Following the visit of our medical team in July, we returned to Honduras in August to work on community development projects.
Upon our arrival in San Marcos, Intibucá, we met a very warm and welcoming community of friends. As we went back and forth through the village, we would pass by a house with four little pals sitting on stone steps. They would call out greetings in Spanish and we would return their greetings in English. To our delight, soon they were shouting out greetings in English! These happy children brought such joy!
As we write below, we are looking forward to returning to San Marcos in December for the installation of the water purification system. We will be participating in a village celebration of gratitude for purified water and health for many more little pals and their families for years to come.
The Water Project
Friends of Honduras has partnered with Living Waters for the World (LWW) to build a water purification and bottling facility in San Marcos. The people of San Marcos are nearing completion on construction of a building that will house the water treatment system. Thus, a primary goal of this trip was to meet with the San Marcos Water Committee to do the critical planning for the administration and operation, and of the water system, as well as for the health education surrounding the proper use and need for purified water. In LWW terms, this is called the “development” trip.
During our three days of meetings with the committee, we made time to visit the construction site to see progress on the water building.
We also conducted tests on the treatment system water source so that the committee members could learn concepts of water quality assessment. The tests also help us to know what type of system can be used (UV or ozone treatment) to purify the water.
Results of the bacterial contamination tests are shown, with contamination indicated (black) for the source of our water. No contamination is indicated (clear-yellow) for a small manual-pumped well nearby.
The health education piece of the project is taught emphasizing two basic themes:
Use of purified water and hand washing.
Fulfilling a promise, we delivered seven additional LEGO Mindstorms Robotics Kits for the fledgling robotics program in the school in Guanacaste. So now with eight kits available, the boys and girls will have a much easier time building their own designs and competing with one another on design challenges. We even provided an infrared emitter ball, so the students can design a robot to play soccer! Many thanks to CBC High School in St. Louis for supplying the kits for Honduras.
The Scholarship Program provides tuition for students in grades 7-12 who would otherwise not be able to attend school past the 6th grade.
While on our trip, we were able to meet with the principal of the school along with each of the eight students whom our program supports. We learned that all of the students walk two hours each day to and from school–except for one student who walks four hours each day. They also work in the fields or sell vegetables after school and on weekends. In spite the hardships, their education is a priority to them.
One of the students, Santos Vasquez is now in the 12th grade. He received an internship to teach beekeeping to local communities.
Another student, Yesenia Bautista is in 8th grade and wants to be a nurse or doctor.
Both have excellent grades and winning personalities. They expressed how grateful they are for the opportunity to continue their education.
St. Vincent de Paul Conferences
The St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP) is a lay Catholic organization that aspires to live the gospel message by serving the poor with love, respect, justice, hope and joy and by working to shape a more just and compassionate society.
For the last year, a group in Guanacaste and one in Aguacate have been in formation to become recognized as formal SVDP groups, or “conferences”. While we were there, leaders of the Honduran SVDP visited and installed both groups as official conferences.
We are very proud of them and their devotion to those in their communities in extreme poverty.
Miguel Manueles has been our Honduran coordinator since our work in the community began nine years ago–when he was just nineteen. During this trip, we were able to attend the wedding of Miguel and his bride, Karla, and experience a traditional Honduran wedding.
One of the wedding traditions is the Lasso Rosary placement, which signifies the unity the couple now shares.
The Friends of Honduras medical/dental brigade returned to Intibucá in July of 2019—this was our 9th brigade to serve the people of Guanacaste; our 4th brigade to Aguacate. We were 22 strong this year—12 from the St. Louis region and 10 Honduran partners.
Over 5 days of clinics, we served over 1,000 patients. Once again, we were able to provide a year’s supply of medicine for patients who would never be able to afford them. What a gratifying experience this has been for three children with chronic illnesses who are now able to attend school. In addition, Beatriz who suffers with rheumatoid arthritis, is now experiencing life without constant pain.
Fabiola Zeron, our Honduran dentist, worked until dark to treat those who would never be able to afford dental care. Teammate Jennifer spent her days giving the children fluoride varnish treatments. And from our pharmacy, every child and adult, once again, received toothbrushes and toothpaste.
During our medical trip in July 2017, we discovered Reynaldo, a little boy from Aguacate with cleft lip and palate. We referred him to Smile Train for specialized surgery. As you can see, Smile Train is truly “Changing the World One Smile at a Time”.
Our partnership with the community of Pimienta, Cortes, Honduras has brought us many blessings. In preparation for this trip, we funded the purchase of 12,000 pounds of beans and rice for distribution to the people of the communities we serve. Dr. Raul Ugarte, physician and mayor of Pimienta, along with volunteers from his community, managed the work of loading, transporting, and processing all of this food.
During our trip in 2018, the community of Aguacate asked for materials to build a new kindergarten. Over the course of the past year, thanks to our generous donors, we were able to raise enough money to purchase the building materials. We have only been back from our trip a month and construction has already begun!
We are so very grateful to all of our generous partners who make this work possible, including:
- Smile Train international children’s charity
- Kingsway Charities medicines and medical supplies
- Americares Medical Outreach for their material contributions
- Goldsmith MediCenter Pharmacy provider of affordable seizure and arthritis medicines
- Blessings International provider of low-cost medicines for missions
We reminisced how three years ago we rejoiced when the village finally had water.
The water flows into an open cistern in the center of the village. And even though there is water, it is not clean and the flow is inconsistent. The water committee tested the water for hardness and purity to determine what system would work best.
Equally as important as having clean water is knowing when and how to use it. Day two was focused on health education with a “teach-the-teacher” course. The course uses fun techniques such as songs, plays, and stories to emphasize proper water usage and good hand washing technique. Learning and laughter are a great combination.
On July 13, 2018, the Medical/Dental/Chiropractic Team of the Friends of Honduras departed from the San Pedro Sula International Airport for the Honduran State of Intibucá. We were a group of 24—14 from Missouri and 10 Honduran partners. This was our 8th clinical trip to Guanacaste; our 3rd to Aguacate.
The health transformation of the remote community of Guanacaste is tremendous. Our annual fluoride varnish treatments of the children’s teeth, as well as the provision of toothbrushes and toothpaste, has meant fewer caries and extractions in the pediatric population. Although food insecurity is still the norm, the poultry project and community garden have reduced the number of swollen bellies in the children—there are none! Every member of the community receives 6-12 months of vitamins. Because all of the reproductive age women receive adequate folic acid, we’ve seen a huge improvement in the health of the newborns.
We provide enough medication to manage chronic illnesses for a full year—until our return. Denia, age 8, has not had a seizure in 2 years; Seily, age 6, has had her thyroid medicine without interruption.
All day long, as we worked to care for chronic muscle pain (thank goodness for Dr. Alex Gafford, our chiropractor), joint pain (Drs. Treena Sturgeon and Michael Donovan performed numerous knee injections), and stomach upset (everyone was treated for parasites); as we treated acute illnesses like pneumonia and injuries needing sutures; as our dentist, Fabiola Zeron, provided excellent anesthetic for extractions (no screaming!), we listened to the children swinging, swinging, swinging on their new playground equipment.
Our care for the community of Aguacate is structured the same as that for Guanacaste. After three years, we do see improvement in the health of the community—but the dental health is poorer, the food vulnerability is greater, and the birth rate is higher than in Guanacaste. We still have our work to do.
In Aguacate, there have been important successes. Maria S. is having fewer seizures—this year, we increased the dose of her medication. Dr. Sturgeon made her second annual home visit to see Maria C. H., age 79, who has had a stroke. Maria is taking her aspirin and her Metoprolol and her blood pressure is better; she was sitting in the sun and smiling.
Last year, we partnered with Smile Train to help Reynaldo—a six year old resident of Aguacate who had a double cleft lip and palate. He’s doing well, and should have his final surgical repair in October.
During the course of our five days of clinical care, we had the privilege of serving about 1000 unique individuals — the word gets out about our presence, and families walk for hours (literally) to seek our services.
Caring for the poorest of the poor, in the middle of nowhere, is an extraordinary experience. Every member of our Team feels grateful for the opportunity.
The Water Purification Project
We are pleased to report that after many years of effort, we signed an agreement with Guanacaste to build a Living Waters for the World purification facility in the village. This will finally allow the distribution of clean bottled water to every household. The projected completion date of this project is July, 2019.
Friends of Honduras delivered the first of six LEGO Mindstorms Robotics kits and laptop computers to Guanacaste for STEM/robotics education. This is a cooperative effort with Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis and the Greater St. Louis Eagle Scouts. This endeavor is surely a first for such a remote region of Honduras.
The Swing Set
It took us a year, the help of a drilling team in Houston, and a Dole banana boat to stage all of the parts of the swing set. Together with the villagers we worked in rain and mud for two days to complete a beautiful, red, yellow and blue swing set for the children. Mud didn’t stop the elation, pure joy and squeals of delight as the children tried out swinging for the first time. Parents, teachers and the swing set crew equally shared those feelings as everyone stood watching the children enjoy their new playground fun equipment.
The Food Storage Warehouse
As part of our trip, we were able to celebrate the completion of the food storage warehouse. This project came about as a request of the villagers. Previously rice and beans had been stored in one of the classrooms. Besides taking up classroom space, the food had to be stored adjacent to open windows leaving it exposed to excess moisture. Thanks to generous donors, we were able to fund the construction of the warehouse, which included space for future teachers’ office expansion. We are proud of the skilled village craftsman who once again displayed their expertise in construction of the warehouse.
The Village of Aguacate
We are just in the initial stages of extending community development to the village of Aguacate. While we were in Honduras, we were able to visit the village and meet the village leaders as well as the deacon of the church for a discussion of this endeavor. We hope to be able to raise enough funds to extend more help for this very deserving village.
The Medical and Dental Team
The Medical and Dental Team arrived in Honduras July 14th and are on their way to both Guanacaste and Aguacate for their medical and dental clinics. We will have their update on the clinics and their many adventures coming soon! We wish them a safe, happy and productive trip!
Friends of Honduras forms partnership with Christian Brothers College High School-St Louis and Greater St Louis Boy Scout Eagle Project to deliver STEM opportunities to remote Honduran communities. We’re bringing 6 LEGO Mindstorm Robotics kits and laptop computers on the May 2018 Community development team trip.