The COVID pandemic created hardships throughout the world. We all endured some pain, but we learned many things as well. In our Honduran villages, thanks to constant communication, we learned that even though we couldn’t be there physically, we could continue our work and help our brothers and sisters through the crisis.
Because of quarantine restrictions, our Honduran friends could not get out and purchase any food. We were able to send funds so that food could be purchased in bulk and distributed to those so desperate to receive it. In addition to two food distributions financed by the medical team, our community development team was able to provide funds twice for the purchase of beans, rice, corn, lard, sugar and coffee. Miguel Manueles, our in-country director, formed a team and distributed these critical items in the communities.
During a visit to the village of Aguacate in 2018, we noticed the local church was crumbling and in very poor condition. We took photos and upon our return home, we raised funds to rebuild it. The community all pitched in to complete needed repairs during the pandemic, and St. Vincent de Paul Church is now restored as a beautiful place of worship.
In 2021 the community of Guanacaste also requested help to perform much-needed repairs to their church. Again, due to the generosity of our donors for this project, and the hard work of the community, Our Lady of Suyapa Church has been revitalized.
During the first year of community development in 2013, we received a photo of baby Maria Melania playing on the dirt floor of her shack-home in Guanacaste. There are many poor housing conditions in Honduras, but this one especially played on our minds. We were relieved to learn that Maria Geraldina, the mother of Maria Melania and her two sisters, were able to move into the home of a relative. However, four years later, her relatives no longer had room for them and they needed to move. Maria Geraldina had no place to go with her family. We sent out an appeal to our donors, and we were able to fund the purchase of land and the construction of a new home. On Christmas 2020 the family moved into the new home that they now own. Maria Geraldina soon put in a vegetable garden that now provides enough food for them and even some extra to sell.
Access to water is always a struggle in the villages. When the only water pipeline in a community breaks, this is a serious problem. When we heard about this situation in the village of El Paterno, we recognized the urgent need and quickly responded with our support. We purchased a mile of new pipeline, and the community pitched in to install it. Life-saving water once again flows in El Paterno.
During 2020-2021 we continued to actively support our new water purification plant in San Marcos, providing inspections, training, and system upgrades. We led a major upgrade with the addition of a sediment tank to aid in the treatment of turbid water that occurs during the rainy system. The plant initiated delivery of water to distribution points using their local taxis. We conducted site assessments in two additional communities to explore the possibility of sponsoring additional purification plants. Our partners in the Living Waters for the World Honduran network provided crucial support in these efforts. Our proudest moment occurred when we were able to provide purified water to our own medical brigade that visited in 2021!
The village of Guanacaste is the poorest of our villages and lacks even the basics for their school. Each year we provide the students the necessary supplies and books. Each student receives a new uniform and new shoes. It is a joy for the children to receive these essentials and for us as well, when we see their smiles as they proudly display their new uniforms and shoes.
During the periods when COVID restrictions forced the closure of village schools, Professor Miguel went to each student’s home to deliver their schoolwork and materials. He spent time teaching the students and visiting their families.
Thanks to the WhatsApp instant messaging service, we are able to keep in touch with Miguel, our in-country director, on a daily basis. We never know what needs our communities may have for which we might be able to respond. But we are grateful to be a part of their lives and fortunate to be able to call them amigos. (20-23)
On the first day of our medical and dental clinics, five 4×4 trucks nearly overflowing with medicine, medical and dental supplies, and food traveled cautiously down the mountainous, rocky terrain to reach our first village. As the first truck approached the village, the sound of fireworks greeted us. Children lined both sides of the entrance waving balloons and cheering while the adults clapped. After the last truck passed, the children and their families embraced us with great joy. This is a scene that has played outwith the same intensity for sixteen years, and that moves us to return.
After a two-year Covid-enforced absence, our medical/dental brigade finally returned to Intibucá, Honduras in July. This was our 10th brigade to serve the people of Guanacaste, and our 5th trip to Aguacate. This year we were 24 strong—12 from the U.S. and 12 partners, including our two dentists, from Honduras. Besides our team of four doctors, four nurses, and two dentists, we were supported by five translators, four pharmacy workers, and five drivers–each performing roles critical to the success of our mission.
During our 5, 11-hour days of clinic, we again served over 1000 patients. Our last trip had been in July of 2019. At that time,we had left a full year of chronic medicines for patients with epilepsy, heart disease, hypertension and other chronic illnesses. We tried desperately to fill the gap of our absence over the last 12 months. In the fall of 2020, we had the opportunity to send a shipment of materials, including medications and vitamins, to Honduras. Sadly, many of our gifts for our patients were destroyed by hurricanes Eta and Iota. And we observed the difference that our absence made.
Nine-year-old Seily, who was born without a functional thyroid, must have missed doses of her thyroid medicine. For the first time in years, her measured thyroid blood tests were abnormal. Maria was running low on her epilepsy medicine and was again having seizures.But thankfully we made the trip this year. We were masked and vaccinated,and we had plenty of masks for our patients, as well. And when we left, Seily and Maria, and all of our other patients with chronic illnesses, were left with the medications that they needed.
Upon our return to Intibucá, we were also met with evidence of our many successes. Beatriz’s painful Rheumatoid Arthritis remains improved because of the medications that we provide. Sweet Reynaldo greeted us with his beautiful smile—thanks to the cleft lip and palate repair performed by Smile Train.
Because of the communities’ access to clean water, thanks to the cooperation of Friends of Honduras and Living Waters for the World, we saw far fewer children with the painful bellies that come from parasites. Every eligible person was treated for parasites, but the need for the medication was less desperate than in previous years.
As always, preventive health is one of our top priorities. We provide dental varnish to all the children and diligently teach about proper dental care. We educate about the dangers of excessive coffee intake, especially for the children, and the need to increase the intake of clean water. We provide vitamins and beans, rice, eggs and milk to help improve the health of every person we see. We prioritize making extra resources available to the pregnant and nursing mothers and the families with larger numbers of children.
The five days of clinic passed quickly, and since our return we reflect on the mission trip and what experiences touched our hearts…the 86-year-old grandmother carrying her baby grandson on her back so that he could receive treatment, the 70-year-old woman that walked to our clinic for 6 hours one way with a homemade cane, the three-year-old boy with cleft lip that is being referred to Smile Train and will receive the treatment he needs. And mostly the long lines of villagers hoping and praying to be seen and find relief. We are proud that each one of them received the best care and love we had to offer.
Every year we leave with a sense of accomplishment, exhaustion and gratitude. And this year was no different. We are determined that we will return to our patients and friends, who are the citizens of Guanacaste and Aguacate, in 2022.
Abbe & Marilyn organize medical records for next year!
Water System Installation Trip Report
December 2-6, 2019
The Installation of the Water Purification System
December marked the culmination of over seven years of effort in locating a water source and a willing community partner to produce purified water for the people we serve. Friends of Honduras (FoH) installed a water purification system in San Marcos de la Sierra, Intibucá, Honduras.
San Marcos was chosen because it had access to a reliable water supply, and because of its enthusiastic support for the project. The installed system produces bulk purified bottled water based upon a design developed by Living Waters for the World (LWW).
LWW trained, equipped, and supported FoH in this clean-water partnership with San Marcos. San Marcos built a facility to house the system, and FoH provided the systems components, management & operation training, and health education supporting the installation.
In three busy days of work performed by community volunteers and supervised by LWW FoH staff, the entire system was assembled, installed, connected, tested, and brought into live production. A significant advantage of placing the system in San Marcos is that it will also be able to serve the nearby villages of Guanacaste and Aguacate.
Photo Above: Operators install system components
Photo Above: Operators install water tank piping
The Health Education
Living Waters for the World health education classes are taught using a teach-the-teacher style. We taught the lessons to the new teachers in the morning, and they repeated the lessons to the village students in the afternoon.
Photo Above: New teachers eagerly practice their skills
Photo Above: The students enjoying their classes
Two main concepts are emphasized: how and when to use purified water, and good hand-washing technique. The lessons are interesting, fun, and engaging.
Photo Above: UV light reveals hand-washing success
Photo Above: Banner is a tribute to new village educators
Celebrating the Water Project
Sheer joy and gratitude was shared by all during our celebration on the final day of the installation of this project. All three villages came together to celebrate the new water facility and to get their first taste of the purified water.
Photo Above: Water system in operation
Photo Above: Ribbon cutting at water system building
Photo Above: Trained operators receive recognition
Photo Above: Village celebrates with a toast of purified water
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.
- 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.