By Jody Gerth
Interfaith Outreach Coordinator and Youth Group Advisor at Temple Israel
This was my second year going to Honduras with Washington Overseas Mission (WOM). I love to travel and I love to help those in need, so this organization is right up my alley. WOM is a nonprofit group that sends medical and dental brigades to Honduras. Since 1992, volunteers from the group have served over 100,000 people in various areas of the country.
Every year WOM sends a medical and dental brigade to poor rural areas of Honduras. The brigade offers medical care, dental care, female health exams/PAPs, eyeglasses, and donations of food, clothing, shoes, school supplies, and toys. WOM goes to areas where health care is not easily accessible or affordable.
Last year was my first year going to Honduras with WOM and I was utilized as a medical interpreter since I speak Spanish. It was a great experience and I was eager to return this year!
As you may have seen in the news, Honduras had a presidential election that resulted in political unrest and violent protests from January to March of 2018. We were scheduled to return in March 2018 and unfortunately had to postpone the trip because of the security situation. We had a full team of doctors, dentists, and volunteers ready for March, and we were all sad to have to cancel the trip. We didn’t want to abandon our Honduran people, so a small group of us decided to go in May even though we didn’t have a full team and no doctors were able to come with us. We decided to just focus on the distribution of donations and health education for the kids.
We arrived in San Pedro Sula, Honduras on May 18 and headed to the WOM bodega (warehouse) where we ship down containers of donations several times during the year. We had to organize all of the donations to decide what we would be bringing with us when we set out for the province of Yoro where we would be working. The next day we drove four hours to San Antonio, Yoro which is a community we have served for many years. We work with the local church council there to coordinate our missions. We would not be able to do the work we do without our Honduran counterparts.
In addition to serving San Antonio, we also went to three other villages nearby during the week. We drove on very bumpy roads into the mountains to reach the other towns. The scenery was gorgeous.
Jody in Honduras - May 2018
Our team of seven people divided into two groups when we visited the villages. Half of the team worked on distributing donations to the neediest families who had been selected by the town leaders. The other half of our group (including myself) focused on dental health education in the schools. In total, we gave 13 presentations in 6 schools to over 700 students and their teachers. We taught the kids how to brush their teeth, to avoid junk/sugary foods, and that having their teeth pulled is not something that has to happen! We taught them about cavities and tooth decay and how to prevent it. Hardly any of these kids have ever seen a dentist or probably ever will. Not all of the villages/towns have a dentist and if they do, it’s not something every family can afford. We left every kid with at least one tooth brush and toothpaste to take home. Some schools also received an extra set of toothbrushes for each kid to keep one in the classroom so they can brush after lunch. We taught the teachers how to apply fluoride varnish for the little ones and left some extra for them to apply again in six months. We told the teachers we were counting on them to continue the health education after we left. We also talked about handwashing to prevent sickness, and gave out sunglasses and talked about the importance of protecting your eyes from the sun and dust. The kids liked our presentation and laughed at our silly jokes about teeth! I was really inspired by the teachers passion for helping their students.
I love teaching and being in the classroom whether it’s here at Temple Israel or in a one-room schoolhouse in Honduras. Making the kids smile and helping them realize their full potential is very rewarding. Although we only were able to spend about 30 minutes with each class, I hope that we planted small seeds that open their eyes to the benefits of good dental hygiene. I believe that education is the key to any type of positive change and I recognize that change takes time. WOM will return to San Antonio next year with a normal full medical and dental brigade if all goes well.
If you want to learn more about Washington Overseas Mission, check out their website and Facebook page: