Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC), Ecuador
Summer Entrepreneurial Internships
This summer, I had the privilege of working with the Foundation for the International Relief of Children (FIMRC) in one of their South American sites. I applied to work in Project Anconcito, which is one of their newer sites in Ecuador. The project is most appealing for its proximity and strong engagement with the community. In Anconcito, FIMRC is not just a foundation that hosts clubs and fairs to promote health, but an integral part of the community. They employ people who live in the community, work with local doctors, and have a strong alliance with local government officials. Thus, they are not alienated, but work continuously to give a helping hand whenever needed. This relationship allows for the success of all their health-promotion fairs and clubs because the community recognizes the positive impact the foundation has.
Anconcito is financially poor, yet rich in kindness. The town is affected by many health and social problems, nevertheless the willingness and kindness of the community gives you a sense of hope for progress. The community was extremely welcoming, seeing as how they respect and believe in the mission of FIMRC. I had the pleasure of getting to know and share experiences with the members who regularly attended the clubs hosted by the foundation. The clubs focus on tackling the chronic diseases in the community. This is extremely important because Anconcito’s health clinic does not provides all the services or personnel to attend to everyone in town. The clubs that deal with specific health problems in the community are the following: diabetes, hypertension, and nutrition. Each club meets on a weekly or monthly basis and intends to monitor the progress of each patient, as well as to give recommendations on how to control their condition. In my time working with the clubs, I was able to check the member’s blood glucose level, blood pressure, and BMI to see their progress. We also gave them educational talks about prevention and how to stay healthy.
Another component of the program was shadowing local doctors. This was challenging because, as opposed to the patients that cared for their health and went to the foundation’s clubs, the patients the doctors were supposed to treat did not want to be found. We often had to go from house to house looking for them because they would not go to the clinic to get their medication. Rural doctors, nevertheless, never gave up and searched for the patients that could be a potential hazard to the community if left untreated. The dedication of the doctors in the community taught me a lot about personalism in medicine and how the practice of medicine changes with culture and community.
I was able to help out with the health fairs hosted by the foundation. These events were great because the member of the diabetes club and hypertension club would always show up and support our activities. The members of these clubs were very special to me because I was able to create a bond with them. They cared a lot about their health and were always very grateful to me and the rest of the volunteers for helping them monitor their condition. Moreover, the fairs and the clubs allowed me to learn more about chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension and the medical side of it. I was also able to help the foundation as a translator. Many nursing and medical volunteers came from the US to help out the community for a couple of weeks and I helped to translate to Spanish what they wanted to communicate to each patient. As a translator, I got to interact with many patients and volunteers, which educated me on the aspect of volunteering in NGOs.
As a long-term volunteer in the foundation, Tyler (another volunteer) and I were given the opportunity of starting our own project in the community. We thought that a great program for the community could be linked to physical activity since many of the chronic diseases in Anconcito (such as diabetes and hypertension) are a product of malnutrition and a lack of exercise. We came up with the idea of teaching dance therapy (bailoterapia) in order to make exercising fun and upbeat. We thus planned out the program and learned routines that could be active and easy to follow. We also decided to add an educational component to the program so that they could learn about the importance of physical activity and how maintaining a healthy lifestyle could improve their wellbeing. Most importantly, we trained motivated women so that they could lead their own classes to give continuity to our program. In order to have a room and speakers for the class, the foundation asked the local government for help, which they were happy to give.
Through our time in Anconcito, we were able to build a community in the Sumpa Bailoterapia. We graduated 12 dedicated dancers as instructors, who would carry on with the program after we left. They were taught the routines, as well as how to look for dances and give health talks. On our last day, we invited the community to an event in which the new instructors were going to lead the class. I was very proud of how they were able to guide and motivate the crowd.
I am extremely grateful to have been given the chance to grow alongside the community of Anconcito and FIMRC. I learned about the importance of listening and establishing relationships with patients. Also, I learned about the process of developing projects and all the hard work it entails. I am very happy to have been able to conduct my internship in Anconcito and help them out in as much as I could.