Volunteering in the Amazon Jungle is our Guest Writer Sheryl Benson Pender a US trained medical practitioner living in Canoa, Ecuador. Sheryl recently, along with other volunteers, headed off into the Ecuadorian Amazon Jungle with Timmy Global Health to set up on a daily basis a primary care clinic for the local indigenous people….
Sheryl’s Volunteering Experience in the Amazon Jungle
“It is hard to put in words the experience I recently had volunteering in the Amazon Jungle…..
Asking myself why I do what I do…..jumping off a cliff so to speak, to volunteer as a nurse deep in the heart of a remote part of the Ecuadorian Amazon Jungle, to team up with people I do not know, and to trust I will learn something intriguing, be safe, and stay healthy.
I did not expect to have to a bathroom lit by candlelight. I did not expect to haul luggage and totes full of medical equipment, supplies and medications daily.
I had no idea what it would take to set up a primary care clinic each day in a school or on a concrete slab covered by a tin roof and to assess and treat up to 100 indigenous people each day.
I did not expect to sleep so soundly in the Amazon Jungle to the choir of frogs and toads surrounding my bunkhouse. I did not expect to learn how much young people could inspire me to believe once again that our future world is in their caring and capable hands. I did not expect that we would get to some remote villages by motorized canoes on the Napo River.
I did not expect to meet so many people: healthcare professionals, pharmacy and medical students, bilingual translators, Peace Corp volunteers, Ecuadorian social services workers, and excellent doctors. And I never would have predicted that in a matter of 36 hours all of us would be functioning as a well-greased medical team full of spirit and caring enthusiasm.
I could tell you about the huge tarantulas we saw on a night walk around our accommodation in Chontapunta.
I could tell you about the amazing meals we were served at night, eating by candlelight. Or that we were unplugged from the internet for 8 days. I could go on about the jungle tour and chocolate factory we visited. Or that I survived my first-ever Class 3 white water rafting adventure.
I could describe the experience of speaking Spanish to a social worker translating my Spanish to a native-speaking Quichua family [Quichua being an indigenous language of Ecuador]. I could talk about the shaman who visited our group and performed her cleansing ritual, and what ayahuasca tastes like.
What I want to say is this: I would do it again! I found an eye-opening, tough work volunteer experience in a remote environment where everyone-indigenous, Ecuadorian and foreigner- came together, rallied our talents and made a difference.
I learned that the Amazon Jungle is very much more than monkeys, anacondas, and birds. It is a place where people live as families and work together, eating what they grow, without modern conveniences like cars and roads and grocery stores. They respect their natural surroundings, using its plants as medicine and the jungle as protection. They are learning how to purify their rain water to prevent parasitic infections, and dispose of wastes so as not to contaminate. You would see no trash in these villages, and you would also see kids smiling, men cultivating crops, women holding a toddler with one hand and a machete in the other. (machete being a work tool, not a weapon!)
It is with appreciation that Timmy Global Health in Indianapolis accepted my volunteer application. And with gratitude that Scott (my husband)granted me the time and space to go do this.
Since its founding in 1997, Timmy Health has been motivated and driven by one simple vision: All people, regardless of who they are, what resources they have, and where they live, should have access to quality healthcare. We believe that the people we serve should have the promise of healthy futures and that our volunteers should carry with them a lifelong commitment to humanitarianism, global awareness, and health equity.
Tackling pressing health challenges in developing countries involves a large team of volunteer health professionals as well as students of medicine and pharmacy who elect to travel to Ecuador, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic , Nigeria or El Salvador. Setting up primary care clinics in very remote communities involves local agencies and the country’s governmental health and social services staff. What materializes in a short week or two is an increased capacity of the local providers to identify, treat and follow up patients, young and elderly, who need acute medical attention. Timmy Global Health is the promise of healthy futures and quality healthcare wherever its brigades travel “.
Written by Sheryl Benson Pender a US trained medical practitioner living in Canoa, Ecuador
For more information on Timmy Global Health click here.