A mission team sponsored by St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Kilmarnock, recently returned from working in Southern Honduras December 31 to January 10.
The team helped provide cataract surgeries and general eye care using the facilities of a local hospital and helped offer medical and dental clinics to residents of four remote villages. There were 18 “Norte Americanos” and about twice as many Hondurans on the team, reported Linda Parks of Heathsville.
Participants came from California, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. Parks was joined by Betty Mill of White Stone, both ruling elders at St Andrews. Kathryn Kattmann from Campbell Memorial Presbyterian Church in Weems participated for the second consecutive year. The 2016 team included the Rev. Dr. Judy Thomson from St Andrews. Retired St. Andrews pastor, the Rev. Dr. Tom Coye joined the recent mission.
Honduras is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere (after Haiti) and southern Honduras is the poorest part of Honduras. Many people develop cataracts at an early age because they work outdoors and because the country is so close to the equator.
The Key Humanitarian Initiative for Southern Honduras (KHISH) was formed in 2007. Members of the current effort, Drs. Ron David and Susan David, of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Richmond had participated on teams that originated in the Donegal Presbytery in southeastern Pennsylvania. They wanted to continue to work in Southern Honduras, but in a more sustainable way than the original leadership had proposed. The Davids have a home in Topping and often attend St. Andrews.
KHISH selected two communities from the 10 originally being served and began a long-term, more intensive program. Both communities, Moropocay and Puerto Grande, are home to churches of the Presbytery of Honduras. The one-room cinderblock churches host annual medical and dental brigades from the U.S. In recent years, the churches in Las Crucitas and Nacaome also have hosted clinics. Honduran physician, Dr. Adolfo Moreno, makes quarterly visits to Moropocay and Puerto Grande to manage patients with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and epilepsy and visits Las Crucitas and Nacaome annually with the U.S. brigade. KHISH and Dr. Moreno maintain a medical record system for almost 4,000 persons.
In 2011, recognizing a high prevalence of preventable blindness caused by cataracts, a program for eye care was added to KHISH’s outreach. In cooperation with American sponsors such as Surgical Eye Expeditions International in Santa Barbara, Calif., Alcon Pharmaceuticals and Glacial Multimedia of Portland, Maine, KHISH sponsored its seventh annual brigade for eye examinations and surgeries in 2017. Ophthalmologists Dr. Carol Johnston of Jacksonville, N.C. and Dr. Eron Duzman from Southern California joined Honduran ophthalmologists to provide surgeries. They were hosted by the Hospital San Lorenzo, the public hospital for the region.
A total of 430 patients received full eye exams in the eye clinic at the Hospital San Lorenzo. The two American and two Honduran ophthalmologists performed 181 surgeries, of which 113 were cataract removals. In addition, 445 pairs of reading glasses were dispensed.
In the medical/dental clinics, the KHISH team saw 617 medical patients and the dentists extracted 242 teeth. Medications were dispensed, including antiparasitics and vitamins for all. Some 340 children were given sunglasses for UV protection and cataract prevention.
Coye is the vice chairman of KHISH/U.S. He joined the medical/dental teams serving the villages and attended the board meeting of KHISH/Honduras for its annual meeting. The City of San Lorenzo has donated 6.8 acres of land for a proposed outpatient surgery center and eye care facility to serve the people of Southern Honduras. The next step is the building of a road from the main highway to this parcel of land. Coye is heading up fundraising efforts for this project.
“We traveled on the paved road for about 30 minutes, then turned off onto the dirt roads leading to the villages,” said Parks, who traveled with the medical/dental teams to the villages. “The roads were like riverbeds, full of boulders and potholes. When we would finally get to the villages about 45 minutes later, the people would be standing in the hot sun, waiting for us.”
She also noted the men, women and children are cheerful, kind and patient, despite the difficult lives they lead.
Kattmann, a retired Spanish teacher, and her grandson, Reed, from Charlottesville, were in charge of dispensing reading glasses, both at the Hospital San Lorenzo and at a health fair held near the site of the proposed eye care facility.
KHISH is supported by St Andrews, Grace Episcopal Church, Kilmarnock; Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Richmond; Immanuel Episcopal Church, Old Church; First Presbyterian Church of Port Jefferson, N.Y.; and Trinity Presbyterian Church of Berwyn, Pa.
It is also supported by a myriad of other donors from across the country, including some grateful patients whose vision has been restored by eye surgery made possible by KHISH.
To find out how to help, contact Dr. Susan David at email@example.com, or Parks at firstname.lastname@example.org.