I write from an entirely different world. One where graciousness and compassion take precedence over all other. The differences between hillsides are overwhelming; cultural traditions, cooking styles, and language dialect are some of the many observed changes. Corn fields sections off various haciendas, plantations, and ensure that the original class systems protect the mestizos. The influential ones in the Ecuadorian community maintain their power and status through oppression of the (poorer) indigenous peoples. As a result of this structure, the poor remain in this cycle of poverty because of being indebted to the owners of these haciendas they work on. These divided lands do not hinder the kindred spirits of our Ecuadorian families, though. They openly welcomed all of us into their homes and treated us like their own children. We all will carry  their lessons of openness and love with us back home and beyond.

Humbled cannot accurately describe just how greatly I feel. With every new REACH experience I am able to detect the change within myself, but on this three week international adventure, I was able to grow and learn with my closest peers on a pragmatic level. Learning capabilities and newly acquired skills emerged, and we all became more grateful and thankful than ever before. Our homes in the States pale in comparison to our homes here in Ecuador. The distinct differences at first sight include material items and stray farm animals. Instantaneous bonds with energetic children produce a warming environment and a bit of chaos. Their culture and basic principles were noted to be of much higher significance than any washing machine, television, or car could ever compare to back at home.

I am proud and honored to have been presented with the opportunity to work so closely with the people of Ongalango and surrounding areas. The experiences and challenges overcome will remain with me forever and serve as a reminder for what others are able to do. The lives we're given do not dictate how far you will go or where you will end. Ecuador, I will see you again.

With so much love,

Kayla Marie Marshall