Quito, Ecuador is a beautiful destination with amazing cultural attractions and a vibrant urban center. There are soccer (futbol) games, festivals, and architecture, yet the country is still firmly rooted in a third-world status. Many people here suffer from poverty and lack of resources like education, healthcare, and infrastructure development. Though Ecuador has an upper class, much of the population is still poor. Quito is a wonderful place for mission travel. This article aims to focus on Quito, Ecuador, and the populations served there.
The People of Quito
The city of Quito has a population of over 1.7 million people. The majority of Ecuadorians are mestizo, and there are Indigenous communities as well, with a great amount of people living in very small homes packed closely together. Many live without access to items they need like enough food and adequate housing. Economic resources are limited, and that means that conditions are poor for roads and urban neighborhoods. When traveling in Ecuador, Americans are advised not to drink the tap water and not to eat food from street vendors because of possibly harmful bacteria.
Quito's historic district is lined with breathtaking 16th-century churches and exceptional architecture, but the people walking around are struggling to get by. Women surround you selling their hand-woven scarves, men hail you into their produce stores, and you can see the desperation in some of their faces. Where coin currency is still widely used for $1 or 50 cent pieces, a few of these trinkets can make a difference each day. Many people in Ecuador struggle to get adequate health and dental care and cannot afford medications or vaccines, so their conditions remain untreated. Malnutrition is widespread, and children's growth is stunted in certain communities.
You will see heaps of garbage piled at some street corners, and children just old enough to walk that are dirty and asking for money. The poverty can be startling when compared to the opulence and wealth of the resorts on the coast. Though the people are modest in appearance, in street clothes or traditional dress, their hearts seem to be kind. They embrace values like family, community, and friendliness. They are proud of their country and culture. Located right below the Equator, Quito sits in the Andes mountains on the ruins of an ancient Inca Empire. The temperatures are perfect with warm sunny days and cool nights. The people here are just like you or me: children, teenagers, or elderly, but they live in a third-world country. The life there is profoundly different.
How Volunteers are Helping
Organizations exist in Quito that help provide basic necessities to the people, that include: teaching underserved youth, working in healthcare, and helping rebuild schools and buildings damaged by earthquakes or ones fallen into neglect. The people need help whether it be organizing community-building, serving food, or constructing a new clinic. There are daycare centers, monasteries that take in teen mothers, and domestic abuse shelters. Often these non-profits depend on help from volunteers. From agricultural projects to fixing houses, there are boundless opportunities for those looking to serve. Get your hands dirty amongst local farmers, assist nurses at the hospital, or teach English, art, or computers. Volunteers are helping by getting involved with the people: mobilizing, organizing, and putting in the work to improve their lives.
People in Quito are predominantly religious and are open and eager for our help. You will find the value of helping these people with the warm smiles, a handful of hand-drawn thank you cards, and a million "gracias." The experience amongst Ecuadorians is enriching. Volunteers find their experiences there to be rewarding and even life-changing. Bonding happens when volunteers are accepted as friends. Missionaries have been helping in communities all over the world for centuries; their work is so important and never a waste of energy.
The Importance of Mission Work
"There is no higher religion than human service. To work for the common good is the greatest creed."- Woodrow Wilson
Many religions are founded upon service to the community. We not only get community amongst each other but also by reaching out to others, often going out of our own comfort zone. To build a better world, help people in need, and heal some difficult problems, we must strive to improve conditions for everyone. We are all truly interconnected as humans on this planet, and our help makes a difference. Imagine traveling to a faraway land, where you aren't familiar with the intricate customs and culture, to serve an area you know is struggling. Imagine being uncomfortable at times but knowing that you are doing something good. The experience of service can fill your heart with love when a project is complete: a new school for children, a life you helped save with important medication or an effort that helped people get clean water.
Missionaries often find that they have grown in many ways after a trip. They have been exposed to a different way of life and see up close hardships that don't necessarily exist where they come from. Experiences can be rewarding by allowing participants to develop a sense of urgency in a modern world with real issues. When we work together, these problems can be addressed. Missionaries develop empathy and feel joy when they have seen the impact that they made. Projects often help people without resources we consider basic. When volunteers help make a difference they come away from the situation with greater identity and a compassionate understanding for others.
Ecuador, with the bustling capital city of Quito, vibrant yet poor, has about 28% of the population living in poverty. The people of Quito embrace their culture, and they embrace strength and fortitude. Sometimes they're quiet, sometimes they're loud. Some watch television in English with Spanish subtitles. Some gather for meals, whether meager or decadent, and celebrate their own families or the families they have chosen. The people have stories to share. They have overcome obstacles, yet they still struggle day to day. Live like the locals during your trip and see what life is like in their country. Cars drive by spouting black and stinky pollution, people work hard every day to put dinner on their tables, and children look to elders for counsel and support that isn't always available. The life in Quito is very different from our own. When we help: when we reach out, we change lives for the better. When we bond with the people and share our experiences on common ground, we are making progress, by putting our hearts and hands to work. Some in Quito live without many necessities. We must strive to change that by immersing ourselves in the love of fellowship and service.