EcuaExperience: Pre-Medical and Volunteer Programs

Video and Photos

paint
paint
ecuador
ecuador
Pujili community
Pujili community
friends for life
friends for life
Medical Rotation
Medical Rotation
OR Rotation in PAS hospital in Quito
OR Rotation in PAS hospital in Quito
HLD 2017 made from shells at Canoa beach
HLD 2017 made from shells at Canoa beach
Giant Tortoise that is native to the Galapagos
Giant Tortoise that is native to the Galapagos

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.

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 231 reviews
  • Impact 9.7
  • Support 9.7
  • Fun 9.2
  • Value 9.7
  • Safety 9.7
Showing 46 - 60 of 231
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Anon
7/10
No, I don't recommend this program

It was decent

I had a decent experience. The hostel we stayed at was nice and we were well fed. The travelling portion was pretty cool, we went to many places. However it was kind of expensive because we ended up paying for a lot of activities out of our own pocket which wasn't cool. The volunteer portion was rewarding, however the water went out on us for days and we had no water to wash our hands with or shower or even flush the toilets. We weren't well taken care of there.
The worst part of the program was the fact I did physio. I found the program leader to be conceited and extremely unhelpful. There was no sense of support, and they put us on the spot and was overall rude. My friend and I cried several times when we got back to the hostel because of it. They didn't seem to care about anyone else. Even the med tutors who would teach us would constantly talk about how cruel they found this individual to be.
I was also forgotten at the airport.
Anywhooooo, it was nice to help the families of Jama. They are incredibly sweet people.

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Anjali
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A life changing month!

I did the 28 day pre-med program with HLD and it was more than I ever imagined. It was incredible.

For the help portion, we worked in Jama to build new homes that were destroyed by the earthquake. The community was amazing, everyone was extremely welcoming and loving. The day we left the community was the hardest, tears were shed because we had all had such a great time working together, regardless of the language barrier. The kids were resilient and were so energetic and excited to play with us. We worked hard, we were drenched in sweat most of the time, we were dirty and smelly and it was the most rewarding feeling in the world.

For the learn portion, I was extremely surprised and impressed with how hands on we were and how much I learned. The med tutors were extremely helpful (and funny) and they taught us ALOT. Everyone was always willing to teach, even the surgeons would walk us through the surgeries we were able to sit in on which was such a good learning experience. HLD really does give you insight on what it's like to be in medicine and it reinforced the fact I do want to be a doctor one day. I highly recommend this program for anyone considering medicine as a career, or even nursing!!

For the discover portion, words can't begin to explain the amazing memories we made together. Everyday was filled with activities, laughs, jokes and lots of dancing!! We went to so many different places in the beautiful Ecuador and we were able to experience the culture as well as have fun. There isn't a day that isn't jam packed with exciting things to do.

HLD has definitely impacted my life in so many positive ways and if you have the chance to go to Ecuador with any of the programs they offer, go!!

Ecuador is very dear to my heart now and I hope to go back, for the people and the country.

Marie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The most unique experience of my life!

I love to travel and discover new things. This trip has allowed me to do so much. Not only did I get to travel to the most beautiful places in Ecuador, I also got to help build houses in Jama and got to learn a lot about a doctor's job. I went tubing down the river to my hotel in the jungle, I played soccer with the children in Jama after a long day of hard work and I got to see multiple surgeries, such as an open-heart surgery. There is no other trip that offers you as much as this one. Everyone, from the doctors at the hospital to the staff of HLD, has been very generous and hospitable. I got back to Canada a couple days ago, and I can't stop thinking about this wonderful and unique experience. I feel like Quito is a second home, and I only wish to go back next year to see all my friends again. Do not hesitate to go on this trip. It is completely worth it <3

What would you improve about this program?
I can tell that HLD is 11 years old. Everything is very well organized and very special. There's nothing really that I would change.
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Kirsten
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

HLD offers it all

I signed up for HLD about a month and a half before I left so it was really last minute but based on the reviews it looked like an awesome program and I wasn't disappointed!
My program began with medical rotations followed by a week of traveling, a week of volunteering and then a final week of medical rotations. I also added on a week in the Galapagos. The schedule changes for each group that attends HLD but Juan and Jose ensure that every group has an awesome time!
I was the only one on my trip in the pre-medical program who already works as a health care professional but the "Learn" portion of the trip still benefited me as I had the chance to see the hospitals and converse with the medical student tutors about different patient conditions that I had seen in my practice.
The "Discover" portion was a whirlwind adventure. I was absolutely amazed by every city I visited! We did tons of different activities from hanging out in natural hot springs, dancing and hiking in the jungle to waterfall rappelling and extreme tubing! There is no shortage of adventure on this trip!
The "Volunteer" portion of the trip was my favorite. It began with fundraising for the materials required to build homes and ended with smiles, hugs and tears when we had to leave the community members. This experience is incredibly rewarding and I would recommend the trip based on the volunteer aspect alone. It was especially meaningful this summer as the trip came right after an earthquake destroyed the coast of Ecuador and the already rural and poverty stricken communities had their homes, even if they were simple, taken away from them. The damage done, even after most of the clean up, was evident and I'm glad I had the chance to do something small to help.
I don't want to give away anything about the additional week in Galapagos but it was amazing! If you are planning on staying 28 days you should definitely add on 7 more to visit the Galapagos!

What would you improve about this program?
As a few other students suggested I would say to prepare the students better for the weather in Quito. They said it would be cool at night so I was prepared for that but thought it would be hot and humid during the day. In Quito and other places we traveled throughout Ecuador it was comfortably warm during the day but by no means hot; however, along the coast and in the amazon it was extremely hot and humid. I went from freezing cold one day to boiling hot the next so be ready to pack a wide variety of clothes for the trip!

HLD in no way promotes the consumption of alcohol (especially in large quantities) but the age of students and the nature of the trip gives the opportunity for students to go out to a various bars and clubs to experience the Ecuadorian nightlife and some students take full advantage of this freedom. As someone who does not drink I still enjoyed going out and did not feel pressured to drink but the constant consumption of a variety of alcohol drinks in large quantities got old very fast, especially when students continually exceed their personal alcohol limit.
There was of course a ban on alcohol consumption during medical rotations but I wish the evenings while on tour could have been less focused on drinking and more on exploring and enjoying the Ecuador nightlife without being surrounded by fellow HLD students who are drunk. Perhaps though some students really enjoyed this aspect of the trip and it may just be a matter of personal preference.
Emily
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

HLD Till I Die

This has been a life changing experience for myself.

At first I was apprehensive about taking part of this program - I am used to backpacking and travelling on my own and doing my own thing. Being with a bunch of other people seemed intimidating at first. But those fears quickly vanished - the week of touring was a blast and everyday topped the previous one as the 'coolest day ever'! I did the 17 day premedical program (I couldn't take more time off from work or school) and my only regret was not staying longer.

We were the first group to make it to Jama - the recent earthquake prevented the previous groups this year were not able to go. Working alongside the community was the most rewarding experience I could ever ask for. I will never forget this experience.

Life long friendships were created with Jose, Juan, and the rest of our group. We travelled with Jose for the majority of the tour and volunteer weeks, and he consistently put our wellbeing at the forefront.

Read my review, read my fellow HLDers - this experience will stick with you forever.

What would you improve about this program?
I totally enjoyed the surprises, but maybe a heads-up, or some clues on what to pack would be helpful!
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Winston
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

HLD gives you 200%

To start, HLD is hands down one of the best summer programs that anyone can choose to do! The combination of doing medical rotations, volunteering your time to those that need it, and touring the country has just the right amount of fun, learning, and rewarding experiences that you definitely will remember for the rest of your life. Whenever I was looking for a program to do over the summer, I wanted to do something that I could help out those less fortunate in another country, while also learning something valuable in my life. HLD fit what I was looking for perfectly! I went into the program the first day completely blind, and coming out my expectations were blown through the roof. The friends that you make and the things you do with them are something that will stay with you forever. Spending time with them for every moment of your life for 3-5 weeks allows you all to grow incredibly close with each other. I did the 28 day Pre-med with an extra week at the Galapagos. The pre-med portion was extremely organized. Everyday, I knew exactly what time and what I would be doing. In the end, I learned so much about the medical field because of all the different things we did. The tour was also very well organized. I knew where I was going and how much money I should bring with me. While some times I didn't exactly know what I was going to be doing, the surprises were well worth it! It made the whole experience even better! Finally, the volunteer portion was in my opinion the best part of the trip. After the week, seeing the joy and emotions from the community was the most rewarding aspect. You feel like you have made such a positive impact in their lives and know that they are much better off thanks to your work. I also did the extra week in the Galapagos on my trip. The week was absolutely amazing and I felt like I got a very good taste of what it is like in the islands. Now to wrap up, HLD has profoundly changed my life. It has made me further my interest in the field of medicine, and made me appreciate what I have back home. Being a 17 year old on the trip, I was welcomed as equals among people older than me. For those that aren't quite 18 yet and debating whether to go on the trip, I would still consider the trip. The trip is well suited for teenagers like me. Also for those considering about going, don't look at the cost. While the trip is by no means cheap, that factor should not be what decides if you go or not. You get way more out of the trip than the money you spend!

What would you improve about this program?
The pre-med booklet could be in physical copy rather than in a USB stick. I did not bring a computer and had troubles trying to find a way to read it. Also I would suggest sending the booklet home early so students have time to read it beforehand. I already had very little time in my busy schedule and trying to cram another thing on top of that didnt work out. Another thing would have some knowledge of what to pack for med rotations. I was lucky to throw in a dress shirt into my suitcase before I left! Otherwise I wouldn't have any sort of professional attire other than t-shirts.
Tori
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

HLD family

My trip to Ecuador with the HLD program was a life changing, educational and humbling experience. First of all I can't emphasize enough how incredible Jose and Juan are at creating a welcoming and exciting environment. By the end of my three weeks with the HLD family we really became closer than I could have imagined. The experiences shared amongst our group of friends are hard to put into words but I will try. I danced under a cabana in a thunderstorm in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. I played with the children of grateful families impacted by HLD's hard work over the years. I followed the process of a newborn baby from birth to vital signs to the neonatal unit. These are only a few of the many, many treasured memories I have from this trip. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone interested in learning more about the world, learning more about themselves, learning more about the medical field or learning more about dedication to a cause.

Haereen
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

HLD 4 life

I’m so glad to have come across this program and these past 21 days have been an amazing experience of a lifetime for me. I really did get to experience all three components of helping, learning and discovering. My group spent a week in Jama volunteering for a local community that was affected by the earthquake in April. We were able to interact closely with them as we worked along side by side from morning to evening, as well as play soccer and other games. Even though there was an obvious language barrier, we were still able to connect and understand each other. This week in Jama gave me an opportunity to look at things from a different perspective, and taught me how to appreciate everything in life. We were also taken on a tour around Ecuador - from the markets of Otavalo to an incredible 6 hour hike in the Amazon rainforest and even camping in the bottom of a volcano crater! I got to see and do things that I never imagined were even possible, and it was an amazing experience. For all you students interested in medicine or science, this program offers pre-medicine, pre-dental, bio-medicine and physio programs where you get a chance to experience what those professions are like and do on a daily basis as you shadow doctors and surgeons. I did the pre-med program and got to shadow many surgeons’ surgeries, participate in patient rounds with doctors in the ER, learn how to draw blood from patients and stitch wounds, visit the radiology department and learn how to read scans, and so much more. If you are interested in medicine I recommend this program as it gives you an introductory to working in hospitals!! I really do recommend this program to everyone and anyone - even if you’re not interested in med school, they also do offer volunteer programs, ranging from 17 days all the way to 31 days with extra travel weeks to Machu Picchu and Galapagos! During my visit, HLD has consistently put our best interest and safety first, and I can assure you that if you do decide to travel and volunteer with HLD, you will have the most amazing, incredible experience of your life.

What would you improve about this program?
It would have been nice to be more informed of the weather!! I know that weather varies in Ecuador, but I feel like a more detailed update of the weather/climate in all the places that we visited would have been nice. For an example, I was prepared for very hot and humid weather for the whole trip so I packed lots of shorts but I found out that Quito (where the medical rotations and the hostel were) was actually pretty cold enough to be walking around in jeans! Also, it would have been really nice if we could've received the medical booklet (and the whole USB too maybe) before arriving to Ecuador. This would've given us the chance to pre-read the booklet without feeling rushed, as we were overwhelmed with a busy schedule and adjusting to a new country that we were not able to focus on our readings in the hostel at night.
Shannon
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

HLD in my veins

It is really hard to write out, in a brief summary review, all I felt, learned, experienced, saw, overcame and loved during my 21 days in Ecuador. This trip was the perfect combination of adventure and thrill seeking activities, hands on learning along side enthusiastic med students and wise physicians. And of course, I feel at the heart of the program, the volunteer week. The numb muscles from the work will leave you but the smiles and tears of joys from the community live in you forever.

I can't tell a story of my favourite memory...because each day I spent in Ecuador topped the next. From the little things like getting caught in the rain in a rainforest! making special friends in Jama and spending endless hours laughing with cool kids with whom you can relate to, Ecuaexperience will be the highlight of your youth and guide your future to bigger and better things.

What would you improve about this program?
Improve transportation to and from airport for travellers travelling by themselves.

I love the surprises but some information a little soon in advance, like some of the activities we can expect in order to pack appropriately.

Jose you are the bomb! Thanks for spending so much quality time with us.
Noah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

life-changing experience at HLD

My experience with HLD was a life-changing one, especially since it was my first time going to a third-world country. My first week was a medical rotation. We went into operating rooms to observe how surgeons work and emergency rooms to learn about doing clinical histories and diagnosing. At one point, the hospital had a black out. It was the first time that it has happened in the hospital. I was surprised by how the surgeons stayed calm and reacted quickly by turning on a flashlight. Numerous patients came in and I was able to see and analyse many different cases. This part of the trip reinforced my dream of becoming a doctor. I would recommend the pre-med program for everyone because it is truly inspiring. The tour part was also amazing, especially the hot spring and tubing. The volunteer part of the trip was what impacted me the most. It was so different from my expectations. Before the trip, I expected people in misery in the town destroyed by a major earthquake. Yes, the town was pretty worn down. However, people were willing to work their hardest to reconstruct the town. The people of the community, even kids, helped to build the foundations for the containers. I was tired by the work, but I got my energy from the people working as hard as they could. Even after their hard work, they always had smiles on their faces which was incredible. I felt guilty feeling sad because of small matters back at home, while the people of Jama enjoyed everything they did even after their town was destroyed. This part of the trip made me realize that I should live my life with a positive mind because I am extremely lucky to be living in a first-world country. I also realized that helping others gives me extreme happiness, which caused me to set a new life goal: to become a doctor and travel to third-world country to help less fortunate people.

What would you improve about this program?
The program could be greatly improved if we are given more information before the trip (about destinations of the tour, the details of medical rotations, and the situation in the volunteer sites and what we are doing exactly). Although I understand that not revealing much of the trip was an effort to make it more interesting, I think that more clarity would attract many more people. Also, although the medical workbook was helpful, I did not have time to read everything. It would be nice to have the booklet emailed to the students few days before the trip so that they can read it thoroughly and more efficiently learn the materials thought by the tutors. Also, it would be much less stressful to the students. The cost of the trip could also be more transparent. When I first saw the cost of the trip, I was reluctent to go because I could not understand why it would cost so much. After three weeks, I realize now that the numerous activities, food, and hospital opportunities make up for the cost, but the high cost may discourage people from coming. I wanted to bring a few friends with me, but they did not go because they did not think that it was worth the cost. I hope that whomever is reading this would consider my suggestions. Otherwise, it was a truly amazing trip.
Jaime
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Absolutely amazing experience

By far the most amazing program you could find. There are none of its kind, as there are not other programs that can give you the most rounded experience like this one. Help - you volunteer at a site in Ecuador to help build homes for families in need. My trip was building homes for the community of Jama, although due to the earthquake before, the homes were built in Manta and sent to Jama, due to the state of Jama being unfit for us to stay & work there. Learn - You get to experience hospital rotations, and learn all about them. You get surgery, where you're actually in the OR, 3 feet away from a surgery, ER where you get to learn all about what happens in an ER, and maybe even practice taking vitals on patients, Sports Medicine, OB/Gynecology, Radiology, pretty much anything that you can think of, this program lets you experience it. Discover - You spend a week touring around the different areas of Ecuador getting to experience the Amazon rainforest, amazing waterfalls, beaches, mountains, everything that the country has to offer. It's all so much better than just reading about it, or looking at pictures that other people have taken, until you actually experience the sheer beauty of the country, you don't truly get to appreciate it.

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Anna
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Trip of a Lifetime

This experience absolutely changed my life for the better.This program made me grow and allowed me to enjoy and be thankful for the little and the large things in my life, it made me want to spend more quality time with my family. This is only referring to the volunteer portion. Volunteering with HLD is something you can not experience any where else. You get the opportunity to make friendships with the families you are helping.The medical portion truly helped me decide where I want to take my life and how I want it to be shaped. The things I saw, such as looking through the microscope during an eye surgery, and do still make me smile with joy every time I am able to tell someone new. Finally, the Ecuador tour was incredible, I truly feel like I saw a a great portion of what Ecuador has to offer. My favorite experience was tubing down the amazing river and staying in the middle of the amazon jungle. The next morning we all woke up and went on a hike where I got to see all different kinds of bugs and swing from tree vines. If you get the chance, definitely take the extra week in Galapagos, it is a habitat you will never be able to experience any where else. HLD sure takes care of you there and makes sure you get the most out of the Islands through snorkeling, volcano hiking, and more. As a result from what I have learned, experienced, and saw on the trip my only hope is that other people can do what I did.

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Suraiya
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The best summer EVER!!

I have always wanted to travel and explore other places in the world. I never thought I would get the chance to do that especially with such a great group of people. What was even better was being able to see the impact HLD makes and meeting the individuals whose lives we help change for the better. I also really enjoyed the adventurous detours, activities and beautiful landscapes such as the view from the "swing at the end of the world", the horse riding at Cotopaxi, exploring Moussaoui and going on a tour of Quito. Looking back at my experience with help learn discover I know I chose the right program and I would do it all again.

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Brenna
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best month of my life!!

From the second I got of the plane I knew I had found a new home. I was welcomed warmly by Juan and one of the tutors and brought to 593 hostel where I made immediate friends. The following week in medical rotations I learned so much about current medical practice and techniques and how to talk to patients. It was educational an educational and fun environment where I saw so many different aspects of the medical field and even participated in patient examinations.
The following weeks volunteering was just as amazing! Seeing the happiness of the children every day and how hard the families worked was truly inspiring. The community greeted us with open arms and shared so much with us. We truly felt like part of the community and leaving was the hardest part of the trip.
Traveling was done mostly on weekends and brought us around all of Ecuador. From the Amazon Jungle, to Canoa beach, to Mindo rainforest and of course Quito, there was no path too far away for us.
Leaving Ecuador at the end of my five weeks was like leaving home. I have no doubt I will be returning one day!

What would you improve about this program?
I wish we could have spent more time in the Jungle and the Galapagos being truly immersed in the nature and watching the wildlife.
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Carolina
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

One of the best experiences I've ever had

HLD provided me with an incredible experience. José and Juan, along with the leaders went out of their way to make every single one of the 28 days we spent in Ecuador amazing. Even though the medical rotations stood out to me in particular, volunteering and exploring Ecuador did not fall short. Working on the houses in Pujilí and getting to give them to the 20 families was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. While exploring Ecuador we went from swinging at the "End of the World" to waterfall repelling in the jungle to surfing at beach. Every single aspect of the program exceeded my expectations. Food was great and so were accommodations. This will be a trip I will never forget.

What would you improve about this program?
Maybe providing the students with more information on all the activities and the raw schedule of what the trip will be like would be helpful. If I would have been informed, I would have packed very differently.