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Katie Wood returns from a month of service in Ecuador
Katie Wood
Katie Wood

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Junior soccer player Katie Wood just returned from the center of the world, Ecuador, where she spent five weeks assisting with baby deliveries at a local hospital and working in an orphanage.

Being a leader on the soccer field, she said, should be no problem after she just finished offering encouragement to expecting mothers in a foreign language.

“It’s like at an assembly line in public hospitals there like the one I was at,” Wood said. “We’d wait and wait for the women to start contracting. I speak fluent Spanish but it’s hard to speak to someone in the moment of giving birth, with them in so much pain, especially in a different language.

“But it was pretty miraculous the two times I handed a baby to the mother. That meant so much.”

While the Jacksonville, Fla. native spent one-to-two days per week at the hospital, most of her weekdays were spent volunteering at the Christian orphanage, For His Children, in the capital city of Quito.

Children at the orphanage ranged from three weeks old to 17 years, she said, with all children over eight having some sort of special need.

She also was able to do some traveling on weekends.

“Kids of different ages were kept in different houses so we switched from house to house trying to help all the different types of kids,” Wood said. “What they needed was one-on-one time and luckily we spoke Spanish, too, which helped.

“For babies the focus was stimulation. You want to talk to them with them held up close to you and engage them. With older kids we helped them with things like math and reading.

“The Bible tells us to care for the widowed and less fortunate and I wanted to be a part of that. Plus, I like Latin culture and Spanish. It worked out wonderfully.”

The fact that she ended up in Ecuador again would not surprise those close to Wood. It was her fourth trip to the South American country. She went as a child and also did two shorter mission trips to the country previously, in smaller cities.

Her father, David Wood, lived in Ecuador for a year when he was younger. A doctor, he now works at the University of Florida but still does mission work in the region. Wood’s mother, Julia, works as a public health nurse in Jacksonville.

“My parents are my inspiration, obviously,” said Wood, who plans to eventually become a nurse practitioner and also hopes to spend time living in Ecuador before having a family of her own. “I’ll have my own children one day, but I think I’ll do as much as between when I graduate and having a family. I just love getting to know the country.”

In the meantime, Wood said she is looking forward to her junior season with the Lady Bisons.

“I feel motivated and I think we’re all wanting to work hard,” she said. “I’m a junior this year. I think the junior and senior classes this year have some good leaders and that’ll be good for our younger girls. We’ve got some good new recruits coming in.”

Still, it should be an interesting transition, Wood said, as she readjusts to college life. She begins a summer course on Monday at Lipscomb.

“Sports are very fun and important in certain ways,” she said. “But sometimes I feel a little torn about my priorities when I returned from orphanages. But I’m not going to school selfishly or to make money so that’s how I’m okay with it. Maybe I can raise money to support kids from here. You feel so alive after you help others.

“More than anything this stuff is fun. What most people think of students doing for fun are things that are non-fulfilling, but volunteer work will leave you fulfilled. This trip was a revelation for me on what meaningful fun is.”