The work of
healing the children is an ongoing lesson in serendipity. Isn’t it
amazing how things can simply fall into place sometimes? For example,
consider the following story.
One day, Carole
Pettijohn, the Director of Outreach at Ivanrest Christian
Reformed Church (which is a very generous HTC supporter), called Helen
Salan, Executive Director of Healing the Children MI-OH. Carole wanted to
let Helen know that a number of people at Ivanrest were eager to be more
HTC’s work, in any way they could.
Carole and Helen discussed a number of ideas and eventually came up with a new concept: a combined medical, dental, and construction team that would undertake a working trip to Honduras. When Helen hung up she immediately called HTC’s Honduras liaison, Dr. Lilia Larios, who, amazingly enough, was right there in her office and had just been talking with her husband and her assistant about a town called Yamaranguila where there was a great need for medical and dental care . . . and an orphanage.
Needless, to say, Dr. Larios was stunned that Helen had called at just that moment. Things were simply falling into place. (You could call it serendipity.) Project Honduras 2006 began.
A team came together, about evenly divided between medical and dental professionals and builders, and several months later they found themselves on a truck headed into the Honduran mountains toward Yamaranguila. Carole Pettijohn, who served as team director, says, “Little did we know then that the place would soon become so dear to us, and that we were driving past the homes of people who would become dear friends.”
The building team threw themselves into the construction of a large complex, already near completion, that would serve as a boys’ orphanage. Electrical work, plumbing, hauling, sweeping, measuring, painting, laying countertops—they did it all.
Meanwhile, the dental and medical teams set up their equipment and assigned roles to all the willing helpers. Then they were ready to see the children. Would they come? On the first day the teams evaluated and/or treated only 34 dental patients and 130 medical patients. But by the end of the week the numbers were 227 dental patients and 703 medical patients . . . 930 gifts of healing.
At the end of the trip, Carole says, “There was surely a sense of happiness and satisfaction for all of us. We had accomplished a lot over the past five days, we had made some really good friends, and we had definitely laughed and cried together as a team. Thank you, Yamaranguila!”
Team members: Carole Pettijohn, team director; Dr. Bert Pierce, medical director; Dr. James Eldersveld, dentist; Dr. Rebecca Bultman, pediatrician; nurse practitioner Kristie Buchholz; dental assistant Rachel Ten Harmsel; nurses Marilyn Boven, Michelle Gulker, and Kristine Sutton ; construction crew Bob Pettijohn, Ron Boven, Tim Mullenburg, Doug Gulker, Bob Buchholz, Bob Bruggink, Jon Lawrence, and Doreen Lawrence; translators Jane Bruggink and Amy Lynn Door..
Project Honduras 2007 was to follow. Dr. Larios asked about sending another medical. dental, construction team; this time to San Juan de Flores (also known as Cantarranas or Singing Frogs). There were many unmet medical and dental needs and they needed help in funding and building a kitchen in the school there in the town. The kitchen was important to the children as the local community leaders wanted to provide two meals a day to the needy children. This turned out to be the first school in Honduras with a kitchen that could provide hot meals to the children; and Healing the Children played a major role. Peace Corp volunteers were translators; many Hondurans joined in, including our favorite Honduran dentists, Dr. Gloria de Corea and Dr. Jose Rodriguez (who also worked with the 2006 team). Many of this team’s participants and support were from Fellowship Christian Reformed Church and Ivanrest CRC joined in with financial support for the kitchen and medicines.
And so the team set off for ‘Singing Frogs’ via Tegucigalpa. Accommodations in-country were a bit different than the usual hotel. We did not know what to expect where we were told the team would stay in a “country house”. It was, however, a wonderful experience that included a fabulous in-house cook (who even did the team’s laundry - so when they returned from a long, hot day of work – there were their clothes, undies and all, flapping in the breeze).
According to team leader Beth Bouws, “Working with Cadena de Amor in Honduras was an outstanding experience. They were fully prepared for our team, both in the medical/dental and construction areas. In the dental clinic we were able to perform restorative dentistry on 260 children during the week. We had local students as dental assistants and Peace Corp workers as translators. The equipment they provided was well maintained and performed very well. Dr. Larios and Dr. Gloria were wonderful people with whom to work. The construction team was able to build a complete kitchen in the local school. Our success was due to the excellent pre-site planning and pre-site work accomplished by Cadena de Amor.”
A special bonus
this year was the gift of shoes. Team member Kristine Sutton
remembered from 2006 that there was a great need for shoes. She and many friends
gathered many pairs so the team was able to fit many very happy Hondurans.
director Bert Pierce who is a veteran of many trips to many venues adds,
“This was one of those unique moments where friendships started years ago, pick up as
if they happened yesterday. The greeting:’I haven’t seen you since Bolivia –how have
you been?’ was unique and comforting. It had been six years since that first general
medical/dental adventure and we are still coming back. This group – veterans and
newcomers alike – characterizes the spirit and intentions of HTC: care, treatment and
continuity. I’m grateful to have been allowed to take part.”
Mike Ramsey was one of the construction workers and adds his reflections:
“Change the world, one child at a time”. This Healing the Children thought doesn’t say enough about what you can do to help. Our trip to San Juan De Flores, Honduras, in January of 2007 was one of the greatest and most life changing experiences of my life.
consisted of 5 construction and 9 medical people from Michigan plus the
peace Corp volunteers and Hondurans. The doctors and dentists each helped dozens
of people daily. Seeing the lines of people each day looking for medical help that isn’t
available locally, and watching the doctors and dentists one by one helping was truly
amazing to watch. The gift of building a full kitchen so the children of the school can
eat 2 square meals a day was more rewarding than one can imagine. These kids,
through our gifts of help, are able to live a better life. They will grow up knowing that
they, too, can make a difference in someone’s life.
By sharing my
gift of construction I am able to make a difference. By sharing your
abilities you too can make a difference. By donating our time, money, and support we
are doing so much more than “one child at a time.” We are making this world a
“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision,
The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives.
It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.
Simply stated it is LESS ME and MORE WE.”
Beth Bouws, nurse/dental assistant and team co-leader;
Dr. John Bouws, dentist and team co-leader; Dr. Bert Pierce, medical director;
Dr. Chris Norman, dentist; Dr. Brian Gerondale, dermatologist; Kristine Sutton,
Sharon Norman and Sandra Drye, nurses; Ellie Postma, team aide;
Ruth Eggerding, Jack Emelander, Jason Bode, Greg Bode and Mike Ramsey,