Ricardo, alumni volunteer from 2001-02, shares how Rostro de Cristo has influenced his career with the Foreign Service
On my first day on the job as a Foreign Service Officer at the State Department, I met around 50 of my fellow colleagues who were also starting out their diplomatic careers. I very quickly realized that many of us had something unique in common: we served abroad in developing countries. During my first tour, I saw first hand why recruiters at the State Department look for individuals who have direct experience working in poor communities abroad. As an economics officer in Mumbai, India I became involved in issues that confronted us as volunteers in Guayaquil. Education, gender issues, poverty, environmental degradation and the problems facing large cities with a growing marginalized population are all a part of the 21st century diplomacy. Part of my job is to help make sense of these issues for policy makers in the US. This work demands building relationships with local NGOs, government officials, politicians and the business community. When I spoke with these leaders, my time in Ecuador helped me contextualize the issues and better understand the challenges that they faced. When US officials visited Mumbai and looked to me as the local ‘authority’, I was able to speak with confidence because I had seen some of these challenges up close in a way that most US officials have not.
From afar, the challenges of poverty can sometimes seem insurmountable. But when I worked as a PE teacher at Escuela Fiscal #17, Oswaldo Guayasamin, I remember how committed the teachers were, especially their principal, Carlos. I had many long conversations with him about the pressures he felt as an administrator to run a public school on a limited budget. While he had no shortage of challenges, everyday the school was up and running with gusto. Kids came to this neighborhood school and learned to read, exercised (in a bootcamp RDC kind of way) and explored math and history. I enjoyed working with him, and I learned a lot from the teachers who cared for the kids as much as any of us did. The year I spent in Ecuador and the people that I met there, renewed my faith in people’s ability to persevere and thrive.
For those of us who were lucky enough to work for Rostro de Cristo in Ecuador, I am sure that you also draw on your year there for inspiration in your professional lives as well. I am so thankful for my time with RDC and I still find myself at work enthusiastically retelling stories, thinking about our neighbors and praying in Spanish. I hope you do too!