Serving the Quiteño community

Tabitha Ato
January 14, 2020

Hola amigos!

Community service has always been a huge part of my life. As a Public Health major, community service has been the base of my undergraduate career as I am always looking for ways to implement what I have learned in class with service to my community. I sometimes believe I have a default setting for service and heightened curiosity to learn about different people, because it fascinates me what the world and its diversity has in store to teach anyone who is willing to learn. As part of the IES Abroad program and one of my classes, I am taking the service-learning seminar course. I am grateful and fortunate that the site director was able to find my specific volunteer location because as I reflect on my time in Ecuador, I would consider it to be my all-time favorite experience.

My community service this semester was in Baca Ortiz, the largest and only public pediatric hospital in Ecuador for all citizens but with the majority of the patients being from families of lower economic status from the other provinces. I was technically a volunteer with Las Damas Voluntarias which is an independent foundation that has been providing volunteers and services that hospital cannot since the 70s and is recognized by the Ministry of Public Health for all their efforts. Volunteering three days a week and having a commute time of about an hour and fifteen minutes was no small feat. However, I willingly chose to spend most of my week in the hospital because of how much I loved the ladies I worked with either serving the daily midday snack or distributing free diapers in the hospital. As cliché as it may sound, my time volunteering allowed me to learn more about the healthcare system of Ecuador which I presented for a class project and also the importance and value of education in different settings, capacities and on different topics.

The most rewarding part of my time at the hospital was being able to talk with the mothers that frequently visited the Damas Voluntarias office or have been in the hospital with their child for several months. I always warmed my heart when a mother or child’s face would be widened by a smile and run to greet me when I arrived. Sometimes I would share an encouraging word or prayer with a few of the mothers as well. I personally loved that this experience taught me and exposed me to so much more about the Ecuadorian culture and society, but most importantly made me grow and increased my confidence to speak Spanish and interact with people.

I am so glad I was able to volunteer in Baca Ortiz because it became a memorable experience for me.