Learning the Meaning of Family in Ecuador

This summer, we will feature guest posts from students who received a Dingman Center scholarship to participate in the Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps (MSEC). They will share their experiences learning about social entrepreneurship while consulting with local businesses in Latin America. Learn more about MSEC here.

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by: Chris Wolfe

Family is one of the cornerstones of society around the world. It is critical to remember how important family is in your life. This is something that became overwhelmingly clear to me during my three weeks in Ñamarin. The town itself is small, consisting of only 100 families. Every person in the town is extremely close to one another, and they treat each other with great love and respect, something that is often less visible in Western culture. In particular, it is amazing how close the people of Ñamarin are to their families. Even more impressive, however, is how quickly my host family was willing to accept me into their family. Despite a lack of great wealth, I was given anything I needed and was immediately treated as if I had lived in their house forever. Though I had many great adventures with other people, I believe the memories that will remain strongest in my mind are those I experienced with my family in Ñamarin.

My housemother was named Miriam, and she provided me with incredible meals three times a day.  The house I stayed in belonged to Miriam’s sister, Laura, who made sure we had everything we needed for living. The family had four children, ranging from ages 4-16. In particular, I was able to spend time with Javier and Alejandro, the two youngest children. Javier has the sweetest smile, always spending time in my room and asking various questions that you would expect any 4-year-old to ask. Alejandro, who is 7, constantly wanted to know how to say various words in English. He would smile as I told him the English translation of a word, which was often nearly impossible for him to pronounce.

After meals, I often played games with Alejandro and Kenny, Alejandro’s 11-year-old cousin who lived in our house.  Though their toys were simple, we were always able to find a way to have fun. This allowed me to see that material possessions are not nearly as important as the relationships you foster with family and friends. It was incredibly apparent at all times how close these kids felt to each other because they were family.

I also had a wonderful opportunity to sense a feeling of family among the adults of Ñamarin. Miriam has two cousins who also served as host parents for our group.  Because of this, we had a lot of meals together as one big family. I was able to experience the feeling of deep love that ran through the entire family. We also played many soccer games together, with everyone in our family playing on the same team. As someone who has played soccer my entire life, I can confidently say that these were the most enjoyable soccer games I have ever taken part in.

By the end of my three-week stay in Ñamarin, I truly became a member of the family.  Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I have had to do, but I am positive that I will remember my family in Ñamarin forever. I hope to one day be able to return to Ñamarin so that I can rejoin my second family.

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IMG_8353.PNGChris Wolfe is a rising sophomore in the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. He is currently studying finance, law and society, Spanish, and entrepreneurship. In addition, he is a member of the club soccer team at Maryland and the Smith Undergraduate Student Association. He hopes to attend law school after graduation.

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