From March 8 to March 14, 33 students from the College of William & Mary were accompanied by two doctors and an oral surgeon for a medical brigade in rural Honduras. Over our three clinic days, we were able to treat over 720 patients in the community of Mata de Plátano, Morocelí. Mata de Plátano is a small village in the mountains of central Honduras. The road really can’t be considered a road; it’s more of a dirt and rock path. There were multiple times during the week when our bus couldn’t make it up a hill and we had to hike for a bit.
Our clinic wasn’t a normal clinic, either. We set up every day in the village school – each classroom was a station. The ailments we treated ranged from the common cold to untreated diabetes or hypertension to needing multiple teeth extracted. Most of the time, though, these people were just trying to get medicines like ibuprofen or acetaminophen for joint and muscle pain that they could use now or in a couple months. We also had a gynecologist on our team who provided check-ups and Pap smears to women who opted to see her. The dental station included fillings as well as extractions. Our entire team was busy the entire day helping take care of our patients and also running the children’s health education program. Whenever I needed a little break, I would go over to the children’s charla and help them learn about brushing teeth, eating healthy, and washing their hands. It is really incredible how happy these kids are to receive something as mundane to us as a toothbrush, and how excited they were to receive fluoride treatments.
One of the parts of this trip that differed from others is the amount of time we were able to interact with different communities. We visited two different communities, Buena Vista and Tomatin, at the beginning and end of our week. Buena Vista is farther along Global Brigades’ Holisitic Model and is currently in the process of completing public health projects in multiple houses in the community. Tomatin has just started with Global Brigades and is working on building up their community bank. The idea of microfinance was completely novel to me, but after visiting Tomatin I am firm believer that community banks are an incredible resource for these rural, poor communities. After capitalizing their bank (which only took 550 USD), the board of the bank in Tomatin was able to give out loans to its community members to help them grow beans and corn and begin to make a living. The community bank has also enabled them to keep an emergency fund that can be used to get a sick neighbor to the hospital, or extend a loan to a suffering family. These were people who had so little yet were working so hard to improve the lives of themselves and their neighbors. It was humbling in the best way.
Honduras is a beautiful country with even more beautiful people, inside and out. It was an incredible opportunity to work with and interact with the people of Mata de Plátano to help improve their health.