Ecuador Summer Intern Amrita Athwal is now back in her hometown of San Diego, California after her eight weeks abroad working with MEDLIFE. Before she left, she wrote about her experience and the impact it made on her:
On our first day of work we spent nearly an entire day on a bus! It took four hours from Riobamba to Quito to pick up the students from the airport and then another seven hours from Quito to Tena. Along the way I encountered some of the most beautiful scenery I had ever seen. Working with MEDLIFE for three years now, I thought I knew the ins and outs of this organization and exactly what to expect while working out here. However, I had only experienced working with MEDLIFE in Peru and had never visited Ecuador. After getting to Tena I was so thankful to be placed in such a gorgeous country and to be given the opportunity to experience a new style of life. Every person that we met treated us with such compassion and kindness. The patients were so grateful to have us working in their community. Tena is very small, and the communities we visited were consequentially smaller than what I had expected given my previous experience in Peru. However, this wasn’t a bad thing; it gave the clinics a much more personal touch and I could really feel the impact of our aid. The local authorities were so grateful in one particular community that they actually invited our entire clinic over for dinnerâ€” that was an experience that I will never forget. They shook all of our hands and gave awards to students who demonstrated exceptional work.
Both in Tena and Riobamba my favorite aspect about the Mobile Clinics was surprisingly not the health services provided, but the hygiene projects we carried out. For several days I volunteered to chaperone the students and worked alongside them as we toiled under the beating sun to build new bathrooms for the communities. Being from Southern California, I acknowledge that I come from a privileged lifestyle and am not used to the strenuous labor needed to mix cement and sift through sand to build a bathroom with my own two hands. Yet, somehow I did it and loved every moment of it.
In Tena there was an elderly woman with her nose completely deteriorated and discolored. I talked to her and learned that she had nose cancer for eight months now and none of her children would take care of her. This had to have been one of the most emotional moments for me — to see someone in such extreme pain not have access to any sort of help. My heart went out to her, but I was so happy to be a part of an organization that was able to actually do something for her. She saw all the doctors and shortly after was admitted to the hospital for treatment. Just helping that one person made me feel like I was actually doing something, and that somehow, I made a difference in the world.
Overall, I can honestly say that I have loved every moment of my eight weeks in this country. My involvement with MEDLIFE will continue as I resume the position of Student Advisory Board West Coast chair, and I’m very excited for all the future impact I can make. I am now fully aware of exactly what is going on in both Peru and Ecuador, and cannot wait to come back here. My heart is and always will be in the beautiful country of Ecuador.