Lending A Hand In Ecuador

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Mackenzie Hedge ’18 spent three weeks volunteering at the Fundación Medica Mosquera, a health center in Quito, Ecuador.

When Hedge came across a flier advertising a volunteer program that would send her to Ecuador, she thought “why not?” and applied.

Her open-minded attitude paid off. The nursing and Spanish double major received the Spirit Cultural Exchange scholarship through the Spirit Cultural Exchange program, an organization that helps connect Americans with volunteer opportunities abroad. The scholarship pays for the recipient’s living and program costs. Hedge is the second consecutive Concordia student to be awarded the scholarship. In summer 2015, Alex Elizarraga ’15 also spent three weeks in Ecuador. His time was spent volunteering at a summer camp for school-aged children.

During her time in Quito, Hedge lived with a host family and took Spanish lessons at a nearby school. She was able to finish her Spanish major while abroad, an opportunity she is thankful for. However, Hedge’s main work was her volunteer position at the Fundación Medica Mosquera, a clinic that provides services to people who may have limited financial resources. There, Hedge was able to do two things simultaneously – practice her nursing skills and her Spanish. She was able to observe doctors, help with pre- and post-operation and work in the laboratory. She also helped the nurses by drawing patient’s blood. During that time, she enjoyed talking to the patients.

“Practicing Spanish is beneficial because I don’t understand all of the language,” she says. “This will help me in the future because, more than likely, I will have patients that I don’t understand.”

Hedge found it interesting to observe differences in medical practices across cultures. She noticed contrasts between the lab technology and the privacy policies of Ecuador and the United States. She found differences in nurses’ and doctors’ duties as well.

“Normally in the United States, the nurses take the patients’ blood pressure, temperature, etc. Here, I have noticed that the doctor does all of that,” she says.

Hedge’s Concordia experiences also helped prepare her for her experiences in Ecuador. She says her nursing courses have readied her to communicate with patients of a variety of beliefs, cultures and needs. However, Hedge also believes a difference in belief or culture should not change the way a patient is cared for.

“They are all equal and are to be treated fairly,” she says.