EcuaExperience: Pre-Medical and Volunteer Programs

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About

Help, Learn and Discover is a student-driven volunteer organization that offers four week Pre-medical and Volunteer programs in Ecuador. These programs provide students with three main opportunities: to Help those less fortunate, to Learn first-hand knowledge about the medical field, and to Discover the amazing diversity of Ecuador. In the Help component, students use fundraised money to participate in a specific large-scale volunteer project. For example, in 2012 we built 21 homes for underprivileged families in a rural community called Pallatanga.

Students work alongside local families and are able to see the homes develop while integrating themselves into the community. In the optional Learn component, students shadow leading doctors and health professionals through eight different wards in a hospital setting.

We conclude the program with the Discover component, where students embark on an 11-day tour through the jungles, rainforests, highlands and beaches of Ecuador.

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Questions & Answers

Most of our students are 18+. However, we have had students under 18 that need their parents to co-sign their contract.

Reviews

97%
based on 220 reviews
  • Impact 9.7
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.1
  • Value 9.7
  • Safety 9.7
Showing 196 - 210 of 220
Default avatar
Davis
10/10

HLD...a truly lifechanging experience

I first went to Ecuador with HLD in 2008 and it was truly a life changing experience. The opportunity to fundraise money in my hometown of Vancouver and take every cent of that money down to Ecuador to allocate towards a building project is something I will never forget. The sense of pride that comes from accomplishing such a goal is second to none. The best part is, it’s your goals, HLD provides the tools and direction but it is really the students who take it on and accomplish it. And that definitely makes a difference when you are over in Ecuador, working side-by-side with the families that will be receiving the homes.

As amazing as the volunteering experience was, HLD is so much more than that. I went in the pre-medical program, which meant I got to shadow doctors through different wards of hospitals in Ecuador. Not only did this allow me to directly talk to doctors and ask them about their profession but it also gave me a taste of the lifestyle. This was vital to my decisions making process when considering med-school.

HLD is the perfect balance of volunteering, learning and fun. In the tour around Ecuador you travel from the rainforest to the jungle to the mountains to the coast. You stay in some amazing locations and get to try out so awesome adventure sports. I also added an extra week trip to the Galapagos…a place like nowhere else in the world…my favourite travel destination I have ever been to.

As you can tell I can’t speak highly enough of HLD. Juan and Jose, the owners, are truly passionate about making a difference and they are there to make sure you have the best time possible. I made so many lasting friendships and wish I could go back every summer!

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
trm
10/10

HLD for life

Where do you start a review when you have so many positive things to say?

I'll begin by sharing my initial thoughts on the program. Was it really offering medical rotations, volunteering abroad, and travel? Galapagos Islands?! Machu Picchu?! You've got to be kidding me. It sounded too good to be true. Well let me inform you... it was even better than it sounded. Little did I know how much of an impact the entirety of the trip would have on my life.

Throughout the hospital rotations, Ecuadorian Medical students were there to mentor us which was exciting, fun, insightful, and rewarding. The kindness that these students showed toward patients, doctors, each other, and us, was inspiring. They translated the Spanish for us and were constantly looking out for our well-being. I was amazed at the amount of things I saw throughout our rotations.

As for rural villages, everyone is aware of the poor conditions that some people live in. Maybe you've seen it on TV, or heard details. But nothing compares to seeing it with your own eyes. Nothing compares to connecting with families and playing with children who are constantly happy, yet being aware of their living conditions. Helping build these families better homes and giving them the opportunity to learn and grow is the best feeling I've ever felt. To work alongside these families and to experience their appreciation is beyond humbling. Out of the entire Ecuador trip, Pallatanga is the place I miss most.

There is something to be said for travelling with like-minded, kind-hearted people. The leaders and especially Jose and Juan made this trip beyond enjoyable. So many times I was brought out of comfort zone and from that I learned new things. There was never a dull moment. Jose and Juan always put the students first and were constantly ensuring everyone was happy and having fun. I had the opportunity of going to the Galapagos Islands where we swam with sea lions, turtles and penguins, as well as parasailing over the city of Lima, and hiking up to Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu. I couldn't have asked for better company along the way. This trip wouldn't have been the same without the people in charge of it.

How can this program be improved?
The only downfall was that because our health was always being looked out for, there was a lack of fruit and vegetables that we could consume. Being a vegetarian, it was a bit tough but I was always accommodated at meals. I would suggest bringing some snacks from home!
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Kilee
10/10

HLD!

One of the best decisions of my life was to decide to travel to Ecuador with HLD. It opened my eyes to so many new things and different cultures. It not only made a difference in people's lives, but gave me a greater sense of the medical field, and allowed me to have a ridiculous amount of fun at the same time. I met some people that I can confidently say I will be friends with forever! If anyone is contemplating taking this trip, there's nothing to contemplate! You won't only change other people's lives but it will also change yours.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
SSY
9/10

One of the most amazing opportunities given to me.

This was a trip I went on about two years ago, just randomly, after being referred to the program by a friend. I had little to no expectation on the program when I went into the program, however, the program taught me so much more and exposed me to so many great experiences with the community and the medical field. I personally grew so much and learned more about myself than anything. I think I realized how sheltered I was, but experiencing and putting myself out there with a completely foreign culture, it allowed me to realize more things. The staff was great, helpful and always made me feel safe throughout the whole trip. The medical rotations allowed me to really get a feel for what doctors and nurses go through. The different rotations allowed me to open my options for what I would like to do in the future. It has also helped me broaden my vision in my goals.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
olé,
10/10

HLD is the place to be

This trip has honestly been one of the most amazing experiences in my entire life. I learned so much! I learned a lot about the culture in Ecuador and South America in general. I learned about how to make a lasting impact in a community. I learned so much about myself.

This was such a great trip because there was so much balance! We worked hard but we also had tons of fun :) I'm so grateful for the fact that I can look back fondly at building homes from scratch and knowing that its made a positive change for so many families. Best of all, some of my best friends today are from this wonderful experience.

Going through all the medical rotations definitely helped me narrow down my career choice and helped me establish what I want to do and what I really don't want to do. This opportunity really wouldn't have been possible at home. If you're not sure which aspect of medicine/health care you want to be involved with, this program will definitely be an eye opener.

How can this program be improved?
Those long bus rides! Although, it was really great bonding time...
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Skinner.
10/10

Best trip of my life!

Going on this trip was definitely the best and most rewarding thing I have ever done. I had considered doing other volunteer trips before but Help, Learn, Discover stood out from the rest and I'm so glad I chose them.

I felt like I was really able to make a difference in the lives of others. The interaction with the community you're helping is remarkable. These people have barely anything, but they welcome you with open arms and treat you like family. I will never forget seeing one of the homes we were replacing, no one should ever have to live like that. This program is truly making a difference!

They take you to crazy places and have these amazing activities for you to do. You get to experience Ecuador like a local would experience it. Going to the Galapagos Islands was a dream come true for me, without HLD I may have never been able to experience it.

If you are looking for something meaningful, life changing and so so so much fun, look no further than Help, Learn, Discover!

How can this program be improved?
To be able to go back on the trip over and over and over again.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Wilson
10/10

The Ecuaexperience knows what's up

This program is one amazingly unique program, it is meticulously planned. From the medical rotations, tours, construction of the houses, and everything in between. It all starts with Juan and Jose, these guys are unbelievable and will make an everlasting impression on you. They construct a team full of wonderful students to lead you through an astounding journey. Beginning with the fundraisers until you arrive safely back home.

Building houses for Pallatanga was one of the most rewarding experiences in life. After touring their town, you'll feel vibe of something special going on. Being able to touch so many lives by donating your time is just remarkable. As far as the medical rotations go, you'll learn much more than what you were expecting. For someone looking into the medical field, these rotations will help you gain a different perspective. The tutors can answer any kind of question you may come across. They're very knowledgeable and advice they give is definitely worth jotting down.

The tours are breathtaking experiences. Being at the top of Machu Picchu made me feel like I was king of the world. Sharing the entire experience with a diverse group of people is phenomenal. Also, these are the same people who are on the same path as you. By surrounding yourself with motivated individuals similar to yourself, will only help you succeed in life.

After participating in this program, you'll honestly learn more than just helping others, you'll gain valuable life lessons as well. Hands down, the best 5 weeks of my life! You'll definitely come back with more than a handful of stories, I know I did.

How can this program be improved?
I would suggest start fundraising as a collective group earlier in the year. Perhaps think about changing to Delta Airlines instead of American Airlines.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
frkyfrsh
10/10

Amazing Experience

Overall the most amazing experience I have had to date, a very memorable trip with amazing people. Building houses in Pallatanga was a very special week and I would never have gotten an experience like it without going on this trip. Seeing how happy and grateful the community was for our presence was a truly life altering experience and knowing that our group has made an impact in their lives is a great feeling, because they have made a huge impact on my life. Of course the traveling was fun also, hard to believe all the cool things we got to do, in such a short period of time, but it was all worth it. Be prepared to be 100% all the time, this is an experience of a lifetime I would recommend to anyone looking for an experience to get them out of their comfort zone, to meet amazing people and to do things they might never do again.

How can this program be improved?
Pack lots and lots of snacks! Ecuador time is very very different from North American time, and if you're like me and get Hangry, you will appreciate having some granola bars with you. Otherwise if you're thinking about this trip - WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
traveller
10/10

The true Ecuaexperience

Help, Learn and Discover was an amazing experience. I decided to go on this trip, despite the high price, because it seemed to be the perfect combination of my interests. After my experience I can say that it was everything I expected and more and it was worth every penny. In short, it was the perfect mix of helping others, a unique educational experience, amazing sites, fun activities and topping it off with a group of the most unbelievable people I have ever met.
The staff bend over backwards to accommodate the students. I would wholeheartedly recommend this trip to anyone.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
AT
8/10

Ecuador 2012!

As corny as it sounds, this trip truly changed my life and my outlook on life. I'll break it down into the three sections

1. HELP: This was amazing. While we were there, we had great accommodations in Pallatanga (we had a good place to sleep in and had hot water). What I really liked about this was that we had a lot of chances to interact with the community. They were there with us while we were building, they had a welcome and farewell party for us and we had chances to play soccer with them too. This was the part that changed my outlook on life because these people were so generous and loving even with what little they had in material things. I wish we could have spent more time in the community!

2. LEARN: The med rotations were cool because it's an experience you're unlikely to have anywhere else. You don't have to have any previous training or medical experience/knowledge at all. Some cool things my group saw included a surgery and a birth. It was also cool to spend time with the med student mentors, learn CPR and stitching.

3. DISCOVER: Touring Ecuador was great! We saw lots of waterfalls and different towns. We had a chance to surf too which was a lot of fun.

If you have the chance, do an extra week trip. I really regret not going to Peru!

How can this program be improved?
My critiques:
1. I wish we had 1 day for doing historical sight-seeing (ie. churches etc.)
2. Like other reviews have said, there were issues with our airlines. We had lost baggage and our travel itinerary was almost completely different from our actual travel routes.
3. More organization/communication with the company regarding clothing orders
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
jregnault
10/10

Best five weeks of my life.

I had an incredible time in Ecuador. The experience was a fantastic blend of home-building as volunteers, exposure to the medical field and to the system in a developing country, and of course plenty of recreation. I was able to lead and to follow, to share my skills and to make an immediate, visible, and lasting difference in the lives of the people I met. The medical component was engaging and educational and it reaffirmed my passion for medicine. We toured from hot springs and farmland to mountains and beaches and jungle and cloud forests, sometimes in the same day. As a group you move from urban to rural areas and experience the culture gaps. The hikes to waterfalls were exhausting and invigorating and I went hang-gliding and learned to surf with one-on-one instruction from a pro! If you can, don't hesitate to take an extra week in Peru or the Gallapagos, or try the new one in Argentina. The food ranged from incredible to not so hot, but it never mattered and I was never sick. I met lots of incredible people and never for a second regretted my decision to go. I would definitely go back.

How can this program be improved?
I didn't know what to expect until I was on the ground doing it. Make sure you talk to your leaders and fundraising group at home to figure out what to put in your pack. Don't worry about buying gifts until you find the perfect one, there're tons. and don't buy "Alpaca wool" until you tour the farm in Peru, the other stuff is acrylic.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
pastHLDstudent
10/10

OH MY DOG!

To all the amazing people at HLD, and all the volunteers that made my month in Ecuador the best, I give you my most sincere and appreciative slow clap. Thank you so much!
To everyone and anyone considering this trip, it is definitely worth it! It truly is the whole ecuaexperience!

My experiences working with the community, sharing the excitement and hope for better days with them, and being able to feel like i really made a difference were life changing.
The insight into the different aspects of medicine was more than I expected. The medical students were fantastic at providing information, getting us into surgeries ect, and translating what was going on, or asking our questions in spanish. What I was able to see and learn was truly amazing and eyeopening.

The adventure tour was some of the most fun a person could have with a group of friends in Ecuador. From the trips and activities in the Amazon jungle, to the beaches and surfing in the ocean, it was an action packed 11 days of awesomeness.

This program does it right! They make it their goal for you to have the best time possible, and trust me it's not hard to have the time of your life. The people you meet on this trip become instant lifetime friends and make the trip that much better. Would recommend this trip to anyone I know, and I will never forget my time in Ecuador.

PS: Ruban, keep ridin dirty my friend!

How can this program be improved?
Bus rides can be long, but thats just how it is.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
TRUMPETMASTER4900
10/10

Great People, Great Trip

This was truly the most unique experience of my lifetime. Imagine touring in a foreign country. How would you travel? What would you do? Most likely you'll visit a fraction of the major attraction sites without getting the first hand experience of what LIFE is like in that country. You will just be a tourist. HLD gave me an in-depth view of the common life of Ecuadorians and their struggles. It allowed me to actually see first hand the culture and how it has structured the people of this nation. I can say that during this trip, I was part Ecuadorian and to be able to leave the tourist's shoes and participate in community building gave me the feeling of being appreciated.

How can this program be improved?
The food. Sorry but it was very dull. But that's not in your hands.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
bhandal
10/10

First taste of Global Health

As someone who now works in the realm of global health, I would attribute this program with planting the first seed. Although I had reservations about participating due to the ethical issues associated with 'volun-tourism' in the South, I went anyways, and was happily surprised. This program is different from others since the program co-ordinators are Ecuadorian locals who seem to really understand how the country/culture functions. I would definitely suggest this program for students wishing to get a taste of what it feels like to work abroad, since there is such a good balance of work and play.

How can this program be improved?
I wish that we were given some language training prior to the program. I wish that I had been able to communicate more effectively with the people and patients, especially when we were in a rural and public hospital setting.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Jay
10/10

Life Changing Experience! Would do it again in a heartbeat!

The medical rotations were super rewarding. Really made me realize that i want to study medicine in the future.

Great sightseeing and tour component - really get to see every side of Ecuador.

The bonding experience with everyone in your month is incomparable. Made friends to last a lifetime :)

How can this program be improved?
DO NOT fly with American Airlines. Ever.
Yes, I recommend

About EcuaExperience

Help, Learn and Discover is an innovative organization offering educational programs in Ecuador, South America. We strive to offer a fulfilling life experience which combines helping those less fortunate with learning about a specific academic area...