Congratulations to Harlem Prep High School sophomore To’Niya Arzu for winning the annual FIBUSPAM Student Essay Competition and being named FIBUSPAM’s Student Ambassador of the Year. The goal of the FIBUSPAM essay contest is to raise awareness of socio-economic disparities in Latin America and share students’ Ecuadorian experiences with their local community in the U.S. and New York City. To’Niya was invited to give a speech at FIBUSPAM’s annual fundraiser.
FIBUSPAM is an international charity working in Chimborazo, Ecuador, to provide health care to marginalized and economically disadvantaged communities. They are dedicated to supporting the physical and social well-being of Ecuadorian families through delivering primary and specialized medical care. Earlier this year, To’Niya was one of 40 Harlem Prep High School and Democracy Prep Endurance High School scholars who volunteered with FIBUSPAM on their service-based trip to Ecuador as part of Democracy Prep’s Global Citizens Program. The scholars helped provide medical care to more than 500 children and adults this year’s trip, along with support to beautify a school for disabled children around Riobamba, Ecuador.
Read To’Niya’s remarks below.
To’Niya Arzu’s FIBUSPAM Speech
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. It’s a pleasure to be here.
My name is Toniya Arzu and I am a sophomore at Harlem Prep High School.
I am here this afternoon to share with you all my experience in Ecuador.
Overall, the experience I shared traveling to Ecuador with my classmates was an amazing and fun learning opportunity that has deeply impacted my life. Before going to Ecuador I thought the people living there had most of the resources and certain products they needed. Once I got there and saw for myself first handed that they didn’t, it hurt me. It made see how much we take things for granted and the that I need to appreciate things that I have in my life.
I cannot say enough: FIBUSPAM is an incredible organization doing really great work for the Andean people in Chimborozo province. The time we spent working with Sarah and traveling with Wilson provided our group with the opportunity to see learn a lot of about the people of Ecuador, their history, and first hand how Ecuadorians live.
While in Riobamba, volunteering in the mountain villages, I witnessed how while most families were able to grow and provide a small selection of vegetables and food to their families, these same families still lacked many essential resources that they needed in order to help their families thrive. Many of these resources are things that we take for granted every single day such as, the ability to diagnose and treat illnesses with modern medicine, the opportunity to have one’s teeth cleaned, and even access to a pair of sunglasses.
With the support of Sarah and the incredible Ecuadorian FIBUSPAM staff we were able to do much good in a short amount of time. Some of the good we shared with the wonderful people we met included providing food donations, dental care, entertainment, sunglasses, medicine, laughter, games, and love. This experience of meeting and helping the village people was extremely impactful and one that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
The focus of our trip was to be on mission to help those in need. I truly wish we were able to stay there for more than just 7 days and have additional time to volunteer and work in other villages to provide help to the people in need we weren’t able to serve during our visit. Despite the short time we spent together with each community, the grateful looks on the families’ faces we helped showed me that our efforts were making a difference immediately and that we had shared a special experience together.
In addition to volunteering with the mobile medical caravan our high school also got to volunteer on another day with FIBUSPAM to support making improvements to a school for disabled children in Ecuador. Visiting and working at this school where the children with various disabilities attend a few times a week really made me see how lucky I am to attend Harlem Prep High School. It also made me realize how much I take for granted the education, resources, and support I receive at school each day.
This trip has left a lasting impact on my classmates and myself. The biggest impact was helping us realize how much we take for granted in our daily lives and the need to appreciate the things we have.
Thank you again, FIBUSPAM and Sarah. You have impacted my life in many different ways. First, I got to meet new friends in Ecuador who I will always remember. Second, I got to volunteer and give back to a very grateful and appreciative community. And third. Ecuador made me change how I think about things. I try to now give people more of my attention and care, and even if its something little I am still willing to help with any way possible to spread kindness and love.
Thank you again for supporting myself and my classmates in having the ability to travel to Ecuador and spread more love and kindness to this wonderful community. I promise to continue to share more with my family, classmates, and friends about the good that FIBUSPAM is doing and continue to encourage future scholars to sign up for many more volunteer excursions with FIBUSPAM in the future. Harlem Prep is excited to continue our partnership and serve more communities next year.