We Couldn’t Do It Alone

Emily, Tom, Melissa, and Charlie in the back of a truck

It was on our 2nd trip to Honduras, riding in the back of a pick-up truck when my husband and I looked at each other and knew, “this is what we’re suppose to do.” We feel very fortunate to have found our shared passion, and to have the ability to live our dreams…but we wouldn’t be able to do this without the support of others.

First, and most importantly, is our immediate family. I remember telling “the boys” that we would be hosting our first patients, a 17 month old girl and a 19 year old young woman. Their first reactions were of reluctance. They knew we wanted to help others, but now it was going to impact their lives. I can honestly say that it was the most positive way we influenced their childhoods.They certainly formed bonds with the children and some became as close as siblings, and they were taught life lessons from them, as well. Our boys shared these experiences with their friends, and they too became actively involved.

Noel with Bobby and his friends

My extended family has shared their love and support with our Honduran children. Often times “Abuela” and “Abuelo” (a.k.a. Grandma and Grandpa) have stepped in to babysit and drive to/from the airport and hospitals. My brothers have been actively involved with the children and also shared their expertise in law and finance. Esperanza wouldn’t have been formed without their help.

Collins/Kimball/Lania Family with Stefany

Certainly our friends have made all the difference in the world. They have provided much needed respite…at the exact times we felt pushed to our limits. Friends have welcomed “our” children into their homes, and fully immersed themselves into their lives. I’m thankful to have friends with a common vision, and we have so much fun sharing our memories of the children.

Ricky's friends with Noel

I absolutely agree with the statement “it takes a village to raise a child”…thanks to all who share our journey.

The Waiting Is Almost Over

Berenice
It’s been six months since we first heard about Berenice Elizabeth and her need for cardiac surgery. I have worked with Lori Cordova, RN on other medical cases, and she wrote asking for help for this infant she had met during one of her cardiac brigades in San Pedro Sula. A week from today, Lori will arrive with nine month old Berenice. We are anxiously awaiting their arrival and finally meeting each other in person.

We are thankful to Lori who will be flying from her home in Virginia to Honduras on Thursday and helping Berenice’s family through the tearful goodbye; reassuring them that she will be well cared for and return in two months, with a repaired heart. It’s impossible to comprehend what her parents will be going through emotionally, and we’re grateful for their faith in us…strangers, living in another country. Once again, we realize how fortunate we are to be living in Boston, a medical mecca, and the generosity we receive from Ken Warner, MD and the folks at Tufts Medical Center, as well as the financial support from the Ray Tye Medical Aid Foundation. Without their help, this wouldn’t be possible.

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.

Searching for Hope…

Ana

Yesterday afternoon, I was having lunch with friends in Concord when I received a call from our friend and Honduran coordinator, Ana Hernandez. A family from Tegucigalpa had arrived at her house ( 1 1/2 hours away) looking for help from “the Americans” (us) for their 11 year old son. I asked how they knew about us, and her reply was, “they had talked with a friend of a relative of a child you helped who had a heart problem.”

This extremely impoverished family had gathered together enough money to travel to Ana’s in search of hope for their child. And now Ana was on the phone with me over 2,000 miles away, trying to explain the child’s medical condition. This young boy had been to the doctor in Tegucigalpa and was told he had skin cancer, and now he was wearing bandages over his eyes and had lost his sight.

Unfortunately, doctors give very minimal information to patients and parents, and often times it is not accurate. Therefore, many Hondurans have very little trust in the medical profession and believe that American doctors will offer better care. Thankfully, over the years we have developed some very trustworthy relationships with Honduran doctors. They are extremely accessible to us (giving their cell phone numbers) and will see our patients promptly. Peggy Kipps, executive director of The Ruth Paz Foundation will refer our patients to the American brigades she coordinates.

Although we cannot always offer a cure for the patients, we are able to give the parents accurate medical information in a compassionate manner. We also offer other resources (ie. physical therapy, medications, medical aids) which can assist the patient and their families with living with a particular illness or injury.

Last evening Tom (a pediatrician) talked with a woman assisting this child in need. She described his condition in greater detail and Tom asked for photos to be sent ASAP. We will be sending this child to San Pedro Sula to be seen by an eye specialist who treated one of our other children born with congenital glaucoma (and now has restored vision).

Once again we are reminded of Ana’s critical role in our work in Honduras. Without her, none of this would be happening. Ana offers her bilingual skills, endless hours of commitment to “her people”, is incredibly resourceful, has trusted relationships in every corner from her neighbors, to political officials to the medical community. She is very intelligent about everything from how the water system works to explaining to us local customs, traditions and beliefs. She truly is the Honduran heart and soul of Esperanza, and we are grateful for her presence in our lives.

Airline Ambassadors Program

Margaret

Many people work behind the scenes offering their assistance to Esperanza and many other organizations. Meet Margaret Whitehead (above), director of the Airline Ambassadors program which provides escorts for children coming to the United States for medical treatment. Margaret works enthusiastically and timely as she coordinates her ambassadors to accommodate the needs of the child.

American Airline employees volunteer their time by providing these needy children comfort and compassion, as they leave their families behind because their native countries cannot provide the medical care needed. One Ambassador who is especially adored by Esperanza is Ina Melen. Ina is home-based in the Boston area and has transported children from there, back home  to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Ina’s love and commitment to helping children in need is evident as she devotes her day (and sometimes over night) to reuniting children with their families. Ina is pictured below with 9 year old, Noel who is a cardiac patient at Tufts Medical Center.

Ina and Noel

Education…the key to the future

Charlie and Nancy
Esperanza would like to thank Charlie and Nancy Morrison for providing a financial scholarship for a child to attend a private bilingual school in Comayagua, Honduras.

Although Honduras offers free primary education for 7-14 year olds, the sad reality is many areas of the country lack schools. When they are available, they are understaffed and in some circumstances, joint-grade instruction is provided, only through the 3rd grade. Other villages may have a bigger buildings, but they still deal with poor teacher training, lack of materials and outdated teaching methods. The teachers are often on strike because they are frustrated by their working conditions and low wages.

Illiteracy remains at 40% for the total population and 80% for the rural communities. Only 43% of the children enrolled in public schools will complete the primary level. Of these students, 30% will go on to secondary school and a mere 8% will continue to the university level.

Having the opportunity to attend a private school is a privilege few will ever experience. It truly is “the key” for the future, and we hope Nancy and Charlie’s child will become a valuable leader of tomorrow…for herself, for her family, and for her community. Their scholarship not only pays for the educational costs, but provides a healthy meal,transportation, and an escape from a mundane environment.

Charlie and Nancy Morrison and their four children has been actively involved for years with the children from Honduras; hosting numerous children hospitalized locally and visiting Honduras themselves.

If you are interested in supporting another child with the opportunity to attend school, please contact Esperanza.

Youth Helping Youth

Last summer, 16 year old Kyle George made his first visit to Flores, Honduras. His family has been involved for years with his older brother and mother volunteering in the country, and also hosting children in their home who were in Boston for medical treatment.
The George family has had a special friendship with 14 year old “Chippy” and were saddened to learn he had dropped out of school to help support his grandparents, where he was now living. Kyle decided he wanted to make a difference in Chippy’s life and has made the financial commitment of re-enrolling him in school which takes place on weekends. Therefore, he’ll be able to continue to support his grandparents and will also have the opportunity to further his education. They also purchased a bicycle so that Chippy has a way to get to classes which are offered in a different town. THANK YOU KYLE for offering Chippy the gift of education which is truly the most positive way of offering him a brighter future, and hopefully the ability to break the cycle of poverty.

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.