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Celine wearing a flower necklace while enjoying the sun

Celine Diaz

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication

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Picture of a bunch of volunteers
When we first arrived, we were treated like old friends… when we left, we were treated like heroes.

“Help, Learn, & Discover” is an organization that gives university students the opportunity to volunteer abroad and build homes for the poor in Ecuador, while gaining useful work experience – particularly for biology and pre-medical students.

There are three programs you can choose from:

  • Pre-Medical

  • Bio/Pre-Medical

  • Volunteer

The trips are about a month long and are offered on May, June, July, August, and September of 2011.They will also be available in 2012 – so be alert for early registration deadlines!

Don’t just take my word for it.  To give you a more authentic taste of what this volunteer opportunity is about, below is an interview session with Dave Cordoviz – a first year student from SFU who just recently came back from his Pre-Medical trip in Ecuador.

What activities did you do during the trip?

Each day we were doing something, from going to villages to surfing on the beach. Depending on which program you join, you could be in a hospital watching a baby being born five feet away from you, or be on a city-wide tour of the capital of Ecuador. We visited many destinations: the market square, the waterfall and Amazon tour, the beach, and even rafting!

What was the biggest reward for you during this experience?

The most rewarding thing for me from Ecuador was the week we built houses for the poor in Colta. The atmosphere in the village took me by surprise. The amount of gratitude we received that night completely stunned me.

On the last day, babies, toddlers, fathers, mothers, grandparents all hugging us while their eyes were pouring tears, telling us to come back and visit … calling us “amigos para siempre” – “friends for life.” I did my best to keep steady, but I still failed, because of one child, Pedro. His face was completely drenched by the amount of tears falling down his eyes, I could barely understand what he was saying. I only understood two simple words: “Adios, amigo.” I cannot remember the last time I cried; I never thought I would ever again but I did that night.

When we first arrived, we were treated like old friends… when we left, we were treated like heroes.

Why did you decide to do partake in this trip?

The hook for me was the pre-medical portion of the program. We were encouraged to participate in the patient-physician interactions as much as possible. We performed physical checkups by ourselves on patients and we were standing inches away from the surgical table watching operations such as amputations. We were also taught lessons in CPR, stitching wounds, burn trauma, and head trauma.

What was the biggest challenge for you?

The biggest challenge would be the fundraising. It was hard to balance fundraising and studying for finals at the same time; it was hard to organize events where we could all join in and participate.

What qualities did you develop?

Independence. Now, I feel like I can travel around the world for months on end; it made me feel like I can now do anything I set my mind to.

Would you reccomend others to partake in the Ecuador trip next time? Why or why not?

The trip is not only for pre-medical students! There’s also a volunteer program. Due to that, I definitely recommend this trip for everyone. It is seriously some of the most fun I’ve ever had my whole life!

Whether you want to gain work experience, or simply to make a difference in people’s lives, “Help, Learn, & Discover” gives you the opportunity to do both. So don’t hesitate: join this powerful movement and help make a difference!

For all necessary info (dates, costs, info sesssions etc.) please visit their website: http://www.ecuaexperience.com/home.html

About the Author

Celine wearing a flower necklace while enjoying the sun

Celine Diaz

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication

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