Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hola from Ecuador

We are in the midst of quite an adventure here in Guayaquil, Ecuador! Now in our fourth week, I feel that we have learned so much in the way of the culture of mental health yet for every question answered, two more come to mind. We have mosty been interning at a large psychiatric hospital but some of us have had the opportunity to visit other sites around the city. Last week I went to a clinic in a very poor neighborhood where there is no running water or sewage. This small clinic, made up of a physician, an obstetrician, a dentist and a psychologist services 120,000 people. They rely on foreign volunteers to run their lab which would otherwise shut down. The psychologist there was kind enough to let me sit in on a session as well as invite me back to participate in a weekly community psychoeducational meeting. I also had the opportunity to visit a site that provides support, medical treatment and housing to people with Hansen`s disease, more commonly known as leprosy. Many of the residents at this site have been abandoned by their families due to the pervasive stigma that exists around leprosy. I didn`t know very much about Hansen`s disease or what to expect at this site before my visit. What I experienced was the pleasure of the company of lovely people whose illness continues to be misunderstood by the majority of the population.

The thought that often comes to my mind here is that we lead very charmed lives back in the United States. Suffering is a universal phenomenon, but there are clearly places where, due to lack of economic resources, the suffering of people is right out there for all to see. It is not possible to hide it behind the doors of a fancy medical office or distract oneself from it with the comforts that many of us enjoy in the States. Though this suffering is often difficult to see and make sense of, I am grateful for the opportunity to share in the lives of the people who I have come in contact with over the past few weeks.

That`s all for now folks!
Aimee Asgarian

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