BRIDGE Trip to Ecuador – A Spring Break to Remember


Edward Prestera, Staff Writer

Instead of spending spring break the usual teenage way, like going to the beach or taking time to relax, nine students and I went to a foreign country, to experience what life is like for people living drastically different lives.  The ten of us, along with Fr. Zumbrum, Nurse Mansi and her husband, traveled to Guayaquil, Ecuador. For many of us, it was our first time outside the US, and there were two returning students from the trip last year. Describing his first trip to Ecuador, sophomore Kyle Tichenell said, “The experiences you get in Ecuador never leave you.”
As soon as we landed in Guayaquil, we knew it was going to be an unique experience. During the 30 minute car ride to our retreat house, we drove through the city, cars flying by in all directions, as lanes are optional and honking is mandatory. Once off the main road, we drove through the poor community of Mount Sinai on unpaved, dirt roads and witnessed countless one story shanties. We finished off our first night by unpacking, meeting our leaders for the week, and attempting to sleep in the 90 degree, non-air-conditioned rooms with mosquito netting surrounding us.
When staying in the house, we tried to model our standard of living off of the standards of the people in the community as much as possible. We lived simply, conserving water while washing dishes, using the bathroom, brushing our teeth, and by doing military showers. All food was bought at local stores and we rotated preparing the meals. Living in this matter put us in proximity to the people, and gave insight into their struggles.
Throughout the week, we left the house for various interactions within the community. Most activities weren’t what the typically service trip looks like. Instead of doing things for people, we emphasized being present and attentive. An example of “being” was visiting neighbors and hearing their stories. We met many families and discussed their backgrounds, opinions on government, hopes and dreams, faith, and much more. What stuck out with me was, despite their unfortunate situations, the residents did not lose their faith in God, and they showed hospitality by giving us the little food they had. Senior Kevin Bongiorno said it best. “These people may not have the money or material things that we Americans have, but they have something way more important: love.” In addition to visiting neighbors, we also visited organizations who help those in the neighborhood. We visited Hogar de Cristo, an organization that provides housing, education, and other services for many of the neighbors. Also, we visited Damani House, where we met people who suffer from leprosy. Lastly, we visited a domestic violence shelter named Casa de Acojeo, where we met victims of domestic violence which included many children. One child we met was a 16 year old girl named Nicole, who had a 3 year old son conceived from rape.
All of these experiences, from the living style to meeting people left a big impact on everybody who went. For senior Ryan Connor, it showed him a new perspective. “Meeting the poor gives you a new perspective for what they go through and inspires you to take action to help.” I would highly recommend this trip or any bridge trip to all of my Salesian brothers. It is a life-changing experience that will challenge you in a positive way. It was a spring break we won’t soon forget.