Ecuador: SASS 375A / 575 – Health, Human, & Social Development

The course in Ecuador has been developed by both the faculty of Case Western Reserve University and the Andean Study Program, an Ecuadoran organization that has worked with many American universities for over 20 years. Our stay is centered around Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Ecuador has a rich history and distinctive geography that includes La Costa, or the low-lying coastal region; La Sierra, or highlands dominated by the Andes Mountains; La Amazonia, or rainforest; and the Region Insula, or Galapagos Islands located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador. Lodging in Quito is at the Hotel Casa Foch located across the street from the Andean Study Center. It is near many cultural institutions, major universities, restaurants, and entertainment.
The city of Quito has a high altitude (about 9,350 feet) and is located 15 miles from the equator. Nights are cool with average temperatures of 47 degrees Fahrenheit. The day temperatures are generally in the low 70s. When packing, bring plenty of layers and a warm coat in order to adjust to a wide range of temperatures, a lightweight raincoat for the rainforest, and comfortable shoes for all-terrain hiking. Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar for currency.

Learning Objectives

Learning objectives for this trip center around humanity and community development in Ecuador, which will be accomplished through a series of visits inside and outside Quito exposing the knowledge of the Ecuador’s history, politics, economic system, delivery of social and health services, the unique diversity of Ecuadorian citizens, and individual and family life. Readings selected as part of the pre-trip assignments will provide some of the basic knowledge that will help students gain more meaning from the lectures given by Ecuadorian experts and visits to hospitals and social service agencies. Our goal is that students learn to demonstrate knowledge of social development and policy issues in Ecuador, such as poverty alleviation, child-welfare, non-formal education, prostitution, HIV-AIDS, and multicultural aspects of healthcare in the Ecuadorian context, throughout the trip and upon the group’s return. Students also will be asked to compare the Ecuadorian social welfare system with that of the U.S. or their country of origin.

One such way of understanding the cultural diversity, home life and people of Ecuador will be through home stays in groups with Quichua indigenous families. This is a unique experience in Latin America and a highlight for students. Participants will stay within an indigenous community and have an opportunity to analyze traditional Ecuadorian family systems, especially gender and age-related roles. A second experience with an Afro-indigenous group north of Quito will also be planned. Students will develop ethnographic skills in recording ongoing observations in the form of a daily site journal.


Other experiences include shopping at a traditional open air market in Otovalo and lectures presented by local human service agencies that address issues of victimization through human trafficking, and the spread of infectious disease such as HIV. Additional visits to social service agencies in the northern highlands and such places as local public and private hospital clinics will be made to investigate methods of healthcare delivery used in Ecuador. Another highlight for many students has been a visit to a center for families of young boys that work in the streets of Quito to make money for their families. The center is called the Working Boys Center and is quite unique in its philosophy and service delivery.

Another highlight of this trip is an excursion to the rainforest where we explore a different Ecuadorian lifestyle influenced by the native people, flora, fauna and medical practices. We usually hike, visit the Amazon, and take a canoe ride down the Napo River, which is a tributary to the Amazon River. Students will have a chance to interface with a native healer and participate in a service project. The stay is centered around a community-based resort called Lyarina.

There will be other opportunities to sightsee, with visits to the equator, cultural museums, horseback riding, and hikes to volcanoes and mountains. You will have free time in Quito to also explore on your own.

A good site to check out prior to travel is, a government website that provides information on current travel policies. This site has information on crime, safety, and health in the region, and provides a lot of useful information. Your challenge as a student of this class will be to integrate theoretical, observational, and didactic components of the program to gain a rounded intercultural perspective of each of the topic areas within the country. This includes describing public and private social service systems in Quito and describing the historical, cultural, political and economic factors that shape Ecuador. Students will also identify important similarities and differences between policy, practice, history, cultural attitudes, and morality in the United States and Ecuador.

  • Limoncocha Biological Reserve – refuge for Ecuador’s Amazonian biodiversity and place for wildlife sighting
  • Antisana Volcano – main refuge for the Andean Condor
  • Oyacachi Quichua – community in the southeastern slopes of Cayambe Volcano with highland ecosystems and hot springs pools
  • Otavalo, Cotacachi & Runatupari – community eco-tourism project
  • El Chota – afro-ecuadorian community
  • Casa Covi – projects for homeless children
  • Casa Gabriel – helping youth at risk become successful Christian leaders in their home, church, community and world
  • One Stop Women’s Center – projects on human rights, women & violence

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