Volunteering Abroad: My Experience in Equador
As a Co-founder at Kits Scrubs and a Registered Nurse, I will take this time to reflect on one of my most profound experiences in my profession.
Before I dive more into my experience, I would like to explain more about the organization and the work:
CAMTA is a remarkable organization, they have been running missions in Quito since 2002 and have grown to the point where they provide life-altering orthopaedic surgeries for over 80 people over a two week period. About 1 in 1000 children worldwide are born with a club foot, if this does not get corrected, learning to walk becomes difficult or impossible. Many of the paediatric operations are on club feet and hip dysplasia. The adult surgeries are predominantly hip replacements. The team is made up of over 90 people who range from surgeons, doctors, lay people, translators, nurses, physiotherapists and more who work at making these trips possible year after year. CAMTA brings in all supplies needed for the mission, volunteers pack many hockey bags filled with medical equipment year after year.
In February 2015, 11:00 pm the night before my early morning flight, I can remember the now hilarious, then stressful scene of me forcefully trying to fit all of my belongings into a 40L Osprey backpack, to my dismay this heavy backpack couldn’t fit everything I wanted to bring. In the end, I went with a full sized hard suitcase PLUS my backpack.
I was very nervous and excited to travel 16 hours south to volunteer with the Canadian Association of Medical Teams Abroad (CAMTA) in Quito, Ecuador. In preparation I drove three hours to attend a few group meetings and meet people, I reviewed orthopedic nursing pathways, was regularly using a Spanish language app and here I was hours away from embarking on a grand adventure.
Upon arriving in Quito back in 2015, I was in awe of the steep terraced landscape, old architecture, winding roads that meandered through the historical city and homes built upon impossible-seeming angles and cliffs.
The first day was a clinic day, where patients from previous mission came for a year follow-up and new patients were screened and prepared for the upcoming surgery. The hospital was large, and technology was minimal, with no computers, no IV pumps, and no electronic beds or televisions. But this hospital had a strong heart & soul and family was at the bedside 24/7 and extremely involved and helpful. I had the pleasure of meeting lovely hard-working local nurses who worked with us and took over during nights.
This image shows how with limited access to new equipment, people have come up with creative ways to fix equipment.
As an adult ward nurse my group would stay on until each patient was stable post anesthesia recovery, we worked hard and put in long hours. It was an incredible feeling being able to use my knowledge and skills to work with the patients and their families across the globe.
I will never forget the experience of seeing how life-changing these surgeries were for each individual and their families. Seeing the hopefulness, determination, tears of joy when people got up to walk post-operatively. For adults, having a hip replacement meant being able to perform activities of daily living and walking without pain, and being able to work and provide for themselves and family members. Many patients traveled long roads to get here and showed us their appreciation in many generous and heartwarming ways; we received fresh fruits driven in from afar, handmade earrings, scarves, handwritten poems, and beautiful songs are sung to us.
I am very proud to have been a part of the team and have very much respect for those who devote themselves to the volunteer mission year after year. After the mission, I took the opportunity to explore the beautiful country of Ecuador for a week. I joined a group from the mission and drove from the mountainous capital of Quito to the jungles, waterfalls & hot springs of Baños, to the base at 4000m of Chimborazo volcano, and finally down to the coastal town of Montanita and formed many unforgettable memories.
If anyone is thinking about volunteering abroad, do your research and find an organization that is right for you, read up on the destination, get a clear idea of what is expected of you, think of fun/creative ways to fundraise. Do good and have fun doing it!
*Disclaimer: The Kits Scrubs website and blog is a medical lifestyle blog. The Kits Scrubs website and blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. As health, wellness and nutrition research continuously changes, we do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of any information presented on this website. Please talk to your healthcare provider for medical advice and concerns.
*photos from camta.com posted with permission, links attached
Специалисты таможенной компании “Азия-Трейдинг” помогут провести таможенное оформление по прибывающим грузам в морской порт Восточный и морские порты Владивостока.
So awesome Jum! I would love to volunteer abroad at some point in my career, perhaps proudly repping some kitscrubs! Xxo