What was your favorite memory of this trip?
Probably our last dinner with Lidia, our host mom. We cooked a big dinner for her and got her a “primer madre” trophy and a wind chime for her garden. She was the sweetest, kindest woman and we laughed throughout the night at the cute things she would say. I also had another great memory at the clinic; this little girl came in with some boils on her side on a thursday that required drainage. It was very upsetting because she was quite evidently in pain, crying, thrashing and sweating on the exam table. She came in every day after that to have her bandage changed, and 5 days later when I took her bandage off, she gave me a kiss on the cheek, it was the cutest most rewarding thing. She was was completely healed because of the care provided to her by the clinic.
What was the most difficult thing you experienced?
Probably seeing little kids in pain.
What was the one thing you wished you were better prepared for?
I wish I had brought a thin, light, long-sleeved shirt for the jungle to avoid mosquitoes!
Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations, sightseeing etc)
For anyone working at the clinic, I strongly recommend walking to work in a sports tank top and scrub pants (rolled up) and then throwing on your scrub top when you get to the clinic because you will be DRIPPING with sweat by the time you get to work and it’s gross to have to wear a wet shirt in front of patients. We would walk to work at 6:30am and then split a cab home from the clinic at lunch time (~$1/person/trip = 20 to 25 lempiras/person/trip depending on time of day) because it was too hot and took 30 minutes of our lunch break to walk. Most of us used wifi at the numerous fast food establishments on iPhones, computers, etc.
Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial):
This was probably the most fulfilling and rewarding medical experience I have had to date. I got to treat elderly women with varicose vein lesions, a boy who nearly lost his arm in a machete fight, irrigate an appendectomy, and remove 30 stitches from a gastric incision! One woman had had an appendectomy and the doctor said she was ready for a “butterfly bandage”. I expected him to unwrap one from a sterile package…but to my dismay, he tore a piece of masking tape off of one of the homemade sterile gauze bags and literally TAPED her wound shut and put gauze over it. Even more shocking, was that it actually worked, and the body’s capacity to heal itself should never be underestimated. The clinic was so under-supplied, short-staffed and run-down. The conditions the nurses and doctors work in on a daily basis are far below the lowest of U.S. standards, but there is never any complaint on their part. They maximize what they have and I really do feel that we made a difference. We were there long enough to see patients come in with wounds and leave significantly healed a few days later. There was a day the nurses were understaffed and I basically got to run the injections lab by myself so that the nurses could apply themselves to other units. Our host mother was incredible, and a great cook! One weekend we went to the jungle for white water rafting, cliff-jumping and zip lining and the second weekend we went on a getaway to Roatan at Infinity Bay ( = heaven!). It was the perfect blend of work and play and I highly recommend ABV because we couldn’t have done it without this organization!
How would you describe/rate your experience working with the ABV staff in the USA?
The ABV staff in the USA was very prompt with response time. We were adequately warned about safety and monetary needs. $300 in cash was a reasonable amount to have for 2 weeks, but if students plan for weekend activities/travel it will be more like $500.
How was the local ABV Director and the support provided in-country?
Manuel was perfect. He was always available to contact, incredibly helpful and truly wanted us to get the most out of our experience. Multiple times he offered to provide us transportation to the ferry, a weekend trip, etc. He also set us up with an amazing jungle trip with his friend George that included white water rafting, camping, zip-lining, etc. He showed us how to exchange money, where to relax, areas that were safe, anything we wanted or needed, Manuel helped us get!
Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?
Becky Volunteer Abroad in La Ceiba, Honduras