Month of Adaptation

Thomas Jay Clark - Ecuador


December 1, 2011

At the end of Fall Training at Stanford University, I learned I’d be working with CARE-International in Cayambe, Ecuador, instituting sexual health projects. Despite all warnings received from Global Citizen Year staff and friends and family at home, I started to make assumptions.

I thought I’d be teaching sex ed. I thought I’d be handing out condoms. As can be assumed, when you make assumptions, a lot of the time things are quite the opposite.

My first month working with CARE, deemed my month of adaptation by my boss Nubia, flew by. But, in the field of sexual health, I only received a manual written by Chloe Babar, a fellow from last year. I touched no condoms, and didn’t even talk to students about their views on sex.

I did visit the nine schools we work with. I did learn about the community gardens, compost piles, and cuyes (guinea pigs) raised at the school (they’re rich in vitamins and delicious!) I did collect the names and birth dates of approximately 4000 students. I did adapt.

By the second or third week, all of my assumptions were blown out of the water. I was ready to learn and help as much as possible, the reasons I was in Cayambe. I was placed there not to just pursue my own project, but to help an organization that has been making a difference in the community for many years. This was my time to adapt, not to be selfish.

My adaptation continues as I perfect my data collecting and Spanish note-taking skills. On my own, I’m collecting data of 4000 students from nine schools. The most incredible part: once completed, CARE will use my database to connect malnourished students to nutritionists and doctors. While I’m now working on a nutrition project, I’m making a difference in my organization, in my community, and also in myself.

Thomas Jay Clark