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April 13, 2008

Giving to Honduras

My photographer, Michael, who documented my DBS Surgery in 2004 as a pictorial essay (www.parasphotography.com/beka.html), left me a message teling  me that he was headed to Honduras,on a mission once again this  April. In support of the New York Honduran Committee, 11 volunteers travel to Tela, Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, to provide free health care. The medical team examined more than 220 patients and performed 28 surgical procedures in 2007.

These health professionals performed health evaluations, hearing and speech screenings, and major and minor surgeries for children and adults. In addition, they provided many people with donated hearing devices. The medical mission is always geared first towards children, but each year they see many adults who are in need as well. Michael went along to photograph the journey, the dirt, the isolation, the lack of basic necessities, and other needs. In a country where most people can't afford basic health care, the chance for free surgeries and exams can be a life-saving opportunity.

I have always wanted to go on a medical mission, or even to join the Peace Corps (Maybe I’m too old for that now?) Have any of our readers gone on a medical mission? Tell us about it.

See the Honduras 2007 Essay here.

Some information on joining medical trips:  So You Want to Go on a Medical Mission

April 13, 2008 in Beka | Permalink


My husband and I are considered "construction missionaries" and have been leading mission teams for 9 years to Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, and East Africa (Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania). We also lead "tourist" groups to China and establish relationships with Chinese Christians. As an RN I have used my nursing skills and knowledge every day we are in another country due to the lack of medical care in the above mentioned countries. What a joy to know others want to be a part of helping give hope to people less fortunate! We are called to help open eyes to how other people live in other places. Our participants return with a newfound appreciation for the good old USA and realize we are blessed to bless others.

Posted by: Paula Roaten, RN, BSN, MEd. | Jul 21, 2008 9:35:44 PM

I run a little mission/cultural immersion program to Honduras and West Africa for students and young adults. I would love to have a nurse as part of our team or on trips ahead! We do various service projects such as improving water or supporting hospitals. But we mostly focus on relationship building,living with host families and trying to do the best we can to leave our culture and experience theirs. Check out EPIC expeditions at epictours.org
we have a full trip for July 10-25. We would love to have you, just meet us in Houston and fly with us from there on the 11th to Tegucigalpa and head to Santa Cruz (Olancho) from there.

Posted by: charlie | May 27, 2008 11:31:53 PM

How do you handle the language barrier? And other crises, such as war etc.?


Posted by: beka | May 8, 2008 1:54:14 PM

I went to Santa Cruz, Bolivia for 10 days in 2006 to work as an OR nurse with the medical/surgical missionary group from the Chicago Archdiocese called Solidarity Bridge. Even though I am a 61 old OB nurse/Lactation Consultant, I was able to circulate in the OR with wonderful native Bolivian OR nurses. We participated in several neurosurgeries with US and Bolivian surgeons working together with US donated neurosurgical drills and other equipment sent to replace the outdated equipment they were using. I speak enough Spanish that I did PACU and ICU care as well. The impoverished public hospital San Juan de Dios was run by Italian RN Catholic nuns - what a surprise!! So, Contact Solidarity Bridge if you want to go to Bolivia. The country is amazing - wonderful food, beautiful people and countryside, lovely weather, and great shopping!! But poverty and lack of health care like you wouldn't believe! It was so easy to go and do this work. I would love to go again.

Posted by: Angela Jacobi, APN,IBCLC | Apr 30, 2008 7:30:50 PM

I've been on several mission trips to Tegucigalpa, Honduras with World Gospel Outreach (WGO). I've recorded my experiences with photos on this website (http://third-world-volunteering.blogspot.com)
WGO conducts medical mission clinics lasting just 1 week, and they have 30 to 40 groups down each year. Groups from the US fly into Houston and then to Teguc from there. WGO takes care of all your food/lodging/transportation once you get there. Cost runs about $1400, but that was before gas was so expensive.... They've been absolutely great to work with (I've been going down with them since 1996).
Their web site is http://wgoreach.org if you're interested.

Posted by: Kris | Apr 30, 2008 4:00:39 PM

I lead a nursing study abroad program in Medical Mission. This summer will be my 5th trip to Honduras with the students. We work with the local nursing school to implement a medical mission in Honduran Episcopal churches. Interesting integration of faith-based and secular orgrnizations.

My advice is to make certain your mission team is tied to a Honduran host that really knows the needs of their communities.

Missy Wafer, RN, MSN

Posted by: Melissa Wafer | Apr 30, 2008 12:38:15 PM

In 2005 I went on a two week Mission to Buenaventura Colombia, with M.M.I. It was the greatest experience of my nursing career and changed me on a fundamental level. It was the best spent vacation, even though I had never worked harder. Seeing the gratitude on the faces of the people we were serving was the greatest reward and worth every penny spent be able to participate. I can't wait until I can afford the time and money to go again. God willing, it will be soon.

Posted by: Lisa | Apr 24, 2008 8:19:13 PM

I am intersted in going on a medical mission trip also. I only have pediatric experience. If anyone has a trip planned and needs Peds RN, let me know.

Posted by: Rhonda | Apr 24, 2008 6:03:14 PM

Applause to You All !

For those of you who have traveled to so-called 3rd world countries that are ridden by violence- political- what safety measures are taken on your behalf ? Did any of you fear the areas, where you went ???

What is the most important item to take with you on this sort of mission ? Well, other than a stethoscope !


Posted by: beka | Apr 24, 2008 4:36:39 PM

I joined Internation Children's Surgical Foundation (ICSF)in the Philippines February 2008. It was a great experience. The local Rotary Club saw to our meals and transportation. We repaired cleft lips and cleft palates on kids and young adults.
It was very gratifying because in just a few short hours, their faces were transformed. Parents cried with joy upon seeing their child with a new face. I scrubbed in with Dr. Geoff Williams, the visionary for this organization. There were other nurses from New York who helped with pre-op, recovery room and follow-up. We had a great team of 6 who worked in sync after the first day. Dr. Williams goes to 9+ developing countries to do surgery and can always use help with the missions and supplies. I can't say enough, just like others on the post here, that a mission really enriches your life and others; it's so totally worth it. http://www.icsfoundation.org/ is a 501(c)3 charity.

Posted by: Jan | Apr 23, 2008 2:21:27 PM

I will be 68 this year and am going back to Jamaica on a church-sponsored medical mission trip. I agree with others that it is important to go with an organized and reputable organization. A friend of mine went on what she thought was a mission trip, but it turned out to be more visiting/sightseeing and almost no service. This, too, was sponsored by a church.
I hope you decide to make a trip, as I believe you will find it rewarding.

Posted by: Carol | Apr 23, 2008 9:23:37 AM

Although I do not have the wealth of background experience that Lydia (posted April 22) has, I say a hearty "Amen" to everything she has shared. I traveled to Uganda last year with a group of 23, of all ages. Our medical team treated hundreds of people in remote areas with little or no medical care, plus did health screenings for about 500 children at a Christian school. It was incredibly humbling and rewarding, and yes, some lives were saved because we were there. I, too, was changed, and I am grateful to God for the opportunity I had to serve in this way.

Please don't let your age stop you! I am 57, and just finishing nursing school. I went back to school specifically to be able to serve the people of Africa as a nurse. I will graduate in June, and plan to spend July and August working in a clinic in Uganda that I visited on my trip last year. I hope to spend at least half of every year in Africa from now until I can't travel any more. I hope to find nursing jobs that allow me the flexibility to work 6 months at a time, and help finance my African trips.

In answer to Edda, you can Google "medical mission trips" and find a lot of opportunities, but I recommend trying to go through a local church or mission group, where you will travel in a group and have preparation for your trip, as well as someone to help you navigate all the necessary preliminaries and logistics of going on an overseas trip. These local groups sometimes provide the opportunity to be involved in fundraisers to help finance your trip.

Posted by: Kathy Vaughan | Apr 22, 2008 11:40:52 PM

I was a missionary nurse in Burkina Faso, West Africa for 7 years. It was a wonderful experience. Living in the third poorest country in the world really taught me a lot about life. We take so much for granted here in all that we have. I ran a small hospital with 40 African employees. I could not force my standards and culture upon them but rather had to learn theirs and try to build on it to improve their standards of care. It was challenging. We had the most basic of medications - but with God's help many people survived who probably would have died without the little that we had. The biggest thing I learned is how much we Westerners fight death - almost ridiculous to a point. There, death is part of life - you live, you die. it is accepted and not feared as much as we fear it. Yes it was sad many times to stand by helplessly watching babies die who might have lived in the US but how much useful money is spent keeping body shells alive here - and for what? Because we are afraid to die? People who literally had only the clothes on their backs and sometimes only had leaves from the trees to eat, living in mud huts were so much happier and content with life. They taught me that relationships with people were much more important than gaining possessions.

It is a great opportunity to go to another country. Put aside your life and culture and embrace another and learn from the people. You will never be the same again.

Posted by: Lydia | Apr 22, 2008 9:46:50 PM

I have gone to Honduras and Venezuela with a Family Practice Doc and a group of nurses and others who care. Honduras was a wonderful country and I plan on returning next year. The people are warm, generous and grateful. I fell in love with Honduras and its people, as well as its coffee-yum!

Venezuela was interesting, but serving the indigenous populations, who suffer not only great poverty but great prejudice from the rest of the Venuezuleans, was difficult because of the various languages they speak. We had to use a regional nurse who spoke Spanish, English and several indigenous languages to treat patients so this was very limiting to our ability to deliver services. We also had to fly to the different villages due to the distances between villages and lack of roads and this was a bit costly. The political climate changed shortly after we left. I would advise anyone wanting to go on medical missions to check out the country you plan to visit and go with a reputable or experienced group.

Posted by: Cecilia | Apr 22, 2008 7:15:54 PM

I travel to South Africa each year to visit and support our partner, Zululand Hospice. We were matched by the Foundation for Hospices of Sub-Saharan Africa (FHSSA.org)It is such a blessing to connect with and support the dedicated staff working in an area of desperate need.
I highly recommend finding your mission. Note how many people return over and over on their own time and money - sure evidence of the joy and satisfaction we receive.

Posted by: Erma Perkins | Apr 22, 2008 4:08:07 PM

All this sounds like fabulous work. Kudos to all of you !

Is this done all on your time or during paid vacation time ??


Posted by: beka | Apr 22, 2008 8:43:18 AM

Please send information on how to join to go to a third world country to help the needed people

Posted by: Edda Avila | Apr 21, 2008 7:54:05 PM

In 2007, at age 63, I went on my first medical mission trip with Christian Medical Ministry to Cambodia-Jeremiah's Hope. In Jan of this year, a team of 14 physicians and 25 nurses provided 56 surgeries and round-the-clock nursing care for Cambodian needing HUGE thyroidectomies, abdominal hysterectomies, total mastectomies, and several orthopedic procedures including external fixators and tibial rodding. Our surgeons removed a large tumor that resembled a medium sized, self-rising pizza from a woman's head and covered her scalp with a skin graft from her thighs. She had been seen by several doctors, including witch doctors, who had not been able to help her. We also removed extra thumbs from a 3-year-old child from a village only to discover that the child had a PDA and dextrocardia. Our cardiologist, one of the leaders of this organization, was able to "plug the hole" at the Heart Institute in Phnom Penh. How can I ever forget the faces of that woman and her family and the child playing with his father! What an adventure! And what an enriching experience! I even took my daughter back this year with me. I can't wait to go back~~

Posted by: Nancy O'Malley | Apr 19, 2008 6:13:28 PM

I've been very fortunate to go on medical trips to the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific, Altai and Buryatia in Siberia, and did Tsunami relief in Indonesia. Each was life changing and worth every bit of work. I hope to be able to be used again.

Posted by: Tami | Apr 18, 2008 8:26:48 PM

We have been medical missionaries in Ecuador for 4 years. I'm am an FP and my wife is an RN. It has been the best four years of our lives, personally and professionally.

Anyone tired of paperwork and fear of lawsuits should come work in the less developed world. People are grateful and don't demand perfection, just the best you can do with respect and love.

Anyone who can read this, with access to a computer, born to parents who can read, with the educational opportunities of North America or Europe, was born with so many blessings it is a shame not to share them with people who need your skills and care.

Posted by: Jerry Koleski | Apr 17, 2008 12:06:19 PM

Years ago as a young nurse, I served in the Peace Corps in West Africa. Although it was an enriching and memorable two years, volunteering when one is older can bring more maturity, experience and demonstrated ability. The Peace Corps is encouraging those who are 50+ years of age to apply. There is no upper age limit to be a volunteer. For more information, see: http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm

Posted by: Audrey | Apr 16, 2008 2:14:52 PM

I went to Haiti 2 years ago, and Honduras this year. Both of them were fascinating, energizing experiences. But my experience in Haiti taught me that I wouldn't go again unless an MD was with the trip. (Our pediatrician backed out at the last minute.) And yes, it was more like an adventure vacation than work. Even though I worked hard. I'd recommend it to anyone who feels that they have a flexible personality.

Posted by: Bonnie | Apr 16, 2008 12:31:47 PM

I went to Honduras about 6 years ago and it was an amazing experience all around. I found the Hondurans to be good natured and grateful for the smallest gesture. They came to 'clinic' in droves-we served 1300 people in about 7 days and traveled from the southern part of the country to the northern region in a rented school bus. The homes were clean, the food was basic, but good, and the children were well-cared for and loved. I swore to go back every year, but due to time constraints and expense, I have not made it back. Learning Spanish would be extemely helpful, and I need to work on that.

Posted by: Nancy Anderson | Apr 16, 2008 9:06:56 AM

I'll go on my sixth mission to Guatemala this June. Our mission group, Sending Out Servants, goes to Quiche,about four hours north of Guatemala City, three to four times a year. We go to spend time with and to serve the Maya in remote villages where the people have little or no access to health care. Some of the teams perform eye surgery, some teach basics such as hand washing, some go on home visits which uncover a multitude of health issues. I have served on teams where we taught kindergarteners to cough and sneeze into their elbows and I once served on a team that found a young mother suffering from a post-partum infection. Her family was waiting for her to die because they had done everything that they knew how to do. Our teams travel from Texas and from New Jersey, where I live, though we have welcomed medical personnel from several other states. Our information can be found at www.sendingoutservants.org.

Posted by: Marilyn Henry | Apr 16, 2008 8:12:30 AM

I was privileged to go to Cambodia with a group for 10 days to serve people who otherwise would not receive care in villages near the rice fields in temporary clinics. We also helped establish a clinic at a small preschool which a team visits once a year. Medical trips are my favorite way to spend a vacation! I hope to go back.

Posted by: priscilla | Apr 15, 2008 11:44:28 PM

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