UBELONG Volunteers at Refugio Jose Rivas in Ecuador

“It gave me a greater sense of purpose and responsibility”.


UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Eliana Griego
Age: 22
Hometown: Las Cruces, New Mexico
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (beginner)
Occupation: Emergency Department Medical Scribe
Volunteer Abroad: Medical Assistance in Quito, Ecuador
Duration: 4 weeks
Start month: March 2018

Why did I decide to become a UBELONG volunteer?
In the winter of 2017, I was completing a degree in the sciences and was accepted into medical school. I have known for a very long time that I have been interested in global health and wanted to do my part to give back to the world. I had this gap of time that I really wanted to utilize to experience the most I could while also serving others as best I could.

Two of my good friends had participated in UBELONG in years prior and I reached out to them about their experiences with the program. They had only great things to say so I decided to look into the organization. I knew I wanted to work as a volunteer in a medically focused project, to practice a new language, and to really get out of my comfort zone, and I was interested in the culture of South America, coming from a background of latino culture myself. This lead me to the volunteer site in Quito, Ecuador!

What impact did you make on your volunteer project?
I think the biggest impact I had was on the staff of the clinic. Our presence in the clinic seemed to help make processes in the clinic flow a little smoother, helped take the pressure off the nurse somewhat, and also provide a little diversion from the ordinary. I think the staff really liked hearing our own personal stories, and it kept them engaged in their work having people to teach and tell their own stories to. I think that we were able to bring some excitement to the doctors, and also to the patients who were always curious about us and our home countries. The main contribution I think we made, was being able to offer the staff a bit of rest and relaxation in a clinic that receives a great deal of patients, and allowing other duties to be able to be completed without having to work overtime or cut into quality of care.


UBELONG Volunteer with colleagues at the medical assistance project in Quito, Ecuador

Eliana and her colleagues at the clinic in Quito!

How did you grow personally during your volunteer trip?

I think i was able to gain a lot of perspective, both about the Ecuadorian culture and the context that they live everyday life in. I think from an outside perspective, it is easy to make judgments between right and wrong, what is beneficial and what is detrimental. I think this holds us back unconsciously from a growth perspective. By literally living side by side and working in the community itself, I began to see why life unfolded the way it did everyday, and understand the context in which both problems and successes arose.

I also learned in a real way that just because some aspect of everyday is different, that does not mean it is wrong. I learned to broaden my horizons even more and I also developed a great amount of patience. I learned to be resourceful and to practice detachment and to be flexible. It made me appreciative of the minor things I take for granted every day, and it also gave me a greater sense of purpose and responsibility to my fellow human beings inhabiting this planet.

In a sentence or less, how would you sum up your volunteer experience?
Traveling to Ecuador and living within the community allowed me to make real connections, gain a deeper understanding of the culture, and challenge myself to see life from a different perspective. I think the people I worked to help in the clinic taught and helped me more than I will ever be able to offer them and I hope to carry the lessons I gained through the rest of my life, never forgetting that I am capable of making a real change, no matter how small.

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Related post:
Meet Ketan Jain-Poster, a Stanford University student who volunteered in the health project in Quito, Ecuador.