Honduras, which is approximately the size of Tennessee, is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere and the 2nd poorest country in Central America. Approximately 60% of the 9 million people in Honduras live below the poverty line. There is only one physician per 2,800 people and one dentist per 18,000 people. Because the majority of these professionals reside and work in urban areas, most villages have neither physician nor dentist.
Since 1988, Cape CARES has treated over 150,000 people for various dental, medical, optometric, and chiropractic problems.
Our story begins in 1988 when Ted Keary, a dentist from Cape Cod Massachusetts, along with his wife Cindy Keary, recruited family and friends to volunteer with an organization from Texas that provided medical and dental care to the underserved in Honduras. This organization traveled to a different site on every visit and, consequently, the people they treated did not receive follow-up care. After making 4 trips with the Texas group, the Cape Cod volunteers saw a gap in their work, and felt that the need for follow up care was very important to the overall health of their patients. In 1990, meeting in the Baxley’s living room, they decided to establish an organization that would provide medical and dental care, as well as follow-up care, to people who otherwise have no access to care.
Within a short period of time, dedicated and caring professionals including, Tilly Ruud, Brenda Baxley, Grover Baxley, Dan Fraunfelter, Seth Harvey, Ted Keary, Cindy Keary, Einar Ruud, Mary Dubuc and Mitch Tishler, established Cape CARES, Central American Relief Efforts. They drew up a company structure, nominated officers, proclaimed the new entity to be Cape CARES Central American Relief Efforts and then called for a general meeting. They were off and running! Mitch Tishler served as the first president for seven years, during which time he devoted energy, expertise, and resources to ensure that Cape CARES was serving those most in need and had the ability to provide ongoing care.
In February of 1991, Cape CARES adopted one community, San Jose de Pespire, in thedepartment of Choluteca, and sent five teams into this region. In these early years, AmeriCares generously provided use of its warehouse and access to medical and dental supplies in Honduras. AmeriCares support, as well as the support from other generous benefactors, enabled Cape CARES to adopt two more communities. In 1993, we began serving the communities of Los Encinitos and El Jicarito.
In 1997, Mitch resigned as our president and Mike Fishbein was elected to lead Cape CARES. By now, our ability to provide critical health care services was expanding to encompass a larger population and a broader geographical area. As we strengthened our focus and began to implement more preventive health care programs, the good news spread regarding our work in Honduras. Our volunteer pool grew significantly allowing us to double the number of teams we were sending to Honduras annually. In 2000, we sent five teams to two new sites in San Marcos and El Conchal in the department of Valle.
At the end of a clinic week, we provide reports to the Honduran Ministry of Health. Based on reports provided in the ‘90’s, the government designated San Jose as a medical post. It now has a Honduran doctor in residence – a goal for which we had strived. Other medical groups have established medical services in the El Jicarito region and, rather than duplicating efforts, we left that area to concentrate on our existing and new sites. Upon learning that El Conchal had resources and access to medical and dental services in nearby Nacaome, we looked for another site and found El Algodonal in 2001. Our volunteers provided care to the people of El Algodonal for 11 years.
In 2012, we learned that a medical clinic was established in an area near El Algodonal, ending the need for us to provide services in the surrounding villages. Our search for a site to replace El Algodonal led us to the San Lorenzo region. In this region, we learned of the great need for our services and began providing care at a clinic in Bertin Umanzor. Less than two years later, we branched out to a second, more destitute area, called Apacilagua.
The Bertin and Apacilagua clinics are located in very poor areas -- 40% of the population lacks latrines, many houses have only dirt floors (a serious problem during the rainy season); some houses are made of earth and others are put together with plastic and cardboard. The Agrolibano Foundation, as part of its community development efforts, has helped to put some houses up on stilts. They have also built schools in addition to clinics. In June 2014, we sent our first team to Bertin and, since then, three more teams have served at that site. A pilot team served in Apacilagua in June 2016 and, after witnessing the desperate need for care, the volunteers returned eager to go back again. The team leader stated that the team "saw many patients who had never seen a doctor for the issues they presented".
Cape CARES teams have been providing services in Los Encinitos for more than 22 years, in San Marcos for more than 15 years, and is now committed to serving the people in the San Lorenzo region. As long as there is a need for care and we have the teams to send, Cape CARES will provide services to the residents of these areas.