Christmas Throughout The Year


Christmas is coming…how do you feel? The other day I was asked, “are you stressed by what to buy for Christmas? and I could honestly say, “no.” It’s not that I don’t look forward to buying gifts for my family and friends and watching their reactions when they open the presents (and hopefully like them). I enjoy letting others know I am thinking of them, and they are special to me. But, I also know they are often  just “things” and  last temporarily.

Maybe this feeling is just something that happens as we get older? The days have long since past when I searched the Sears Wish Book and wrote my long list to Santa. Or more significantly, I believe it’s how my experiences in Honduras have enlightened me. Every visit teaches me more about others, as well as, myself.

My daily thoughts drift to my Honduran friends. They have made the greatest impact in my life…the way I think, the way I act and react in different situations, and certainly what I value in my life. I continually catch myself thinking how trivial many things are in my life…”what should I make for dinner?” “which is the better medicine?” “what should I buy someone for Christmas?”

These types of “dilemmas” would never cross the minds of people in Honduras. I certainly shouldn’t think of these situations as stressful and be reminded how fortunate I am…my friends in Honduras couldn’t comprehend these scenarios and certainly would be grateful to be in my position.

My experiences in Honduras are lasting gifts and ones I treasure throughout the year, not just at Christmas time. Thank you to all who continually teach me life changing lessons. Merry Christmas!

Packing For Honduras

Honduran Hospital

In less than a week, we will be on our way to Honduras. For the past several months we have been collecting school supplies, footwear and medical supplies. I have certainly learned the “art of packing” and remove any excess packing materials, pack in lightweight canvas bags and fill each one to exactly 50 lbs. (our heavy stuff goes in the carry-ons!) We are allowed one checked bag for free but pay the additional fee ($50.00 each) to bring 2 extras…far cheaper than sending by mail, and generally, reliable.

Part of the packing process is assessing which items are the greatest priority. Certainly medical supplies comes to the top of the list and we will be carrying medicine and equipment. However, one item we are unable to take and is greatly needed is oxygen. I just read a report that Mario Catarino Rivas, a large public hospital in San Pedro Sula is currently without oxygen. Not only elective surgeries, but emergency surgeries are cancelled. The issue is a supply problem… the hospital is in debt to its only supplier. This just adds another element to the long list of problems with the healthcare system… chronic shortage of medicine, equipment and supplies, along with striking doctors.

Hopefully, we’ll stay healthy during our trip and fortunately, we have the means to receive private care. We’re certainly in the minority  for this privilege.

Why We Do What We Do

People often ask why we keep going back to Honduras, especially with how dangerous it has become. This letter from Iris Maria is one of the many examples of how rewarding our work can be. Only part of Emily getting to hear the letter for the first time was caught on video. However,  Laura Sierra who is reading the letter, was nice enough to translate the whole thing which you can read below.

This is for someone very special who has stayed recorded in my mind and in my heart and a person that I will never forget until the day that I depart this earth.

Hello Emily,

You know, I want you to know that there is someone who loves you very much. In my heart, there is something very special for you. You are an angel sent from God into my life. I will never forget that date… Tom especially, November 25th, 2008 when we met. Thank the lord our creator from the sky, that today I can run and walk. I’ve suffered, I have cried, I have been rejected but today I can say that there is hope. And this for me is a triumph. The same for you as well. I wish with all my heart that God keep you and your family safe in your travels. And that you guys continue to be prosperous in all that you do. God almighty on this day I ask that you give Emily and her family strength and that everyday you be her helper and illuminate her path. Bless their hands and their feet because they bring blessings to many. Thank you God because that is the way it will be. Amen. I want to say that I don’t have any money to repay you but I do have something that is very secure, and that is my heart. Full of sweetness. Now I ask that you never forget me, where ever you go please. Keep me in your thoughts and in your heart. That will make me stronger and it will show me that you guys will never be ashamed of me. Some day you will see that I will triumph.

Thank you Emily.
Iris maria Mendoza
Page 1 of Iris' Letter
Page 2 of Iris' Letter
Page 3 of Iris' Letter

More Updates From Honduras

Recently we have posted Emily with Ostinabout Ostin, a baby with lymphatic malformation in the face, who has received an experimental drug called OK-432 from Japan. Yesterday, Emily traveled to San Pedro Sula with him to visit his doctor. He received an ultrasound and we are happy to report that since his first injection there has been a 60% improvement in his condition! His next injection will be Monday.

While in San Pedro Sula, Emily met with Peggy Kipps of the Ruth Paz Foundation and got to visit local hospitals and doctors. The Ruth Paz Foundation has been an extremely helpful partner to Esperanza over the years and has significantly expanded our medical network within Honduras.

Emily also met with Hector Fonseca MD, a pediatric cardiologist we trust and he gave her a cd of a child who needs to go to the US. We also have another serious heart case of a 7 month old that Emily is pursuing help from a heart brigade in San Pedro Sula, otherwise he will need to come to the US.

Other cases being worked on at the moment include a patient who lost his eye sight 6 years ago from a machete accident. He needs an evaluation and possibly a prosthetic eye like Vanessa. We also have a 10 year old needing surgery on his testicles as soon as possible and have the best surgeon in Honduras lined up if a brigade cannot do it next week.

Ana is currently working her tail off between helping Esperanza and a group from Michigan who is running medical clinics in Honduras. Once again it’s being shown how hard she works and how much we depend on her!

On a sadder note, Peggy has informed us that all but one of the people from the prison fire who were hospitalized in Tegucigalpa have died. The level of medical care is just so much worse compared to the US, but this also shows why we need to continue to work hard in Honduras.

Will continue to update as I receive more information from Emily and Tom.

The More I Learn, The Less I Know

I often find myself reflecting on words of wisdom from Ana. She has told me before, ¨Emily, you will see the situation differently when you stay here for longer periods of time. People´s lifestyles will drive you crazy. They will be doing the same thing every day…watching t.v.¨It´s a sharp contrast to Ana who is in constant motion, with a racing mind whose words can´t keep up, and she often stops mid sentence and asks, ¨what were we talking about?¨Ana is so driven to help others, believing it is her responsibility to serve.

Even though Tom and I spent a month here from mid October to mid November, Ana is correct and I am seeing things in a new light. Our previous visit was consumed with projects around the house, patients to care for, families to visit, homework with the children, and new places to visit. This time I am here for 12 days before Tom´s arrival and I have had the opportunity to witness more deeply the reality of people´s lives. I am watching in depth their daily struggles for survival, and it´s wearing.

People often ask me, ¨are the people in Honduras happy?” I still don´t know how to answer that because I realize that people act differently when I am around. Although I´ve known many for years, there´s still so much I don´t know about their lives, feelings and dreams.

And yes, most of the people are doing the same thing day after day…and it´s difficult to know whether people lack initiative to change their lives or are stuck because they lack the knowledge, or there simply aren´t viable options. The resources here are so limited….in Flores, there is no playground or library. People suffer from boredom and the feeling spreads, and it is palpable. It is no wonder that people ¨escape¨with drugs and alcohol, and get sucked into gangs and violence.

Tom arrives tomorrow and I´m anxiously awaiting his arrival. I am grateful to have had the chance of being here alone because it is only through the experience that I truly could have learned. I look forward to being together and sharing the day´s events, and having someone else to lean on.

Update on Ostin

Ana and Ostin

This afternoon I received a text message from Peggy Kipps (Ruth Paz Foundation) that the long awaited drug (OK-432) has safely arrived from Japan. I was filled with both excitement and relief, and immediately called Ana (Hernandez) to share the news. Tom, Ana and I had been discussing this case last night because Ostin’s mother, Carla, had called to say Ostin was having more difficulty breathing. Tom was concerned that his fear Ostin would suffocate, was becoming a reality.

Ana, her sister, and a doctor from Flores went to Ostin’s house to share the news that help was on its way. The extended family gathered round, rejoicing in praise, for answered prayers.

Peggy is now in the process of coordinating with Dr. Lopez and the hospital administration for Ostin’s arrival. It is expected that he will be initially hospitalized for 4-5 days. His family anxiously awaits word for when they need to head to San Pedro Sula…and we will be there every step of the way. We are filled with gratitude that this little baby will have a chance at life.

What Is So Captivating?

Honduran Rainbow

Often times I find myself in conversations about Honduras. People seem intrigued that we go “there” and wonder what we “do” and…”why?” I have never felt that I could adequately explain my answer…my usual responses are: “because of the people”, “our hearts were captivated” or “it just feels like what we should be doing.” But it’s more than that…it is a part of my being.

Sadly, Honduras has become more dangerous over the years and this month the Peace Corps will be removing their volunteers. Others ask me, “will you still go back?” And the answer is, “yes.” Our relationships are too deep and important to not return. People are depending on us and we value the impact we can make.

I need to follow my heart…and don’t want fear to deter me.

A Time To Reflect

As the end of 2011 approaches, I find myself reflecting on the past year. Certainly our work in Honduras continues to be one of our highest priorities and greatest blessings. There are hundreds of memories, and just as many pictures, to remind us of all the wonderful people who have touched our lives.

Without a doubt, one of the greatest experiences was being introduced to baby Berenice.  This little girl captured our hearts the moment she arrived in our home. And the bond grew incredibly strong as we prepared for her cardiac surgery, stayed with her during the heart catheterization and open heart surgery, and welcomed her back home while she recovered.  During this time, we  were fortunate to be in the hands of talented and compassionate doctors and nurses at Tufts Medical Center. We have also been welcomed into Berenice’s family and given the nicknames of “Mamita Emily” and “Papita Tom.”

Over the past 11 years we have been introduced to many Honduran children and they have all made an impact in our lives. We’ve had the chance to spend significant amounts of time with several children and really do love them like family. However, having the responsibility of caring for a sick child in a vulnerable condition, and being able to continue that relationship afterwards, is one of the most intense feelings I have ever experienced.

Looking forward to the privilege of meeting more children and cherishing the ones we do know. Happy New Year!

Thank You

Thank You from Esperanza

Dear Esperanza Supporters,

We’d like to take this opportunity to express our sincere appreciation for your financial and moral support. We are truly grateful for your faith in our work and sharing our vision of helping others in need. Together we can make a difference in the lives of many. May you all enjoy the holiday season and have a happy and healthy 2012.

Our gratitude to all,

Tom, Emily, Ana and Ricky

Giving Thanks

This past Wednesday, Tom and I arrived home safely from Honduras. When we first arrived for our month long stay, Ana was apprehensive and expressed her concern that we would become “bored” (not a chance!) and “fall more in love with the children” (absolutely correct!).

Our time went by more quickly than we could have imagined. Along with treating high priority medical cases, working within the local medical community and interfacing with various agencies, we also had time to really go “deeper than the surface” with some particular families.

Not only did we  join all our neighbors in the daily quest for clean water (generally available 2-3 hours per day), we also witnessed their struggle of trying to feed their families on the bare minimum (ie. one pound of chicken feet for 50 cents, for a family of five), and then there were the more “luxurious ” obstacles of obtaining necessary medicine or school supplies. It was exhausting and enlightening.

One of the greatest blessings was meeting with Ms. Lourdes Pena, a local psychologist. She is a dynamic woman, filled with compassion, insight and knowledge.  Meeting with Lourdes gave us the opportunity to express our visions for Esperanza, and she was able to share her knowledge of the Honduran culture and the realities of life in the Third World. Lourdes will be there to provide Ana with emotional support who we acknowledge has the most difficult position of all. We are able to “escape” back to the States, but Ana is the one who everyone seeks out, looking for help from the “Americans.” Often times, it is Ana who has to say “no” and turn people away, trying to protect us from “burning out.”  Lourdes is working with some of our patients who are in need of evaluations and further counseling so that we can really get to the root of their issues and how to address them.

Thanksgiving is in two days, and I find myself even more aware of all the things I have to be thankful for…family, friends and health are always at the top. Certainly, I will be overwhelmed by the abundance of food, and reflecting back to the empty fridge above and many harsh reminders of living in poverty. I will try not to dwell on it, and be thankful that Tom and I have found “our purpose” and are fortunate enough to be living our dream…can’t imagine  life without Honduras.