By Mariane Durivage, Project Leader
This summer, six third-year physiotherapy students at Université de Montréal and their team leader flew to Ecuador as part of the Québec sans frontières(QSF) program for a cultural experience focused on social inclusion.
The group quickly realized the magnitude of the challenge and made social inclusiona priority during its mandate in the field with the Unidad Educativa Especializada Nuestra Señora del Carmen, a specialized institution that offers young people with various disabilities an adapted learning environment. The school staff avidly promotes social inclusion as well, and the entire project was designed and adapted for the unique clientele with which the group was working, so everyone could participate and feel like they belonged.
Awareness workshops in regular and specialized schools, workshops on healthy lifestyles for students and parents, and activities to get kids moving were developed for everybody; the young people’s physical and intellectual traits never prevented them from participating.
The experience gained by the UdeM students in this different yet stimulating cultural context was emotional and filled with discoveries. Complete immersion helped them better understand what life is like for the Ricaurte community, which hosted the group for 65 days. The field partner took them to visit a banana plantation, where they learned how damaging the industry is for the local population, as well as a cocoa farm. They also took part in traditional celebrations and day-today activities. It was an eye-opening experience, the kind that makes people rethink how they live their lives and even who they are.