Monday, August 18, 2014

NY/HELP August 2014 Trip to Honduras.

For the twenty-fifth year in a row, people from New York have participated in a NY/HELP mission trip to Honduras.  Six went on August 7, 2014, and for a little over a week, we participated in community activities in rural Indian villages in the mountains near Yoro.  We stayed at the medical clinic constructed by local people and New Yorkers in 1991, where Dr Gordon Comstock and pediatric nurse practitioner Ruth Shatzel saw well over 100 patients with diverse illnesses.  (Ruth had been a Peace Corps Volunteer nurse in Honduras some years ago, so she could see both the similarities and changes from before.)  We greatly benefited from the assistance of Mirtila Garcia, our long-term local nurse at the clinic.
We were helped immensely by translator Dan Beyer, who also worked with the rest of the group.  Retired social-studies teacher Judy Toner brought school supplies which were eagerly greeted by the students and teachers in local one-room schools, where a piece of paper or a pencil is a valued object!  Judy has also spearheaded a project to build kinders in the villages, where volunteer kindergarten teachers sometimes hold classes under the trees or in small windowless mud buildings.
Our photographer Connie Houde is also a skilled seamstress, and gave a Saturday class in sewing for some of the women of La Laguna.  She expected six to eight women, but actually had almost twice that number in the class.  Antonia Amaya, president of the Tribal Council, helped organize the work, as we only had two foot-powered sewing machines available.  Several women returned later to show off their newly-made bags and aprons. 
David Woodruff, who is currently taking courses at Lancaster Theological Seminary, brought his previous experience to the group.  He worked with the men and older students at three schools, where garden areas were fenced in and planted.  (The hope is that some of these students will go home and plant their own gardens!)  Three donated computers were brought with us, and David spent hours working with Mayna (who recently graduated from 12th grade with a diploma in computer work) to computerize the records of the clinic pharmacy.
Jorge “Joel” Ramirez, chairman of the Tribal Development Committee, did much of the local organizational work for these projects, and worked side by side with us, out in the tropical sun.  Yovany Munguía, our NY/HELP coordinator in Honduras, helped plan the program and kept us all on track for safe and effective work.  

One of our most important actions was to meet with the Comité de Salud (Clinic Committee) to affirm our support of the agreement empowering the committee in its work in managing the clinic.  This is a start, but many more steps are needed before our task is finished!
Our social schedule was also busy – we met with Bill Briggs (who initiated NY/HELP in 1989) in Yoro and toured the new Culinary Institute there.  Our 13 big bags of supplies were driven up to La Laguna by Cristhian Amaya, one of our former students at the "boarding house" in Yoro.  We enjoyed delicious meals and active banter with our cooks, Aracely and Odina, and comradeship with the people we worked with on our projects.  At the end of the trip, three of us spent a few hours at the beach at Tela, while the others stayed a few days more to tour the famous Mayan ruins at Copán.
All this would not be possible without your prayers and support.  Muchas gracias to all!
Gordon F. Comstock, MD

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