KAWARTHA LAKES-Many of the villagers have no running water, no electricity and some haven’t had any medical care at all, for years. They will line up for hours to see the doctors and volunteers with the Lindsay Medical Brigade when they arrive in Honduras next week. “A lot of what we see is parents bringing their children, they just want a check-up” Brigade Leader Dr. Kathy Chapman told Kawartha 411. “One community we went to a few years ago they had no medical care for eight years, not a nurse or a doctor or anyone, they want their children to have a check up, they want vitamins if we have them.”
They have vitamins, lots of them. Dr. Chapman will be taking 20,000 vitamin tablets with her to Honduras. “That’s always something we try really hard to have donated.” Chapman says. “We’ve had to buy some but we’ve had some very generous families of the actual brigaders donate half of the vitamins this year, so that awesome.” The group also brings other basics such as medication for pain relief and fever. “We take tylenol, advil, so that next time the child gets sick with a fever they have something they can give them, they really don’t have any access to medication, they don’t have access to transportation, they will walk for two or three hours with their families to come and see us and frequently arrive on horseback as well, they don’t have, cars, trucks or public transportation.”
The Lindsay Medical Brigade consists of about 20 people from Lindsay, Bobcaygeon and Fenelon Falls along with a group the the Central East Correctional Centre, EMS and court officers. Dr. Chapman and another local doctor along with people from England and Chatham are also part of the brigade. Dr. Chapman works at Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay and has been volunteering her time and expertise for 12 years. “We were raised that if we have been given an opportunity to get an education and to serve the community then we should” she says. “I’ve been working with the same people on the ground in Honduras since I started going there, it’s like a family to me. I would miss them if I didn’t go.”
Dr. Chapman says it’s hard not to fall in love with the country and it’s people. “What strikes me the most is they are humble and they are grateful for anything we can do for them. They don’t have much, they are still a proud people and they are humble and they thank us.”
The Brigade will be in the trenches for 9 to 10 days and during that time will see about 1500 people. They set up a base camp which Chapman describes as “rustic” usually with no running water or electricity, and then fan out from there to various villages. They use a school or a church to set up for the day. “The doctors set up a triage outside under a tree, most of the time my office is outside under a tree, and we have one corner of the classroom that we take sheets down and rope off into an exam area.”
At triage the patients get their vital signs taken, their blood glucose checked with the finger prick and the babies are weighed. “We basically deal with whatever they come up with, we try our best to assist,” Chapman says. “So if it’s blood pressure medication we try to give them a two or three month supply so maybe they can figure out arrangements to get to a clinic.”
Chapman says things that we would consider basic medical care in Canada can be life changing for Hondurans. “One little boy, I love him, we were able to provide three eye surgeries to him in Honduras.” she says. “That impacts his whole community, he would not have been able to read, he would have been a burden on the community in many ways and now he has 20/20 vision, and he’s thriving at school and he will be able to support his whole family. That’s the kind of thing that keeps us going back.”
While rewarding it can also be dangerous. For security reasons the group has to be back at the base camp by nightfall. Each volunteer pays their own way for the mission and they are also required to raise approximately $1000 as well.
The generosity doesn’t stop once they get home. If there’s any money left over from fundraising efforts they can also provide medical devices to those in need. “There’s one little girl we’ve been able to follow over the years, she’s in her 20’s, she weighs maybe 20-25 pounds, spotlessly clean, mom carries her everywhere, moms late 50’s now. She is blind, no mobility, non verbal but we think she can hear.” Chapman recalls. “We were able to send one of those big three wheel strollers down to her so that mom won’t have to be carrying her.”
The Lindsay Medical Brigade works with a group called the Friends of Honduran Children in Peterborough. Their mission is to improve the lives of Honduran children and their families. Support their basic needs and empower them to break the cycle of inequality and desperate poverty. Working with Honduran partner Sociedad Amigos de los Niños, Friends they help the children of Honduras recover from a life of poverty and neglect. They’re given food, clothing, medical and dental care, and a safe place to live according to the groups website. More than 100,000 Hondurans have received medical attention over the years and more than $1 million in medications have been handed out.
All of this is done with private money through the fundraising efforts of the Lindsay Medical Brigade and the Friends of Honduran Children. “We do a lot of fundraising to cover medications, the cost of getting gear down there, we supply some food bags while we are there.” This year they are taking two clean water filters that will be installed in a church or a school to allow everyone access to clean water.
The group leaves on the 12th and will return on the 26th. Chapman says she always has a hard time coming back home. “And elderly gentleman came and before he would tell us what his problem was he wanted to thank us and what he said was thank-you for not forgetting about us.”
Dr. chapman has no intention of forgetting. She’s already planning the next mission.
If you want to find out more or make a donation go to: http://honduranchildren.com and indicate your donation is for the Lindsay Medical Brigade. Or call 705-749-1900 to make a donation.
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