At 9 a.m., PJ, Luis and I crammed into a a dusty red pick-up truck. An hour and a half later, we arrived in Galte Yaguachi, an indigenous community swallowed by hills and clouds in the Chimborazo region where MEDLIFE Ecuador is expanding the community's one-room schoolhouse. Over 90 children receive their primary education here, from first through sixth grade. When we arrived, a crowd of small children in red wool ponchos were giggling and tumbling over one another, precariously balancing metal mugs of a nutritional, sweet, light gray-colored drink made of quinoa. But the community seemed emptier than usual. Apparently an indigenous festival drew many of the adults to another side of Guamote.

Guamote update1 family1That's where Maria Antonia Yasaca Ortiz's husband, Carlos Puculpala Pucuha, was. She is a 27-year-old mother of three young children (above) who attend gradeschool in their community. Her family works in agriculture, like the majority of those living in Yaguachi. She spoke softly and tended to look at her feet when interviewed, but wrangled her children into a line for a photograph like an expert sheep herder. Maria spoke to us in the local language, Quichua, about how the school is terribly overcrowded. She said she would love to see all of the children be able to learn in the schoolhouse.

Manuel portraitManuel Yasaea Ortiz, 36, expressed similar concerns, though not for his own three children, who are teen-aged and attending school further away at the Unidad Educativa Nacion Puruhua. Manuel has three small cousins who attend school in Galte Yaguachi, and he worries for them, loudly and eloquently in Spanish. He said that the schooling opportunities there were seriously lacking, especially for any child who wants to enter into a profession outside of agriculture. Manuel excitedly talked about how grateful the community was for the new construction. In fact, he was so elated, he heartily volunteered to repeat exactly what he said in Spanish in Quichua as well, with the same enthusiasm and booming voice.

School construction in Galte Yaguachi is set to begin in about two weeks, on November 26th, 2012. The community has two months to complete the project, which will be a large, one room school situated next to a line of three new bathroom stalls also made possible by MEDLIFE Ecuador. Once built, the school will more than double the amount of space for students in the community.

Rachel Hoffman is a MEDLIFE year-long media intern working out of Riobamba, Ecuador

September 3, 2012 11:23 am

MEDLIFE School Project: Cumanda

Written by Rosali Vela


Written by Martha Chicaiza, Director of MEDVIDA Ecuador; Translated into English by Laura Keen, MEDLIFE year-round intern in Lima, Peru

At the swelling feet of the central Andes and off the shores of the Chimbo River lies the Municipality of Cumanda, Ecuador, a three-hour drive from Riobamba. Within this subtropical region around 400 families comprise the population of the small village of Valle Alto.

Only one open-air schoolhouse exists to serve the entire community. Its wooden reed structure and lack of walls leaves students susceptible to the elements, forcing classes to be canceled on rainy days. Community leaders and parents here have solicited MEDLIFE's help in the construction of a small classroom (and if our budget allows it, an accompanying sanitary bathroom) that would almost double the enrollment capacity of the school from 85 children to up to 150.


July 1, 2011 11:35 am

Telan Playa Classroom Project

Written by Administrator

The construction of a classroom for a rural schoolhouse in Telan Playa, Ecuador marked the birth of the MEDLIFE Fund. From that point onward, MEDLIFE sought out additional sustainable development projects in Peru and Ecuador, and promised to commit 100% of all public donations and student chapter fundraising towards such projects. Read the complete story of the Telan Playa schoolroom project below:


On March 10, 2010 MEDLIFE student volunteers from the University of Vermont and the University of Pennsylvania, accompanied by MEDLIFE staff and medical professionals, traveled to the remote village of Telan Playa to provide individuals and families in need with Mobile Clinic medical services. To reachTelan Playa, the group took an hour-long bus ride from the nearby city of Riobamba, continuing for a short hike on foot when the road became impassable. Upon arriving at the rural schoolhouse where the Clinic was to take place, the student volunteers were warmly greeted by the local K-8 students and their two teachers.

As children filed out of the schoolroom, this greeting exposed the volunteers to an unfortunate reality of the educational infrastructural in Telan Playa. 55 children, ages 5 to 13, were tightly packed into a single, small classroom. Our volunteers learned that the two teachers had been delivering lesson plans simultaneously, from opposite sides of the room. Our student volunteers immediately recognized that the existing setup did not allow these two teachers to provide quality, focused instruction to their students.

MEDLIFE conducted a successful Mobile Clinic that day, providing care to many of the students and to a total of 64 residents of Telan Playa. The group of volunteers returned to Riobamba that evening. Our students, however, were unwilling to sit idly by while the children and teachers of Telan Playa struggled to get by with inadequate resources. They were not about to let MEDLIFE's aid to Telan Playa end with the completion of their week-long Mobile Clinic.

28-2Returning home, these students took matters into their own hands, organizing nationwide fundraising events at MEDLIFE chapters across the USA. By April 24, just 6 weeks after our students visited Telan Playa for the first time, MEDLIFE student members had fundraised enough money to build a second classroom for the school.

MEDVIDA staff in Ecuador, spurred by the injection of funds and enthusiasm from these motivated students, immediately set to work on the project. Martha Chicaiza, Director of MEDVIDA Ecuador, led the charge by coordinating MEDLIFE's efforts with that of the local community leaders and Ecuador's Ministry of Health. MEDLIFE broke ground on the project site in May 2010, and the schoolroom was inaugurated with a visit by MEDLIFE founder Nick Ellis in July 2010. The schoolroom has been operational since the start of the 2010-2011 school year. 

On future Mobile Clinic visits to Telan Playa, our student volunteers are no longer greeted by the disturbing sight of 55 students squeezed into an undersized classroom. Rather, they now find students and teachers taking advantage of the comfort, amplification, and privacy that their second classroom provides.

MEDLIFE is proud to be continuing our work with local institutions, with the shared goal of delivering higher-quality education to the children of Ecuador.



The Telan Playa classroom project has served as a template for future MEDLIFE Fund projects. Our in-country staff encounters ideas for potential projects while visiting communities during Mobile Clinics. From there, MEDLIFE seeks to engage all stakeholders (local families, community leaders, and government institutions) in implementing a solution. This system has led to the development of projects such as the Pamplona, Lima stairway projects and the Colta bathroom construction projects. In the coming hear we hope to expand the MEDLIFE Fund to include even bigger and more advanced projects!

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