Ecuador Intern Journal: Follow-Up Visit to Pull Manuel Laso



When MEDLIFE first started in 2005, our goal was to deliver medical care to those without access in Latin America. As we spent more time in the communities we visited on our Mobile Clinics, we learned more about the myriad problems constraining their residents’ livelihoods and preventing them from leading healthy lives. We realized that delivery of healthcare services wasn’t the only way that we could help individuals and families in need, so we decided to broaden our work to encompass community development projects. These projects’ overall aim is to improve the health and living conditions of individual communities. Always working in collaboration with community leaders and residents, we have since built classrooms, bathrooms, and washrooms in rural and urban elementary schools, and stairways and retention walls for hillside villages. Funding for many of these projects now comes from the MEDLIFE Fund. All public donations and fundraising for MEDLIFE goes 100% to our community development projects.

Rachel Eggleston is a MEDLIFE summer intern in Ecuador. Here’s her perspective on a community development project in Chimborazo:

1-1Today, fellow interns JP, Meredith, and I traveled to the rural village of Pull Manuel Laso, Chimborazo, deep in the Ecuadorian Andes mountain range, to check on the progress of a MEDLIFE-sponsored bathroom construction project. We woke up around 7 am and hopped in a taxi, which took us to the bus station. One bus and one government vehicle later, we arrived in Pull Manuel Laso. Francisca Paguay, the director of the community’s school, greeted us immediately. Sra. Paguay led us down a trail to the bathroom project, which overlooks the vast agricultural and mountainous landscape typical of many communities in rural Chimborazo. When we arrived, several community members stopped their whitewashing to greet us. They were eager to show us what they had accomplished since Martha (Director of Operations, MEDLIFE Ecuador) last visited.

Students from UC Berkeley and the University of Georgia started the construction project with community members during their Mobile Clinic earlier this month, but did not have time to finish it before returning to the United States. Before construction began, the school did not have any bathrooms, and the children did not have anywhere to wash their hands. After the students left, members of the Pull Manuel Laso community continued to invest their time and effort in the project, boosted by financial support from MEDLIFE. MEDLIFE always requires local residents to contribute to the construction of these projects. Community involvement and buy-in is essential to ensuring their proper maintenance and use after MEDLIFE steps aside. Not only does community participation lengthen the life of the bathroom, but it also serves to empower those involved. The community members we interacted were proud of their new bathroom, and were working hard to ensure its completion.

1-2After the local residents showed us around the site, we all gathered for a quick meeting to talk about the exciting implications of this new bathroom. Community members, government representatives, and Martha shared their opinions about the importance of sanitation, collaboration, and continuing to work toward improving community health. Sra. Paguay invited us inside the school for breakfast after the meeting, and we had the opportunity to hear her thoughts on community education, nutrition, and health. The breakfast was delicious, and I really appreciated the opportunity to hear more about the daily struggles and successes of Pull Manuel Laso.

The bathroom is located right next to the schoolhouse. It houses three toilets, a urinal, and a hand washing station. Check out the pictures, courtesy of Meredith, our media intern here in Ecuador!

The bathroom project in Pull Manuel Laso was funded entirely by the contributions of the students from UC Berkeley and the University of Georgia who participated in the May 21 – June 4 Mobile Clinic in Riobamba, Ecuador. Thank you to everyone who lent a hand in the project!


Hear it From MEDLIFErs

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Reya Seby
Western University

This trip motivated me more to pursue a career in the healthcare field so that I can use my resources to help those who need it the most, similar to MEDLIFE’s mission.

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Victoria DiCanio
University of Connecticut

It was most enjoyable to finish the hard work and see how big a difference a group of individuals can make. It was such an amazing experience.

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Anita Woo
University of Toronto

I enjoyed the mobile clinics the most, especially the dental and triage portions. I would definitely recommend a MEDLIFE trip, it was a great experience.

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David Saff
Maclay High School

The most enjoyable part of my trip was hanging out with the amazing group of kids I was with. I would highly recommend a MEDLIFE volunteer trip to others.

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Sydney Sansone
Nova Southeastern University

This trip made everything that I was learning in my public health courses come to life and immersed me in a new culture while also learning about medicine.

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Abygail Youmans
College of Charleston

Being involved with MEDLIFE is not like joining another club - its bigger than that. It is about joining a movement that seeks to help change people’s quality of life for forever.

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Emi Hofmann
University of Central Florida

Not only was I able to participate in a week long Mobile Clinic, shadowing doctors of all types of specialties including pharmacy, dentistry, gynecology, and more, but I was also able to learn about the culture and visit incredible places.

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Julian Takagi-Stewart
University of Toronto

One thing that I really loved about this trip was that MEDLIFE made sure that the volunteers got an understanding of the complexity of issues that lead to underprivileged people in communities outside of the main city

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Hannah Van Hofwegen
University of Ottawa

Whether it was basketball with the local kids, assisting the doctors, talking with families, building washrooms, holding babies, or spending time with the people who were on the SLT with me, this was an amazing opportunity that I would do over and over again.

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Isabelle Holt
Cornell University

I loved learning about the patients MEDLIFE has followed and how they offer real help to people with chronic/urgent conditions. It is amazing how the organization formed real connections with the communities.

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Valerie Lindeborg

Our family had the privilege of participating in multiple trips with Nick [founder] and his amazing staff. Their expertise made the trips unforgettable while instilling in my boys the fundamentals of good character: selflessness, compassion, and empathy.

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Harry Vildibill
University of Georgia

As an aspiring physician, MEDLIFE motivated me to further continue my goal of becoming a doctor. In fact, I enjoyed the Tanzania Service Learning Trip so much that I decided to go on another trip to Cusco, Peru.