Mitchell Mankin - Ecuador

July 6, 2011

So how does someone end up putting off college for a year and going to a country thousands of miles away?  Well, each fellow here has their own reasons, but here are mine.  I’ve always been a person who likes to gather knowledge about the rest of the world — its history, its geography, and current events.  Along the way, I’ve heard a lot of sad stories about poverty and heartbreak.  I’m sure you’ve heard a few of them too, but like me, you’ve probably felt the same powerlessness to help.  When I went through the college application process, there were a lot of opportunities to look back over my life so far, and over and over I saw how often I’d simply ignored the world’s problems.  That’s why I chose to take this gap year.  Global Citizen Year’s message struck me right in the chest.  They declared that even a kid just out of high school could make a difference in the world.
And so next year, I’m going to be an apprentice with an NGO that’s already working to make Ecuador a better place for those that live there.  Global Citizen Year is still in the process of arranging apprenticeships, but I do know that I will probably be working on a project that specifically furthers economic development or environmental conservation.  While I complete my apprenticeship, I’ll be living with a host family that speaks little or no English.  Over the course of the year, I’ll be learning the culture along with the language.
I’ve made another realization in the months since deciding to take this gap year.  It doesn’t take a year spent abroad to make a positive difference in the world.  That can happen any day, in any city, and anyone can do it. It could be as simple as making a donation to a charity or as complex as helping a homeless person get off the street. I hope that while I’m away in Ecuador, those of you back home might find what I never really did: that there are opportunities to make the world better everywhere and every day.
Thank you for reading.

Mitchell Mankin