_DSF5158

See the mint-green house below?

Two dreams came true there.

1) My dream this summer was to interact with children in need and support a ministry doing amazing work. And that’s exactly what happened.

2) Alicia’s dream years ago was to purchase this dilapidated home and turn it into a redemptive force in the community. And that’s what it is now.

Today I’m sharing about dreams, and the strange ways that they come true. You know that I believe in keeping dreams alive— even when circumstances are challenging.

There are two stories behind our journey to and from Ecuador: the story of my passion to work with children, and the larger story of how Casa Victoria is changing the neighborhood of San Roque. I’ll tell them in order.

_DSF4722

1) My story of joy, failure, and renewed hope

If you know me in person, then you might know that for a long time I told everyone that I wanted to be a teacher: an urban teacher, to be exact. I spent most of my summers and free time during college participating in education-related internships and activities.

I worked at a private school in my hometown, I developed curriculum at Stanford, I participated in our branch of Students for Education Reform, and I even met Eve Moskowitz.

I was the education person.

But here’s the truth: I wanted to be a teacher because I wanted to be a consistent presence in kids’ lives. I believed that education was important, but that mentorship, love, and support were even more important.

I desired to help my students feel understood and cared for despite their performance in school or their family circumstances. I believed that public school teaching would help me get there.

So when I applied to a charter school teacher training program, I was sure that it was the right path. Everything fell into place, it seemed, for me to spend my 20s working at an urban school.

At the interview, however, things started feeling a bit wrong. I walked away unsure that I wanted to work at that particular school during this particular season.

And when decisions finally came out, I hadn’t been selected. I was not becoming a teacher in the fall, after all.

_DSF4769

One door closed and another door opened.

Before I found out about my rejection, I had learned about Casa Victoria from my friend Katie who writes the blog Hope Engaged. Katie had recently visited Ecuador and stopped by this organization that supports children in a low-income neighborhood.

I was intrigued, so I got in touch with Alicia, who runs Casa Victoria, to see if she could use some help this summer.

She said yes, and it turned out that my husband and I could come volunteer with their summer camp in July. I was elated: because I was no longer doing the teaching program, I would be able to leave the country and participate in CV’s work instead.

The real dream I’m chasing

I don’t know if I will ever find myself working in a traditional urban classroom.

I do currently work with students, and I write this blog, but my dream doesn’t look the way I thought it would. And that is okay. I am okay with that.

The real dream I’m chasing, after all, is to make an impact in the lives of underprivileged children. It took me years– odd as it may seem– to realize that I did not have to be a classroom teacher to do this.

Our time at Casa Victoria was colored with moments of laughter, service, amazement, disappointment, brokenness, and redemption. The children shared their stories with us: stories that were being changed by the love and care they receive at Casa Victoria.

The opportunity to be a part of CV’s work was a dream-come-true for me. A small, short dream perhaps, but a dream nonetheless.

_DSF4604 _DSF5177

2) Alicia and the old mansion in San Roque

Years ago, Alicia was walking through San Roque– a Quito neighborhood broken by poverty, alcoholism, crime and general neglect.

She saw a large, dilapidated house and had the urge to buy it. While she wasn’t sure what exactly she would use it for, she had a feeling there was a divine purpose behind the urge. 

Not too long afterward, she and her friends purchased the home and began refurbishing it. During the remodeling process, children from the neighborhood would come by and check things out. They began to get to know the volunteers there, and came more and more often.

One day, the neighborhood children asked if they could sit in front of the house and do their homework. That was the moment that Alicia decided the house would offer a safe place for children.

Now, Casa Victoria, a full-fledged non-profit organization, offers classes, homework support, games, supervision, and mentorship for children in San Roque.

In other words, a woman with a big dream turned a house into a home. Don’t you just love that?

10 Best Snapshots From Ecuador - Alicia and Dan _DSF5128

Summer camp adventures with the children of Casa Victoria

Every morning, children would come to hang out with us and go on whatever adventures we had planned. We took them trout fishing, horseback riding, museum-ing, movie watching, and more.

The best part was seeing these kids experience something absolutely new– and the delight on their faces.

_DSF4562 _DSF4940 _DSF4799 _DSF4974

Dreams can take unexpected shapes, but they remain the same at their core.

I’ve learned that I don’t have to force my life to look a certain way in order to pursue a dream. Instead, I can pursue it creatively– and believe that it is coming true in ways I cannot fathom. 

I don’t have to set parameters for what my dream can consist of. My vision has only expanded since my senior year of college, when I was convinced that I would become a special-ed teacher in Los Angeles.

Maybe one day that will still happen. And maybe it won’t. But the ultimate lesson I’ve learned is that when your ultimate desire is to meet a deep need, that need will likely present itself to you. 

I’m so thankful for Alicia and her husband Dan, who both love San Roque’s people with grit and gentleness. They may never have expected their dreams to come true in this way, but it did– and a little underprivileged community is better for it.

_DSF4274

Want to support Casa Victoria? Check out their website (featuring photos by Katie and by me!) to find out how to give! I’ll also be sharing more in a few months about where CV is headed and how you can be involved.

How have your dreams taken shape over time?