Wednesday, January 15, 2014

VCU GH2DP Honduras Trip: A Day in the Mountains

Hiking to Chorro Viento
Yesterday we got up early and left Olanchito to drive out to the rural, mountainous area where the people we serve live. This is a large area that consists of 17 villages and roughly 2,000 people. Because of logistical issues we have only visited 2 of these villages in the past (La Hicaca and Lomitas) and have coordinated with our community partners to have people from the outlying villages come see us in these places. Practically speaking, this means that some people have to walk 6 hours (each way) over mountains in the hot sun (it's typically in June and we are near the equator = hot, hot, hot) just to see us in clinic.

We were excited yesterday to have the opportunity to visits a few additional villages we have never
En route to Chorro Viento
been to: La Culatta and Chorro Viento. Our primary goal was to assess older water catchment infrastructure and to see if a new chlorination project is feasible and acceptable to people living in areas that would be served by the new technology.

We could drive to La Culatta but had to hike out to Chorro Viento; this was a 30 minute "walk," at least for people living in the area. For us it was more like 60 minutes and was as strenuous as any serious hike I have ever been on in the United States. Keep in mind this was the easiest village to reach and it's January-far cooler than June. I have always respected the mental and physical toughness of people living in the area but this has given me profound new respect. It is not uncommon to see a woman in her 70s walk 3-6 hours to come see us wearing what amounts to plastic shower sandals; I am confidant I could not keep pace with these women.

When we reached Chorro Viento we also got to see a project that was created in partnership with a group from the European Union: a working turbine that supplied power to this village. This is the only village in the region with power and was made possible by their proximity to a local river/ waterfall. The project was incredible and people in the village had enormous pride in the
Cistern in La Culatta; there are 4 of these
in the region supplying water to 5 of the
17 villages we serve; the water is not
safe to drink but a new chlorination
project may be able to provide clean water 
technology. What was truly amazing is the power poles-every bit as large as those found in the US-were carried up the mountain by people from the village. No heavy equipment could reach the village so the poles were planted by hand. The work must have been unbelievably strenuous.

People do so much with so little in the area, and a little really
does go a long way. I left yesterday with a renewed sense of admiration for the people living in the area and with a strong desire to do more to help people in the region. We are hopeful we can continue the many productive partnerships we have established in the region to help improve the health of its people. It is a great privilege to be able to come here, to be welcomed into the communities, and to be given the opportunity to help.
The region has traditionally had a problem with poor indoor
air quality related to poor stove ventilation in homes. Many homes have
now had improved ventilation systems installed and are
effectively ventilating smoke from homes
We also brought enough anti-worm medication
to provide another dose to everyone living
in the region (this is part of a long-term longitudinal
regional project to decrease the intestinal
worm burden) 

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