Volunteer Reflection: Taken Aback

Jackie traveled to Ecuador this year for a few weeks, and immediately immersed herself in the culture.  Her positive attitude and energy allowed her a special opportunity to get to know many of our students and families.  Today she reflects on a few of these special people in her life!

“Taken aback, I believe, is the most accurate way to describe how I’ve been feeling and how I’ve been processing all the different and beautiful people I have met here.

There are some people we encounter– and we all know who they are, in our own lives– that shine and live so ferociously that, even when we close our eyes, we see the bright outlines cast by their luminescent presence. These people, simply by their existence, encourage us to be better, kinder, gentler, and to live in a bold, brave, and intentional way. These kinds of people leave indelible marks on our spirits and minds. They are colorful and magnificent, radiating with determination, love, and hope. Even in seemingly hopeless and impossible situations, these people rise above the material world and overcome countless obstacles through inner strength- strength of the soul.

I have met such people here, people my own age whom I look up to as role models and hold as friends. Thinking of them and their goals and dedication inspires me to live in a radical and beautiful manera.

Melanie. Now in her final year of high school, she spends three hours total commuting to and from school each day, and on Mondays and Thursdays, she skips lunch so she can attend refuerzo and receive extra help with English and her other studies. She is a devoted student, a talented dancer, a caring daughter, a loving sister, and a loyal friend. She dreams of becoming a flight attendant: of learning languages, attending university, of traveling and seeing the world. And she will.

Joel. Currently a first year student at a top private university in Guayaquil. His high test scores, hard work, and determination led him to win a prestigious scholarship that covers 100% of his tuition. He, like Melanie, has a long commute to and from classes, and afterwards comes home to study and volunteer at Starfish, thus giving back to a foundation that gave him opportunities to grow, succeed, and continue the process of lifelong learning. He studies hard: he studies to maintain his scholarship, to learn about economics and business, and to secure a stable occupation for himself. He wholeheartedly dedicates himself to growing in knowledge to achieve his dreams. And he will.

Maria. Like Joel, she is also a first year university student. And, like Melanie and Joel, she travels several hours each day to attend classes. She studies medicine: biology, chemistry, anatomy. She has a beautiful smile, loves to dance and sing, and she, also, gives back to Starfish and works there as an educadora, providing help that she once received. She is an inspiration to the students at refuerzo, and an inspiration to me. She studies for countless hours, loves her family and friends, and dreams of becoming a pediatrician. And she will.

Melanie, Joel, Maria. They exemplify hard work, passion, creativity, love, and dedication. They constantly overcome obstacles, they leap over the many hurdles that stand in their paths, and they rise above unjust situations. I feel honored and grateful to know them, and I am proud and joyful to call them my friends.

~ We must allow the world to pierce our hearts. For if we are not passionate, sensitive, and courageous, we are nothing ~  “

~Jackie A., Starfish Volunteer.  Read more reflections from Jackie on her blog!

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