowering the women and emphasizing their value as people. I also collaborated with the lawyer to appeal to government authorities about the justice system’s failure to protect women. I helped execute a survey, create promotional material, and shape the long-term planning and goal setting.
I have grown so much from this experience. Not only did I gain more confidence as the 10 weeks passed, but I grew in my ability to have compassion on others, to wonder about people’s backgrounds, to fight for something I’m passionate about, and to see the world from another angle. I loved spending the summer speaking in Spanish, building relationships with people cross-culturally, and using my new understandings of other ways of life to question what I have always accepted back at home in the U.S. My proudest moment from the internship was when I led an activity that I had spent hours designing in a workshop for women, and all the women were engaged and excited. At this point, they all knew my name and I knew their names, and I felt a connection between all of us with this hunger to learn and participate. It was life-giving.
Thank you for making this opportunity possible. I couldn’t have done this without the availability of this grant. I am inspired to continue seeking social justice with a cross-cultural understanding, learn about people’s stories to develop a greater sense of compassion, and embark on future journeys to learn in other countries.