So this is my first entry…a little late in coming as I should have been journaling before I left the county, but alas…being late, hmm….sounds familiar to me! I know most of you reading can remember a time or two or three or four when I’ve been late in doing something or more likely, getting somewhere! But you love me anyway.
Ok, well, do address some of the feelings I was going through as I prepared for this trip….I was excited, nervous, anxious, doubtful, hopeful, but most of all bien alegre! Thanks to many people, I was able to take this opportunity to come to Ecuador and join in efforts to understand how, why, where and what kind of disparities exist among the people here.
But before I get into what I´m doing here in Ecuador, I must first make an announcement to all that don´t know. On May 14th, in front of my family Antonio Maldonado asked for my hand in marriage. Yes, that´s right, I am engaged and we are planning our wedding for next July 7th, 2007 (lucky sevens! We didn´t plan that by the way) en Hermosillo, Mexico. We hope some of you can make it, but you´ll hear more on that later. For now you can see one of the pictures my mom took as she was her normal camera-happy self taking photos of the moment.
And on to other things…For those that I did not get a chance to talk to about my trip before leaving, I will be working for the next three months with a non-profit, development organization called Fundación Cimas del Ecuador (http://www.cimas.edu.ec/). The organization is located in the captital, Quito, but researches and works with communities a little ways north in a county called Pedro Moncayo, which is one of the poorest in Ecuador. In the past decade or so, the organization has noticed a significant increase in chronic illness and cancer among those living in the county compared to other areas of the country. In that time there has also been an increase in the number of flower factories (floricultoras) in the area and they are a very lucrative export for Ecuador. Because this industry exports roses to the States and other countries, the flowers need to be undamaged by insects and other organisms. Thus the use of pesticides/herbicides/insecticides have been used exposing workers to very hazardous conditions. Not all of these “floricultoras” misuse and expose their workers to hazardous amounts of pesticides, but the idea of using these chemicals has spread to use on local farms to keep pests from ruining crops and within household settings for other reasons. Thus, the entire population is affected by the use of these chemicals in addition to those working in these floriculturas.
So….this is where I come in…yeah…back to talking about me (hee:P)…In preparation for a more formal investigational study, I will be doing a lot of groundwork for Cimas. In short, I will first be doing some review of other studies/research papers/etc to identify which cancers are related to exposure to pesticides. Then we will use a national cancer registry and interview many residents of Pedro Moncayo to identify those who have been affected by cancer. With this information and the results of more in depth physicals for those identified with a chronic illness, we hope clarify what is causing these illnesses among the residents of Pedro Moncayo. More importantly, the goal is to obtain accurate and substantial evidence that change needs to take place in order to protect a population of workers and families who are unjustly exposed to toxic chemicals….
And so I will step off my soap box…but I digress…you will hear more about this as there is a lot that I did not include and much more that I have yet to learn. But for now, if you are still reading, these are my beginnings here…Oh, I almost forgot….oh, but I will tell you in my next blog about my arrival (somewhat of a traumatic experience) and host family…hmmm…I bet your interested enough to come back and read some more!!
So I leave you all for now, but here is a picture of me on my first day next my house that my host brother, Francisco took. What beautiful mountains, huh? Not to mention the nice cool weather, although I could go for some hot days after a cold Minnesota winter. Ciao, mis amigos (that’s what they say here) and we’ll be in touch soon! Take care and God bless.