The Sorensens Take on Ecuador

The Sorensens Take on Ecuador

Sarah Markiewicz, Staff Writer

Many foreign language teachers emphasize to their students how valuable their language skills will become in the real world. Over the summer, Diamond Bar High School Spanish teacher Charlotte Sorensen used her knowledge of the Spanish language to help provide wheelchairs for impoverished people in Ecuador. Although she has taught Spanish for 25 years, this was her first experience in Ecuador.

As part of an organization called Free Wheelchair Mission, Sorensen and her daughter, along with 16 other teammates, spent the majority of their nine days there assembling and distributing wheelchairs for disabled civilians of the South American country. Sorensen described those she helped as incapable of walking without an assistant. After presenting people with the wheelchairs, the team would also share the Christian Gospel with them.

They traveled from the high altitudes of the Andes mountain range and the capital, Quito, to the coastal city of Guayaquil. Along the way, the team also stopped at daycare centers to donate amenities, such as toys and desks, which many American daycares take for granted. Having visited other Spanish-speaking countries before, Sorensen was able to help fellow group members communicate with the people of Ecuador.

“There were several native speakers in the group,” explained Sorensen. “However, I did translate from time to time; not for the group, but for individuals.” At times her daughter Gracie would also translate for some members of the group.

“Some people on the team didn’t speak any Spanish so that seemed like it would have stopped us. But in order to show kindness and love to another human being, that doesn’t matter,” said Gracie Sorensen via Facebook. “Love transcends speech… Sometimes hugs are more important than words.” In addition to a barrier in language, the team was also faced with entering a country where some of the people do not have as many material possessions as those in the United States.

“I knew that I would find a lot of poverty there, which there was,” said Mrs. Sorensen. “Sadly, Ecuador is a very poor country.” The people who were assisted by the program ranged in age from young children to the much older citizens of the country. The parts of the wheelchairs are sent to the country from Free Wheelchair Mission’s headquarters in Irvine, and are assembled and distributed in Ecuador.

This was Sorensen’s first mission trip, although Ecuador is not the first Spanish-speaking country that she has visited. The Spanish teacher had attempted to schedule mission trips in the past, but had been unable to do so until this year because of her job. She plans to go on another mission trip in the future, and she affirms that she would encourage her students to visit Ecuador and any other Spanish-speaking country.