Raina Japay, 18, San Marin High School, Novato, California, Guaranda, Ecuador

I was honored to be selected from my school to participate in the Global Glimpse outreach program. Only a few students from high schools all over the Bay Area participated in the adventure to Guaranda, Ecuador this past summer.  As we came together we began to form friendships and share ideas. As part of the the intention to commit our focus, each of the 21 students in my group surrendered his/her phone for the two weeks of service work that included learning about the local culture and customs, exploring the city and its history, and working on farms and in factories that sustain the community.

Of all the experiences I had in Guaranda, two of them made a significant impact on my outlook. Every day, I spent an hour in the classroom with a dozen intermediate English speaking students. Through songs, board work, games, worksheets and homework assignments, a creative and fun learning environment was established. The kids remained engaged during the lesson and came prepared to further their knowledge every day. Although we were not fluent in each others language, we were still able to communicate and learn from each other.  In such a short time, the students’ proficiency and confidence improved and they began to speak more English. My Spanish language skills also improved. When I reflected on this experience I realized that people of different backgrounds can come together in peace and exchange information in a positive, friendly manner. We respected each other and helped one another to better understand.

The other experience was the Community Action Project (CAP). It was a mural on a 6’ x 50’ concrete wall at the elementary school. I had never worked on a project this massive before. With the principal’s approval, we painted themes of motivation and encouragement. Mount Chimborazo, a symbol of greatness in their community, was the center of my team’s responsibility.  We included a rainbow to represent hope and asked the children to add their hand prints to the rainbow. We also painted inspiring quotes in Spanish and in English, “dream big”, “you can do it”, “never give up”, and “do your best”. The long days under the hot sun at 1 degree South latitude were extremely hot but it was well worth it when I saw how excited the children were to have this beautiful artwork at their school.In Ecuador, the vast experiences taught me what it takes to build and maintain a sustainable community with limited resources. It gave me a deeper sense of appreciation for education outside the classroom and the need to broaden perspective by learning about other cultures and their methods.