One Choice

Ogugua Nwaezeigwe - Ecuador


February 28, 2020

There are moments when an epiphany will lurk on the doorstep of our consciences, and there are moments when an epiphany will clang, with the punctuality of church bells, in our minds. I experienced the latter.

It happened as I sat in my school auditorium on March 30th, 2019, and my screen flashed, "Congratulations, You're Going to Ecuador!" I sat back and knew my choice to embark on a gap year with Global Citizen Year had the potential to change my course in life. But more importantly, after self-reflection, I knew my epiphany was about the power of one choice. 


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Despite barely having two decades of life under my belt, I understood how few things I could control and the magnitude of the choices I would make in my upcoming years. Yet, I never stopped to consider the power of one choice. It seemed ludicrous that I never found how decisions affected others when I had decided to move to another country and postpone my college career. But the more I thought on the matter, the more precise the answer became. One choice can change timelines.

I began to apply this level of reasoning to my life in Ecuador. It has only been four months, but I see every day of joy, frustration, nostalgia, and adjustment a choice I made months ago in the United States, and a choice I would continue to honor with my time here. Thus I coined my gap year, "The Year of Light," with my sole purpose being to bring brightness and a small contribution (a hug, a smile, a compliment, support) to every person I met.

Furthermore, I work at Fundación Arupo, an organization that provides therapy for children with neurological difficulties, and my favorite child is Serita. Serita has cerebral palsy and no control of her lower body and right arm. However, Ecuador does not have the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, or Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that protect and help children with disabilities in the United States. As a result, I have spent hours with my supervisor teaching Serita vowel sounds, letters, animals, forms of transportation, and so on because the school system is not compatible with her. Yet, Serita has taught me more about perseverance and life in four months than four years of high school. She taught me the only obstacles in your life are the ones you let be there. 


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The moment I cherish most with Serita was when we were doing hand exercises. It had been a hard day, but we chose to continue because we knew she was close to opening and closing her palm. When Serita was finally able to open her palm, her face lit up, and it made the struggle worth it. But what made it special was when Serita reached and gripped my hand first. I was almost to tears and could only say thank you to her and to the choice that brought me into her presence. Because I knew Serita would be just fine whether or not I had been there.

Therefore, an epiphany that started in March is still ongoing. I have never been more cognizant of my decisions when one choice has affected my self-awareness and experiences so thoroughly. Additionally, it gives the quote, "In such seconds of decision, entire futures are made" by Dan Simmons, merit. Because I know that if I never chose to apply to Global Citizen Year or take a gap year, I would not be here. Oh, how powerful one choice is, without a doubt.  

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Ogugua Nwaezeigwe