Water Purification System Installation and Public Health Education in the Ecuadorian Amazon

“The Amazon was amazing, restorative. I really enjoyed diving into new cultures and practicing my Spanish speaking through immersion. The sense of community there was unparalleled, and the warm weather and food were also amazing.”

Destination: Tena, Ecuador

Trip Organizers: Alia Richardson ‘19 ([email protected]) & Kai Cash ’19 ([email protected])

The Experience

In this Break Out Trip to Ecuador, students lead a Water Purification and Public Health Education trip to Tena. Their work was aimed at understanding the public health situation in Ecuador by collaborating with local organizations, communities, and hospitals. Students met with a local organization called MedWater which empowers communities to install, manage and maintain water purification systems. They volunteered for MedWater by laying the foundation for the structure the water purification system, carrying wood from the forest to be used for the roof of the structure, and painting an educational mural on that same structure. Students also ran workshops in the community with the Ecuadorian Red Cross on bandaging wounds and burns, CPR and other forms of first aid. Students had the opportunity to engage with traditional Kichwa midwives who use traditional medicinal practices and plants during labor and provide an alternative to western medicine. They gained more first-hand experience as they shadowed emergency doctors, obstetricians, pediatricians, and pharmacists. Students were able to immerse themselves in a learning experience about the public health of the underserved demographic of people in Tena, develop strong relationships with other participants, and mindfully reflect on their daily experiences throughout the trip.

Participant Quotes

  • “As a whole, this trip was a very comprehensive learning experience about the public health of the underserved demographic of Kichwa people in Tena, and the ways that underserved populations can be helped in a more sustainable way that does not continue to perpetuate savior narratives.”
  • “Books introduce a topic to a student but real-life experiences and talking to people that have different perspectives on a topic serve to better understand something.”
  • “Williams is an amazing institution and I think that what I learned in my classes definitely translated to the work we did in Ecuador, but nothing compares to the real thing. I think we gained a comprehensive view of how to intersect with Public Health from many disciplines. The work we did was hard but very informative.”