January 13, 2016
This post was written by Ana Jiménez, who spent one year volunteering with Fe y Alegría Ecuador through the VOLPA (Voluntariado Pedro Arrupe) Program at Fundación Entreculturas.
My name is Ana, I’m 25 years old and I started this adventure four years ago. I had been a volunteer in my city and abroad several times, and I got to a place where I thought about being an international volunteer for a longer period of time. This is how I found Fe y Alegría and I began my training, finally ending up in Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas, Ecuador, living for a year at a Fe y Alegria school.
When you first arrive, you have many expectations about how your volunteer period is going to be and desires to learn and give yourself to this new reality, but you are also full of fears and some prejudice. This is how I began to work and understand my new reality. In my case, my work was in a new social and educational inclusion project. My job consisted of educational support in the “Transit Classrooms”, where students with any kind of disability attended for a while before their integration into the regular classrooms. In addition, I helped in an orientation group in the Instituto de Educación Especial (Especial Education Institute), which gave me the opportunity to deepen my understanding of the reality of young people all over the country.
It is hard to explain my whole experience in just a few words, but Ecuador truly amounted to a great time in my life. This experience let me get closer to life, to what living really means. The encounter with other people, from another culture and a different way of understanding the world, caused many personal conflicts, but little by little, I learned how to love that new reality. I learned that life is simpler than what we sometimes try to make it out to be, that sharing with other people can transform you completely, and that change can only come from humility, respect and love.
When I arrived, Ecuador was first regulating the educational inclusion of disabled children, until then marginalized and excluded from the regular education system. It was a gift to live this beautiful process from the inside, since Fe y Alegria was the first school of the country to embrace this new form of education and presented an inclusion project through the “Transit Classrooms” so that the process could be carried out in a natural way through accompaniment. Therefore, the school became a model in social and inclusive education for the whole country. Fe y Alegria receives many children from rural areas of the entire province where they struggle to gain access to education. Even now, and after half a century, Fe y Alegria continues to dedicate itself to the least of society, making their motto a reality: “where the asphalt ends”.
For me, my volunteer position with Fe y Alegría Ecuador turned into a comprehensive experience that changed the way I live in this world, and encourages me every day to keep working for the construction of a better world, a place where we are all able to look into one another’s eyes and find ourselves. Thank you to Fe y Alegria for giving me the opportunity to be a part of such a great dream.