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Traditional Indigenous Midwifery and Amazonian Plant Medicine

Posted by
Amazon Learning | Tena, Provincia de Napo, Ecuador
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Amazon Learning


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Published 28 days ago

40 hours per week

The Amazon rainforest is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world, with over 40,000 plant species and 2.5 million insect species! Also, many species of Amazonian flora and fauna have medicinal properties, and about 25 percent of pharmaceutical drugs are derived from the rainforest. The main indigenous group in the region, the Kichwa nation, is known for their midwives who use natural healing and plant medicine for maternal care and births. Despite the existence of both traditional and Western medicine, this province has disproportionate access to healthcare and a lack of resources for expecting mothers, maternal care, and postpartum care; the province also has higher rates of infant mortality compared to other provinces in Ecuador. 

Interns work with an association of indigenous midwives who are working to preserve their culture and traditional birthing practices by receiving patients, visitors, and volunteers at their birthing center.

Daily Life

Internships begin with an orientation in the city of Tena. After, interns spend the first few weeks getting to know their host family and getting introduced to their placements. Depending on the needs of the placement, potential internship activities include:

  • Shadow the midwives and assist with patient check-ups, births, and postpartum evaluations 
  • Learn about midwifery practices by accompanying the midwives in their daily lives [e.g. when they go into the field, prepare medicine, receive patients, carry-out daily operations at the center]
  • Collaborate on projects with the midwives to get more patients to come to their center [e.g. find ways to subsidize patient care, create promotional or educational material to disseminate, find local midwives who are interested in working at the center, etc.]
  • Support eco-toursim projects and guide visitors as they learn about medicinal plants and traditional midwifery; assist the midwives preparing for visitors by cooking traditional foods, making beds, etc.
  • Identify medicinal plants and learn how they are used for check-ups, births, and postpartum care
  • Learn how to make natural products from plants including salves, tinctures, soaps, and shampoos
  • Contribute to work in the chakra (traditionally-planted agroforestry farm) by planting, weeding, and harvesting

An average day for a midwifery intern looks like: 

***NOTE: Schedules can differ based on the intern’s placement and projects interns collaborate on. The following sample schedule is based off of past interns’ experiences.***

  • Wake up and have breakfast with host family (***If you are with a very traditional indigenous family, you can wake up with them at 4 or 5am and share in the ritual of drinking guayusa tea as a family***)
  • Head to the birthing center around 7:30/8am 
  • Go into the medicinal chakra (agroforestry farm), prepare for visitors, shadow patient check-ups, prepare medicine, etc
  • Free time for making lunch with the midwives, independent research, or research to support on-going projects Lunch with family or at the center (***OR: When interns are in the field they can buy lunch or bring a packed lunch***)
  • Continue research and/or finish up daily tasks. Opportunity to participate in other activities with the midwives and volunteers, such as weaving, cooking, learning Kichwa language, and participating in a dance group
  • Return home around 5/6 pm for dinner with the family (***We encourage interns to spend as many evenings and weekends as possible with their host families to make the most of their immersions, learn about the culture, and practice their Spanish***)
  • Other activities to get involved in after work and on the weekends: sports, clubs, teaching English, meeting up with other interns, going on weekend trips to nearby tourist destinations, swimming in rivers, rafting, hikes to waterfalls and swimming holes, chocolate-making


Interns need to bring extra spending money for their transportation, meals not eaten with the family, and activities and travel outside of the program. The cost of living and transportation costs are explained in more detail in the intern manual provided to incoming participants to help them calculate how much extra money they should bring. 

The Amazon rainforest is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world, with over 40,000 plant species and 2.5 million insect species! Also, many species of Amazonian flora and fauna have medicinal properties, and about 25 percent of…

Details at a glance

  • On-site Location

Benefits

  • Work with an association of indigenous midwives who run their own birthing center. 
  • Live with one of the midwives and her family in a rural community or at the birthing center
  • Gain an understanding of traditional midwifery practices, plant medicine, traditional farming, and indigenous culture
  • Support the birthing center with fundraising and grant writing, tourism, and the elaboration of natural products to sell
  • Collaborate with other health clinics, hospitals, or government public health organizations
  • Research & dissertation support available with partner organizations and universities, if requested.

***NOTE: Specific projects change throughout the year depending on the needs of our partner organizations. The projects interns work on during their internships are based on the organization’s’ immediate needs and workflow.***

  • Work with an association of indigenous midwives who run their own birthing center. 
  • Live with one of the midwives and her family in a rural community or at the birthing center
  • Gain an…

How to Apply

Applications are accepted on a year-round basis, and placement dates can be flexible except for in the Summer. We require a minimum of 4 weeks and recommend 8 to 12 weeks which is what most interns opt for (flexible for a minimum of 2 weeks depending on intern’s qualifications).

Please send your resume, a short cover letter, and answers to the following questions to info@amazonlearning.org:

  • How did you find the internship?
  • Why do you believe you are an excellent fit for this internship?
  • What date range you can start, and for how many weeks can you intern?

Travel & Accommodations

The best airport to fly into is Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) in Quito, Ecuador’s capital. Interns need to arrive to Quito no later than the night before their orientation begins. Quito is only 4 hours from Tena, the main city in the Napo Province. On the morning of orientation, a staff member schedules a taxi to pick interns up and bring them to Tena for training; they just have to pay the driver upon arrival. 

Interns stay in Tena during orientation, and the cost of the accommodation is provided. The rest of the program is spent living with a local host family. This is an amazing opportunity to immerse in the local community, learn about the culture, and practice Spanish. Host families provide 3 meals per day, bedding, and a place to do laundry. 

Requirements

We recommend that interns commit to 8-week internships and have an intermediate level of Spanish proficiency. Interns are expected to finance their own travel costs (international and while in Ecuador).

Other requirements include:

  • Minimum 4 weeks commitment, recommended 8-12 weeks
  • Academic and/or professional experience in the fields of midwifery, pre-medicine, global health, public health, community development, sociology, anthropology, or a related field
  • Full travel & medical insurance
  • Necessary vaccinations
  • Necessary visa costs

Costs

$250 per week

What’s included: 

  • Accommodation during orientation
  • Accommodation and 3 meals a day with a host family. Includes a private room, bathroom, all bedding, and place to do laundry
  • Guided pre-departure preparation
  • In-country orientation that addresses risk management, culture shock, cross-cultural adaptation skills, history/culture/politics of Ecuador and the Amazon, team-building, goal-setting, and more
  • 1:1 check-ins every 2 weeks 
  • 24/7 emergency support
  • Network of doctors, therapists, and Spanish tutors in-country
  • Access to network of experts and information databases for research support  
  • Exit interview and end-of-program reflection
  • Alumni group and future references

Not Included: 

  • Costs of flights and visa
  • Costs of vaccinations
  • $15 per day for food during orientation training
  • Personal transportation
  • Any other activities outside of scheduled program activities (white water rafting, yoga, workshops, guided jungle hikes, etc.)

Applications are accepted on a year-round basis, and placement dates can be flexible except for in the Summer. We require a minimum of 4 weeks and recommend 8 to 12 weeks which is what…

Location

Tena, Provincia de Napo, EC

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