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Graduate student discusses her research on health in Ecuador [SLIDESHOW]

Ohio University second-year doctoral student Diana Marvel conducted research in rural Ecuador during summer 2013.

She was the program assistant for the Service-Learning in Ecuador program led by Pete Mather, coordinator for Ohio University's Higher Education and Student Affairs program and Mario Grijalva, director of Ohio University's Tropical Disease Institute.  

The Tropical Disease Institute at Ohio University seeks to improve the health status of underserved populations through sustainable and comprehensive research, service and educational initiatives related to infectious diseases. Since the Institute was founded in 1987, their service has produced the initiation of Chagas disease control and T. cruzi blood screening programs in rural Ecuador.

In these programs there was an intentional, appreciative approach to service-learning and community building.  

"In the service-learning program we engaged in appreciative conversations with community members that focused on community strengths and assets rather than community deficits," Marvel said. "This is significant because the communities are underserved and under resourced."

In high poverty communities, Marvel said there can be a tendency to focus on what's lacking rather than what is present and thriving.  

The project engaged the communities of Bella Maria, Guara, and Chaquizhca in an Asset-Mapping process. This process included creating a map of the infrastructural assets of the community as well as the skills, interests and resources individuals possess.

Through interviews, mapping exercises and participant observation, data on individuals' skills, interests and resources were collected by Catholic University of Ecuador to ultimately create a composite Asset Map. The map is being used to inform the future action lines of the Healthy Living Initiative.

According to Marvel, the curricular focus of this program is service learning pedagogy and rural community development.

"Through service work, reflection and discussion, students in the program learn about service learning practice, but they also grapple with issues of poverty and economic development," she said.

To hear Marvel talk about her work in Ecuador, watch the video above. For more information about the Tropical Disease Institute, visit http://www.oucom.ohiou.edu/tdi/