WEEK #74 HOW ARE WE DOING? Thank you Ecuador, almost in Peru

November is already here. October flew by, as most months do during this cycling & charity expedition. I don’t really have a sense of time anymore. The fact that the weather has almost stayed the same the past few months is contributing to this. The only thing changing is my emotional state of mind. It’s gotten stronger and I’ve become more focussed. And I’m going to need it…

At the time of writing I am in south Ecuador. The border with Peru will be reached in a few days, country number 12 since I’ve started cycling some 14 months ago now. When I left I new that Alaska would be a challenge, the first 800 km were unpaved and pretty rough, roller-coaster hills and a lot of differences in temperatures.

Now the Andes are in front of me, actually I’m right in between these huge mountains. The next leg of the cycling challenge will be crossing Peru. The peaks and passes I will come across will reach up to 5000 meters, if not higher at some points. Steep switchbacks, unpaved roads and extreme climate will make it even more challenging. Temperatures can drop to -20ºC and winds can be as strong as hurricanes. My physical, emotional and mental state will be tested once again…

Now I look back at Ecuador, an amazing country with friendly people and beautiful nature. The projects I have visited are very special, as they all are. Villa Ticca in Quito and just recently La Sonrisa Naranja in Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador.

IMG_1658The medical centre in Guayaquil, set-up by Dutch doctor Els van der Linden and her Ecuadorian husband Gonzalo, also doctor, is situated in one of the most deprived areas of Guayaquil. About 40.000 people live here, all of which have little to no access to healthcare, let alone affordable healthcare. Most of their money goes to the schools providing education for their children.

At the clinic, Els and Gonzalo receive many of the locals and not only help them, but whenever they can they educate them too. There is little to no information or knowledge about basic healthcare and nutrition. Through La Sonrisa Naranja the people receive healthcare and education at the same time. That asks for a lot of work, and I witnessed it first hand.
The doctors work Monday-Friday from 08:00 to 21:00 hrs. Also, they are on 24-hour stand-by for any kind of emergency in the neighbourhood. Together with their two children, they live above the clinic, which they built themselves.
They started out in a small room about 7 years ago and now have a full operational clinic complete with two consulting rooms, a waiting room, dental room, pharmacy and laboratory. After asking the doctors what was necessary at the clinic the answer came quickly, a new professional computer and printer for the laboratory. This is to make the workflow at the clinic run smoother and to work more efficient. More patients would be able to be helped in the same amount of time.

Without hesitation 99%RIDE decided to pay for the new equipment. After seeing how hard these people are working and how essential they are in the neighbourhood, we wanted to contribute to their foundation. Els and Gonzalo are an example for others, for young doctors and for medical students. They have set aside their own personal lives to be of service to others. Not many people (can) do this, and they deserve all the respect and gratitude they can get.

Thank you Els, Gonzalo and your family for having me over at your home and the clinic. It was a really busy week yet you still made time for me. I wish you all the best in the coming years and hope to visit you once again.

I would also like to thank all our supporters for making this possible, together we are making a difference.

From Vilcabamba, Ecuador,

Dirk Spits

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