Ama la Vida
Ecuador gets its name from the equator, which it straddles on South America’s upper west coast. The country is divided into four geographically and culturally diverse regions, encompassing the coastal lowlands, Andean highlands, Amazon jungle, and Galapagos Islands. Although the Ecuadorian government has worked hard to reduce poverty in recent years, the country continues to face critical issues such as chronic malnutrition, gender-based violence, and negative effects from natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, flooding, droughts, and earthquakes.
Percent of Ecuadorian children under the age of 5 are affected by stunting from chronic malnutrition. In rural areas, the rate is 31% ⓘ
“…The political evolution of the country has been characterized by great institutional instability and social conflict - between 1992 and 2006, there were eight different governments-, sparking a deep crisis of governance, social violence, administrative instability and lack of continuity. These problems have affected the dynamics of the health sector and its reforms.” -WHO
Aiding a Growing Community
Anconcito is a small town in the Province of Santa Elena, two hours west of Guayaquil on the outermost peninsula of the country. It is just 15 km south of Salinas, one of Ecuador’s most popular tourist destinations, known for its pristine beaches, upscale resorts, and ideal surfing conditions. Despite its proximity to the resorts, Anconcito is relatively unheard of to foreign tourists. Recent emigration of fishermen from other coastal regions of Ecuador has created a major strain on Anconcito’s already limited infrastructure and overburdened government-sponsored clinic. As a result, problems such as malnutrition, chronic disease, and teenage pregnancy are becoming more prevalent.
Anconcito, in the province of Santa Elena, is located about 20 minutes south of the popular beach town of Salinas, and 2 hours west of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city. It has a population of about 14,000 and is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean.
There is a government-sponsored clinic located in the community, but it is saturated with patients and often lacks the resources necessary to treat the growing population. This leads to excessive wait times, which means community members don’t access the public health system except in the case of emergencies. This has contributed to high rates of preventable disease, a lack of health education, and community members are left without access to quality healthcare and specialty services.
We start with a community diagnostic. We meet with the leaders. We talk to community members. We live and breathe healthcare in the area and implement programs and services based on the actual, current needs.
Learn More About Anconcito +
- The Ecuadorian government guarantees universal healthcare to its 16 million residents, and its “National Plan for Good Living” (Plan Nacional Para el Buen Vivir) has promised to implement policies that promote the prevention of disease and foster healthy lifestyles among the Ecuadorian population. While these goals are admirable, in practice the promise of universal healthcare means government-run clinics are often overburdened and underfunded, lacking the personnel, supplies, and training they need to effectively serve the populations where they work. In Anconcito, a small government-sponsored clinic serves a population of over 14,000 people. Appointments must be made ahead of time by phone and are generally granted 2-3 months from the time the appointment is requested. The clinic is open from 8am-4pm, so if any medical emergencies arise after hours people must take private transportation to the nearest public hospital over 15 km away. The clinic employs an obstetrician and a dentist, but for other specialists one must again travel to the nearest public hospital at his or her own expense. Because the clinic is so understaffed, they have limited resources and time to focus on health promotion and preventative medicine. The most common medical issues affecting the population are readily treatable with preventative measures, education initiatives and continuous healthcare monitoring: type 2 diabetes, respiratory infections, diarrhea due to improper food and water sanitation, malnutrition, unplanned pregnancies, and drug and alcohol addiction. Social problems also persist, compounding the existing health issues - domestic violence and underemployment are rampant. FIMRC has partnered with the local government and health center in Anconcito to execute public health campaigns in the region based on current local needs and train local professionals on preventative health care. FIMRC aims to increase emphasis on health education and preventative care, including screening and treatment for diabetes and hypertension, nutrition education, and well-child checkups.
In Anconcito we take a community-based approach to our work, adapting our programs to address the evolving needs of the people we serve. We live and work among the families in Anconcito, each day gaining a better understanding of their daily challenges and priorities. With the support of our volunteers, we dedicate our resources to three main areas of focus: clinical activities, health education and special initiatives. Below are a few examples of our work at Project Anconcito.
- Support clinic staff at Anconcito Health Post
- Organize rural medical brigades
- Conduct eye exams and fluoride treatments in local schools
- Assist health post staff with home visits for patients unable to travel to local health post
- Organize school based health education with students and teachers
- Participate in water sanitation, hygiene, and waste management workshops in rural communities
- Plan nutrition education campaigns
- Lead youth groups focused on health, drug and alcohol prevention and empowerment
- Development programs to promote healthy lifestyles and diabetes prevention
- Sports clubs for youth
- Dance and yoga classes
- Teenage pregnancy program
Project Anconcito thrives on the efforts of volunteers, all of whom contribute to the current needs and initiatives on-site. Whether you're giving a first-aid demonstration to local schoolteachers, working up a sweat with mothers to teach them about a healthy lifestyle, or teaching diabetics how to test their blood sugar, your efforts allow us to better serve the residents of Anconcito and the surrounding communities.
All volunteers have the opportunity to participate in both the clinical and health education aspects of operations on-site, and activities can range from participating in a nutritious cooking class with mothers from the community to shadowing in the local health clinic.
Over the course of your trip you'll receive an unfiltered experience in health care field work abroad, and learn about the tremendous impact that even one person can have. At our end, so as to maximize your contribution, we will tailor your experience based on current needs, your interests, training, and amount of time that you spend with us on-site in Anconcito.
Curious about the logistics of volunteering? Click below for more information on flights, activities, accommodations, transportation, trip cost, and more!