McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Altruistic student adventurers help kids in Ecuador

Published: June 28, 2006
Family Medicine Photo
Shikha Misra (right) was one of six Bachelor of Health Sciences students who traveled to Ecuador.

Six McMaster University health sciences students recently traveled to Quito, Ecuador, to lend a helping hand to its most vulnerable citizens – children with physical and mental disabilities.

Shikha Misra and Robyn Whitney were among a group of six McMaster students in the Bachelor of Health Sciences (honors) program who recently spent two weeks at Camp Hope, in Ecuador, where a good percentage of the children had physical disabilities, including spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and Down’s and Turner Syndrome.

Both students were very keen to travel and participate in educational outreach, and together they sought out other equally enthusiastic classmates. The group decided to work at Camp Hope, which they found through the organization Global Volunteers.

The other members of the group were: Stephanie Leung, Vidhi Thakkar, Harman Chaudhry, and Minji Kim.


"When we first arrived we went on a tour of Quito and saw where the children lived," said Misra. "We were shocked to see the poverty and poor living conditions, but even more surprised that the children were so happy with so little. They were always very affectionate, always wanting to play, with lots of hugs and kisses all the way around."

The McMaster students assisted the teachers, taught English and entertained the children with piano lessons and painting.

"In the town, we really didn’t see any special accommodations for children with disabilities," said Whitney. "There were no buses equipped for wheel chairs or sidewalks with ramps.

By working with local people, the students gained new insights and perspectives on Ecuadorian people and culture. They also learned a lot about themselves and their own strengths.

  • Shikha Misra: "Encountering and interacting with the children at Camp Hope was truly an eye opening experience. Witnessing the unique challenges that these children face has put my life into perspective. I plan to educate my friends, family, peers and community about these challenges so that gradually we can overcome them."

  • Robyn Whitney: "At Camp Hope, I was able to gain more insight on how to care for individuals with special needs and the importance of integrating them into the classroom setting. Whether we were helping in the classroom or teaching ESL one on one, the time we spent with the children of Ecuador was cherished and touched us in ways we will always remember"

  • Stephanie Leung taught piano and painting to children and cared for toddlers. "I gained the perspective that not everyone lives one lifestyle. This experience has opened my eyes to other ways of living and other living conditions."

  • Vidhi Thakkar taught English to and played with children in kindergarten. The experience helped equip her for a future medical career. "I learned that true happiness is not found within material things, but in the time, the stories and the laughter. In the future, I hope to enter the healthcare profession. This responsible role requires a well-rounded, understanding and caring person – qualities this trip has helped me develop. I fell in love with the children and caring for them gave me more motivation to actually want to see changes – changes in the poverty level of the country and the harsh situations of some of the children. Perhaps someday, I can return."

  • Harman Chaudhry: "The individuals I worked with became friends, colleagues and people I genuinely trusted. I came to love the children. They were wonderful and I truly believe they came to love me as well – as a friend, mentor and teacher…. As a student aspiring to be a health professional one day, this experience has helped me to realize the necessity of volunteering and international work. I hope to return to Ecuador and other areas of the world to provide assistance throughout my life."

  • Minji Kim: "I’ve learned to deal with disabled children. The extensive two-week experience gave me confidence and changed my outlook towards disabled people. The most memorable event was when we took one of the classes with special needs to the swimming pool. The laughter and expressions on the children’s faces were unforgettable."

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