By Brandon Gillet
A few weeks ago, the Gazette highlighted one student’s journey across Europe over the summer. But prior to her personal pleasure cruise through the Old World, Ena Lucia Mariaca threw herself into travel for humanitarianism.
Mariaca visited Cambodia and Guatemala prior to her trek in Europe, as part of ongoing mission work with her church, the Metropolitan Bible Church in Ottawa.
She went to Cambodia to pursue her interests in human rights. The group Mariaca worked with in Guatemala focused on schools, one of which was specifically for sponsored children.
The Cambodia trip was aimed at looking into projects being led by groups of local contacts, and assessing their progress and viability. Some of the projects involved raising awareness for human trafficking, rehabilitation, visiting local orphanages and connecting with the community.
In one specific project the team traveled over four hours by car, boat and “tuk tuk” to reach a remote orphanage to help over 300 children. Another project brought them to a wakeboarding park that raises awareness and funds to rescue those in human trafficking situations.
“I was in Cambodia for two weeks, a trip that cost $2,500—all of which was covered through the money I collected through fundraising. For the trip to Guatemala, again, fundraising meant the full cost of the trip—$2,000—was covered,” says Mariaca.
The student sent letters to people she knew outlining what she planned to do. The person could then choose to donate or pray for the sake of her journey. She would supplement with her own funds, if it were necessary.
Focus on human rights
Since Mariaca was in grade 11, in 2010, she has been researching various humanitarian crises and human rights issues and was always curious about the parts of the world such things were happening.
“I wanted to see if I could change this world at all,” she says.
Mariaca’s trip in the summer of 2015 was not her first for humanitarian purposes. In 2012, she travelled to Guatemala with a mission group to help a village that had been devastated by mudslides.
“We went to a village in Guatemala City but that was located was more along the edge of the jungle,” says Mariaca. “The school had been destroyed, so we built a new one.”
Mariaca has been back there four times now, doing different things like building schools, homes and water filtration systems and even just to talk to the people and teach them new things like about basic medicine.
Costa Rican orphanage: Where it all began
After her first trip to Guatemala in 2012, Mariaca went back and visited her family in Costa Rica for her reading week. However, once she arrived, the only thing she could think of doing was to visit an orphanage because she had never seen one before.
“That was one of the best experiences of my life,” says Mariaca. “It sent my life in a completely different direction.”
The orphanage, Casa de Pan, is run by a man and woman, and funded out of their own pockets, with help from volunteers. Mariaca learned that the woman started it a bit by chance, after she had been in hospital to give birth to her daughter. Another woman in the hospital had abandoned her newborn, so she adopted the child after being released from hospital. After that, she just continued taking orphan children into her home—many of whom were literally dropped at her doorstep in a box.
“By the time I got there, she was up to about 40 kids,” Mariaca says. “These children get a chance to grow up, get an education; and she teaches them about social skills and how to love.”
The number of children at the orphanage, however, has doubled since then.
A child named Anita really touched Mariaca. The little girl wore a brace around her waist and legs because of injuries caused by her own father. She was dropped off at the orphanage in a box when she was two, with most of her bones broken and her body covered in cigarette burns.
“I was completely shattered by her story,” Mariaca says sadly. “I met Anita when she was so little and I thought, ‘Everything I do now is going to be for you because I want to change your life, the lives of all the children in the orphanage and the life of every child I come across in the future’.”