Liked a worried mother hen, I counted heads as the team climbed into the public bus, off to our retreat in the Andean countryside – the smoking Cotopaxi Volcano warnings be damned. Two days of togetherness to collect our reflections from the pilot last fall, and dream about what comes next.

While I came away with pages and pages of scribbled notes, full of the details of how we will continue to improve (which I promise to share in the future), I felt a profound pride that we had achieved my vision of building a strong, supportive team of community facilitators. Starting out as shy strangers, and through long days of trainings and the shared experience of facing their fears, they had bonded.

One of my favorite moments of the weekend was a session in which they wrote and read to one another notes of gratitude, full of thankfulness for the little moments in which a fellow facilitator was there for them in an especially challenging moment. There were a few tears, many hugs, and an exceptional outpouring of support. This was the embodiment of my hope, seeing how they truly care for one another. And also, a reflection of the dynamic that happens within their groups as well.


One other (more entertaining) moment was showing the team how to make marshmallow s’mores. Ecuadorians frequently see this classic in American movies, and so are quite excited to finally get to have the firsthand experience of a marshmallow dramatically going up in flames, to then melt those gooey charred bits into some Hersey’s chocolate, sandwiched between crisp crackers. The perfect sugar-high.

I should admit, however, the whole weekend wasn’t all holding hands and singing kumbaya- we finished out the night we multiple cut-throat rounds of the game Mafia…if you havent ever played it before, it involved secretly murdering your friends before a paranoid mob gets you…. highly recommend as a teambuilding activity.

I felt a throw-back to summer camp, falling asleep my top bunk, listening to the whispered laughs of the team late into the night. Except these aren’t nervous pre-teens, but the dedicated team who is on the frontlines, listening to people’s painful stories, responding to their crisis’s, and bringing people hope for a better future. Without them, none of this would be possible, and I am forever grateful.


Saludos from Quito,