Each spring and summer the University of Kentucky sends several teams to Ecuador to provide medical services and education to an impoverished village in Santo Domingo. These health teams are comprised of physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, medical students, nursing students, physical therapy students, public health students, and dental students. The goal of these education abroad brigades is to gain experience in your field of study while providing services to those who may not otherwise receive care.
With the first team going for spring break and the final team going in August before classes start up, there is a time that can work for everyone! Keep in mind that when applying for this program there are some pre-requisites that must be met along with a nominal fee for travels and lodging. Once your application has been accepted you will be required to attend several evening classes with all the other participants to learn about the trip.
These classes are comprised of guest speakers from Ecuador as well as some of the providers who will travel with the teams. Presentations on culture, economics, resources, language, and lifestyle will be shown and students will be able to ask questions about what they will potentially experience. Towards the end of the course members will also learn about the key diseases and practices they will see while there, and learn what types of health education will need to be taught.
The small town of Santo Domingo is about 3 ½ hours outside of the capital of Quito. It is a small-impoverished town that was built on top of a landfill, so access to truly clean water and a safe environment is slim. Home to about 20,000 people, most have either been born with or developed a preventable disease. Things such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, parasites, HIV, and anemia ravage this town with more ferocity than should be seen in any community. The number of teen mothers and children born with defects is exceedingly high.
One of the goals of Shoulder to Shoulder is to provide education to villagers about health hygiene, diet, exercise, and female issues. However, this type of work comes with its fair share of complications such as language barriers and cultural gaps about certain types of diseases and body parts. During each team’s time, they’ll also visit multiple health sites and even schools to provide care and education. At the end of the brigade each team will be taken to Mindo, the cloud forest. Here participants will have a chance to relax, sightsee, and enjoy a totally different side of Ecuador.
Mindo is well known for its wildlife, chocolate, zip lining, and hiking. Be sure to check out the butterfly garden and the chocolate making tours. If adventure is more your style you can hike up to several waterfalls or go flying through the trees on a zip-line before relaxing in a hot spring. Whatever it is you enjoy, you should be able to find it here after working hard to provide a better life for those in need!