Today marked our first full day in Ecuador. We walked through the town of Latacunca and heard its history, got oriented to the logistics of our clinical work, and met our fellow trip-goers. It was surreal to see the ancient Incan structures and ornate Spanish churches that make up the city’s center. I especially enjoyed meeting the others on our brigade. Many are also in their fourth year of medical school in Quito, and it was fascinating to compare our own experiences and our countries’ healthcare systems.

As I learned about Timmy’s model, my fears of non-sustainability dissipated. My previous experiences with NGOs have been largely negative. I felt many would come for a week out of the year, provide services, and then leave without any infrastructure in place to build upon the foundation they had laid. By employing a full-time local staff member and including local ministry of health workers in all phases – planning the brigades, delivering healthcare, and following-up in the communities – Timmy ensures nothing falls through the cracks. After we leave, their work is far from over; these employees actively work to make sure patients’ abnormal lab values are followed-up on and symptoms have resolved, and if not, they help patients navigate the sometimes murky waters of the Ecuadorian healthcare system to find specialists who can help further. I think we’re all still a little nervous to see how the community responds to our presence and how much of an impact we can really make, but it was definitely reassuring to hear how cognizant Timmy is of the potential pitfalls of global health work.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the food. For lunch we were served un plato típico (a traditional meal) with potato soup, noodles and beef, and a chocolate cake for dessert. We haven’t eaten dinner yet, but it’s sure to please. All I can say is this – qué rico!

We’re all incredibly excited for our first day in Guangaje. Hasta luego!