Vacation to Ecuador
To most, a week in Ecuador may mean a terrific vacation filled with beaches, spas, zip lining and other tourist attractions. My trip to Ecuador was also a truly wonderful and memorable experience, but not quite the same as most. My trip was a “family vacation, ” but we certainly were not a typical tourist family. My son, who is an engineer, and I used our time off to volunteer, and in a most unlikely vacation spot.
Our trip began, like many, by flying into Quito, the capital of Ecuador. But from there, we took a three-hour bus ride to Shell, Ecuador, followed by a 45-minute flight on a small plane to a banana field, where we then boarded a dugout canoe and traveled 45 minutes to a small village in the Amazon.
The trip to the Amazon jungle in Ecuador was part of a volunteer mission with Flying Doctors of America. We truly were in the jungle. In the remote villages there were no roads, showers, stores, electricity, cars, or places to plug in your cell phone. People traveled by walking (bare-footed) with machetes through the jungle or on the Amazon river by canoe. We ate simple food that was gathered or hunted (mostly fish) each and every day, as they had no refrigerators to store food. We left the comforts of home to “rough” it a bit for a good cause.
Flying Doctors of America was started in 1990 as a way to provide medical care and support to the poorest areas of the world. Today, Flying Doctors has flown more than 200 missions and provided free medical care to over 185, 000 men, women and children. Flying Doctors has served people in Mexico, South America, Central America, the Caribbean, India, Africa, South East Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia), China and Mongolia.
I have personally been part of missions to Peru, the Solomon Islands, and Haiti. I have gone on these trips with many of the same dentists and physicians. We have learned how to travel together, deal with adversity in low resource areas, and share our medical knowledge to treat people.
In Ecuador, our team would canoe to different village of the Amazon each day. It could take sometimes 2 hours to reach a village. Our team was comprised of an OB/GYN, a surgeon, a pediatrician, a dentist, an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor), a gastroenterologist, pharmacists, nurses and engineers. We all brought our own medical supplies as these villages had little to no supplies of their own. We set up clinics under huts each day, and sometimes would have to “build” our own shelters or equipment. The locals were always eager to help us “create our clinic” – in fact, in one village they made tables just for our visit. We were always greeted by smiling and eager faces.