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Teen looks forward to trip helping others in Ecuador

July 08, 2005|by HEATHER KEELS

MIDDLETOWN, MD.

heatherk@herald-mail.com

When 16-year-old Megan Wiles boards a plane for Ecuador on July 29, she will be carrying a camera, a journal, a change of clothes and a suitcase full of medicine and supplies.

When she returns two weeks later, the camera and the journal are the only things she expects to bring back.

Everything else, she said, she expects to leave with the families she is helping in the small town of Tosagua, where she and a team of doctors, nurses and other volunteers will be visiting on a Health for Humanity service mission.

"We're supposed to keep all our stuff down to a minimum because we won't be on a very big airplane," she said. "I've heard stories that you take a couple of pairs of clothes and stuff, but you come back with one outfit. You leave everything else."

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Many teenagers would balk at spending two weeks of their summer vacation working without air conditioning within 100 miles of the equator, but not Megan. The Middletown teen jumped at the opportunity to join her mother, nurse Kae Wiles, on the mission because she thought it would be good training for her future career as a nurse.

"I'm nervous about being so far away from home, but I'm excited to see what it's like in another culture," Megan said, adding that she thinks she will miss television and air conditioning the most.

"It's just kind of an eye-opening experience, seeing what all we take for granted," she said.

Frederick pediatrician Dr. Nahid Sobhani, the mission's leader and the Tosagua clinic's founder, said the group will visit hospitals, giving vaccinations and educating people about hygiene in an area with a high rates of diabetes, tuberculosis and heart disease.

For the last six years, Sobhani has visited the clinic alone each summer, but this year, she said she's happy to have a team of helpers. She plans to teach Megan how to put medicine together for colds, diarrhea and infections and let her help give lessons in hygiene.

"Because it's the first time she's coming, I think she mostly would be observant," Sobhani said.

Megan, who will be a senior at Middletown High School next year, said she will keep a diary of her trip and take pictures for a slide show as part of her senior project for school, for which students are supposed to use their skills to help the community. She said she hopes to document differences between life in America and in Ecuador, including "how they struggle for everything."

Megan said she has worked in a food shelter, but has never done volunteer work abroad. Next year, she will volunteer in nursing homes as part of the school's Career Tech Center nursing program. After she graduates, she hopes to attend Frederick Community College.

"I always wanted to do nursing," she said. "I like helping people."

In her spare time, Megan said she enjoys playing volleyball, swimming and skiing, going to the beach, and anything that gets her outdoors. She recently returned from a camping trip in Tennessee.

Sobhani said she thinks the Ecuador mission will be an educational and inspiring experience for Megan.

"It's quite rewarding, you know, you do something for someone," she said. "You give your services, which they all need."

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