Guest Post By Dr. Robert Clark.
In 1977, I travelled on an EMAS sponsorship as a student dentist to Honduras. I have had a long association with the country over the years with several mission trips. When I retired from full-time practise 10 years ago, my wife and I decided on returning to Honduras to devote some time to helping with dentistry in the country and assist with Christian witness. We found a medical outreach team was going to the town of Catacamas and volunteered.
The town of Catacamas, Honduras is a four-hour bus ride from the capital, Tegucigalpa. On the outskirts of the town, the school of El Sembrador is located. It was started by missionaries as a school teaching orphans in the 1950’s. Over the years, it has developed into teaching underprivileged children who require financial support to receive a high school diploma. Boys from all over the country are selected and sponsored to attend. As part of the facilities, there is a small medical clinic and a two operatory dental clinic.
The medical dental team was housed in the facilities at the school. The team visited remote villages in the surrounding area for most of the trip. Dentistry was limited to emergency treatment. The last day of the program was dedicated to attending to the health needs of the children at the school and people in the local area.
We realized that with so many children, there was only time to deal with emergency procedures. With the clinic facilities allowing for restorative treatment but lacking the time, I approached the school with the idea of arriving the next year before the team and doing restorative treatment for the children. This was well received by the school. We volunteered to arrive one week early but found that this was still not adequate time to meet all of the needs. The following year we extended our time so that we could treat all of the children and some of the local people. This extended program has been ongoing for 8 years now.
After so many years of visiting the school, it has been rewarding to see the dental needs of the children enrolled in the school program being met. We also had opportunity to visit schools in the neighbouring villages and see that there are needs in those communities as well.
The medical/dental teams that were visiting this area ceased operation several years ago. With the sponsorship of EMAS Canada, I continue the dental program with the school. The school has said that there is still health needs in the outlying villages. They would welcome a team to return for this outreach. They are in the process of coordinating with local health authorities to allow an EMAS Canada health team to minister in the area. This team is projected to start in 2024/25.
In the mean time, while we await the go-ahead from the local health department to authorize a health team, the EMAS dental mission to Honduras will continue into its 11th year visiting the El Sembrador campus for the student program.
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All Scripture references are taken from the New International Version (NIV)
Feature image: photo by Karen Johannes, used with permission.