Sophie Dresser

A summer of service: Sophie Dresser promotes literacy in Ecuador

College of Idaho student Sophie Dresser reflects on her summer in Ecuador, where she spent five weeks helping impoverished children through her Davis Project for Peace in 2011.

As 2011 commencement neared, many students anticipated an exciting summer.  For me, this meant traveling to Quito, Ecuador, to carry out my Davis Project for Peace, “The Working Boys Center: Providing Literacy Opportunity for Greater Peace.” I spent months planning this project and I was excited to help provide these children with the educational opportunities they so desperately need.

My expectations for the project were very different from the actual experience. The project was not the most difficult part—integrating into a foreign culture was. I did not have a translator, so I worked tirelessly at learning the language and communicating with the people I worked with. Sometimes it felt like I would never get my point across, but I always managed.

Centro del Muchacho Trabajador (The Center for Working Boys) serves very impoverished residents of Quito. Most of the families have children who work as shoeshine boys for their household’s main source of income. I was astounded by the work this organization is able to do. The Center provides both children and adults with an education, free health care, three meals a day and bathing services—all things these families never would have access to otherwise.

My project focused on supplying the libraries and preschool with the educational resources they needed. I purchased hundreds of grade-specific stories for the children to enjoy during their reading time. The day the children asked their teachers if they could read the new books instead of playing on the computers was a moment I will never forget.

I am certain this experience will remain with me for the rest of my life. The residents of this program gave me such a deep perspective on the world. Spending each day with them and visiting their homes provided me with a true sense of the world they struggle to survive in. Their gratefulness and excitement for the opportunity to receive an education makes me appreciate all I am afforded at The College of Idaho. I will take with me the perspective and memories of the children here and continue to hold this place very close to my heart.