Volunteer Name: Erica Judd
Project Location: Quito, Ecuador
Program Dates: May 2nd – June 5th, 2015
Volunteered at: Children and Centro De Salud
1- How was the local ABV Coordinator and the support provided in-country?
It was clear that my ABV Coordinator was very well acquainted with the various projects in and around Quito. She really tried her best to ensure that I was happy and comfortable in my volunteer assignment. She was also very knowledgeable about the history of the country and about current events, which was incredibly interesting and helpful for me to acclimate to the area. In addition to supporting my volunteer activities, she also assisted me in sightseeing/exploring parts of Quito that I would not have been able to without her help. The nurses at the clinic were also very kind and helpful. I learned a lot from them, and am grateful for their support.
2- What was the most surprising thing you experienced?
I should not have been, but I was surprised to find that very few people spoke any English in Ecuador. However, this turned out to be one of the most rewarding aspects of my trip. I was required to really immerse myself in the Spanish language both at home, at the clinic, and during my Spanish lessons.
3- What was most difficult to experience?
The most difficult experience was working at the day care center for the special needs children. It is difficult to watch how the kids and their family struggle every day in spite of their condition.
4- Any tips for future volunteers… (Clothing, travel, personal items, donations)
If I could have given myself one tip before embarking on this trip, it would have been to put some effort into learning Spanish fundamentals before arriving in Ecuador. English-speaking volunteers should absolutely bring a Spanish dictionary. I felt that the clothing and personal items suggested by ABV were exactly on-point, and that I was not lacking in anything that I could not purchase in country.
5.1-Other things volunteers should know:
a. Expect to leave the house by 6:30AM every morning to take the bus. The good news is bus-fare is only 25 cents!
b. If there is a particular sightseeing place that you would like to visit during the weekend, ask your host family if they would like to go! My family was more than happy to join me, and it was fun to have their insights and knowledge of various places.
c. I thought the Spanish immersion/language lessons were extremely helpful for a very reasonable price. I recommend them to English-speaking volunteers who plan to volunteer in a medical setting because being able to communicate is essential.
6- Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial):
As a premed student, I came to Ecuador to get more medical experience, to learn Spanish (particularly medical Spanish), and to immerse myself in a new culture. During my volunteer experience with ABV, I achieved all of my goals and more. I learned a lot about healthcare in Latin America, and gained a new perspective on the healthcare culture of my own country. The ABV USA directors and local Ecuadorian coordinators went out of their way to ensure that I got the most out of my time in Ecuador. This was truly a unique experience and one that will impact me for many years.
7- How would you describe your accommodation, meals, security (e: host family, on-site, shared)
My accommodations were more comfortable than I could have possibly imagined. I did not find a single aspect of my experience with the host family to be lacking. The food was terrific. I felt very safe. Spending time with my host family while cooking dinner or watching movies was the highlight of my trip.
8- What was your favorite memory of this trip?
All of my trip highlights were times that I spent with my host family, making empanadas, singing karaoke, or just sitting down for dinner together. The host family really made us like we were part of the family. I cannot imagine having the same positive experience without them.
9- How was the ABV USA support prior traveling?
I felt that the orientation packet and the ABV packing suggestions prior to traveling were very helpful. If I had any additional questions, they were answered promptly by using the ABV online chat.
10 – Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?
I am absolutely willing to speak to other potential volunteers! I think ABV is a terrific program and I was impressed by the attentiveness to detail and willingness to help me with anything I needed. For interested persons who are serious about volunteering their time and immersing themselves in a new language and culture, this is a perfect fit.