“Being a volunteer is a rewarding vocation”: Karen Castro's story

Published: 5 December 2016 23:03 CET

“Being a volunteer is a rewarding vocation; it means a lot of dedication. I have learned to appreciate everything I have,” said Karen Castro, a twenty-year-old volunteer, when she described her work at the Ecuadorean Red Cross. She was emphatic that she would not change this experience for anything else.

Karen lives with her mother in Quito, but following the earthquake she travelled frequently to the affected areas to carry out volunteering activities. It was not easy to be away from home, but her reward came in the form of gestures of gratitude: warm smiles, hugs, encouraging words. This inspired her to keep helping others without expecting anything in return. 

She said that her experience as a Red Cross volunteer had made her a better person.

She remembered the first time she travelled to Manabí province, one month after the disaster. She saw people with physical injuries caused by the earthquake, but she was more moved by people’s fear and emotional pain.

Three months after, she walked the same streets again but the situation had changed. She recognized people she had met, but they had a more positive attitude and looked forward to rebuild what had been destroyed. Karen said this was what had encouraged her to continue doing humanitarian work. 

“Being a volunteer is about leaving your own needs aside, get up and go help others. In return you get to see people moving forward. I always remind them that they are not alone, that we are here to help them,” said Karen.

To date a total of 4,772 Red Cross volunteers have travelled to the provinces of Manabí and Esmeraldas to bring support to the families affected by the earthquake.