Helping hands for Honduras

Helping Hands for Honduras

The people in the small village of La Cienaga, Honduras, don’t have a lot of the things that we take for granted, like basic medications, a change of clothes or even enough food on the table. But despite these challenges, they are happy and appreciative of the small things. And now that Kim Lewelling has visited there twice, she’s learned from her experience to be more appreciative of the small things, too.

“The people of this area are very poor but hard working, and they truly appreciate anything we can do for them,” Kim said. “Access to health care is difficult, so just bringing them something to treat a headache means so much. Even with the struggles they face every day, they are a very happy and grateful community.”

Kim, the lead technologist in IDEXX’s Nashville reference laboratory, trades in her usual commute for one that’s a bit more extreme when she volunteers in Honduras. “There isn’t anywhere for us to stay in La Cienaga,” explained Kim. “Every morning an old school bus would drive us about an hour into the mountains. Then, we’d travel the last quarter of a mile into the village on foot.”

Making a difference

During her most recent trip, Kim worked alongside 40 other American and Honduran volunteers to bring medical care, food and clothing to local families. “This was the second time I had the opportunity to join a mission trip to Honduras,” she said. “In a week’s time, our team of volunteers sorted, bagged and handed out beans, rice and clothing for 300 families. I spent my days working in the pharmacy, filling prescriptions and distributing vitamins and parasite medication. It could be hectic at times, but it gave me the opportunity to interact with many of the beautiful children we worked with.”

Over the course of their visit, the doctor on Kim’s team saw approximately 565 patients. Many local families aren’t able to afford even the most basic medicines. Knowing that cost is a huge barrier to treatment, the group raised money before they left to purchase medicines, including ibuprofen, acetaminophen, penicillin, children’s ibuprofen, blood pressure and stomach medications. A small group of volunteers also traveled to surrounding schools to provide teeth cleaning and fluoride treatments as well as to administer parasite medication for nearly 300 school children.

Mixing pleasure with business

“At lunchtime, we’d serve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and flavored drinks to all of the people who came to visit the clinic and pharmacy. When we had downtime, we loved to get out and play with the children. They all love blowing bubbles, and the little girls really like to have their fingernails painted. It was a wonderful sight in the afternoons to see the young people from our team out playing red rover or soccer with the local children.”

Kim plans to return to Honduras again next year, but they’ll be visiting a new location. “It’s hard to leave knowing there’s so much more that needs to be done. And it’s hard to come back, too. We add so much unnecessary stress to our lives here—it’s a different kind of stress. My daughter had made this trip a few times before I did and she tried to explain it. I thought I understood, but I really didn’t until I visited there myself. It was very uplifting. I came out of it with so much more than I could have ever possibly given.”

In a week’s time, our team of volunteers sorted, bagged and handed out beans, rice and clothing for 300 families.

Kim Lewelling, Lead Technologist, IDEXX Reference Laboratories, Nashville, TN