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Last year, when Ryann was a senior at Pleasant Valley High School, she was awarded a privately-funded scholarship to participate in a Bright Light Volunteers program to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. When Ryann found out she had been awarded this all-inclusive scholarship, she dreamed about the food she would try, the sights she would see, but most importantly, the impact she hoped to make.

In Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, Bright Light Volunteers works in the Zambiza Dump. This community, of roughly 300 families, survives on the dump, mining what they can find to sell. In 2006, a daycare was opened in the Dump community in order to keep children away from the dangers of the Dump. Since it opened, this daycare has relied on volunteers to care for the children and also renovate the dilapidated building.

For Ryann, the children of the Zambiza Dump made a huge impact on her life, admitting that sometimes it was easy to forget that her tiny hometown isn’t the only place that exists. She says, “I don’t think I truly knew, before this, that putting other people before yourself is an inevitable path to joy.”

Since her program has ended, and she has completed her first year of college, studying Global Leadership, Ryann has started her own mission to help children in her community. Ryann’s Art Camp was created in April, 2018 for children ages 7-12.

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