I’m checking in on my last day in Ecuador. What an amazing trip and amazing experience. In one short month, I have grown exponentially both culturally and personally. Prior to this experience, I had little knowledge about HIV and AIDS, this has changed substantially. I also had little knowledge of Ecuador. Although, we only spent a month here, I now have a great appreciation for the culture and people of Ecuador. It is a small country, but each place we traveled, it was as if we were traveling to a different country.
The heart and soul of this trip was spending time with the Luceros. The passion and love they have when they speak of Cynthia is unbelievable and contagious. They extended this passion and love to our entire group and treated us as if we were their children.
The third week in Guayaquil, Dot, Becca, and I spent at the Fundación VIDHA. VIHDA is an incredible agency with an incredible staff. This was exemplified through the knowledge, care and nonjudgmental in which they spoke to their clients, each other and us. I was also incredibly impressed by the “small things”. As we discussed, there is a stigma around HIV/AIDS and one of the reasons people to not get tested is as a result of the stigma. VIHDA has a tiny sign outside of the building, therefore not drawing attention to the purpose of the agency and making it more inviting for people to come in gain knowledge and get tested.
The aspect at VIHDA that I enjoyed the most was the charlas for the high school students. The staff at VIHDA designed the program called, “¿Cuantos Sabes de VIH y SIDA?” Students from high schools around Guayaquil participate in a series of sessions learning about HIV/AIDS and public speaking skills. The intention of the program is for the students to share this information with friends and family and increase the communities’ knowledge of prevention, detection, and stigmatization of HIV and AIDS. I appreciated and enjoyed participating and learning about this program for many reasons. Firstly, in the field of School Psychology, we are ingrained with the importance of prevention. As these children have the knowledge and pass the knowledge to others there is both a form of prevention of the disease and prevention of the isolation of those living the HIV and/or AIDS. The power of knowledge and education was really exemplified through this group.
Each day from July 20th to August 16th has been an adventure. I am leaving with love for many people whom I did not know prior to this trip, an appreciation for Ecuador, knowledge, and skills.