Julie Anderson is a member of The Tandana Foundation’s Medical Direction Team and has participated in many Healthcare Volunteer Vacations in Ecuador. She convinced Marcella Bernethy, her mother and Tandana’s oldest volunteer, to go with her on one of the trips. Below are their reflections from the trip.
When my daughter, Julie Anderson, invited and encouraged me to join the medical missionary trip to Ecuador, I thought it an impossibility due to my 83 years. However, as her companion and with her support, I joined the team.
It was a long journey to Quito and then another two hour drive to Quichinche. but well worth the trip as we were welcomed as guests at Las Palmeras Inn for a much needed rest.
Following breakfast each morning, our van and driver took us to our assigned village where we took any supplies we had brought with us and set up clinics. Setting up clinics was a real challenge, anything from an empty potato storage room to planks supported by cement blocks. But it worked and patients came from mountain side walking barefoot on cobblestone roads averaging 50 a day. Animals roaming everywhere and such poverty but accepted as their way of life. It was a very humbling but gratifying experience. As the “greeter” I tried to welcome each patient with a smile or hug helping them to their designated provider. Since clinic hours ended at noon, we sometimes lunched with the community members learning more of their local culture. Also, we lunched in a beautiful hacienda owned by an American living in Ecuador.
Our afternoons were spent on activities such as boat rides, hikes, visits to a Shaman and a Master Weaver and just exploring the culture of the area. I especially enjoyed our afternoon at the Otavalo Market Place and our visit to the sacred tree, El Lechero with all of the history being narrated for us by a student. Spanish classes each day and intermingling with the team followed by a delicious dinner at the Inn- what a wonderful ending of a perfect day. I will always be grateful for the opportunity given to me to be a member of that team. My book of memories is a treasure.
I have been fortunate to travel to a number of countries as a medical provider over the past few decades and each time my mother would contribute in some meaningful way, be it monetarily ,”treats for the children” or shoes for an elder. Each trip she would anxiously await news of our work, the people, the culture, and their needs! At some point I suggested she join me and from that moment she was mentally packing and planning!
I had a little concern about elevation affecting her energy but that was quickly put to rest as she eagerly joined the group in almost all activities including a climb to a picnic site on our last day of the trip. She made friends with an elderly woman in the market and they still stay connected sending their best wishes for each other and each year I’m given “a little gift for your mother” to bring home. My mother still speaks of the people and the culture with admiration and awe for their survival in the midst of poverty beyond our
comprehension. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to share this with my mother…it’s not out of the question that we would do it again:)
Tandana’s involvement provides the venue for a rich human experience..cross culturally and without borders…and at any age if you’re willing to open your heart and mind.