October 3, 2002 - Cloquet Journal: RPCV Delores returned to Honduras to help
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October 3, 2002 - Cloquet Journal: RPCV Delores returned to Honduras to help
RPCV Delores returned to Honduras to help
Read and comment on this story from the Cloquet Journal on the Honduras RPCV known as Delores who is not affiliated with any specific organization but simply does what she can with whatever resources she can lay her hands on. She nurses sick or starving children to health so that they could fare well in Honduran orphanage system. She cares for children who were not sick enough to need a hospital stay, but needed care their families could not provide. Read the story at:
Our Neighbors...the Our Savior's Mission Team*
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Our Neighbors...the Our Savior's Mission Team
by Kristina Krohn
Last Updated: Thursday, October 03rd, 2002 08:41:59 AM
Caption: Kristen Hella-Jarvis nestles comfortingly to Katie, a Honduran youngster who was perilously close to starting to death.
What have you done this summer? Did you do anything new? Go out on a limb? Travel to a tropical paradise? Lend someone a helping hand? For two small groups of people from Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, the answer to these questions is summed up in one answer - “I went to Honduras.”
Honduras is not a typical vacation spot. In fact, it is the third poorest country in North America, beaten only by Haiti and Nicaragua. The 400-mile stretch of land from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea consists of tropical foothills, pine-topped mountains and a minimal amount of rugged lowlands. The sheer amount of wilderness makes any sort of travel difficult.
Pastor Dennis Morreim, Kay Gunther, Kristin Hella-Jarvis, Greg Hella-Jarvis, Bob DeCaigny, Walt Longsyo, Kim Juntunen, Mary Krohn, Brian Krohn and Kristina Krohn spent their summer vacation volunteering in Santa Barbara, Honduras.
The highways between cities and towns in this area of Honduras make Main Street look like a super highway, while the roads leading out to the villages made our Minnesota hunting roads seem like main roads. For some reason the Wild Thing just cannot compete with bouncing around in the back of an ancient Toyota Land Cruiser without a seat belt, up and down narrow, rocky, winding mountain roads!
In the middles of the village of Santa Barbara in the Honduras state of Santa Barbara lives a woman named Delores. By conventional standards, we might refer to her as elderly. She is somewhere in her 70’s. However, it is difficult to associate the term “elderly” with this vibrant, active “Mother Theresa” of Honduras.
Delores is not strictly affiliated with any specific organization. She simply does what she can with whatever resources she can lay her hands on. She has received help from some Rotary and Kiwanis organizations as well as from some churches such as Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Cloquet.
Delores has lived in interesting life to begin with, but as she grew older she decided she was not doing things quite right. In the 1980’s she joined the Peace Corps. Since then her heart has belonged to the people of Honduras, and she could not leave.
After a term in the Peace Corps and some other short-term development positions, she based out of a hotel room in a town of about 10,000 people, called Santa Barbara. She went out to the villages in the region and got to know the people. She handed out food, clothing, and medicines as needed. When things were going well she taught, anything from the ABC’s to how to embroider and develop small businesses. The word had spread, and people in need would show up at Delores’ hotel.
The owners of the hotel had less of a problem with this than could have been expected, but eventually she did rent her own house. Once she had a place of her own, she began to take care of children at her home as well as helping in the villages. She would nurse sick or starving children to health so that they could fare well in Honduran orphanage system. She would care for children who were not sick enough to need a hospital stay, but needed care their families could not provide. While we were there, for example, on boy with asthma was at her house. He was doing better and we were able to return him to his family before we left. She also sometimes has cared for those who did need to go to the hospital, but had been turned away because there was no room.
We went to Honduras to meet this remarkable woman, learn about what she accomplishes and learn ways that we can support and help her. We arrived carrying bags full of diapers, baby clothes, kids’ clothes and sandals of all shapes and sizes. Between the 13 of us, we brought a lot of stuff.
Due to the unreliable mail system in Honduras, and how tempting large packages with US labels, packages sent through the mail system normally do not make it to the intended recipient, so Delores relies on what people bring with them to supply her work. We thought that the clothing we brought would last a month or two, but by the end of the second week there was not very much left.
Loaded with canvas bags full of preemie diapers, soap, combs and clothing, we rode up into the mountains. Delores took us directly to the places that she knew were currently doing poorly. Simply stepping out the Land Cruiser into one of these villages is enough to tear at anyone’s heart strings. There are very few men around, because they are either out working the sides of mountains trying to produce a crop, have gone to town for work, or have simply gone, leaving behind several women and many children to tend for themselves.
Therefore, the clearing we pulled into was full of skinny, bare-foot women and children. The younger mothers were between the ages of 13 and 20. Almost everyone’s bellies were distended, either from worms, malnutrition, pregnancy or a combination of the three. One woman was obviously pregnant. We though she would give birth any moment. She had a very small build, and Delores encouraged her to go to the hospital to her have child.
The next day when we visited the hospital, she was there. The drive to her village was over three hours. A bus runs for about an hour of that drive, but no more. She had walked many miles from her home village to get to the hospital and had her baby that very night. When we saw her, she was holding her newborn baby and preparing for the walk back up to her village, which she did.
This baby is one of the lucky ones. It was not only cared for by its mother, but its father as well. Not all the children are so lucky. In one village where we visited, a woman who had more children than she could care for had left two of her children with her sisters. The sisters already had more children than they could feed, so they asked Delores to take the children. The children, Sandra (five) and Sergio (three), joined us in the back of the Land Rover, Sandra on my lap and Sergio on Kristin’s. Neither of them had been in a car before, nor had they ever tasted anything like the cheese sandwiches we fed them.
Once we reached Delores’ house we washed the children, game them a lice treatment, and a pill to get rid of worms, and new clothing.
That night, instead of sleeping on a foam mat Delores had for them, Sandra curled up next to it on the floor because it was more like the ground she was used to sleeping on. Their lives will never be the same again.
Over the next couple of days, we watched their stomachs grow smaller as food and medications took care of the worms and the malnutrition. Then we continued to watch with wonder as these two small, quiet children began to talk with us and play with us, and for the first time in their lives actually hold a toy. Hearing Sandra and Sergio laugh and play after a few days at Delores house made us appreciate the good that Delores brings into these children’s lives.
Later in the week, two more children came to stay at Delores’, but with a much greater worry. Katie (five) and Kevin (two) were near death due to starvation. I have never seen a five-year-old so small. Katie was the size of a baby, with every bone showing, she could barely move. Their parents brought them to Delores’ doorstep at 6 p.m. on a Monday evening. Delores asked for two of us to help with the children overnight and then the rest of us would go back to the hotel and sleep.
Carol and Kristin volunteered. They stayed up throughout the night, coaxing the children to eat or drink just a little, first with eyedroppers of Pedialyte solution.
Kevin rebounded quickly, and by morning he would readily drink water filled with electrolytes form a bottle a couple ounces at a time. Katie had a much harder struggle. Her mouth and throat were sore (something common with starvation and dehydration), her body’s systems were shutting down. She was very close to death. When she came to us she already had some dark markings on her arms and legs, showing that her liver was beginning to shut down. Once during the night she drank, but then she could not seem to take anymore.
The next morning Kristin and Carol went along with some women who help Delores to take the children to the hospital. When they arrived, they waited until a doctor could see them. But the doctor did not have much to say. The hospital was full, and the children were going to die within the next three days anyway, so there was nothing he could do. Instead of giving up, however, they returned with the children to Delores’ home.
Throughout the next 24 hours, we all spent some time watching Katie, or trying to get her to drink or eat something. At around 10 p.m. the next night her breathing stopped. Delores, sitting nearby as always, could do nothing but pray. After what seemed like an eternity, Delores heard another breath, and then a pause. Then another breath, and then Katie returned to normal breathing. After that, it seemed that Katie had turned a corner, she took in more fluids and became more alert. It appeared that Katie had decided to live.
If Katie and Kevin had been admitted to the hospital, they would have received feeding tubes. This would have helped them received the nutrients they needed. As it was, they got what they needed through Delores’ persistence and patience. The hospital was full when we were there due to an outbreak of Dengue Fever. For most people, Dengue is simply a bad flu, but for those with weakened immune systems or those suffering malnutrition, it can cause horrible hemorrhaging that leads to internal bleeding and death.
In a hospital setting with nurses to care for the patients and what we regard as normal medical supplies available, this would not be such a killer. As it is, in this developing country, a family member or friend must be in the hospital 24/7 in order to care for the patient. The nurses provide the bottle of medications and issue any shots, but someone else needs to give the medication and provide food and nursing care for the patient.
When we walked into the hospital, it was nothing like we had expected. Even the walls of the hallways were lined with 2’ by 3’ beds. Some with cages or mosquito nets over them. all of them filled and with a woman beside each bed. A few beds even had a bit of cloth for sheets, even less had a bit of foam for a mattress. We hoped they were better supplied in the actual wards than in the hallways, but that was not to be. The wards were a large single room, the size of a small classroom with rows of beds. Delores had given us small foam mattresses and sheets to give to the nurses to make additional beds.
We distributed the bags we had brought. A members of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church had made many cloth bags for us to bring to Delores. Delores uses these bags to deliver supplies to each family. We had put a bit of soap, a comb, some preemie diapers and two or three infants outfits into each bag. We gave each mother in the maternity and pediatric wards and hallways a bag. As I left, I not only felt pity for those in the hospital, but angry that it is so difficult for them to receive good medical care. I also wished I would never need their care.
As we boarded the plane to leave and return to Minnesota, all of us had individual stories and memories that we cherish. For some, like Walt, it has changed our lives dramatically. Walt is planning a return trip to Honduras. For others, it makes our lives here, and the opportunities we have all the more valued. I, for one, am thankful for a bed to sleeping in, food to eat, a family that cares for me, and a wide variety of opportunities in my life. One opportunity I have is to continue to support Delores and help her continue to serve the needs of the villagers in rural Santa Barbara district. Anyone interested in supporting Delores’ work can do so through Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Cloquet.
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