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Department Spotlight

Athletic-Training Student Works as Physical Therapy Assistant in Ecuador

While most college students spent the summer working to earn money, sophomore athletic-training student Cynthia Wright was volunteering as a physical therapy assistant at a missionary hospital, Hospital Vozandes-Quito, in Quito, Ecuador, for nine weeks. She assisted with basic rehabilitation, therapeutic modalities, exercises and acute care for orthopedic conditions.

"It was a challenge, especially with language and cultural differences, but it was rewarding; and the people were wonderful," Wright says.

Wright was part of a mission organization called HCJB World Radio, which has worked in Ecuador for many years. The organization's main focus is providing Christian radio broadcasting, including evangelical radio programs and pastoral courses, in the native languages of the Ecuadorians.

Russell Richardson, associate professor of kinesiology/athletic training at Whitworth, says Wright's work in the hospital sharpened her skills as a practitioner and helped her define herself as a Christian athletic trainer.

"The most direct benefit of Cynthia's experience was the deepening of her commitment to serve all of humankind," Richardson says. "She has a hunger and thirst to care for those in need. She developed skills through her experience that forced her to be creative in her application of rehabilitation because the hospital had limited resources."

Wright and her group also spent several weekends working with the Quichua, the largest minority group in Ecuador, in communities near the city of Riobamba. The group led games for the children, and music and worship services for everyone in the communities. The HCJB has been ministering to the Quichua and working to provide them with clean water sources.

"The weekends in those communities were some of the hardest and most gratifying experiences of my life," Wright says. "The hours were long, conditions were dirty, and the food was strange-but the heartfelt appreciation for our efforts, the beauty of helping God's children, and the feeling of being part of something way bigger than myself was life changing."

In their spare time, Wright and the other college students visited the Ecuadorian capital of Quito and attended a soccer game. She values the relationships she formed with several Ecuadorians during her visit.

"Despite occasional language and culture misunderstandings, we found friendship is a universal language, and I ended up learning a lot from several Christian Ecuadorians I met who helped me to see things from a different perspective," Wright says. "Latin culture is very people- and relationship-oriented and I think Americans like myself can learn a lot from it."

Wright's experiences in Ecuador allowed her to combine her interests in the Spanish language, other cultures and athletic training, says Melinda Larson, assistant professor of kinesiology/athletic training at Whitworth.

"Cynthia's seeking out this experience demonstrates her passion for people and her studies as well as her desire to use her talents to serve God," Larson says.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college enrolls 2,200 students in more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs.