I cannot begin to express how much community means to me. The people. The stories. The hearts. Serving and giving back is a big deal for me. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to Quito, Ecuador with a group of passionate young people to serve and impact the lives of the people of Carmen Bajo.

michelle in quito 3michelle in quito 4Carmen Bajo is a very poor community situated within the city limits of Ecuador's capital city of Quito. It is subject to intense poverty like something you would expect in a much more remote location. Dirt floors are common and running water is a scarce luxury. Houses are frequently washed away by the downpours of the rainy season.

While in Carmen Bajo, we were involved in the construction of a community center which included a school, medical clinic, church and a workshop that is part of a growing micro-enterprise initiative that implements carpentry training. We also partnered with the Compassion International program providing meals, healthcare, tutoring, etc to 200+ children a day. And as a foot specialist, I wanted to administer a footwear clinic and provide shoes to as many children and adults as possible.

michelle in quitoIn preparation for this volunteer trip, I spent the year asking for donations of gently worn shoes and was humbled by the overwhelming response. We filled to the brim 25 hockey bags - good thing we had 25 keen young people to each grab a bag!!

The looks of anticipation and wonder on their faces as we opened up the bags and they realized that these shoes were gifts for them was priceless. The language barrier posed no problem in these moments as their gratitude was written all over their faces and shown by the tears in their eyes. Love is truly a universal language.

One little girl stands out in my memory. Her name was Elyne and she was 6 years old. The expression on her face touched me as she couldn't believe she owned a new pair of pink shoes with butterflies on them. She stood up, smiled, hugged me, then twirled a couple of times and skipped away singing at the top of her voice. It was a magical moment.

I'm grateful for our time there serving, feeding, constructing, building relationships and meeting the needs of people of Carmen Bajo. It's truly amazing though, how we go down there thinking that we will be doing all this construction for them.....but really the construction happens in our very own hearts :)michelle in quito 2

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