2,584 miles. Language and culture barriers. There are many things separating Dallas, Texas from Quito, Ecuador. To many of us, Ecuador would seem to be in a different world or on a different planet. Many of us haven’t experienced such a unique culture or had the opportunity to meet an Ecuadorian.

However, this past summer, 12 Jesuit students and 4 faculty members had the opportunity to not only witness the differences between Dallas and the capital of Ecuador but also to experience the commonalities that bring the two cities and cultures together.

From July 1st to July 10th, 16 members of the Jesuit community lived at the Working-Boys’ Center, a volunteer-based educational facility in Quito, Ecuador. The boys and faculty had a unique chance to experience a unique culture, including Ecuadorian cuisine, music, and other traditions. Much of the time in Ecuador was spent playing soccer with the local students, but the Jesuit students also had the opportunity to complete several hikes, allowing them to view the Pichincha volcano up close as well as explore the cloud forest of Mindo. A lot of the trip focused on immersion into a culture that one cannot encounter in Dallas.

One of the more unique immersive experiences for the students, but a common occurrence for Ecuadorians, was riding a crowded city bus. On the way to their building project to benefit a member of the Center, the boys rode the bus system for about 2-3 hours. This was certainly a huge transition for the Jesuit students as most Jesuit upperclassmen drive themselves to school in their own personal vehicles. Travelling on a crowded city bus, which oftentimes only had standing room for the Jesuit students, provided a chance for the boys to experience the culture Quito, even in something as simple as transportation.

Cole Bengston ’18, remembered “one time in particular when we were in a city cab speaking Spanish with the driver, and he stopped at a fruit stand and bought us some really strange, red spiny-looking fruit. Another day, we rode the bus system for about 2-3 hours to get to our building project, so that was another experience where we were definitely immersed in the culture of the city.” Being able to encounter a different culture in many aspects, from language and cuisine to transportation and labor, the experience certainly allowed the boys to step outside of their comfort zones.

Another occasion when the Jesuit visitors were able to experience the Ecuadorian culture was when they had the opportunity to work in several “shops” to learn a skill from the students. While in Quito, the boys spent a day at the center, working in a variety of shops, including an automotive workshop, a woodworking workshop, and a hair salon, and learning skills from sewing to metal working.

Barrett Lynch ’18 had the opportunity to work in a sewing shop. Barrett described how he “really enjoyed the experience. I made a pretty good pillow winthe help of the students and teachers and it was a great experience seeing how a shop like that worked in a foreign country.”

Other unique experiences included touring historical downtown Quito, including the famous Jesuit church “La Compania.” The boys also had the opportunity to pray in a chapel where a verified miracle occurred.

The miracle of the Dolorosa Del Colegio has occurred several times, the first recorded time being in 1906. The first reported occurrence took place when a young boy and his 4 friends noticed Mary, depicted in a picture of Our Lady of Sorrows, slowly open and close her eyes. Many others, including several Jesuit priests, witnessed the miracle for around 15 minutes. The miracle repeated itself on several occasions, leading to numerous conversions. After a lengthy Canonical Investigation, the miracle was confirmed.

About the opportunity to pray in one of the chapels where the miracle occurred, Andrew Buckley ’18 remembered that “I was really excited to be able to pray in a place where a verified miracle happened, and it was very meaningful and profound experience for all of us.”

When the Jesuit group was not enjoying these experiences, they were serving the community and the Working Boys Center. This service included cooking breakfast for all of the volunteers at the Center, preparing lunches for more than 200 children, and perhaps the most meaningful experience of the trip, the “minga” project.

The minga is a work project meant to assist a family in need in which the volunteers help with some aspect of a home expansion project. Projects can include leveling a hillside, pouring a cement foundation, digging a pit for a septic tank, or digging trenches to place water pipelines.

Luke Harrison ‘18 remembered his “favorite part of the trip was the work project on the final day when we got to help dig the foundation of a house that a kid we had been playing with at the Center would soon live in.” The experience was truly meaningful as the boys were able to help provide something so meaningful for a boy that they had formed a connection with over their time in Quito.

After the trip, the participants were able to further reflect on their experiences and consider all that they had seen and felt. Andrew Buckley described “It as a very humbling experience, especially since it was my first time being out of the country. It was really interesting to see a whole different culture and lifestyle than I am used to.”

Luke Harrison, on what he had learned from his experiences, recounted that “The main thing that I take back is to not stress over the small things in life, there are so many good things to enjoy, don’t let the small things be the ones that bother you”

And for Cole, “The most meaningful part of the trip was being immersed in the culture of Ecuador and really seeing the poverty that some of these people lived in. We took house visits and it truly showed us how much we have compared to how little they have.”

Informational sessions for all of the Summer immersion trips are taking place soon, but if you feel particularly interested in the Ecuador immersion trip, contact Mr. DuRoss.