Reports from the Field

Friday, February 2nd, 2024
Reports from the Field
Dr. Gigi Baker Owens the team leader of the OLMC Medical Mission Team currently serving in Honduras. Read her reports back to our community here at home and continue to pray for our team members as they serve Christ in our name!
Mission accomplished!
We would like to thank the OLMC community for their support, without which this trip would not have been possible. Your generosity has gone a long way to improve the lives of many and serve as an example of how small acts of kindness can be an instrument for change.
We also had the pleasure of working with high school interpreters from the local bilingual school who have goals of attending universities and go on to professional careers. They represent hope for these communities and served as a further inspiration for us. The people in each community were present each day to help in any way they could. We also worked daily with a local physician, Dra Daniella Figueroa. This enabled us to assure appropriate follow up care for those in need. The spirit of the community is strong but the resources are lacking. As such, your support goes a long way to provide them a better future.

We are so grateful to our team who worked so hard to organize the mission, the volunteers who brought their medical expertise, interpretive services and logistics support, the hotel staff, our bus drivers in New Jersey and Honduras, our security detail and most importantly to Fr. Alfredo and the Carmelites in Honduras. A true team effort!

One more bumpy bus ride, this time to the airport, awaits us after many goodbyes to all those who made this mission a success!!!

Day 5 “Day 5 Already!”
It is hard to believe this is our final day! Today we had a short ride into the town of Yamaranguila, our host community where we had been welcomed and attended mass at the beginning of the week. Word had spread and the throng was waiting! When we arrived shortly after 8 am there were already over 150 people waiting to register. We knew we had to get into high gear and waste no time. Amazingly we attended to more than 400 over the course of the day! Sadly our medication supply was dwindling and we had to turn away over 100 town folk ☹️. Nonetheless, we learned a lot about the medical needs of the community so we can better meet their needs in the future.
After a long exhausting day we were treated to a home cooked farewell dinner by the Carmelite priests—Frs. Alfredo, Tom, Gregorio, Antolino, and Luis. We were joined by the Vice-Mayor of Yamaranguila, Sara Garcia. They are all extremely grateful for our services and the support the OLMC community has generously provided. The medical mission had a great impact on the areas served and solidified the Carmelite commitment to the community. Of course we have been invited back and look forward to making that a reality.
Day 4 “La Puerta”
 After days of unusually cold wet foggy weather we welcomed warmth and blue skies at the school in La Puerta —our host for today. As in all the other sites, the community eagerly awaited our arrival and directions on how to set up and run the clinic. This was a “geographically” challenging site since the classrooms we were using as offices were separated by uneven terrain and a steep, tricky grade. Everyone helped getting patients around the clinic, including those in wheelchairs, who needed to be carried by our bus drivers and security detail. Special thanks to them who, on their own initiative, pitched in to lend a hand whenever needed. They truly had our backs throughout the week and we are immensely grateful for their support. They are now official members of the “Brigada Médica”.

Throughout the week we have come to understand how vital medical services which we take for granted in our community are not available in the communities we served. Local doctors provide medical services in these communities once a month. Specialists—such as an orthopedist or ophthalmologist, are only available at the nearest hospital once a month.  The hospital can be a 4-5 hour walk away. Therefore, many conditions remain untreated. Most do not have means of transportation. On our way to the sites Fr.  Alfredo would stop multiple times in his pickup truck to give rides to those walking on the road. As the days passed, we felt more and more grateful for what we have and more committed to serve those less fortunate.

Dr. Gigi Baker Owens (left) with her husband, Dr. Owens.


Day 3 “Back to Azacualpa”

Today we returned to Azacualpa. The community was busy working the fields and harvesting coffee, but still over 110 came to seek medical care. Since this was a “light day” for the team we finished early and stopped in the town of La Esperanza on the way back.
There we visited the Grotto —and headed up the uneven stairs to The Immaculate Concepcion of Lourdes Chapel. After an ice cream stop, some souvenir shopping and a stroll thru the town plaza, we returned to the hotel. We ended the day with Father Tom offering a reflective brief mass and communion.
Day 2 “Up the Mountain”
Today we headed up the mountain on slightly (emphasis on slightly) improved roads but with a dense fog and cold drizzle. After 45 minutes we reached Azacualpa, the village which boasts the highest elevation in Honduras at 6,000 feet, on muddy dirt roads. We drove by barely visible fields of lettuces, broccoli, beets, watermelon, potatoes, to name a few. Needless to say, the population works the fields, with the help of oxen. We attended to 218 patients who walked up to 3 hours in the cold light rain and fog to see us. We were all cold but couldn’t complain as we got to drive off on the bus at the end of the day. As it turns out, the unseasonably cold day broke a weather record – unusual weather is not only happening in New Jersey! Women and children comprise the majority of our visitors, as the men are busy working the fields along with the healthy children. We return tomorrow!
Day 1 “An Amazing Day”
After loading supplies on the bus, we were joined by two young students from the English school in town who volunteered as translators and proved extremely helpful. We departed at 7:30 am from the hotel for an adventure ride to the village of El Porvenir. The half an hour ride culminated in a treacherous narrow switchback on an unpaved steep road masterfully handled by our fearless bus driver William. We arrived at the low land “aldea” (village) nestled in the mountains covered with coffee and plantain fields. The locals were waiting for us and we quickly got settled and got to work. We attended to 213 Hondurans, mostly women and children, some who had walked up to 3 hours to receive our care. The doctors worked out of 2 classrooms, the pharmacy under the tin roof, and nursing under a tent. The day ended with a beautiful prayer by Father Emelido giving thanks for our care. The team arrived back at the hotel for dinner and more preparation of supplies for Day 2. Keep us in your prayers as we continue with our travels and work!
“Sunday in Yamaranguila”
Today we enjoyed a beautiful mass at Santa Lucía Parish by Father Alfredo. The church dates back to 1720!! It has a beautiful wooden ceiling and very colorful altar. The youth are very involved —there were 13 in all between altar boys and readers!! He dedicated the mass to the mission group and introduced us to the congregation which packed the church. We then strolled thru the charming town where we were given a tour to learn the history and customs of the region and the native Lencan people. After a wonderful lunch near the town of La Esperanza, we returned to the hotel to organize and prepare all the medications for tomorrow. We’re ready to go!!
“Travel Day”
After an exhausting day the Medical Mission group arrived safely at their destination! We departed OLMC parking lot at 3 am for a 6:20 am flight. Transferred in Miami and arrived in Tegucigalpa at 12:45 pm. All 23 boxes of supplies made it and after an exhaustive more than 2 hour search by customs, where they opened every single box and searched (for expired meds and illegal drugs, I’m pretty sure), we were cleared. Then a 2 hour drive up the mountains to our hotel in Yamaranguila. Arrived at 6 pm for check in and to feed a very tired and hungry group. After a good nights rest, we attend mass in Yamaranguila and get ready for the mission today. Keep praying for us!
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