Reflections on Honduras

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Our KET production and public affairs team has been blessed with the talents of two bright young interns who worked with us as production assistants this past year. Anne Evans and Kara Ferguson helped us with the Fancy Farm broadcast last August, 2012 election coverage, our poverty project, and our recent trip to Washington for One to One conversations with Kentucky’s congressional delegation.

Sadly, both of them are leaving soon: Anne will attend graduate school at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, and Kara will intern on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews. Both have contributed mightily to our efforts to keep you connected to what’s happening in the public policy arena in the state. They will be missed.

Before we officially say goodbye to Kara and Anne, I wanted to give them guest spots on the blog to describe some recent travels they enjoyed. Kara went to Australia, and you’ll see her observations about the land down under soon. Anne took a mission trip to Honduras. These are her reflections and photographs:

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About a week ago, I returned from an eye-opening, life-changing, and what I hope will be a career-sculpting medical mission trip in San Luis, Honduras. It’s a town of about 15,000 in a coffee-growing region that the Hondurans call the Department (think state) of Santa Barbara.

I do not work in the medical field. And unfortunately, I don’t speak any Spanish – at least not yet. My assignment was as a “general helper” in the pharmacy. I spent the majority of each day interpreting and preparing prescriptions for review by our pharmacist, prescriptions which were then distributed by one of the two translators working in the pharmacy. Because most of our patients were illiterate, the translators went over each prescription and asked the patient to repeat the dosage instructions until they had it memorized.

Patients begin lining up at 5 a.m. each day to see our medical team.  (Photos by Anne Evans.)

Patients begin lining up at 5 a.m. each day to see our medical team.
(Photos by Anne Evans.)

Many of the prescriptions for ibuprofen went to patients who had just had teeth pulled in our oral surgery room. I was shocked by the poor dental hygiene of most of our patients. Over the course of one week, we extracted 2,283 teeth, filled 4,156 prescriptions, and treated about 3,000 people. The last number doesn’t include the dental hygiene classes our group conducted with local school kids.

The poverty in San Luis was simultaneously more and less extreme than I had anticipated. The main streets were paved, while the majority of other roads were either gravel or dirt. Most houses in the countryside were built using a mixture of mud and woven tree branches. The average houses in the city were a step up from that, including some that were large, painted, and clean.

After working on KET’s The Price of Poverty series, I couldn’t help but compare the poverty we have in Kentucky with the deprivation I saw in Honduras. I’m not sure I’m ready to articulate any large conclusions, but a man on our Honduras trip said something that has stuck with me. “I know that we don’t have the answers to the long-term problems,” he said. “I know that we cannot permanently relieve the pain of our patients. But when you are suffering, any relief from that suffering, for any amount of time, is appreciated.”

Pharmacy team at clinic in Honduras.

The pharmacy team (minus two) at our clinic.

Small things that we, the community of our world, our country, or our state, can do to help others will always be appreciated. Even if you don’t have the answers to the biggest problems out there, you can still help to relieve the pain of others in some way. I believe small steps in the right direction can generate momentum that will lead to problem-solving on a larger scale. Individuals can absolutely make an important and positive impact, even if it’s through a short-term project. Step by step, we can move forward. And I think that is incredibly encouraging.

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