This program is organized by International Service-Learning Programs (IPSL) in collaboration with DukeEngage.

    • Ecuador 2016

Program Dates

June 4 - August 5

Service Focus

Volunteering with grassroots and nonprofit community health organizations in low-income neighborhoods of Guayaquil. These organizations are focused on providing services in the community health sector including medical care, public health education, nutrition, communicable diseases and environmental health.

Program themes:

  • Health/human services: Assisting and supporting local health professionals in providing critical public health and human services to low-income communities in Guayaquil.
  • Disability services: Generating awareness of, and providing support for, organizations working to meet the needs of disabled adults and children in the local community.
  • Community development/outreach: Creating connections between health issues in the community and public health policy and outreach.

Program Leaders

  • Arianne Newton – IPSL Director of Programs: . Arianne is interested in research around culturally sensitive and ethically engaged service and works on the back end of program development including logistics, safety, and overall program structure on the ground.
  • Emma Newton – IPSL Student Support Liaison and University Relations Coordinator: . Emma researches and teaches on topics related to food, agriculture and animals and works one-on-one with students to facilitate pre-departure training and IRB preparation as well as IRB submission for research projects and facilitation of the student/service site partnership.
  • Joan Clifford –  Faculty Fellow: . Joan is an Assistant Professor of the Practice in Romance Studies and has been actively involved in service-learning since 2005, first teaching in the Spanish Language Program and now also consulting for Duke Service-learning. She is the co-director for the DukeEngage in Miami program.

Program Overview

IPSL is an educational organization serving students, colleges, university, study abroad practitioners, partners, grassroots agencies and related organizations around the globe. IPSL engages students in hands-on service to promote equitable relationships, social justice, sustainable change, and a commitment to our shared humanity. IPSL focuses on developing reciprocal partnerships across culture and language divides and empowers students to develop ethical service skills while engaging in research, volunteer and reflective work. During their two months in Guayaquil, students will work in NGO/nonprofits focused on community and global health and assisting local NGOs in a variety of capacities that may include:

  • Community health clinic work
  • Rehabilitative work for people with disabilities
  • Nutritional and other health education programs
  • Social work intervention and training programs

IPSL’s partnerships in Guayaquil, Ecuador are long standing (10 + years) and our service and research efforts support locally driven and operated organizations that focus on substantial issues facing the Guayaquil community including access to health care, public health education, disease prevention, environmental sustainability, maternal and child health and more.

IPSL supports our partners and students via several programming elements:

1)   Ethical Service – Students serve with the organization not for the organization. Many individuals are not clear on what true ethical service is and as such those with good intentions can often cause more harm than good when volunteering abroad. IPSL places emphasis on training students beforehand through on online orientation and other programmatic elements about how to engage in ethical service before arriving in country. This better equips students to engage with their service organizations in a positive manner from the start. It also prevents service sites from being vulnerable to untrained and harmful volunteers. By providing training before arriving in country, students are best prepared to effectively serve their organization and create a greater beneficial impact while building a positive reciprocal relationship.

2)     Reflective Work – Students will engage in reflective group work over the course of the program. Group and personal Reflective work is the cornerstone of service-learning and supports students in continuing to develop their own skills and knowledge surrounding ethical service. Reflective work better prepares students to serve their service-organization in the most impactful and effective manner and provides opportunities for students to experience personal growth.

Student Learning Objectives & Outcomes

DukeEngage students in Guayaquil, Ecuador, will engage with the topics of what it means to be a global citizen, how to communicate sensitively across cultures, reflect on individual growth, improve Spanish language skills, and understand health disparities in Ecuador.

Specifically, students will have the opportunity to:

  • Undergo orientation in Guayaquil led by IPSL partners in Ecuador. During this first week, students will learn about safety, health, and effective service. Students will also explore local community issues and cultural perspectives across Ecuador. Additionally, students will receive logistical information relating to their program.
  • Work for a community organization (40-hour workweek) focused on one or more of the following sectors: access to medical care, public health education, communicable diseases, environmental sustainability and health, preventative health, child/maternal health, nutrition and more.
  • Participate in one large group service project driven by the current community needs.
  • Live with a local Ecuadorian family and participate in cultural and familial events in order to deepen the immersive experience, practice the language and build cross-cultural relationships.
  • Participate in additional activities and receive training on effective service throughout the program. These activities may include discussion and reflection groups, language workshops, cultural and historical excursions and more.
  • Engage in a weekly group reflection workshop facilitated by a local Ecuadorian professor. Readings and other courses materials and assignments are presented throughout the workshop.
  • Participate in a customized pre-departure orientation through IPSL.
  • Have access to on-site IPSL staff 24/7 via phone, email and in person. Students will also have regular check ins with IPSL student support staff in the states.
  • Have access the IPSL Alumni Network upon return to connect with like-minded individuals who support one another in fostering a life-long commitment to service while pursuing and achieving academic and professional goals.

Service Opportunities

Students in Guayaquil will be placed with a community organization partner whose focus may include: access to medical care, public health education, health research, communicable diseases, preventative health, child/maternal health, nutrition and more. Students will work with partner community organizations to design and implement projects that sustainably address local needs and priorities. Recently students in Guayaquil have:

  • Conducted intake surveys with individuals at a low-income health clinic.
  • Designed and coordinated a talent show for individuals with disabilities living at a residential facility.
  • Organized and participated in community health education workshops related to the spread of Chikungunya disease and maternal health.
  • Facilitated a needs assessment at a small organization that provides services to elderly individuals with Hansen’s disease.
  • Provided assistance in the pharmacy of a low-income health clinic.
  • Designed murals for a facility improvement project at a local low – income community health clinic.
  • Participated in music therapy workshops for children with cognitive disabilities.
  • Assisted therapists in a horticultural therapy program for children and youth with disabilities and their families.
  • Provided companionship and conducted art workshops for individuals living with Hansen’s disease at a residential facility.
  • Participated in a day long, group service project to build a house for a low-income family.

Please be aware that the examples listed above are only a few examples of types of projects students can contribute to while serving in Guayaquil. Specific projects and tasks vary based on the organization’s current need. We have included below the organization’s website if available. These are grassroots organizations who often do not have a website.

Students are placed in the service sites based on service site need, skill level, and personal interest. Students are matched with another DukeEngage student to be placed in that site and with whom they conduct research at their service sites. Students are matched based on interest and personalities derived from the students’ interviews during the application process. IPSL places all DukeEngage students at the sites. Students can indicate preference of site in their application and interview and this is strongly taken into consideration when placing students.

Community Partners may Include:

  • Luchadores Del Norte Sub-centro de Salud: Public health center catering to a large neighborhood in one of the poorer districts of Guayaquil. The center offers clinical medicine, pharmacy and laboratory (the only one of its kind among the district’s health centers), and home visits.
  • Fundación Hogar de Cristo: Foundation that supplies low-cost housing, medical care, campaigns on public health, education, micro-credit and assistance in establishing micro-businesses and community banks in the poorest neighborhoods in Guayaquil. The foundation was formed by Jesuit priests and has a Catholic philosophy.
  • Fundación AMAR: This foundation has been working with the disabled and the elderly in the city since 1984. The foundation is focused on providing support and care to mentally and physically handicapped people of all ages. The work that they do includes: sports and recreation, arts and crafts workshops for the mentally disadvantaged, yoga and tai-chi classes for the elderly, occupational therapy and thermal massage treatment. In order to raise funds to support its work, the foundation has engaged in a variety of activities, including: manufacture of walking aids, such as crutches and wheelchairs; the baking and sale of healthy food products; the sale of arts and crafts; provision of cooking classes. The foundation also has an on-site medical doctor and provides basic consultations.
  • Fundación Rebeca: Foundation that provides physical therapy and basic education to children with genetic conditions, both mental and physical. The foundation is located in the rural town of Samborondón, a 30-minute drive from the university.
  • Samborondón Hospital: Small municipal hospital in the rural town of Samborondón, a 30-minute drive from the university. The hospital provides basic outpatient care, physical and respiratory therapy, and dental care to about 120 patients per day.
  • Centro de Equinoterapia Integral: This agency promotes the social inclusion and offers rehabilitation of people with special abilities. They work with people, especially children, with psychological and intellectual disorders such as autism, Down syndrome, etc. Patients receive equine therapy, early intervention, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy, psychological therapy, dance therapy, music therapy, hydrotherapy and equine therapy. To do this, the agency has a team of therapists who have been trained by renowned national and international experts in this field. The horses are properly trained to perform the equestrian therapies that help patients improve their balance, motor coordination and regulate muscle tone.
  • Fundación Cariño: Center for rehabilitation of children with nutritional problems. The foundation provides pre-kindergarten and kindergarten education, physical and language therapy for children with nutritional problems, home visits and workshops on nutrition, social skills and family structure for parents and community groups.
  • Sub-centro de Salud Ficoa de Montalvo: Public health sub-center catering to a large neighbourhood in one of the poorer districts of Guayaquil, dealing with 150 patients per day. The clinic offers general medicine, dental, paediatric and obstetric care. A major focus of the work of the sub-center is on community health: educating and helping to prevent common illnesses.
  • Fundación Padre Damian: A mission designed to help people infected with Hansen’s Disease to live with dignity. The mission provides medical care seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Approximately 35 patients live at the foundation, with others attending as out-patients only. It also provides well-balanced meals each day, physical therapy, medicine and basic sanitation services.

Program Requirements

Students must have a strong desire to create reciprocal partnerships with community organizations, prioritize local needs, desires, and knowledge, and be interested in developing personally and professionally in service. Students are expected to be open-minded, flexible, and independent in navigating and serving within a cultural context different than their own as well as show patience and dedication to their community organization. Previous experience serving in any capacity is preferred but not required.

Language Requirements: Two college-level semesters of Spanish language are required for successful participation. Exceptions may be considered. Students are expected to communicate in Spanish with their service organization and host family. As almost all staff at IPSL partner community organizations and host families speak little to no English, so it is imperative that you feel comfortable communicating in Spanish in order to be successful in your service.

Course Requirements: There are no pre-requisite courses for this program, however interest in community and public health is required.

Reflection Requirement: IPSL staff will lead weekly group discussion and reflection sessions in which students will be expected to participate. More details will be shared during the on-site orientation.

Personal Qualities: Students are expected to be flexible, curious and respectful. Placements in an international service and research program in low-income community organizations may mean that students might be faced with an organizational structure that differs from what they are familiar with. In order to be successful in these new environments, students are expected to have a level of flexibility and adaptability to the changing circumstances. Additionally, students should cultivate a strong curiosity and desire to learn about and from their host culture and their organization in an open minded and respectful manner. Lastly, students will most likely be confronted by ideas and perspectives that differ, or even directly conflict, with their own. To be successful in this environment, students need to be respectful of these differing perspectives and realize that they will not change systematic inequalities or discrimination in a matter of a few weeks. Rather their work is meeting the needs of individuals in that moment and that, in and of itself, is an impactful form of service.

Program Logistics

Neighborhood: IPSL programs in Ecuador are located in Guayaquil, a coastal city built on deltas. Guayaquil has a rich and complicated history of being conquered and rebuilt by various occupying forces and, as such, much of the original architecture has been lost. Ecuador's main port and largest city, Guayaquil is a bustling coastal urban center, known for its friendly people, tropical climate and vibrant nightlife. You will enjoy strolls along the refurbished riverside "Malecón," the colonial Barrio Las Peñas, the colorful houses and view from Cerro Santa Ana, the Mercado Artesanal (artisan's market), beautiful parks and plazas, and an abundance of cafés and restaurants. Guayaquil is also gateway to the Galápagos Islands and some of Ecuador's most beautiful beaches. Students will enjoy a tropical climate with varied and abundant flora and fauna. Students will also encounter dramatic contrasts of wealth and poverty, and the social issues generated through that disparity. Students’ host families are located within walking distance of each other and of the local partner University (where they will have access to the facilities).

Housing and Accommodations: Students will live with IPSL host families. Living with a host family is one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences during a student’s time abroad. IPSL host families are carefully selected by IPSL on-site staff and are integrated into the local community surrounding the university. These families open their homes to students out of genuine curiosity and generosity and the wish to learn about another culture. Living accommodations vary depending on each family’s specific situation, however most would be considered comfortable working-middle class homes by U.S. standards. All host families are located in the same gated neighborhood of Guayaquil. Students will be in close proximity to one another. Homestays have running water and electricity, although these services can be interrupted from time to time. There is generally no heating in the houses, and it can get cold at night despite being located on the Equator. Students should plan on bringing layers. Air conditioning may or may not be available. Wi-fi in the home may not be available, so students will be provided with an internet stick to do research. Only one student will be placed per household.

Meals: Host families will provide students with three meals per day. Students will receive a stipend for meals not taken at their host family (i.e. orientation and excursions) prior to those experiences. Lunch is the most important meal of the day for families in Ecuador. In many families, much of the extended family will convene at one of the houses for lunchtime. Students are required to return to their host families for the lunch hour and then are required to return in the afternoon to their service site.

Health Note: Peanuts are a common ingredient in the local cuisine. Ready, nearby access to treatment for travelers experiencing a severe allergic reaction to this and other food(s) may be limited at this program site. Students who are considering application to DukeEngage-Ecuador should review these facts with their families and medical providers before applying. Once accepted, a participant with severe food allergies is expected to inform DukeEngage, , of their specific concerns and needs no later than January 19. The DukeEngage staff will work with participants on a safety assessment and to identify reasonable accommodations and meal options.

Communication: The IPSL site will provide each student with a cell phone as well as a portable internet stick. Students should bring a personal laptop in order to conduct research. If they do not have one they will have access to a computer lab on campus.

Transportation: Students will mostly ride in buses and or taxis. Students will receive a university bus pass. For sites that are outside of the University bus route, students will use the Guayaquil public bus system.

Enrichment opportunities: Students will have the opportunity for one overnight (weekend) enrichment opportunity during the course of the program. Details will be provided during the on-site orientation. Past excursions have included opportunities to visit a coastal community and learn about local handicrafts and traditions.

Opportunities for Autonomy / Private Space: Each student will be given a private room within the family home as well as a set of keys to the house so they are free to come and go as needed and as appropriate. Students are encouraged to spend the majority of their time with their host families and at their service sites and to communicate with your family about your schedule as you would with your own family. Guayaquil is located close to many coastal regions and national parks and public transportation is convenient and inexpensive, allowing students to explore the region in their free time.

Opportunities for Reflection: All students are required to participate in a weekly group reflection workshop that is facilitated by a local Ecuadorian professor. Though the workshop is not for credit, students will be given a syllabi during the pre-departure process that outlines a series of readings and assignments that are critical for the students’ success in the program and that places their service and research in the context of the local culture. Students will also have the opportunity to explore service-learning themes as a group during these weekly reflection sessions. Blogging is encouraged.

Other Opportunities: Students will engage with the community every day of the week through their host families and their service organizations. Students have the opportunity to engage with each other as a group as much or as little as they wish outside of the required program elements. All students will be placed with a DukeEngage partner with which they will spend the majority of their time. Student pairs will be placed at the same service site and will work on the same research project together. They will live in separate host families however. Evenings are typically free for socialization with student’s host families or for interaction with the rest of the group on the University campus. Weekends often see students planning city outings together or interacting with their host families or conducting research. Additionally, the University offers many short cultural day trips on weekends that students can engage with should they wish. Any non-program facilitated overnight trips require a student travel form submitted to IPSL staff a week in advance. Students are not allowed to miss any service days because of personal travel. Students should inform IPSL staff when engaging in non-program facilitated day trips as to their location. Students are also expected to stay in close contact with their host families regarding whereabouts.

More Information

Please check out the IPSL website for more information about our philosophy and partnership.

Check out: Real Scoop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlkHaPQjNKQ

Curicular Connections

The DukeEngage and IPSL programs are designed to enhance student’s curricular education through access to immersive cultural experiences, research projects and service opportunities. On the DukeEngage/IPSL Ecuador program students will develop their Spanish language skills, gain a unique perspective on global health disparities in this region of the world, engage in the conversation around sustainable development and ethical service, and gain access to professional conference and speaking opportunities. Importantly, students will gain a new perspective on what it means to be an impactful global citizen.

 Library Guide for Ecuador


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