Tales from abroad: Area doctor talks about Honduras mission trip


Recorder News Staff

About 15 people gathered in the Horace J. Inman Senior Center Thursday evening for another meeting of the Walter Elwood Nature Club.

Local family care physician Dr. Kevin Cope presented the group with the country he fell in love with: Honduras.

Mike Schuttig, president of the Walter Elwood Nature Club, said each month he tries to bring something new to the club.

Cope has been to the country five times doing medical mission trips, most recently in June, and in each trip he has taken 30 to 40 other people with him -- including various members of the local medical community and other volunteers -- to work with Honduran locals to better their health and ailments.

"It helps the economy greatly to have groups come in," Cope explained, as the average yearly income for a Honduran is $2,200. "They're happy to have a medical team arrive to meet some of the needs."

The four-hour direct flight to the country gives the team the perfect opportunity to maximize their time there, he said.

But the country isn't necessarily the perfect vacation spot.

Cope told the Nature Club that Honduras is actually one of the most dangerous countries in the world right now, as cocaine movement has shifted from going through to Mexico to going through Honduras.

But it is worth it, Cope said.

The city he visits with his team is called Tela, where at one time a pier allowed cruise ships to dock and visitors to spend time on it's beautiful cost, Cope explained.

But, he added, years ago the pier was washed away in a hurricane and now the city has a 75 percent unemployment rate.

"They're usually very nice when they see doctors or people on the medical team," he said, showing the group photos of his past trips there.

The team brings thousands of pounds of medication, children's toys, and toiletries and they set up a temporary pharmacy and hospital, where they diagnose individuals, provide them with antibiotics or other medications, and smiles.

But they also provide Hondurans with chiropractic work and dentistry.

One of his first trips, he told the group, the people were lined for about a half of a mile waiting to spend a few minutes with a doctor.

"This just blew me away," he said. "The Honduran people are so grateful. You can see the smiles on their faces, from the elderly to the children. It was really a great time."

Some members of the team even go to schools to do children's ministry and others do construction work while on the week-long trip.

There are even a few who go out and do home visits to talk about the importance of health and sanitation.

And for the medical team, they come back appreciating what they have.

"We really are so blessed in this country," he said.

After the presentation, club member Norma-Jean Qualls, who has a background in anthropology, said she thought the presentation gave a new perspective on the topic.

"It's amazing that one person can do so much," she said. "I was interested in his team efforts, organization, and everything that went into it, and it made for an interesting hour."