I continue to reflect on my service in Ecuador this past summer—so many experiences and emotions to process. I knew the volunteer trip with Timmy would change my life, but I underestimated how deeply it would affect me. At this time of year, a time for gratitude and giving, I am thankful for the perspectives I gained and reminded that meaningful change is possible when we work together.
I’m lucky to be able to take my health and healthcare for granted. I’ve had health education and access delivered in a way that I can’t specifically recall how I learned to eat healthy, wash my hands or follow instructions for taking medicine. I have easy access to transportation, and I don’t have to travel long distances—through rivers or jungles—to see a doctor.
In Ecuador, I gained a new understanding of how important education and access are to healthy lives. I witnessed Timmy’s impact on individuals—not only through the medical care delivered at its one-day clinics, but through health education provided for the long term. I met a woman who credits Timmy for changing her life through the care and education she received at a mobile clinic in Santo Domingo. She now works as a local health promoter and collaborates with Timmy to get more people in her community to go to clinics to improve their health and lives.
In every patient consult, volunteer physicians talked about hygiene, clean water, dietary habits and disease prevention. They engaged patients in detailed conversations about their medications. For example, when giving a prescription for a chronic condition such as high blood pressure, the doctor discussed the importance of taking the medicine every day, even if the patient feels fine. In the pharmacy, we focused on education, too, writing prescription labels in ways that clearly explained how patients should take their medicine. Instead of writing “take twice a day,” we wrote “take one before coffee and one before dinner.” For the people we served, access to care helped in the short term. But the education they received will make a difference in the long term.
I’ve been home for more than four months. I continue to be humbled when I drive one mile to my local pharmacy to buy ibuprofen. I remember people in Ecuador who were in need of something that is so accessible to me—or who sometimes had to travel hours by foot or bus to get their medicine. I continue to be grateful for having volunteered with such a meaningful program and inspired by the people I met and the connections we made. I continue to share my experience with family, friends, colleagues and even strangers.
My message is twofold: We can make meaningful changes if we work together. And, it isn’t that hard to make a difference. You don’t have to go to another country, although I highly recommend it. Volunteer locally. Give your time. Donate. Make a difference in the world around you. I guarantee you will gain far more than you give.
by Molly McCully
Molly McCully is director of public affairs at Eli Lilly and Company. In July 2018, Molly volunteered with Timmy Global Health in Ecuador through Lilly’s Connecting Hearts Abroad global employee volunteer program. Through Connecting Hearts Abroad, Lilly sends employees from its operations worldwide to serve as health volunteers and caregivers in communities with need across the world. You can read Molly’s earlier blogs about her life-changing experience in Ecuador and insights from her physician colleagues and fellow volunteers.