Reaching Out: University Students Participate in Service Trip to Ecuador

Recently, 10 Saint Peter’s University students participated in a two-week service trip to Ecuador through Campus Ministry’s Global Outreach: Service and Solidarity program. The team volunteered at the Working Boys’ Center (WBC) in Quito, Ecuador — a Catholic institution that assists working boys and their families by strengthening moral values and providing help through programs of formation and social assistance.

“I was truly amazed by what the Working Boys Center is able to accomplish,” said Charles Weening ’16. “The Center works with families that are in poverty by educating them and giving them the necessary resources needed to succeed.”

He added, “Most people in the United States are aware of poverty in other countries, but I had the humbling experience of witnessing the poverty with my own eyes. People that have so few material possessions have a lot of motivation and gratitude. It was inspiring to see people working hard and being satisfied with the simple lives they live.”

According to the Center’s website, volunteers at the WBC are involved in all aspects of the Center’s services and play a key role in assisting the Ecuadorian staff with services to families. Volunteers work in a variety of areas including the day care center, accredited school education program, vocational training, small business management, and home building. During their time in Ecuador, the team prepared and served food for participants of the WBC, cleaned, visited houses, shadowed classes, played with children and conversed with teenagers and adults.

“Perhaps the greatest joy I received was playing with the children,” said Weening. “They were very friendly and eager to talk with me.  I truly saw God at work in the children. Seeing their endless energy and love was refreshing.”

For Rosanna Nguyen ’15, witnessing how people lived in Ecuador through house visits was “eye-opening.”

“The houses were made by the families themselves and some had no running water, flies were everywhere, curtains separated the rooms, and one or two light bulbs illuminated the whole house,” she said. “They smiled warmly as they let us in. They weren’t the least bit ashamed to show us their home because it reflected their earnest hard-working lifestyle.”

The group also joined together in prayer regularly, and had discussions and reflections guided by group leader Dwayne Paul, assistant director of campus ministry.

“When I applied to be part of the Global Outreach team, I thought it would be a great opportunity to help others and travel with a purpose but it turned out to be so much more,” said Nelcida Garcia ’14. “This experience was eye-opening to me because I got to experience poverty first-hand. I came back to the United States with a stirred heart full of compassion after hearing the struggles of the Ecuadorian families and with joy because they were getting the opportunity to better themselves through the WBC.”

The WBC was founded in 1964 by Rev. John Halligan, S.J., in order to provide schooling for local shoeshine boys who dropped out of conventional day school in order to help support their families. Today, the Center operates three sites in Quito and serves more than 2,000 people each day.

“Receiving volunteers like our students is a major cog in the impressive machinery the WBC has created over the past five decades,” said Paul.