Global health club cancels annual volunteer trip to Ecuador

May 21, 2019 — by Christine Zhang

As sophomore Anthony Liu boarded the plane for Ecuador during Global Health club’s annual volunteer trip last summer, he was excited for what he would learn there. Over the span of his two weeks abroad, he connected to the Ecuador medical community as he visited local schools and hospitals along with eight other students.

This year, however, Global Health club was forced to cancel the trip due to a lack of sign-ups.

The club normally partners with Child Family Health International, a global nonprofit organization, to give students the opportunity to volunteer in Ecuador, but CFHI only hosts the trip if a minimum of eight students sign up to go.

Liu, as the spring and summer coordinator of Global Health club, was planning this year’s trip. He accepted eight applicants and asked them to register on the CFHI website, but the students were unresponsive to his emails. Liu had also reached out to students from other schools, while in the past, volunteers for the trip have all been from Saratoga.

“I was talking to the people from the other schools and they weren’t replying or registering, so that became a problem,” he said.

The trip was planned for June 17 to July 1. It generally includes activities such as helping students at underprivileged schools and visiting urban and rural hospitals. Through the trip, students connect to the local medical community and learn or deepen their Spanish language skills as well. Students receive over 150 volunteer hours over the trip’s two weeks.

The trip is not funded by Global Health; volunteers are required to pay about $2,500 for housing, food and other necessities prior to the trip.

The Ecuador trip has been annual since 2016. The founder of the school’s Global Health club, Alexandria Tso, had connections to Stanford clinical professor Evaleen Jones, who founded the CFHI organization. The Global Health club has been in touch with CFHI ever since.

Last year, Liu said that a typical day in Ecuador consisted of a medical lecture in the morning followed by various activities in the afternoon, such as teaching students at local schools to use soap. He said that he wanted to go because he was curious about the sort of experience the volunteer trip would be.

“One of my friends was doing it, and I saw that I could get volunteer hours and help the people in Ecuador,” he said. “I also thought it was pretty cool to go to another country.”

The volunteers presented their trip to principal Paul Robinson after their return from Ecuador. There were no other follow-up events after the trip.

Liu said that the ultimate goal of the trip was not necessarily to change lives but rather to observe and learn more about vastly different countries and the problems they struggle with.

“The goal is just to educate people like us in America about global health in a broader perspective,” Liu said.

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