My name is Bella Brandes, I use she/hers pronouns and I’m a Community Health volunteer in Ecuador focusing on HIV education, family planning, water and sanitation education. I graduated from UC Berkeley with honors in 2017, where I completed degrees in Business Administration and Public Health.
I grew up in a mountain town in rural Northern California. My family would have to drive over seventy miles to visit the nearest Starbucks – luckily, we preferred the local Dunns coffee shop – and the population was just over 5,000. I loved being able to swim in the local creek during my lunch break in high school, watching the once-daily, second run movies at the Town Hall theatre at 7PM, and knowing the name of almost everyone I saw at the grocery store.
Next, I lived in an equally small mountainous town – but this time where the foothills of the Andes mountain range meet the vast Amazon rainforest in the little South American country of Ecuador. Today I live in the third-largest city in Ecuador and UNESCO World Heritage Site Cuenca, Ecuador. I’m thrilled to be back in the big city and explore a different subculture of Ecuador.
I share my adventures with my adopted calico kitten, Mayu. In the local indigenous language, Kichwa, Mayu means “river” – perfect for a cat growing up in a community surrounded by raging rivers.
I created this blog to share my stories in the Peace Corps with my friends and family back home. I hope you enjoy!