From left, Celine Brandt, Mark Reimer, Emilie Jackson and Katie Fast with scarves from Ecuador

They are calling it a life-changing experience.

Mark Reimer, a teacher at Steinbach Regional Secondary School, along with 9 students and another chaperone, have just returned from a month in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador where they worked with young boys. He explains the fishing village is beset with social problems and kids get very little wholesome direction. A program has been established to show them love and attention and Reimer and the students volunteered their time to help.

Reimer says,"For me, my life was changed and there are 30 boys who couldn't believe the attention that they were smothered with because many of them come from homes where their fathers are not present. Many of them come from homes where, it's just simply not a good environment, and they don't receive positive attention. So we played football(soccer) with them for just over an hour a day, we taught then English, bought them supper, malnutrition is a huge issue, we worked in a daycare where many of their younger siblings attend and got a flavour of where they are coming from."

Emilie Jackson, who graduated from SRSS in June, says it was quite an eye opener. She tells us, "For me, the biggest change from when I left Steinbach to when I returned, was I was able to get my priorities in order and line up some perspectives for my future. The last week we were there we got a chance to teach English to these boys. And, getting up in front of them that Tuesday, I'll  never forget, and teaching them the alphabet, totally, completely changed everything I wanted to do. I went from wanting to be like, a high school English teacher, to just wanting to teach English to people who wanted to learn. I've come come back quite different with totally different ideas of what's important and what's planned for me."

Students Katie Fast and Celine Brandt agree it was a heartwarming experience they will never forget.

Meanwhile, Reimer plans to return to volunteer again next year and also to set up an exchange program for some of the boys there. He brought back several hundred scarves from an artisans' market in Puerto Lopez and is selling them for 15 dollars apiece to raise money to bring some of the boys here for a visit. He's hoping to fly 5 of them to Steinbach next summer and, if he sells all the scarves, will be able to cover the cost of two air fares. You can contact him at 346-1942.