I Learned What Compassion Is

mpowell18 JPII students and their chaperones returned to Cape Cod after spending Thanksgiving week in Ecuador. Each had so much to share with their families and friends. Each day of the experience brought new challenges, new feelings, and new insights.

The students were asked to keep a journal as they spent time among the poor in Ecuador. When it comes to describing that experience there is no better testimony than the words of the students themselves.

The entries below come from the journal of Meghan Powell who participated in the Ecuador 2 program in Mount Sinai, a sprawling urban section of Guayaquil.

“There were many reasons that I decided to return to Ecuador. I had a very moving experience last year in Arbolito and see myself doing mission work in my future. A big reason for my return was that I wanted to get away. I wanted to get away from college and school stress. I wanted a week where I could focus on my faith and build relationships with people without worldly distractions.”

“This year I decided to ask the Ecuadorians what they wanted me to take back to the United States. One woman’s answer was, ‘Humility. Be humble.’ That is something that I am going to really try to work on this year.”

“It’s so hard to describe the houses and landscaping. Many houses are falling apart and made of various materials. Trash covers a lot of the street and dirt is always in the air. But I think it’s absolutely beautiful because you know the people that live there are beautiful. It’s so hard to explain. You have to see it to understand it.”

“I learned about what compassion is. It means to be with those who suffer. We lack true compassion as a society. It’s so easy to just write a check out. We cannot work for the poor but with the poor. I learned what companion and love is. I’m not here to change the world or Ecuador. It’s so that the world and Ecuador can change me to be a better person. Then, maybe, I’ll have a bigger impact on my family and friends.”

“I felt that it was most suiting that the most impacting experience of Ecuador was on Thanksgiving, during the time my family was eating together. I went to Casa, a domestic violence shelter for women and their families. There are only 4 in all of Ecuador. I can already without thinking hard come up with 3 just in Barnstable. I really became aware of a huge problem in Ecuador. 4 women a week die in Ecuador just from domestic violence. Being at Casa was heartbreaking as you could see so many psychological and physical scars on the inhabitants.  It was very eye opening to see women with half of their faces bleached or the 2-year-old boy who had half of his body covered in fresh and very severe burns that I could tell still hurt. This same little boy had a 1-year-old little brother (also an 8, 5, 4, and 3 year-old sibling). The baby would cry unless he was held. I held him the entire time I was there and he clenched onto me so tightly. He just wanted to be held. I knew the importance of my presence. I couldn’t do anything to help that baby but I could just be there for him and hold him. That was what he needed in that moment. Being at Casa made me so thankful for my family.”

“Maybe I’ll get an opportunity to serve in a foreign country again… maybe I won’t. But wherever God takes me, I must serve those people around me. I must be more present.”