The bus in which I’m sitting slowly makes its way down the curvy roads that are so typical of the Sierra. It is taking me from Riobamba to Quito. Two weeks ago, I arrived in the lovely town of Riobamba together with my colleagues of the Fundación Omar Mosquera. Having finished our work in Naranjal, we conducted further medical consultations in this town where the foundation is based. I got to know the foundation’s small hospital, enjoyed the perks of attending to patients in a sort of truck with different rooms for nursery, dentistry and general medicine, … and once more experienced Omar’s hospitality when he made it possible for me to stay in his apartment for a few days. I’m very, very grateful for the support I’ve received and the opportunity to be part of this project so important for the local health care.
Next up was my time working and living in a foundation called SOFE – Sociedad Forjando Esperanza. During the past eight days, I got to know two of their numerous social projects: the medical consultas in remote villages around Riobamba and the educational workshops with children. I had a marvellous week with SOFE. For the entire duration of the project I stayed with Sandra y Abdón who run the foundation in their home. Not long after my arrival I began to feel like a part of the family. They shared their daily routine with me, allowing me to really dive into life here in Ecuador.
On the first sunday, we conducted consultations in a small pueblo one and a half hours a drive away from Riobamba. In this village, the women wore their traditional sombrero, poncho, skirt and boots. The diseases present were largely similar to those near the coast, although the high percentage of back pain, aching knees and itchy eyes reflected the people’s hard physical work on the surrounding fields. Many of them had to continue working on their farms even at an age at which Europeans at the most tend to their own little gardens. Although every dollar they own is essential for their existence, they thanked us by preparing a rich vegetarian lunch.
After this uplifting start, my week with SOFE continued in a community right outside of Riobamba where we went on five days to work with children between the age of four to twelve years. The objective of this week was to teach the kids about healthy alimentation as well as psycological well-being and, since I was part of the team, about German culture. Weeks ahead, two SOFE volunteers named Ángel y Ingrid helped me make a plan to introduce the children to aspects of life in Germany that differed from the things that they were used to. I showed them the distinct landscapes that my home country has to offer and how it changes its appearance depending on the four seasons. My favorite moment of this project was the second when the slide showing a German winter landscape came up... I’ll never forget the sound that 35 children make when they are sincerely amazed. Besides German geography, they also got to learn the basics of handball which they then wanted to play every day; they cooked and tasted boiled eggs with mashed potatoes and traditional mustache sauce; they got to know Helene Fischer and other German musicians; and on the last day, they watched a puppet show interpretation of two typical German fairy tales that the volunteers of SOFE participating in this project put into practice. The topics of the cultural exchange blended in nicely with the other lessons, games and educational crafting workshops. Working with this team of motivated people from different age groups and professional backgrounds that unite at SOFE for the same purpose, was a very inspiring experience. Moreover, I got in close touch with christianity during this week, an important part of Ecuatorian culture that up to then hadn‘ t played a big role in my stay.
What’s left to tell now is about my hike on the beautiful volcano Chimborazo – one of the four nevados (mountains covered with snow) that one can see from Riobamba. The sight of these impressive volcanos never ceised to amaze me. On my second last day, Ángel from SOFE organized a hike up the Chimborazo, to the lagoon near the second refugio at an altitude of 5100 m – a dream come true!
El Chimborazo - super close! (second refuge)
During walks around the city, two other friends from the foundations showed me their personal Riobamba with its parks, museums and vivid streets, experiences which I highly enjoyed as well.
These six weeks have passed by incredibly fast. To sum up, I’d like to stress once more my gratefulness for all the support that I have received, from strangers and new friends alike. I’ve learned from the people here what volunteer work really is about, got to practice my diagnostic skills without the expensive means available in Germany, faced foreign meals and latin dancing, enjoyed the sight of beautiful landscapes and met wonderful people with very warm, big hearts.
The bus will soon arrive in Quito. From there, my friends from Barcelona whom I met at the Fundación Omar Mosquera and I will advance to the Cuyabeno Reserve in the Amazonas Forest. Finally, the last week of my stay is reserved for a journey to the Galapagos Islands, thus visiting two more of the beautiful sights that make this country so special.
Thank you UFH for making this exchange possible!