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Campus Ministry

The Face of Christ in Quito

By Nicole VanVoohis

Nicole VanVoorhis '22 has been volunteering in Ecuador with Rostro de Cristo ("Face of Christ," in English), a year-long service program, since August, 2022.

Now as we are approaching the end of our time in Quito, I have been reflecting on the many beautiful moments I have experienced at El Centro Una Familia de Familias.

There have been many struggles this year, the biggest being an unexpected relocation to Quito in early February. It was no longer safe for us to continue living in Monte Sinai because of the increase in gang violence there. At first, there was plenty to adjust to during that transition: a new place to live, a new workplace, finding community time while living with other coworkers, and so much more.

But a true blessing that has come out of this transition for me has been the opportunity to teach English at the school and connect with my students. 

We arrived at El Centro and asked where we could be of the most use when deciding our work placements. Our director said that they were in desperate need of English teachers for the elementary school. Lilly and I quickly volunteered to teach English to first through seventh graders. 

Now after teaching English for a few months, I have gained so much more respect for teachers all over the world. Maintaining a calm classroom and keeping students engaged continues to be a learning process. Presenting me with both joy and challenge, I have been able to see the face of Christ in my first, third, and fifth grade students everyday. 

Whenever I walk across campus and pass a student they almost always run up and give me a big hug and ask when we will have class next. (And then they usually ask me if they’ve earned their five good behavior stickers to get a pencil next classthe kids go crazy for pencils). I have been so touched by the love the students here so openly give. They hold nothing back in the exchange of mutual appreciation. It’s this kind of fearless love they show to us that makes me want to live and love everyone around me with the same passion that they do. 

Many of our students come from various difficult home lives and backgrounds. The Centro has a social work department where we often accompany one of the family promoters to go on home visits. During these visits I have been able to visit some of my students’ homes. This has provided me with a lot more context and perspective on how my students behave in the classroom. Realizing that some students haven’t eaten in 24 hours or are dealing with violence in their homes allows me to have more patience with them when they are acting up in class. 

A goal Lilly and I have had with teaching English has been to simply allow kids a chance to be kids and make them excited about learning English. Now I hear students say English is their favorite class in school, which was certainly not the case a few months ago. Being able to share in moments of singing, dancing, playing, and learning has brought so much connection and joy into my life, and hopefully in theirs too. When I return home at the beginning of July, I plan to share the fearless love my students have shown to me with those I encounter back in the States.

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