June 23, 2014

Melissa Miller (Women’s Basketball) Participates in Service Trip to Ecuador

Melissa Miller (Women's Basketball) Participates in Service Trip to Ecuador

Rising senior Melissa Miller (North Andover, Mass.) of the Merrimack College women's basketball team recently joined a group of fellow students on a service trip to Arbolito, Ecuador, and had the opportunity to update the athletic department with her experience there.


Senior Melissa Miller:
We went down to Ecuador where we stayed in an invasion community in Arbolito. We stayed with the volunteers from Rostro de Cristo, who stay there for 13 months. We stayed down there for a week, and there were 10 of us (2 staff members and 8 students). 

While we were down there we spent most of our time immersing ourselves into the culture and the people rather than your typical service trip where you build or help clean up sites. We visited a bunch of different sites including The Damien House, Nuevo Mundo, Semillas De Mostaza, and Manos Abiertos.

The Damien House is a home for people who have Hanson's disease or better known as Leprosy. We visited with the patients and they shared their stories. Semillas De Mostaza and Manos Abiertos are both after-school programs, where we would help the kids with their homework, play games, do crafts, and play soccer with them.

At the end of the program each kid receives a piece of bread, a vitamin, a yogurt and they have plenty of water available throughout the entire program. Nuevo Mundo is a very nice high school that is actually two different schools. The morning school is for the students whose parents can afford to pay for them to go to a private school. The afternoon school is for those who cannot afford to pay for school.  At the end of every year some of the top students in the afternoon school will be awarded a scholarship to attend the morning school. While we were at Nuevo Mundo we visited with the students, and helped in some of the classes.

Overall, we spent our time getting to know the people of Arbolito and understanding what a typical day consist for them. Most people live on less than $2 a day, so while we were there we tried to live on $2 day. We would go to the market to buy all the food we needed to prepare meals. We would also get up in the morning and buy fresh bread which we would have for breakfast and for sandwiches for lunch.

I found this to be a very life-changing experience. It was really eye-opening to see how another culture lives, and how they live so simply compared to the way we live. I have gone on service trips before but this was very different in the sense that it wasn't about building things, but rather immersing ourselves in the culture in Arbolito. We spent our time getting to know the people, and how they live their lives.

It made me really appreciate how lucky and blessed I am that I get the opportunity to go to college, because for a lot of kids my age down there it might not be an option. I really enjoyed going to the after school programs there because we got to play with kids who really just wanted to be loved and played with. Throughout the trip everyone we met was extremely hospitable and welcoming.

When we get wrapped up in our lives we can believe that we have the biggest problems out there, but these service trips really bring to light that everybody has their fair share of problems and you are not alone.  Even though most trips are only a week, you can still make a huge impact. Going down there I knew I wasn't going to be able to make some drastic change in these people's lives, but I was able to give them my time, attention and compassion.

The humbling part was they didn't expect anything other than spending time and getting to know each other.  I believe that one simple act of kindness can go a long way, and I feel that this trip was filled with many small acts of kindness.

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