As a person skeptical about volunteer trips, I was wary of a trip that sounded as good as HLD did. When doing research, no trips came close to offering what Ecuaexperience could and I was slightly nervous. These worries, however, proved to be irrelevant when I arrived in country and had the experience of my lifetime.
I participated in the BioMed 1 program in May, choosing to do so because it combined the best of volunteering, adventure and medical rotations. During the first two weeks, we had the opportunity to explore Quito and do our medical rotations. The students were separated into smaller groups and assigned different rotations with different tutors each day. I don't think I've ever learned more in such a short amount of time as I did with those tutors. Each tutor excelled in teaching and providing us with insight into the medical field. I saw amazing procedures and had the opportunity to discuss the difficulties and rewards of working in the medical field with Juan and the other tutors. I truly appreciated how much everyone cared about our experience, and how much Juan tried to accommodate all the things we wanted to see and do in the hospital.
After my medical rotations, we travelled to Pujili to do our volunteer portion of the trip. Again, any worries I had about the authenticity of our work were eliminated once we arrived. We worked hard alongside the community and every penny we raised was put towards the construction of the houses. One of the most amazing parts of the trip was seeing the joy and appreciation that the community had towards us. There was also difficulty in seeing the original homes of the community, and the conditions in which they lived. When Juan and Jose spoke to us and discussed why we do this, and how much it means to the families to have solid houses, or to have their kids closer to school, I don't think anyone left unchanged. I genuinely believe that HLD has a huge impact not only on the lives of poor communities, but also on the students participating on the trip.
As a part of BioMed, I had the opportunity to go to the Galapagos and was so excited to visit the islands that are so thoroughly discussed in my university classes. I was floored by the activities that we got to do, from hiking, kayaking and seeing the natural wildlife of the Galapagos! The entirety of the week spent there was amazing and unforgettable.
Additionally, I did the additional week to Peru. This experience was amazing, Jose really went out of his way to make our experience as incredible as possible. As a smaller group, we got really close to one another and had so much fun! All the tours we did were really cool, specifically noting Machu Picchu, the Nazca lines, visiting ancient ruins and travelling to Lake Titicaca.
As a whole, this experience was beyond amazing. Every place we went, tour guide that we had and opportunity that we were given went far beyond expectations. While, I would have loved spending more time with each experience, I think that this trip was the best possible combination of helping, learning and discovering. Jose and Juan truly care about the experience we have and go above and beyond to improve the trip in any way for us. I cannot thank them enough for giving me this opportunity to be on the trip!