Interview with volunteer Daniel in Ecuador

Volunteering or interning in the field of medicine is always a special challenge. Not only a new culture and language awaits you, but also other prerequisites and tools in the health care facilities. Here you will learn how volunteer Daniel managed to handle these challenges.

In which field did you do voluntary work?

I am working in a hospital in Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

Have you been to Ecuador before?

Ten years ago before I studied medicine I had already gone to Ecuador to do an internship here. I was working at a doctor’s then too, in the jungle. That was an adventure but it really did help my decision to become a medic myself. I experienced how the local doctor helped people with snake bites and other medical problems. The nurses and doctors included me in their work a lot and I was even allowed to draw off blood and assist in examinations.

Why did you return?

I really liked the country and the people when I went here the first time. But I also wanted to experience the medical system in Ecuador again now from another perspective after having studied medicine and having worked as a doctor in Australia for a few years. Of course one of my goals was also to support the local doctors in the pretty busy and overcrowded hospitals.

What tasks did you have?

Actually when I got here they showed me my room and introduced me a little to their equipment and procedures and then just started sending patients in. So I have been working here pretty independently since the beginning. But my colleagues were always there when I had questions on where what was etc.

Are you learning a lot working in Ecuador?

In fact I am. I am learning a lot of the other medics here. The hospital is not as well equipped as the hospitals I have been working at in Australia, and the medics cannot run the tests they would in Australia. That is why they need to know a lot about symptoms and really focus on searching patients and estimating situations.

What about the language?

I had learnt Spanish a few years ago, before I traveled South America for the first time. I really improved my Spanish during the first stay. This time I had little trouble. Sometimes it was hard to communicate with the patients because that includes a lot of technical terms I only know in English. I have started writing down the most important medical terms in Spanish, as well as the different body parts and organs. I usually carry that list with me now to work and try to learn the words by heart.

How do you like your accommodation?

When I first arrived Laura, who is organizing the voluntary work, fetched me from the airport and took me to a host family. They were really nice but I did not like that I did not have my own key and that I was the only volunteer staying there. I told Laura and she offered me to move to her place, where the other volunteers stayed as well. Ireally liked staying with her and her family. I got my own key and could move more independently. It is really great how Laura is always taking care of everybody, trying to make all volunteers feel the best possible during their time in Ecuador.

Is Quito your favourite city in the world now?

Certainly not. I prefer hot weather, beaches and palm trees...Quito however is a very exciting city combining the best cultural activities, great architecture, parks and shopping Ecuador can offer. Quito is a crazy place, but definitely worth experiencing!

How did you get on with the different culture?

Actually I have been traveling a lot so I was not shocked by the different culture, which is actually not that different. Just imagine a more extroverted, very warm‐hearted Australian in very tight clothes, singing in public... that might give you a picture of the people here. Of course there is a lot more to it but it is hard to catch the really fascinating culture of the amazing Ecuadorians I have met in words. You will really need to come here and experience it yourself!

Did you do any trips out of the city?

Yes, I did! Quito is in the mountains so I did some great hiking trips and visited the hot springs! There is nothing better than relaxing in a hot spring after a mountain tour. After I will finish the project I will to the seaside and the beaches to relax and surf a little. I remember they have got some great waves here!