As our second week of visits to service locations concluded, students and leaders came to the realization that this chapter of SST is quickly drawing to a close. The end of SST always brings a mixture of emotions; sadness, joy, relief, and reflection about this unique experience. When students return to Quito in two weeks they will begin to process all that they have experienced in this beautiful country and the ways in which they have grown and changed.
As leaders, it is a joy to see students we haven’t seen in almost a month and to observe the ways in which the host families recount the joy of having new family members. That joy is expressed in stories, laughter, shared meals, and generous leave-taking gifts. The most beautiful expressions of this joy are found in the small things, the hand of a younger host sibling resting on a student’s shoulder, the acknowledgment that tears will be shed on their departure, and the inside jokes they share among one another that the student is now privy to. The true lasting impacts of this experience are the memories of these small moments between people who were once strangers and now are family.