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.

Sharing his time and talents

Rick & Stefany

Nine days from now 23 year old Ricky Lania will be traveling to Flores, Honduras. Ricky graduated from University of Connecticut last May and is now working for Maintainnet, in Boston. He now has a few vacation days to use, and he immediately thought of returning to Honduras. Some might assume he is headed to the beautiful beaches on the coast, but that is not the case…he is headed to a small village to spend time with his Godson, Noel, and other former patients who have lived in our home, and friends he has met during past visits.

Ricky has been actively involved with Esperanza since the beginning, and with Honduras even before Esperanza was established. He has traveled to Honduras on numerous occassions and volunteered at the school and health clinics. His love of the children is so evident as they constantlty surround him, and he is so kind and patient with all of them. When Ricky was living at home, he spent endless hours playing with the children and teaching them new skills.

Esperanza is grateful to Ricky for all his time, energy and creativity he has shared. Ricky is the one responsible for this blog, for postings on Facebook and for all the videos and many of the photos of “our” Honduran children and experiences. We feel so very fortunate that this really has been such a positive experience for our entire family and something we have been able to share together. We look forward to many more opportunities the future will offer us.

Visiting Flores in December 2010

At the beginning of last month, Tom and I spent 10 days in Honduras. Our main objective was completing the process of obtaining Astrid Ordonez’ medical visa. Ana Hernandez had already started the process by obtaining Astrid’s passport and visiting the lawyer with Astrid’s parents (to give temporary legal custody to us). We needed to complete the new online application (a more taxing process)  for the U.S. Embassy interview. Peggy Kipps (Ruth Paz Foundation) assisted us with arranging the appointment and writing a letter of support.With their help, we were able to have Astrid’s visa expedited.

During our time in Honduras, we spent time at the Centro de Salud (Health Center) and donated our generous supplies provided by Brother’s Brother Foundation. The medications were primarily antibiotics, and were so enthusiastically received by this clinic which exists on very limited means.

There were many new cases anxiously awaiting Tom’s arrival. Two of the children had cerebral palsy, and were hoping for a “cure” so that their children would walk. Sadly, families are often given very limited information from the doctors, and Tom spent a long time with each mother, compassionately describing their conditions and what to expect for their future development. He strongly encouraged them to have their children involved with physical therapy, and also told them that children with C.P. are often not effected (negatively) intellectually. On a brighter note, one of our patients, 12 year old, “Iris Maria” , who has C.P. has made dramatic improvement! Maria had stopped attending school, and was confined to her home and carried from her bed to the living room. Through therapy and hard work, she is now up walking and attending school. One afternoon, she and her family walked to our home and proudly presented us with a letter of gratitude and told us her dream is to study to become a lawyer! Tom and I were filled with tears of joy.

One evening, Ana arrived with a young couple and their 6 month old baby. The family had just been told that their baby was in need of cardiac surgery and they were consumed by fear and helplessness. Tom reviewed the medical reports and assured them he would talk with Hector Fonseca, a trusted cardiologist in San Pedro Sula. We feel very fortunate that our network has grown and we have professionals to refer patients locally. Dr. Fonseca was extremely accommodating and saw this child the following day. It was a great relief when he told the parents that “Adrianna’s” condition could be treated with medication and the child did not need surgery. Since then, the child has returned to Dr. Fonsecaand made dramatic improvement. Dr. Fonseca expressed his frustration about incompetent Honduran doctors who dispense incorrect diagnosis/treatment.

Unfortunately, our village of Flores has become more dangerous. In the past, it was the cities where you needed to be very cautious, but it is now seeping into the little barrios.

Flores is divided by a two-lane highway, and on one side there is a real discrepancy of services…the public school located there does not have electricity, the classes are over crowded, and there is no playground. There is no access to clean water.

Astrid’s mother and little brother live in the heart of the worst area. For several years, it has been on our “wish list” for Esperanza to help this desperately poor family. who live in squalor conditions, to improve their living situation. Astrid’s grandfather has donated a tiny piece of land for us to begin building a new home for this family. Construction is under way for the first phase of building two bedrooms and an indoor bathroom.

Astrid’s life is being positively effected in many ways. Besides having a new place to live, she has been sponsored by Charlie and Nancy Morrison of Concord, to attend a bilingual school in Comayagua. This would be an incredible opportunity for any child, but is even more important for Astrid because her neighborhood school is located in the drug area. It is so dangerous, we were not allowed to visit it, even during the day light hours. Astrid’s teacher is thoroughly impressed by Astrid’s rapid learning and her future is looking brighter!

Astrid was admitted to Shriners Hospital for Children in Springfield, MA. on December 28th and had surgery the following day. Four years ago, Astrid was operated there for a “tethered” (spinal) cord. She had her first of two operations on her left, “cavus” foot. Currently, Astrid’s mobility is impaired by this foot deformity. The next surgery is scheduled for January 11th, when they will cut through the bone and re-shape her foot. Following surgery, she will be non-weight bearing for eight weeks (wheelchair and walker). It will be a long winter, but we are so grateful for this opportunity and very thankful to David Dvaric, M.D. and all the wonderful doctors/staff for providing her care.

June 2010 Trip

In June 2010 a group of seven volunteers, including three high school students, traveled to Flores, Honduras. During the week, we met with former patients, current patients and perspective patients including children with opthamology, cardiac, orthopedic and psychiatric issues. Some of these cases will be able to be treated within Honduras by local doctors and visiting medical brigades from the United States. Others will have to travel to Boston for their treatment. We had the opportunity of visiting the public school in Flores and sharing Pen Pal letters written by children from Pilgrim Congregational Church and Diamond Middle School in Lexington.
Dr. Tom met with the health administrator from the Public Health Center to discuss their  dire needs for medical equipment and medications. Currently, there is a doctor in place for one year and she is extremely busy with an epidemic of Dengue fever.
Emily attended a meeting with Plan Honduras who is in the midst of conducting a field study in Flores to determine the best options (culturally and financially) to bring clean water to this village.
We had the opportunity of visiting the children at Casa Hogar Vida y Libertad, an orphanage in Siguetepeque. This beautiful home is run by “Tina” who lovingly cares for 34 children. At the end of the week, we met with patients from Shriners Hospital in Boston who receive their follow-up treatment from Omar Fernandez, PT at CEFISE in San Pedro Sula. We returned to Boson on July 1st with Noel Gomez who is receiving continued cardiac monitoring from Tufts Medical Center. We look forward to returning to Honduras in December.

Trip to Honduras

On January 14, 2010 we traveled to Flores, Honduras where we spent 10 days working within the community. This is our ninth year offering free medical care, as well as, assistance with educational needs. During our visit we held medical and eye clinics, and visited current and future patients in their homes.We received supplies of medication, shoes and eye glasses from Brother’s Brother organization and First Sight. Along with the common problems of colds, pain and parasites, we were also introduced to patients with more significant problems including: extra digits, neurological disorders, growth in the mouth, congenital glaucoma, ambiguous genitalia, and a heart defect. Fortunately, over the years we built a trustworthy support system within country. We work with The Ruth Paz Foundation and Mrs. Peggy Kipps is able to refer us to local doctors and arrange visits to American brigades. Our coordinator, Ana Hernandez, arranges and transports all of our patients and provides us with ongoing follow-up.