Testimonial: “Clara Luna is an experience of life and deep humanity!” by Annabel Wiest

Translated by Lorraine Smart.

Hi, I’m Annabel, I’m 25 years old. I spent these last five years in college and now have a Master’s degree in Cinematographic Studies. Before I came to Ecuador, I had already fallen in love with Latin America through many films that had caught my attention and that marked me deeply. And it was after a trip to Colombia, and another to Costa Rica that I discovered a real passion and a desire to spend some time of my life in this part of the world and do something meaningful there.

But what does it mean to “do something good”? First of all, it’s knowing what you want. The opportunity for civic service appeared as a logical consequence after I finished my studies. I had matured and wanted to live a unique experience that made sense and would help people. Volunteering is about engaging, it is about creating sense and cohesion among people. I was fortunate to be able to volunteer in Ecuador, and find a mission with goals that immediately caught my attention, with a community that joined me as a family member.

In Puerto López (Manabí) I work every day. Here, access to culture, art and books is difficult and particularly expensive. The Clara Luna Foundation welcomes a group of children for our “children’s club”, organizes English classes and intercultural encounters, and works with people with disabilities. In addition, I am fortunate to work with a group of highly motivated teens to open a library in Clara Luna, the only community library in town, which will provide free access to books for all. Each week is different and finds new projects and new activities splashed with increasingly surprising stories.

Ecuador is full of secret places, legends, and you will find a varied and delicious meal. Ecuadorians are so kind. I was pleasantly surprised by their patience and calmness, and I really like the musical atmosphere on every corner. I arrived in the “cold” period of the region, but human heat prevailed over the climate.

Puerto Lopez is a coastal town, a paradise on our planet, which can be immediately recognized for its blue fishing boats. There is a very quiet and familiar atmosphere where on Saturday the city turns into a salsa-flavored party. It is a city where people meet you, I was quickly known as “the girl of Clara Luna” and where you quickly feel at home. My first experience was very warm with a very understanding people and I see Clara Luna as a great family.             

Volunteering has made me grow and has given a real and profound sense to my life. I feel involved and see my experience not as a mission but as a way of life. In these times of health crisis and quarantine, I am very frustrated that I cannot continue working with children on a daily basis. I am particularly concerned about some families whose parents are no longer able to practice their profession and who no longer have any income. I can’t stand idly by: We’ve distributed food, we’re distributing books to children, and we’ve transformed our daily lives: Clubs continue virtually. Children keep pace by reading a story I prepare in advance with Paola’s help. And we organize virtually all of our activities. We have managed to adapt and renew ourselves, turning such a difficult situation into an opportunity to create new things for our Club de Niños.

Volunteering means opening up to others and learning from these people. Some people think volunteering should be done at 18, to gain maturity and responsibility. At 25, I am discovering a lot and learning more every day. I already felt mature but I feel more and more understanding and with more resources needed to life, thanks to Clara Luna. There is no age, only and above all willingness.

Clara Luna is an experience of life and deep humanity!