Newlyweds volunteer with children in Ecuador
Jan 27, 2017 04:07PM
● By Alisha Soeken
Tyler McFarland serving the children in Ecuador. (Mary and Tyler McFarland)
Newlyweds volunteer with children in Ecuador [5 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
By Alisha Soeken | [email protected]
Like most newlyweds, Mary and Tyler McFarland were filled with love for each other and dreams for their future. But unlike other couples that future also included travel to Ecuador to serve the children.
“When we decided to hold off on kids for a year or so after getting married, we felt like we needed a goal to work toward,” Mary said.
The McFarland’s plan to serve and explore another county took sacrifice to realize.
“When I was 14 years old my family took a yearlong bicycle trip around the world. My parents financially planned for that trip for nine years. When Mary and I were married we started to plan and save our money. There were many things that we wanted to buy or small vacations that we could have taken with the money that we were saving, but we had a goal and it was something that we both wanted, so we were willing to work for it,” Tyler said.
Those financial sacrifices paid off when after a year of saving they flew 3,600 miles to the city of Quito, Ecuador. After a night of rest they began their orientation and the following day, their service. Tyler and Mary helped children whose parents worked all day in the markets of Ecuador.
“At the market we had an area that was designated for our organization where we would set up canopy tents, rubber mats, wash bowls for the children to wash their hands and face in, and toys to occupy the children. Most of these children were the first generation in their family to attend any form of school, so when they would come to us we would help them with their homework. And, for the children who were not in school, we would help them learn necessary skills so that as soon as we could get them into school they would be better prepared for the tasks at hand,” Tyler said.
Mary added, “Many of the children we worked with came from homes where they were neglected or abused in some way. There’s an unspoken understanding that they are the ‘street rats’ of the world, unworthy of attention and unable to reach as high as more privileged children. Those who are lucky enough to get into school often drop out because they lack the fine motor skills to learn to color or write their names. Those who stay have to work hard to overcome the stigma of being from the markets. My proudest moments were seeing these children realize, some for the first time, that they matter to someone, and that they can do hard things.”
The McFarland’s understanding of the economic and social problems of Ecuador grew as they served.
“When we were working in the markets we were in the most poor parts of the city, and not only did we see this in Quito but all across the country. The biggest problem that we saw would have to be in the markets with the children. Most of them were either neglected or abused verbally, physically or emotionally,” Tyler said.
Despite the counties poverty and social issues, the people of Ecuador and the children made it warm and welcoming.
“The people have nothing but they are so happy. As long as their family is together, they can conquer anything life throws at them. I love that. Everyone we met was sweet and wonderful and treated us like long lost cousins. They know the real meaning of family. They know we’re all in this life together,” Mary said.
The McFarland’s decision to serve these people not only helped the children, but it grounded the newlyweds and expanded their gratitude for each other.
“We each had plenty of opportunities to see one another at our best and worst. I learned to support Tyler in his strengths, compensate for his weaknesses, and really appreciate his goodness. Seeing him work with and love the kids was a priceless gift I wouldn’t trade for anything,” Mary said.
Tyler added, “I learned many things about myself and I developed more of an appreciation for Mary. After this trip I know that no matter what trials we face in our future we will be able to go through them together, side-by-side.”