Greene County News
SPRING VALLEY — Three Greene County residents recently spent two weeks in Ecuador in a pair of volunteer vacations organized by The Tandana Foundation.
Bellbrook residents Jim and Kelly McGee and Spring Valley resident Hope Taft spent the first week on Tandana’s 20th Health Care Volunteer Vacation, and the second week in a gardening volunteer vacation.
The group was in Ecuador Oct. 8-24. They stayed at a hotel in Otavalo and spent their days visiting nearby rural communities, where they helped provide medical care to individuals or worked on gardening projects.
During the Health Care Volunteer Vacation, they were part of the team of volunteers that provided medical care to 363 children and adults in five different communities. It was a busy week for the team. They treated 192 medical patients, completed 155 pediatric checkups and performed 94 vision screenings. The dentists saw 379 patients, and the team conducted 43 laboratory tests.
Patients were referred to local health centers for follow-up care if needed, and 315 individuals received medication from Tandana’s mobile pharmacy. Gastrointestinal parasites, high blood pressure, infections, poor vision and rashes were among the medical conditions treated by the team.
The volunteers worked alongside community members on various horticultural projects in several communities during the Gardening Volunteer Vacation. They spent two days helping to plant 100 ornamental flowers at the weather station in Inguincho. In Quichinche, they worked with students to beautify the garden surrounding the school’s new reading gazebo that is currently under construction. The volunteers also helped plant 25 medicinal plants at the community’s health center.
They spent two days in Tangalí working alongside community members planting 150 trees along a path leading to a sacred cavern. On their first day in Tangalí, the volunteers participated in an Andean tradition called a “minga.” A minga is a community work day where the majority of community members come together to work on a project that benefits the entire community. The group also visited the community of Andaviejo, where they helped a longtime Tandana friend — Matias — plant corn and beans in his family field. Matias taught the volunteers about local agricultural methods, planting cycles and the vital connection between local community members and their land.
When they were not busy planting, the volunteers toured horticultural sites. They went to a polylepis forest as well as the El Angel Ecological Reserve in the northern province of Carchi, where they saw a rare endemic plant called the frailejón. These two separate ecosystems coexist right next to one another, and also are each only found in this specific place in Ecuador. They also saw a topiary garden in the town of El Angel. Before their farewell dinner at Casa Mojanda, they visited the hotel’s organic vegetable garden.
Both volunteer vacations were filled with opportunities for the individuals to learn about the local culture and see breathtaking natural wonders. They learned how to make a delicious traditional Ecuadorian meal at Samyanuy Cooking School and went shopping in Cotacachi, a town known for its leather goods. They took a boat ride on Cuicocha volcano crater lake and had a picnic at the Tangalí Hot Springs.