Quito: Week 1

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Today marks a week since I’ve landed in Quito, Ecuador for my 8-week internship through Child Family Health International.  With all the reviews and great things said about CFHI, I felt confident that I would be serving the Quiteno community through my efforts in conjunction with the organization, “Copprende.” Like some of my peers, I was caught off guard with my responsibilities, duties, and expectations as an intern. I am working with CFHI, and doing their “Sexual Health as a Human Right: Ecuador’s Unique Model” program. The information they sent to my peers and me through emails did not match up with their website information, but of course we trusted their emails. Since I was not able to make it to orientation on the 8th, I was not able to sit in on the meeting between my fellow interns and the liaison of the organization “Copprende”. To my surprise, the information relayed to us at orientation was completely different from what CFHI sent us. As of now, we will be working with CEMOPLAF, the Ecuadorian version of Planned Parenthood, by teaching at colegios or high schools in Quito. Specifically, we will be giving charlas or lectures over sexual health, and giving out pamphlets and information on resources of CEMOPLAF.

My first day I took a Spanish placement exam and entered the advanced class. Since our internship offers 35 hours of Spanish lessons, the interns are required to spend 7-8 hours the first two days reviewing Spanish. My class took a different approach, and we spent our time getting to know one another and talking about our goals and expectations. One of the goals I spoke about was understanding the differences between the U.S.’s and Ecuador’s health systems, and this goal seemed to be the favorite among us – aside from improving our medical Spanish.  This got me thinking about our actual impact in the Quito community if most of our goals reflected personal gains from the internship. Nevertheless, I wrote down some of my main objectives and goals for the summer. I hope to serve the adolescent community here in Quito by teaching them about sexual health topics such as STIs, contraceptive methods, sexuality, gender violence, and other topics. Ecuador is known for being one of the few Latin American countries to explicitly guarantee sexual and reproductive health rights in its Constitution. This is a huge step for a typically conservative and Catholic country. I hope to learn about the similarities and differences between Ecuador and the U.S. on how sexual health is talked about and presented to the community. I’ve learned that stigma against birth control and contraceptive methods is high in Ecuador, and I hope that I can change that for the community that I will be talking to and teaching.

Ecuadorians are used to foreigners traveling around the country, especially in Quito, so most people think I’m here to backpack or to simply travel. However, CFHI organizes various programs in Ecuador, so many people see a group of 30-40 foreigners and have assumed we are a part of a school or program that brings students to Ecuador to learn Spanish and immerse in the culture.

Unlike most of the students in my program, I will spend 2 months here rather than 4 weeks. So, I hope to make an impact that will last in the Quiteno community. My main goal is to build authentic relationships within the organization and community, and perpetuate the trust into a learning experience for myself and peers. I don’t have a plan on how to accomplish some of my goals, but hopefully I will have a better idea towards the end of my 2nd week.

Learning more about CFHI and their programs, I can see that the main goal is for the students to gain from the experience and improve, rather than improving the Quiteno community. Every program, not including mine, focuses on the students attending clinics and hospitals for observations and education. This saddens me, because I know that many of the students want to make an impact that will last beyond the 4 or 8 weeks. 

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