My name is Micaela Borja and I was born on the 15th of October, 2002 in Quito, Ecuador. In my family, I have always been surrounded by love, support, values and the eagerness to leave our footprint in this world. My entire family comes from Ecuador, where I’ve lived my entire life. Since I can remember I’ve always been part of different volunteering and organizations in which I could not only interact with people from other cultures and realities but also fill my heart with love and joy from people’s happiness to receive help and teach me about their beliefs, traditions, and culture. My mom has always been a person full of tenderness and love for others. Since I was a small child, she taught me the importance to help others and, most importantly those who don’t have our same opportunities in life. This is why, along with my brothers; Agustin which is 13 years old, Gabriel who is 5 and Juan Esteban who is 17, I've learned to appreciate life and everything in it. From my family, I learned to live for the happiness of others and always seek for the person next to me to smile and enjoy every moment in life. In my country, I have always been surrounded by impacting realities and unequal opportunities for people. When I was 14 years old there was an earthquake that completely destroyed many communities on the coast of Ecuador. As I saw how much harm and suffering this phenomenon caused to hundreds of families, I wanted to help no matter the circumstance. This is why I decided to volunteer on a trip to two towns in Manabí, Ecuador. It was heartbreaking to arrive at these communities and see in the conditions people were leaving because of the earthquake. I heard so many traumatic stories of their daily lives and experiences, and it was then when I realized how privileged I was to meet these people and have the opportunity to make a change in their lives. After living for a whole week with the people of the community I was extremely impacted to learn many things, the most important one was how every single person always smiled. They went through so many things, which they didn’t deserve, but they were always happy and looked forward to helping others in need. This experience and the ones that followed, in the two years I continued to return to this community after my first trip, shaped me into who I am now; such as my character, values, and purpose in life. I’m always looking for a way to help others and I am grateful to live in a country in which I have learned to appreciate every aspect of life. In this volunteering I had the chance to meet Mire Villagomez, which is an amazing photographer, I was inspired to see how she was able to capture each moment and make every picture look so unique and real. She told me that the importance of photography was to look for the way for others to visualize what you see at the moment a photo is taken, in order for them to be able to live the moment as well. This is why I love taking pictures, capturing smiles, sufferings, and realities because this in a way helps me transmit and express myself to the world with my ideas. It also creates consciousness for those who live inside the bubble of their own reality and are not able to see what the reality of the world is. I truly think that pictures can impact a person's feelings and change something in their heart and life.
This project has been one of the most impacting experiences and opportunities in my life. Being part of many volunteer events and organizations I have never had the chance to be a part of such a project like this. A few years ago, when the project started, I remember I saw a video from Juliana Pallares. I was impacted by the enormous biodiversity surrounded by the Secoyas, but also of how a small group of young people could create such a change in people's lives. This inspired me to be part of the project and always follow their activities, news, and ways to help them grow. It is heartwarming to now be part of this project and be able to provide opportunities for education, health, and love to the Secoyas. On the trip, meeting these people was an amazing opportunity. They were all so happy and full of love, mostly the children. They always wanted us to play with them and smiled all the time as we were around them. Furthermore, I was able to connect with the jungle and its peacefulness. I can say, I’ve never been to such a beautiful place as Mañoco and Painkenape. The biodiversity and landscapes I got to be surrounded by, were beyond amazing. This along with the opportunity and feeling to help these children have education filled me with joy and eagerness to give my best to help these people receive everything they need. I am so happy to form part of such an amazing project which create a huge impact on these people’s daily lives. This journey changed me in so many ways, it completely impacted the way I see life now. The tenderness and generosity of people who leave with so little, helped me understand how I need to appreciate everything I have and learn to love rather than complain about insignificant things.
The secoya children from Paikenape and Mañoco