How two U.S. Clubs and two Honduran Clubs, together with Project C.U.R.E., collaborated to provide assistance to two struggling Honduran hospitals

By Joyce Hersh
In a complex international service project, two U.S. Rotary Clubs have completed a one-of-a-kind, joint effort involving two Honduran Rotary Clubs and Project C.U.R.E, an internationally known humanitarian organization headquartered in Centennial, Colo.  The plan:  to ship life-saving medical equipment and supplies to two government-operated hospitals in Honduras, one in La Paz and the other in the city of Comayagua.  What is unique is how the story behind this effort evolved and was made possible by the generosity, cooperation and hard work of the four Rotary Clubs and Project C.U.R.E.  -  Click Here for video of the project.
University Hills Rotary in Denver had decided by early 2019 to identify a Central American hospital in need of assistance, according to Michael Haviland, International Service Chairman.  However, the matter of which facility and its location remained an open question.  A telephone call to Jan Mazotti, Communications Director at Project C.U.R.E., revealed that two such hospitals had already been identified.  She pointed out that Suntree Rotary of Melbourne, Fla., was already planning to help finance the shipment of a full container of medical goods to be shared by hospitals in two Honduran cities.  Perhaps a collaboration would be possible, she advised.
Project C.U.R.E. maintains a huge inventory of donated medical supplies and used but very serviceable equipment in its Denver warehouse.  With sufficient financial backing, it would be possible to ship two full containers, the first to Roberto Suazo Córdova Hospital in the city of La Paz (financed by Suntree), and the second to Santa Teresa Hospital in Comayagua (financed by University Hills), so that the goods of one container would not have to be divided between the two hospitals.
Once that had been ascertained, it was game on!  Both of the U.S. Rotary Clubs agreed to the collaboration, and Club Rotario Comayagua and Club Rotario La Paz agreed to provide their full support, serving as clearing agents on the ground in Honduras and trucking the equipment and supplies to their final destinations.
Meanwhile, on May 17, 2019, representatives from both U.S. Rotary Clubs gathered at the Project C.U.R.E. warehouse, and in a fun-filled, family/Rotarian day, met and worked side-by-side, packing their respective containers and then hauling them to the Denver railyards to be taken by train to Houston and loaded onto a container ship bound for Port of Cortez, Honduras.
Once the shipments had been released by Customs on July 30, our agent on the ground, Rotarian Sady Rivera of Comayagua, was on hand with his team of volunteers from the two Honduran clubs, who loaded the containers onto trucks.  Upon arrival at the hospitals, Rotarians off-loaded the containers and helped hospital personnel set up the equipment.    
            It was as if Christmas had come again in July to Santa Teresa Hospital.  The doctors, nurses and staff excitedly unpacked box after box of equipment and supplies so urgently needed yet so difficult for them to acquire:  syringes of varying volume; examination and surgical gloves; disposable drapes and clothing; blood-draw kits (which they previously  had been re-sterilizing for each use); medicines and a first-aid kit.  Next, an ultrasound machine; two monitors, four oximeters, exam tables, a gurney and other furniture.
But by far the most highly prized gift was the portable x-ray machine to replace their old one, which frequently fell from its mountings on the ceiling and often did not work.  Now the newborns would not have to be taken from the security and stability of their incubators to another floor to be x-rayed, because the equipment would be brought directly to them.  It is arguably the most valuable piece of diagnostic equipment a hospital in that part of the world could have, for identifying a host of injuries, birth defects or illnesses.  The doctors were elated. 
International Committee member Ricardo Cárdenas of University Hills Rotary is a native of El Salvador who makes frequent business trips to Central America.  Early in the project he volunteered to combine one of his trips to the area to visit Santa Teresa Hospital and meet with Hospital Director Dr. VioletaCastañeda.  He arrived in Comayagua on November 22, with Sady Rivera as his host and guide, to follow up on the project.  After lunch with Dr. Castañeda and her staff, he was given an extensive tour of the hospital, accompanied by the doctors who headed the various departments.
Santa Teresa Hospital, founded by nuns in the 1500s, lies in a valley surrounded by mountains.  It was rebuilt in the 1980s and  is a larger facility than one might expect, with a 210-bed capacity.  It is also Comayagua’s only general hospital, with a highly professional, well-trained and caring staff who have learned to make the best of the resources that they have.
 Departments include General Medicine, Orthopedics, Geriatrics, Radiology, Obstetrics, Labor and Childbirth, with a strong emphasis on maternal and infant care.  For the ten-month period from January through October of 2019, the hospital recorded 4,107 deliveries, 5,387 surgeries and 92,355 emergency visits. 
            Doctors and nurses in each of the departments he visited asked Ricardo to convey their deepest appreciation to all of the Rotary Clubs involved and to Project C.U.R.E for their part in this effort, which literally has made a difference in the way they are able to practice medicine.  Ricardo also had the opportunity to meet and photograph a number of the smiling patients, young and old, who directly benefited from the donated goods.
As an additional sign of the staff’s appreciation, Ricardo noted that every piece of “new” equipment or furniture bore a small placard stating: “Donado por Rotario” (Donated by Rotary).
Dr. Castañeda expressed her personal gratitude, saying “I would like to thank you for all you and your fellow-Rotarians did in acquiring these items and sending them to us.  And congratulations for the wonderful job that you did, because it was a very well organized effort focused on the things that we really needed most.”
Just under $30,000:  The cost of delivering a container of medical goods and equipment with a retail value of about $200,000, from Colorado to Honduras.  Cost-effective?  Absolutely.  But how does one measure the worth of the potentially hundreds of lives that can be saved—or vastly improved—because enough people cared to make a difference?  Perhaps it is incalculable.
Our sincere thanks to all who supported this effort, with their time, toil and treasure:  University Hills Rotary, Denver; Rotary District 5450, Denver; Denver Rotary; Denver Mile-High Rotary; Suntree Rotary, Melbourne, Fla; Club Rotario Comayagua; Club Rotario La Paz; anonymous private donors; and last but certainly not least, to Project C.U.R.E. for providing all of the supplies, equipment and furnishings, as well as expertise and guidance throughout the project.