Every year, Gryphon Football invites up to four players to participate in a MEtoWE trip. This trip is a chance to explore and volunteer in Ecuador. This year, Walker Breen and Graham Brodie were granted this amazing opportunity thanks to the Joan Hewitt Travel Scholarship. This is the 5th year we have sent our players to volunteer in Ecuador.
Breen and Brodie assisted in building the foundation of a school while they were in rural Ecuador. The lack of quality classrooms is one of many reasons that some children in rural communities do not go to school. Other issues include the cost of secondary school which stems from rampant inequality and income disparity. Our players witnessed first-hand how different rural and urban communities can be. While visiting Ecuador’s capital, Quito, they saw incredible sights such as Mitad del Mundo and explored the local culture. In rural Ecuador, citizens have trouble accessing clean water, education and employment. Seeing these problems made our players motivated to help the locals.
When speaking to Brodie and Breen, I saw the passion in their eyes when they spoke about Ecuador. “I’m really glad we went,” said Breen, “It was a good experience to travel and learn more about another country and culture. I’m really happy we signed up together.”
What did you like about the trip?
Brodie: “It really opened my eyes. We went to different communities and met so many interesting people. Everyone was so friendly and the food there was really great. We got to try the local cuisine and eat fresh food that was made just for us. They mixed Spanish food with American-style food like hamburgers which was very cool. I think it’s always good to volunteer because you’re exposed to a totally different world. You get to see how other people live and what they struggle with on a daily basis.”
Breen: “So many people there don’t have fresh water and they have to find a way to survive. We met so many people in the local communities who were so passionate about having clean and accessible water. We met this really committed clean water activist. That’s something we take for granted in Canada. What I really liked was getting to travel and experience so many new things with another Gryphon. There were so many fascinating things to see and do and I think we made an impact on the community there. I would definitely go back to help build the school more.”
How did going to Ecuador change you as a Gryphon?
Breen: “I think we both learned to be more open-minded and accepting. I really liked learning about other people and I want to continue doing that now that I’m back home. In general, I feel like we’re more open to learning about others and their lives.”
Brodie: “I think the trip really humbled us. I’m a lot more grateful for the things I have now than I was before. I think being humble and open-minded are traits we really want to spread to the rest of the team because they’re important traits for Gryphons.”
Will you take any lessons with you into the future?
Brodie: “I learned that different people live really unique lives in other countries. When you live in one place for a while, it’s easy to assume that’s how everyone else lives but that’s not the case. I think travelling and volunteering like this helps us become more globalized citizens. We can get an understanding of other cultures and that’s awesome!”
Breen: “The main lesson I want to spread is how amazing this trip was. It was really worthwhile, lots of fun and super informative! If the coaches let us, we really want to give a presentation for the team about everything we did in Ecuador so we can encourage more guys to go next year.
Did anything surprise you about Ecuador?
Breen: “What surprised me was how much things cost. Their economy is so different. Gatorade cost about 40 cents to buy which is a lot less compared to what we pay. Things are so much cheaper there because their economy is struggling.”
Brodie: “I found the contrast between the rural and more developed areas really interesting. When we landed in Quito, it was super developed, it was a proper city. Then you go to the rural areas and it’s completely different. These kids would come up to us every day when we were working on the school and they were always wearing the same clothes. They didn’t have shoes or toys either. They would pick at rocks with sticks… That was how they entertained themselves. That was a little hard to see but the country was beautiful, and I would definitely do the trip again.”
In closing, Walker Breen said: “We’re honestly very grateful for the opportunity to have gone. It was great. We would definitely go back and recommend it to others too.”