Poverty in Honduras
Honduras is the 2nd poorest country in Central America, with approximately 64 percent of Hondurans living below the poverty level of 2 dollars per day. Thirty-nine percent of the population is employed by the agricultural sector; however, an onslaught of natural and man-made disasters continue to damage that industry. Deforestation through illegal logging activities has led to widespread erosion and destruction of the agricultural industry. In 1998 Hurricane Mitch brought 75 inches of rainfall which caused landslides and widespread flooding exacerbated by the deforestation. The result was an economic and humanitarian catastrophe
that left nearly 1.5 million people, 20 percent of the country’s population, homeless. The president of Honduras estimated that Mitch set back nearly 50 years of economic development in the country. The picture below shows a one room structure near Jayacayan, Honduras that 17 people call home.
The Vision Clinic
Each year we take approximately 1000 pairs of glasses and 400 bottles of prescription and non-prescription eye drops with us to distribute to the people in Honduras. The glasses are generously donated through the Lions Club of Indiana – each year we send them the request for specific eyeglass prescriptions ranging from -10.00 to +10.00 in different quantities. A prison work program fulfills the order and sends them in labeled, individual bags. Once we receive the glasses, we organize and pack them into large plastic crates which we take on the plane with us. Upon arrival in Honduras, we rent four-wheel drive trucks and head south to the mountain region of San Marcos de Colon in the state of Choluteca near the border of Nicaragua. With the help of the Choluteca Rotary club and our translator, Carolina Tercero – a local Honduran who has dedicated her life to helping the people in her home country – we travel to different pueblas (towns) each day in very remote regions to perform eye exams. The vast majority of the people we see have never seen an eye doctor or had prescription glasses.
When we arrive in a town to start the vision clinic early in the mornings, we are always welcomed by the waiting smiles of almost the entire village. Carolina, our translator/coordinator, schedules the clinic well ahead of time and the people anxiously await our arrival. Many people walk several hours from the surrounding towns, so people continue to arrive as the day progresses. We examine eyes using an instrument called a retinoscope and an ophthalmoscope, providing us with an eyeglass prescription and an evaluation of the health of the eyes. Once determined, we find a matching pair of glasses and fit the patient to ensure adequate vision, and dispense appropriate eye drops as needed. When we encounter those with eye diseases such as cataracts, we record the patient’s name and the town leader’s phone number so that we can coordinate future surgery.
Take Home Message
The need for foreign aid in Honduras is astounding. The government provides very little in the way of social services to its people. The remote villages we travel to have little to no access to clean water, nutritious food, electricity, basic transportation, and medical care – things that are essential to the quality of life. That being said, one of the most striking things we encounter is the happiness of the people there. Their happiness stems from the sense of community, family, and the simple things in life – something we could all learn from. Through the help of those who generously donate to the Rotary club and the time and talents of the members of the Rotary Club of Madison, we hope to continue to travel there yearly to enhance the lives of the people we encounter and give them the gift of sight. Thank you to everyone who helps make this trip successful.