4 Jul

I knew this trip would change me somehow. In fact, on the plane to Quito I wrote a list of hopes for this trip and numbers 1 and 2 are “discover new goals, passions, and paths” and “be open to new ideas, mindsets, and perspectives.” I had no idea that just a few days later I´d be writing in the same journal about how underwhelmed I was by my experiences at the hospitals and clinics here. It took me just 3 days of clinic to realize I would not accomplish my goals here in Quito if I didn´t change something. I appreciate everything the doctors were doing, and I admire them for their work, but for some reason it didn´t click for me. I wanted to reach more people, to do my part to educate the population here about ways to improve their health, and to leave feeling like I had accomplished something challenging and truly great. So, I did some research, made a few phone calls, and found myself in a small office just a few blocks from my Spanish school. I was hoping this man, Juan Carlos, could lead me to my dream job, and was completely shocked when he seemed unimpressed by my excitement and past experience with women´s health work. As if it were just to make me leave, he handed me the information of a woman at an NGO called Copprende, and told me to call.

Confused, but still excited to find the perfect volunteer work for me, I called Cristina Ulloa, the Executive President of Ecuador´s branch of ProSalud. She could only meet me the following week, so I waited patiently and prepared for my conversation with her in ways that I hadn´t for Juan Carlos. The drive over felt like forever, and of course it was raining, and there was tons of traffic. I was so anxious, but as soon as Cristina hugged me and gave me the customary kiss on one cheek, I relaxed a bit. I launched in to what I had worked on before, what I was hoping to do here, and why I so desperately wanted her to let me volunteer. She seemed overwhelmed by my excitement, but looked really enthusiastic about finding a spot for me. After assuring me that I could come in the following week at 9am, I pretty much skipped out of the door and down the 10 flights of stairs. I hardly understood the variety of public health interventions that Copprende works on, but I was eager to learn.

Although that conversation feels like it just happened, it actually was three weeks ago. I stopped my work at La Maternidad, and have been working with Copprende for two weeks now (8:30am-6pm!), and have left the office every day feeling the fulfillment and excitement that I was anticipating the whole trip. I walked into the office the first day knowing that they work with students in high school and college and do lectures, but I had no idea the extent of their work. They go to the campuses of these schools and universities that do not have sexual and reproductive health education themselves, and hold information booths, fairs, and lectures to educate the public about sexual and reproductive health. It was so popular, that they now to go the clinics as well! They hand out pamphlets that are bright green, yellow, blue and pink, and I have never seen any of these vibrant gems of information thrown on the ground or in the trashcans after our charlas. They have visual aids, physical examples of different forms of contraception, demonstrations that show the correct way to use a condom, and have plenty of time for questions. While my Spanish isn´t fluent enough to actually do these charlas, I get to hand out the pamphlets, try to answer questions to the best of my ability, and demonstrate correct condom usage. On Fridays we walk through the streets of Quito searching for pharmacies to educate. We have a small prepared talk about a particular topic (correct usage of the morning after pill, condoms, birth control, and the importance of doble protección–condoms for STI/HIV protection, and hormonal birth control for pregnancy prevention) and we leave behind information for their customers.  I had no idea, but apparently there´s a big issue with students going to the pharmacists to ask questions about sex ed and a lot of the pharmacists don´t know the right answers! So, every Friday, we educate the educators. So cool!  I even get a vest and a bag with Copprende´s logo on it, so I look just like the real employees.

Aside from all of the awesome stuff I get to do with Copprende outside of the office, they just asked me to work on a new blog for them! I´m so excited that I get to leave behind something that I worked on, and I´ll definitely pass it on when it´s done.

I can´t explain how incredible it feels to find something that just feels right. I don´t know if I´ll be working with sexual and reproductive health for the rest of my life, but I definitely know I have a passion for public health and education. For now, I´m so excited to be given the opportunity to work with such an incredible organization, and I can´t wait to share more about their invaluable work that is changing and challenging  the culture, mindset, and norms of Quito´s youth, all while it changes and challenges  me.


One Response to “Copprende”

  1. Patricia July 5, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    Danika eres una chica increible! admiro tu espiritu, madurez y deseo de ayudar a otros. Que bendicion que has encontrado el lugar en donde puedes ayudar pero al mismo tiempo sentirte motivada y feliz por el trabajo que estas haciendo. Que Dios te ayude a seguir adelante con el trabajo y la ayuda que estas dando. Te abrazo con todo amor,

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