October 4, 2011 (written by Marcia Rasch-Patton – Dana’s mom)
It was mother and son time again in Ecuador! Dana flew to Guayaquil from Honolulu, a 25 hour/2 day plane trip and I arrived from Orlando. Since I arrived prior to Dana, I spent time with Drs. Tripul and Pilco and it was Dr. Pilco’s 29th birthday so a dinner was in order and we had a great time connecting using the few Spanish words I know and Olga’s basic English skills!
At dinner with Dr. Olga and her friend, Susan Garcia Flor. Dr. Pilco had to leave due to an emergency at the hospital!
For this trip, we partnered with AmeriCares, a nonprofit that provides medicine and medical supplies around the world, and we brought 80 lbs. of over the counter medications. I stuffed all this medication in my luggage and it was a bit stressful going through customs. Not surprisingly, they pulled me aside, looked at the paperwork, counted every single box and took photos. It was quite an experience!
When Dana arrived on Saturday, September 24th, we left immediately for Huaquillas with a ride from an Ecuadorian friend Edward, a civil engineer from Machala. Normal transportation can be somewhat hectic, so this was quite a luxury! We stopped in Machala and picked up our dear friend Tara Barrett, who works for World Teach. It was a long day but Edward drank a lot of coke in order to stay alert while driving! At around 9pm, we arrived at the hotel and checked in and Dana started grading papers!
I finally met George, the owners of Dana's favorite local gym.
Sunday morning we awoke to no electricity, in fact, the entire town was without power. This is not an unusual experience in Huaquillas and power outages usually last about 4 hours or so. At this point, we still hadn’t seen the health center and we were getting pretty anxious to say the least! Early in the afternoon, Tara arrived from Machala and accompanied us to Las Mercedes for our first look at the health center in over a month. When we first saw the new health center building we were so pleased and proud — It is so beautiful and big! There are 4 exam rooms each with their own restroom, the lobby and reception area, a laboratory, a pharmacy and a storage room (lots of doors we have to buy!). I wish everyone that has supported this dream could have the opportunity to see the building, it is so wonderful. As usual, there are a number of photos below for everyone!
When we arrived, we didn't have any keys but Tara and Dana were anxious to see inside!
That same afternoon, the project engineer, Juan, and the foreman, Carlos, came to the health center and after an exchange of pleasantries and hugs, we got down to business. Apparently, we need a new septic tank and like Juan always says “there is always a solution.” So, we are now digging our own septic tank to serve the health center. This is a huge project in Ecuador, a 20ft x 12 ft hole had to be dug by heavy equipment and manpower. Once the hole is dug it has to be filled with large bricks lowered 4 at a time to the bottom via a bucket to two men at the bottom standing in water with bare feet. It was very frightening for us watching it all go down, particularly when they were going and up and down the hole without a ladder (check out this short video)!
From left to right: Carlos Bermeo (foreman), Dana, Juan (project engineer) and Pepe (Juan's brother)
On Monday morning, Sep 26th, we met with the Mayor, Juan and Geovanny, Dana’s close friend and our project lawyer in Ecuador. Needless to say, several changes to the health center plan, including the septic tank, set the time schedule back for the inauguration just a little bit and we had to discuss how we were going to move forward. Basically, we all agreed that it would be better for everyone if we inaugurated the health center in December. Certainly, I didn’t disagree since this simply means another wonderful trip to Ecuador in December with Dana!
The Mayor of Huaquillas is very supportive of our project!
Later that day, we met with a few of the health promoters to discuss the project and to ask what colors they wanted for the health center. Basically, they said they were fine with any color that was different from the usual colors used by the local government. Ha! So, we went with Carlos, the project foreman, to pick out exterior and interior paint colors. He was very patient and took us all over town to look at various buildings. In the end, we all agreed on a sunny yellow for the exterior with olive green accents and bone for the interior. These colors are very reflective of the country and our project – The health center will look like a ray of sunshine.
The Health Center will be yellow with a dark green trim at the bottom.
Later on Monday, we walked to our friend Marianna’s house and they were in the process of slaughtering a duck for a family celebration. They were covered in duck feathers, even Odie the dog! I was very happy to see that Mariana and her 4 children are going to receive a house from a government project called MIDUVI. For two years she has participated in this program and completed all the requirements. She works so hard as a single mother (her husband drowned about 7 years ago and she earns 6 dollars daily working in a restaurant) and it was refreshing to see her getting what her family deserves – a dignified living. But even at that, much of the responsibility was on Mariana to prepare the land for the house and there was an enormous pile of dirt that she and her children had to shovel and level out for the foundation. She asked me if I wanted to help…we all laughed.
Mariana and her daughter Isabel.
Tuesday was a big day of bill paying; everything is done on a cash basis so I got to be part of “the bank” experience. At one point, we were walking around Huaquillas with about $6K in cash! Later in the afternoon, we met with the health promoters at the community center. Dana and I were shocked to see how much work they had completed in the last month since Dana left and they shared with us their detailed plan for the upcoming months. This plan included a special “Bingo” game they had scheduled for last weekend in order to raise funds for the inauguration event. When we let them know the inauguration was moved to December they were quite relieved! They appreciated the extra time to carefully plan out this historic moment to insure that it is a night to remember. Needless to say, they are really becoming self-sufficient and Dana and I were absolutely blown away! At the end of the meeting, they invited us to a special lunch at the home of Candida, one of the health promoters.
Dana and I with the health promoters.
The next day, lunch with the health promoters was a real treat. Like all mothers they cooked what they knew we liked (they made special ceviche for me) and it was a great experience to socialize with the families.
The lunch with the health promoters was fantastic and we had a great time!
Every single day, we did a walk-through of the health center and this was one of our favorite moments every day. We could see so much daily progress, particularly with the septic tank, and it was incredible. I can’t wait to see the finished product in December; it is going to be absolutely beautiful!
Our boy Nat and his new guitar that he bought in Huaquillas
Well, I could go on for days sharing with you all the wonderful and exciting experiences we had this trip. From the walk over the international bridge to Peru to having dinner with Nat and his new guitar, the list goes on forever. This has been another successful trip to Ecuador and I can’t wait to return in December for the Las Mercedes inauguration!!!
The laboratory has a great table that the workers built
The health center is really big!
The septic tank hole is kind of scary...at least for us it was.
The electrical wiring was installed while we were there
Dana and I in front of the health center with Carlos (foreman) and one of our favorite workers, Pacheco, who lives in Las Mercedes
The health center will be inaugurated in December and will look incredible!