Following the Fellows: Andrew Viñales in Ecuador


By andrew

It was 10 p.m. and the popular telenovela had just finished.

My host family was about to go to bed when there was a knock on the door.

We had just been informed that a fishing boat flipped over and they were looking for people to help out.

Immediately, my host mom and I ran out to the beach to see how we could be useful.

We helped carry a heavy load of bait and covered it with plastic to keep the stray dogs from getting to it. Afterwards, we tried to see what we could do about the boat.

Although the beach was already full of concerned (or just nosy) members of the community, we looked for stuff to do.

As soon we were sure that everyone was safe, (thank goodness no one was hurt!) we headed back home, ending another eventful night.

Volunteering in Estero de Plátano, Ecuador has taught me that you never know what your work will entail. In fact, some days I feel like I am not doing anything.

Other days, I find myself helping create a moat to diverge water out of a house during a heavy storm.

I feel most useful while doing these random activities. Yet I can’t help but feel I am not needed.

In the long run, it’s great to believe that the community will still be able to build moats and carry bait after an accident without me. It also makes me believe that despite the small-town dramas, the people are willing to lend a helping hand when it is necessary.

Although I still question my presence in Estero, I know that I am appreciated. The other day, the women’s cooking group asked me to help carry heavy loads of pebbles from the beach to their eventual work site.

Again, this would have been done with or without my presence, but I was happy to help.

There is a lot missing in Estero, including cell and Internet service and reliable garbage pick-up, but there is an abundance of joy and pride.

“This is paradise,” many of the people say, and they are right.

A town full of proud people who want the best for themselves and their community is paradise, especially when there is a beautiful beach and forest nearby.

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