Students Assist Underserved in Ecuador

Contact: Amy Gilliam

 

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Throughout the week, the children and students interacted in the classroom and therapy gym and at play, learning of their hardships as well as their achievements. Students said that despite the cultural adversity and language barriers, expressions of their work efforts were received and understood.

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 21, 2005) -- While March is generally the time that most college students pack their bags and head south, 10 students from the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences Department of Rehabilitation Sciences spent their spring break between internships to do mission work for underserved children much farther south – in Ecuador.

The medical service/mission trip to The Child Development Center, “El Nino,” was in the southern outskirts of Quito, Ecuador. The facility was created in response to the needs of hundreds of families in South Quito who do not have the financial resources necessary to provide adequate care for their children with various disabilities.

The Centro de Desarrollo Integral (CDI) currently cares for 75 children with disabilities including autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation of various causes, and Down syndrome. The CDI provides medical services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, and music therapy.

The students held fund-raisers and received donations from organizations and companies from all over the United States to help with the costs of the trip. Students also purchased items on their own.

Kentucky Physical Therapy Association also donated funds from the LaVonne Jaeger Pediatric Committee, established with proceeds from a book by LaVonne Jaeger, a retired UK physical therapy faculty member. Some funding came from a UK grant.

“Our mission for the week was to provide the facility with donated therapeutic toys and equipment for the children and provide pro bono physical therapy services, including hippotherapy training, a treatment that uses multidimensional movement of the horse as a means of therapy for these children,” said Laura Duncan, third-year UK physical therapy student and one of the 10 who participated in the medical service/mission trip.

While in Ecuador assisting medically underserved children, the students were able to experience various cultural events such as shopping at the indigenous market in Otovalo, eating Ecuadorian cuisine and taking Latin dance lessons.

“This was a wonderful experience – one hard to express in words,” Duncan said. “This trip blessed us both professionally and personally, as we exchanged knowledge, culture and compassion among the Ecuadorian people we encountered.”

Throughout the week, the children and students interacted in the classroom and therapy gym and at play, learning of their hardships as well as their achievements. Students said that despite the cultural adversity and language barriers, expressions of their work efforts were received and understood.

The 10 students involved in the mission trip were Kristin Brever, Kristin Fox, Jennifer Hartwig, Krista Hinton , Leigh Logan , Laura Duncan , Elizabeth Siereveld , Mindy Starks , Tiya Thompson, and Amber Wilson. They were joined by Leilani Gilliam who graduated from UK last summer and served as a translator for the group.

“These students have taken the commitment to improve the lives of others to a new level,” said Lori Gonzalez, dean, UK College of Health Sciences. “The future patients served by these young people will benefit from their compassion and dedication. The college is extremely proud of their outreach activities.”

The medical service/mission trip the students served while in Ecuador was through the Timmy Foundation, a foundation which assists medically underserved children throughout the world.

The students want to raise awareness for sponsors to support treatment for the underserved children who visit the clinic in Ecuador. Currently, the parents of the underserved Ecuadorian children pay $8 a month, if they can, to cover medical costs, and the cost to Tierra Nueva, the foundation that runs the clinic/school where UK students volunteered, is approximately $300 per child. Currently only one child has a sponsor.

For more information, to donate or to see photos of children who need sponsors, visit the Timmy Foundation’s Web site.


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