Claire Brito is 15 years old, from Houston TX, and a freshman at Tabor Academy in Massachusetts. At school, she’s involved in Model United Nations, community service and tennis. Last year she had the opportunity to lead a service project for a small community in Guayaquil, Ecuador through the SEA-El Carmen program.
Why did you decide to become involved in this service project in Ecuador?
My dad is originally from Quito, Ecuador and has been traveling back and forth since he was about my age. In the 6th grade, my dad asked me if I wanted to go visit this school in Guayaquil, Ecuador. He thought it would be a good opportunity for me to see a school that was different from mine.
I was in Ecuador for two weeks, and took a smaller trip to a small community outside the city of Guayaquil, attending classes, playing with the kids and hanging out with the families.
After I left, I stayed in correspondence with the school’s director because I wanted to remain involved with the project. I talked with kids in my school about how they could help set up a service project for the kids as well as a pen pal program.
By the time I was in the 8th grade I wanted to do something on my own for the school. Using the idea of “stockings for students”, I recruited a 5th grade class to partner with the 186 students in the school in Guayaquil to create and ship out Christmas stockings to them.
All the students in the school in Guayaquil were so happy to get their own personal stocking! Each kid in the 5th grade class in my school was responsible for present ideas and collecting the toys. They decorated each stocking with the student’s name on it, and we sent it out to Ecuador. The project was a huge success, and each of the 186 students opened their own personal christmas stocking stuffed with goodies. We got to watch it over Skype! (You can see a video of this here).
Do girls in Guayaquil have equal access to education?
Most of the children in the community are not educated past the middle school level, with most of the girls dropping out even before then. As a high school student, this opened my eyes to the stark contrasts between my life and theirs. Where I live, it is typical for a girl my age to be preparing and thinking ahead for college and beyond. There is constant pressure for us girls to maintain competitive grades and a stellar resume: the girls I live and work with are very achievement-oriented. These girls have a very different reality.
I remember going to the classroom and sitting with the girls there – I had a pen pal my age that I was talking to, Carmen. They were so sweet, and many were very excited to talk to me, but were significantly quieter than the boys in their class.
Recruiting teachers in a rural area is a struggle for the school, so the mothers in the village would step up to help run the school. Many mothers played a vital role in their child’s education by working as cooks, teachers, and administrative volunteers. Most of the people who work in and for the school are women. The person who started and runs the school is a woman!
Which woman in your life has inspired you the most?
One woman who is inspiring to me currently is my dorm proctor. She loves to travel and has worked with kids in other countries during her past summers. She encourages me not to quit my work with the school in Guayaquil despite the challenges of school.
Katie Davis also inspires me. She’s a girl who, after high school, started a ministry in Uganda. I read her book and loved it. I’ve read it twice! She’s a huge role model.