Project: El Musican Project
Country of operation: Ecuador
Accommodation: Ecuadorian host family
… that’s what it said in the description of my project when I applied for a volunteer service in Ecuador.
Before that, I had never lived with a host family for a year and couldn’t imagine what that really meant. Does it mean to be a guest or a family member? Will I live in an accommodation or in a home? Will I have many rules or will I be free to decide what I want to do? I have asked
myself these and many other questions before I starting my journey.
What I didn’t imagine before is, that my host family by now has become a second home for me – and not just for a year but a place I would feel connected to forever.
But that was not the case from the beginning. In the first month, I lived together with two other volunteers with a host mother, where I did not feel comfortable at all. This was mainly because I didn’t feel welcome. After some consideration, I decided to change and that was the
best decision I could have made. That’s how I met my second family.
I’m happy to share my experiences, but remember that this is just an example and not the same for every volunteer, because every host family and every volunteer is different. The kind of relationship you have with each other is of course up to you and you can live it the way you
want it to be.
Since mid-October, I am livingwith my host mother and her four-year-old son in Montesserin, a district of Quito. Itturned out really quickly that I would feel comfortable here. This is mainly due to my host family, in which I was immediately integrated as a normal family member. At
meetings with friends or other parts of the family I was not introduced as «the volunteer from Germany», but as part of the family. From the very I was also integrated into the Family including the rest that lives in Ambato. And all this just came natural by all the members of
my host family, so I feel very comfortable. They are always showing interest to where I am or how I am doing and seem to enjoy the time we have together too. My host mother is still very young compared to the other host mothers in our organization.
For me, she is a mother, a big sister and a friend at the same time.
We do a lot together, for example go on vacation, to birthday parties andcelebrations of her friends, to the park together with my brother or we play at home. The way the whole family has welcomed me and how I am even not just invited but planned into my host mother’s the trips or celebrations makes me happy again and again. All this just seems natural so I don’t feel like a stranger, but part of the family.
Of course host family also has its duties. Sometimes there is less time for your own friends or you have to choose between activities with the family and planning with friends. For example I was in Ambato almost every weekend in December while other volunteers traveled a lot.
That means while my friends had the chance to see a lot more new places, I had the chance to know and appreciate family life and would always choose this path again. Of course I know that I am free to choose how to spend my weekends, but I like to spend them with my family.
For me this is part of the meaning of family and it also means taking responsibility and supporting my host mother with my little brother.
It is also reassuring for my family in Germany to know that 10000 kilometers away there is a family that I can rely on and trust and that someone is always there for me in case something
should happen. I know very well that no matter when or for what, I can call not only my host mother, but also her parents or the rest of the family.
In my host family I also learned the importance of family life here in Ecuador – at least in my case. Whetherthis applies to all families or not, I can’t say for sure. The most important thing is that you stay together. They support each other and move closer together when necessary.
But openness is also part of it. It was clear from the beginning that when my family came to visit from Germany, they would stay with my host family and that the whole family would go on holiday with them. The same goes for friends. At Easter we spontaneously took a friend of
mine with us to Ambato, because she went on vacation from there. There was no question for my grandmother that my friend would stay for lunch. All of my friends are included like this whenever they want to join me going to Ambato and I know that I can always ask my family if
I can bring them. Host family also includes being able to experience and get to know traditions and Ecuadorian
culture intensively. I also noticed this when my family came to visit from Germany. Without the host family, they would probably have booked more tours or traveled in a tour group and would definitely not have been able to learn that much about life in Ecuador. Instead of visiting
Ecuador as tourists they explored it from the perspective of an Ecuadorian family. Therefore they saw places of the country they would probably never have visited alone, got to know a large part of my host family, who welcomed them very warmly and who did a lot for and
together with them. So during their visit they also learned what an important role the family community plays here. I have found a real second home in Ecuador and am already sad whenever I remember that I have to leave them in a few months. With my host family I learned what it means to be part of an Ecuadorian family and was able to get to know the Ecuadorian culture very well.
Physically it is a temporary home, in my heart it will always be a home for me. My host family makes my volunteer service unforgettable for me and I look forward to them coming to visit
me in Germany.
I hope that many volunteers can be given the same opportunity for a second home.