Two groups of Saint Mary’s students traveled to Honduras over spring break to serve impoverished locals at a group home and orphanage surgery center.
Education Professor Karen Van Meter and social work Professor Leonard Sanchez took a group of eight students to El Hogar Diamante, a home for boys offering safe housing, education and training in a trade.
While most of the boys are not homeless or orphaned, the home helps divert them from getting into dangerous situations they may otherwise be exposed to, Sanchez said.
“The Hogar takes on boys from around 12, even as young as seven, that have parents and homes of their own, but it gets them off the streets,” Sanchez said. ” Many of them [would otherwise] find themselves living in the streets, bored, restless, panhandling.”
The students spent their mornings in Honduras doing service projects including painting rooms and cleaning in the Hogar, before spending the afternoon doing recreational activities with the boys. Evenings offered students time to come together for reflection and discussion.
Both Van Meter and Sanchez stressed the importance of forming relationships with the boys. To better understand what the boys come from, the students visited four of the boys’ homes and met their families, accompanied by the Hogar’s social worker.
Van Meter said the girls handled the home visits well despite the heartbreaking nature of the families’ living conditions.
“One of the boys’ mothers told us she never imagined that she would give up her children,” Van Meter said. ” She just couldn’t control her sons.”
The students took pictures throughout the week, including during the home visits. Sanchez said they would be sending some of the pictures back to the boys and their families.
“The boys loved taking pictures with all the girls’ cameras,” Van Meter said. “They just loved taking the picture and then looking at it on the screen. They became very attached to the girls.”
The other group, made up of six nursing students, spent the week at the Nuestros Vaqueros Hermanos orphanage located about two hours north of the Hogar. The students spent their time assisting in surgeries and other medical procedures at the orphanage’s surgery center, built by the family of Trish Daly, a 2010 Saint Mary’s graduate.
Junior Molly Borg said the work provided invaluable practical experience.
“It was completely hands on,” Borg said. “I had never started an IV before and now I’ve done it. This [junior year] is the first year we do clinicals and the experience was great.”
The students spent much of their time working directly with patients before participating in surgical consultations and finally assisting in the actual surgeries.
“We did 60 surgeries in four days,” Borg said. “We worked where we were needed, but we also got to scrub in on surgeries we were interested in.
Borg, who is interested in pediatrics, was able to scrub in on a young girl’s trigger thumb operation. She said the experience gave her insight into how children deal with surgery and how nurses can help them get through it.