My time with 2 Ecuadorian NGOs

This summer I have worked for CEMOPLAF and Equidad, and they have different backgrounds.

CEMOPLAF, which stands for Centro Medico de Orientacion y Planificacion Familiar (Medical Center for Orientation and Family Planning), is the Ecuadorian version of Planned Parenthood. In addition, Planned Parenthood partnered with Cemoplaf  in the 90’s and have continued the partnership since with workshops, trainings, and new projects and programs. CEMOPLAF was established in the 1970s all across Ecuador, beginning in the larger, more urban cities such as Quito, Guayaquil, and Ambato. It is an NGO that aims to provide high-quality reproductive and sexual health services as well as sustainable agriculture training in rural, indigenous communities. CEMOPLAF now has over 20 centers all across Ecuador that offer reproductive health and medical services at affordable costs, including contraceptive distribution in interested communities, conduct capacity-building seminars on reproductive rights and sustainable agriculture for rural communities through dissemination of printed materials, interpersonal communication, conferences, seminars, and workshops, and address quality of life improvement for rural communities through collaborating with community-based NGOs. Even though the organization has been around for over four decades, there is no website that offers more background information than what I’ve heard about.

After CEMOPLAF, I now work for Fundacion Ecuatoriana Equidad(Ecuadorian Foundation: Equity) began in 1999 and became an official NGO on October 2000. Equidad works to provide sexual health resources as well as represent the LGBTI community. They provide extensive resources on HIV/AIDS, mostly for gay and bisexual men. They also coordinate the Pride parade here in Ecuador – ORGULLO. They have two main offices, one in Quito and one in Guayaquil – the two largest cities in Ecuador.

The long-term futures for these two agencies is that they will continue to flourish and hopefully expand their resources across all of Ecuador. CEMOPLAF, a day-clinic, will continue to provide affordable health services for women, men and children, and provide more sexual health resources for adolescents in urban and rural settings. EQUIDAD will expand to more cities in Ecuador, increase the participation of the LGBTI community, and continue to host rallies fighting for equal rights. Both of these organizations seem to be self-sustaining and appear to be expanding every year that goes by, and improving their centers seems to be the next step. Both of the organizations receive money and funds through global grants, funds, and donations.

I am doing my service placement through Child Family Health International

Similar to my fellow peers who have a negative view on their organizations, I do, too. When applying through CFHI I was super excited to learn more about my placement as time went on. The website talked about how in Ecuador I would work with either CEMOPLAF or EQUIDAD with a description that read,

With CEMOPLAF, participants may have the opportunity to help with their education programs in clinics or with local youth.

  •  In clinical education, participants may focus on preparing materials for patients and understanding how the clinics function in the context of the overall public health system. This provides an invaluable opportunity to interact with health providers and help them offer the best advice and information possible to their patients.
  • In working with adolescents, participants may help advise and educate local youths. The program emphasizes teaching them to be leaders who can in turn offer assistance and sexual education their peers, spreading knowledge and support through this multiplier effect.

With EQUIDAD, participants may work with programs of universal STI prevention, sexual health, and community development. 

  • Participants may help with research efforts relevant to the LGBTQ population in Ecuador like assessing the prevalence and epidemiology of HIV in the LGBTQ community.
  • Participants may work with political movements to ensure universal access to preventative measures for HIV/AIDS and other STIs, to eliminate anti-gay treatments in clinics, and to further LGBTQ rights like labor equality and diversity oversight.
  • Participants may work in the LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS communities to help empower both individuals and groups to develop their personal and cultural identity and to care for their sexual and mental health. These efforts not only help members of these communities, but also offer indirect benefits to their friends and families.”

As I got closer to my start date, I had corresponded with a previous intern who positively talked about her experience, but with a similar organization Copprende. Also, as I received a program guide and materials that described Copprende, I thought that maybe I would be working with Copprende as well – up until the day I left to Ecuador when I received a reply to my email from the local coordinator who finally mentioned CEMOPLAF. So, of course, I was pretty confused once I arrived as to what I would be doing. I began at a high school, and prepared materials and agendas to teach sexual health, but was then notified that I was not allowed to do so without certification from the government. The following week I began doing clinical rotations – which is definitely not what I signed up for – to then realize a week later that the main Quito CEMOPLAF was waiting on my peers and me to do some workshops and sexual health education. We had no idea that the main CEMOPLAF had these plans for us, thus we missed our chances to be involved with those workshops. All these can be explained due to miscommunication and general lack of communication from the coordinator – our liaison with CEMOPLAF – and my peers and me. After all this frustration, I approached my local coordinator and asked to be placed with EQUIDAD, and so far, so good. I have definitely done so much more service through them – unfortunately I had to struggle first.  CFHI should provide clearer descriptions of the work interns will do, as well as involve the local coordinator, organizations, and the interns in all communication, so that everyone is on the same page.

I have not heard much about the strategies and internal operations of my host organization, besides how some of  the homestay and clinical rotation funding pans out. My biggest question is whether CEMOPLAF or EQUIDAD have received some of this funding, or if the money goes to the school and other hospitals that my peers – not I – work at. CFHI is a nonprofit organization based in California since 1992, and they started their work in Ecuador and have expanded their work to six other countries. Stated on the website:

Well over 50% of the CFHI program fee goes to compensate doctors, homestay families and local CFHI representatives for their work providing the CFHI experience. This important "share” in the profits allows these communities to offer more and better healthcare services.  CFHI contributions are meant to be an additional source of support for communities that have limited financial resources or access to healthcare.  Therefore, participation in a CFHI program does more than simply provide our students with an educational, global health experience.“

Unlike most of my other peers, I am not working at a hospital, but at NGOs. So I am not unsure how it differs in my situation. CFHI also has a supervisor and local coordinator in each country that takes care of the programs there, so they do not have first-hand connection with my project.

They also pride themselves on working at the grassroots level and their support of community health projects and global health education programs, that I have not directly witnessed.

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