By Stephanie Graham, Rotaract Milwaukee
Rotaract members Janine Kolbeck and Stephanie Graham recently embarked on a service trip to Quito, Ecuador. The trip was months in the making, and was a great success.
The focus of the trip was to help the staff and students at the Refugio de los Seunos, which is located in the Barrio of San Juan, high in the mountains of Ecuador. The Refugio is a place where children ranging in age from 5 to 17 can come after school and learn various life skills, eat a nutritious meal, and just hang out. Many of the children have very challenging home lives, so the Refugio, which means “refuge” in English, is a place where they can feel safe and just be kids.
The Refugio is currently undergoing renovations, thanks in part to the Quito Rotary chapter. Janine and Stephanie helped to clean, organize, and paint sections of the Refugio. However, their most meaningful contributions were a hug, a laugh, or a shoulder to lean on—those are the gestures that mattered most to the kids. Janine and Setphanie also had the opportunity to help students bake chocolate chip cookies for the first time. They had so much fun making the batter and mixing in the chocolate chips…and of course eating the cookies at the end of the day!
Ecuador is a beautiful country, full of majestic volcanoes, hot springs, and other gorgeous landmarks. However, it was the spirit of the people that really stood out. They don’t have much, but were so kind and generous—it truly was a lesson of humility. To say it put things in perspective is an understatement.
Milwaukee Rotaract will keep in touch with the children at the Refugio. In fact, the Rotaractors are already planning to send Christmas cards and pictures to the kids, to let them know they are always top of mind. This trip is a great example of how Rotary and Rotaract can work together to not only serve Milwaukee, but the international community as a whole.