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It was a cramped 4×4 pick up that took us from Teupasenti to Cantarranas and the next leg of our mission. Our luggage and the green HTSF bags were piled up high in the truck bed nestled in a tarp since we were not sure if the torrential rain would return again. The printer, Diony and our AMHON driver were in front and Carla, Norbita, I along with some back packs were in the back seat. Unfortunately there was not enough room for Jorge Mario, and rather than take the bus he sat in the back of the truck. This is common enough here, to see young men on their way to work, families, young kids, all seated on the edge of a pickup bed holding on and going along with the bumps. I used to do this in my early 20’s hitchhiking around the Gulf Islands and at times on the Island Highway. The news picked up a tragic story of the young teenager dying after falling out of the back of a pick up and a law was passed, just like the law for mandatory seat belts, making it illegal. I missed sitting in the truck bed and feeling the wind in your hair. I have to admit I appreciate seeing people doing these kind of things here. It feels more like a life lived rather than one carefully hemmed in by security and safety with standard laws for every situation. It also reminds you how much faster and ambitious life is lived in the West, especially in the cities.

It was lucky they sent a 4×4 since the river that we had so casually crossed as part of the road into Teupasenti was now a raging torrent and impassable due to the rain storm. Instead the truck motored up a steep dirt road to the long way around the river’s shortcut. The highways crews are building a bridge to avoid this problem but it has been two years in the making and still a long way from being finished. Again, here there is no need to rush. Last night’s rains had washed a lot of dirt and fallen debris onto the roads. It is a weaving art to avoid the constant potholes on the roads, but to also avoid the rock and dirt meant even more swerving and turning. No one in Canada would take the risks they take here passing slow cars and trucks just as a blind corner or hill is approaching, I certainly would not. I appreciate the caution of the AHMON drivers. Montrealers take note, the potholes here are just as big and just as bad.

After settling into the hotel, the palatial Villa Magdalena, we made our way to the local dispensary. It was essentially a senior’s centre and just like the Red Cross building in Teupasenti, there was a small room where a shelf housed the HTSF dispensary. The ongoing use of this dispensary is not as consistent, mostly due to not having a volunteer that was keen to keep it going. That is always an issue with volunteers, how do you maintain their enthusiasm and training when it is so long between missions? The wish came true as Gladis came forward during that first week, happy to fulfill the role of responsible for the dispensary in Cantarranas when people come in for basis issues and for follow ups to refill remedy prescriptions. She is the cook for the center and is warm, smiling and very caring. She was trained during the few days and with her connection to the community it was clear the dispensary would be in capable hands.

 

(Norbita checking over remedies in the dispensary. Nicole and Gladis, who will be taking care of the dispensary in between missions.)

After the introductions and planning discussions the group went to eat at a local restaurant. I found this town to be more built up and urban, probably due to being closer to the capital city Tegucigalpa. I already missed the indoor slash outdoor way of living where the restaurant table was located in the backyard patio of someone’s home. This was a real restaurant without a patio and the smallest chairs, ever. They were covered in cow skins though, which was fun. It was also over lunch that the group noticed that there was a missing green bag. After realizing it was still at the dispensary at the Red Cross building there was a flurry of texts and phone calls to have it delivered by tomorrow morning since it contained all the supplies needed for the mission office at the current dispensary. A plan was made and the bag was on its way through by bus and with help from Diony’s family in Tegucigalpa.

IMG_20171102_150430488(The HTSF green bag magically finding its way to Cantarranas.)

Cantarranas was founded in 1666 but the church was first built in 1622. The Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel was founded in 1655 and only constructed in 1771 to give a comparison with the historical roots of Montreal. Cantarranas is known for its cane sugar sweets and local honey. It is home to the Tres Valles sugar factory, the largest in Honduras, and the hugely successful Sweet Nohemi factory that makes milk based confectioneries. I never did try the famous honey soaked donuts although I did develop a taste for coconut cookies made with cane sugar.

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(The Cantarranas Church in the main square.)

Carla noticed that the town had changed over the past two years. The streets used to be less savoury with many older men drinking on the front stoop of the houses. You still see old men that have obviously been heavy drinkers but no one was drinking in public and although it lacked the friendly air of the previous town, it was clean and pleasant. The new city Hall was quite amazing with bright yellow paint and stunning wood work. It was clear that in Teupasenti the décor was more stark with plain walls while here there were more knickknacks and art in the houses and restaurants.

It felt nice to walk down the steep hill smiling and laughing the following morning on our way to the dispensary, as if a breath of fresh air was entering the city. It did not take long to set up the dispensary to be able to see patients. Especially since the green bag was ready and waiting to be unpacked! It would be a bit crowded in the main room with one corner for seeing patients and another for Diony to prepare remedies. Nicole and Norbita would have tables in the rooms leading to the kitchen while the patients would wait in the main room off the street. There was an exercise bike, a tread mill and a TV. The seniors were not lacking for activities here.

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(The team outside of the Cantarranas dispensary while patients wait to be seen.)

The rain storms had affected the whole region and that first day we all worked without power hoping our laptop batteries would last in the fading afternoon light. We got inventive with cell phone flashlights and a battery operated lamp saved Diony’s eyes while she poured and succussed remedies. And lucky for us, we still had a delicious hot lunch waiting for us at the Don Quixote Xatruch restaurant despite the whole town not having power. One plus side to using wood heat to cook. The owner Martin is a charming host and offers up a fancy fair for a supposedly simple cuisine.

IMG_20171025_132204527_HDR.jpg(The usual but still delicious fare, plantains, rice, beans and a requested salad on the side.)

The day was full of patients, mostly elderly people with high blood pressure, diabetes and various types of physical pains. One gentleman was in his 70’s and living alone. He had diabetes, high blood pressure and many pains and was in good health otherwise as he gave up drinking in his 20’s and has been eating well. He is taking insulin and other meds but what brought him in was an acute situation of an allergy to chilies of all things. Not that the food in Honduras is very spicy, but he was told by a doctor long ago not to touch them. He decided to cook up a dish the other day with chilies and now had extremely itchy spots on his hands. Carla decided on a complex which would help with itchy acute dermatitis and we also gave complexes for pain and blood sugar levels as palliatives mainly.

Another woman with diabetes was taking medications to regulate her high blood sugar. She had circulatory problems in her legs with recent varicose veins appearing that were painful and quite large. This is also common here, varicose veins even in really young women. She also had red eyes with discharge, another common symptom that might be related to cooking over wood heated ovens. She was given a detox complex that would also help with blood sugar levels and something for inflammation, and varicose veins.

 

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(Cantarranas cobbled streets.)

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It is the same here as anywhere, people are used to having to wait for medical treatment. The day’s patients were sitting outside the Red Cross building as early as 6am this morning. After eating breakfast and walking to the centre we usually arrive by 8-8:30am. We expected today to be a long day as it was our last day in Teupasenti but we saw all the patients by 4:30. I am enjoying working alongside Carla as she takes her time with each patient while taking the case and also during the dialogue about the remedies needed. There is so much to consider from a medical and from a homeopathic perspective. Each case is always individually assessed and the treatments needed to cover each aspect of the person’s case as it presents currently are carefully chosen, keeping in mind the possible underlying reasons for the current symptoms. It is normal with homeopathy that the treatment for one person with a diagnosis of say diabetes will be different from another diabetes case, and here with HTSF that is still very true.

IMG_20171024_080546520_HDR(Patients waiting outside the Red Cross building in Teupasenti on the HTSF mission’s last day of case taking.)

IMG_20171024_080639894_HDR(Nicole waiting for the front door to open on the steps of the Red Cross building where the HTSF dispensary is located.)

Although Carla Marcelis completed medical school training she decided not to practice medicine and instead chose to study and practice homeopathy. With a comprehensive understanding of human physiology and of pathological processes and many years of studying naturopathy and nutrition, this type of first aid/first line homeopathic healthcare that HTSF is offering in Honduras comes naturally to her, and she admittedly loves doing it. As of this September she has replaced Martine Jourde who decided to retire the position of President of HTSF. The methods used here are not the typical Classical method of homeopathy but more in the vein of the Banerji protocols developed by Indian Homeopaths originally working with cancer patients and who later created protocols for all types of chronic and acute disease states.

During numerous homeopathic missions in Africa, Central and South America, Martine developed the HTSF complexes and protocols as a complete set of remedies that are beneficial in areas with both wide-scale poverty and a lack of medical services. She has a background in physiology and epidemiology, as well as more than 30 years of experience in using homeopathy with animals, people and even plants. HTSF is her contribution to helping humanity benefit from the ecological and economic aspects of homeopathy along with its resulting contribution to sustainable development, and to help provide access to safe and affordable health care in Developing, and perhaps one day Developed, Nations. This model of intervention is about access to homeopathic services but also about training locals and community leaders and giving them the capacity to provide these homeopathic services themselves and increasing their healthcare autonomy. The HTSF project reflects Martine’s vision of seeing the positive impact of homeopathy wherever it is used and her understanding that homeopathy can also help to restore balance between all living organisms on the planet. You can read more about Martine and her work on the MICH site.

I feel fortunate for the opportunity to have worked with Carla on this humanitarian mission. For most of her cases I sat with her taking notes and hearing the cases through her translations. One thing that is remarkable is how Carla can easily shift between three languages, English, French and Spanish, both while speaking and writing, and yet her mother tongue is actually Dutch! Her many years of teaching and training were evident also as she made sure I was following the case and giving me further information about what the pathological implications may be or what symptoms may be pointing to according to the underlying health issues. A homeopath is never satisfied with a diagnosed disease name knowing that it is basically a group of symptoms stemming from a deeper issue. I was always welcome to jump in with suggestions of what to ask or if we might need further information about a symptom.

It was the same after the patient left us to sit in the waiting room and we could dialogue the case. Dialogue is a communication method used during case taking but also as a way of exploring a case with more than one homeopath. It allows everyone to add to a shared train of thought and to sink in to the group understanding to feel the person’s state. I think any homeopath trained in this way would admit that two or more homeopaths means a much greater and broader perspective on a case and that it is a fulfilling way to work since you can learn so much and the inclusion and appreciation of a larger picture makes an even better prescription possible.

IMG_20171022_104357787_HDR(Carla and Nicole working at the hotel on administration and entering patient’s cases into a database.)

IMG_20171024_143602030_HDR(Carla taking a case on paper while I am entering the notes on my computer.)

On this last day Carla and I saw a woman with very high blood pressure who was in tears as she had lost her nephew the day before and a son just over a month ago. Carla was very concerned she could have a stroke at any moment as all the signs were present for this. Her daughter who came with her has had chemo treatments for Lymphoma and despite this was looking quite healthy with her only two months of hair growth. We were able to give each treatments for their complaints noticing some similarity between the mother and daughter with their high blood pressure. The mother had been given an acute treatment in the waiting room immediately after taking her blood pressure since it was so high at 240/124. After the case taking Jorge Mario took it again and found that it had reduced greatly and was down to 209/119. Only one dose of a homeopathic and she was showing such improvement! Carla was also more comfortable now that her stroke risk was reduced. She will take remedies regularly for a week to help to further lower her blood pressure and another treatment for longer term to help with her health issues as well as the remedy Ignatia to support her during this period of grief and loss. Her daughter will also have a treatment for her issues taking into account that she has one round of chemotherapy left.

When it rains it pours, and for our last supper at Teupasenti it rained like the dickens. The sound on the tin roof of the little restaurant outdoor patio was deafening, and oscillated in intensity from dull pitter patter to intense roar. It served to create an exciting atmosphere as we sat around the table and discussed tomorrow’s travel plans and various other things. The yard with the hanging laundry of now soaking sheets and clothes was filling up with water while streams of water poured out of each fold of the corrugated tin roof. I could now see why the houses are built the way they are in this climate, with a raised sidewalk and tiles on the sidewalks and going halfway up the outside wall. If the water level rises quickly and rushes down the cement streets it will escape to the dirt roads and grassy banks around the small town and not into the houses. I was thinking that certainly there will be a lot of puddles tomorrow and since we will be travelling by car hopefully the roads are not washed out!

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(Carla going into the office and school supply shop to buy some clear tape.)

The young family with premature twins did return the next day for a follow up so we could see how the babies responded to the remedies and to get further support. The mother was doing noticeably better and was much calmer and more confident. The babies looked very peaceful and were breathing better. We were all relieved and the family was very encouraged by our treatments. They will continue the lung treatment for the next week and Carla added another treatment to help the babies to better absorb and use the nutrients they so desperately need.

I was able to hold the smaller of the two little girls and feel just how tiny she was. She was not able to fully grasp my finger with her hand, just a couple of gentle squeezes here and there. And at only 2 months old she had these long fingernails with dirt under them, already a rural local! We will all pray for them and hope that they continue to come and see Marixa at the dispensary for further treatments and remedy refills when they need them. We are also hoping that someone in the community can support them with food until the father is able to find work. They were given some groceries and the pump to take home with them.

Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 19.44.32(Carla and Norbita happy to see the premature twins looking much better after only one day of homeopathic treatment.)

Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 19.45.50(Carla holding one of the twins and explaining to the mother how to continue the homeopathic treatment.)

(Holding one of the premature twins and marveling at how tiny she is. It was remarkable to see the difference that only one day of acute homeopathic treatment can make and a relief to know that she will have a stronger start in life.)

Sometimes the work the volunteers do here is heartbreaking. A young man saw us passing on the street in the morning wearing our green HTSF aprons while on our way to the dispensary. He stopped us to ask us if we could help him, if we could answer his questions about his health. Carla said of course, come to the dispensary and sign in. He came that afternoon bringing his wife and young twin babies. We were all surprised by their story, as his appearance did not suggest their situation. The babies were born prematurely by two months and the mother had given birth in the mountains while alone since she was not expecting to give birth so early. She has four children already but we were all amazed with her strength and tenacity. After she gave birth alone to twins, she walked with the babies for an hour to get them to medical care.

The young man had recently lost many men in his family including his father, so he had no support financially or otherwise with his young family. He had also lost his job so the whole family has been unable to eat, including the mother during much of her pregnancy. The young babies spent nearly a month in the hospital since they were premature and were certainly also malnourished. Any money the family did have the past month was spent on medications for the young babies. While they were sitting in the consultation room with their tiny bundles on their laps a young girl was peaking through the open door into the office. It was such a stark reminder of how one person can have all the food they need, an education and be happy and joyful while another is unfortunate and struggling with the most basic of needs and lean with hunger.

The twins had pneumonia when they left the hospital, which is not surprising since premature babies have undeveloped lungs and are susceptible to any lung problems. They had had cyanosis and were definitely having problems with breathing. They really needed the remedy Laurocerasus but we did not have it here at the dispensary so Carla included Carbo-veg along with the chosen complexes to be given often over the next 24 hours to help them get stronger and recuperate their lung health. It was also important to give the whole family a parasite treatment and to support their nutrition and rebuild their systems. We sent them home with a lot of worry and concern but the parents were very capable and took the suggestions Carla gave them seriously.

IMG_20171023_165604057(Norbita showing the mother and father how to give the remedies to the babies.)

IMG_20171023_172609207(Both parents of the baby twins are illiterate so Norbita is taking extra time to explain how to differentiate the remedies and putting helpful symbols on each bottle.)

It was decided that the team would buy this family a good supply of groceries so they would be able to eat for the coming week or so. From past experience HTSF has learned not to give clothing, toys or other items to patients because then there are large line ups of people hoping to get handouts or gifts rather than patients with actual health concerns. Free is free in any culture no? In this case it was decided to make an exception as this was the main concern presently as well as how to keep these two tiny babies fed. The mother was worried about producing enough milk as she was not eating well, and since the babies are so weak and small they were not latching onto the breast to stimulate her milk. This was hopefully solved by also buying the mother a small breast pump that would help to stimulate her milk production until the babies got stronger and grew larger. They were going to return the next day for a follow up since the situation was so serious.

IMG_20171024_075851499_HDR(The team shopping for food staples for a young family with premature twins that had pneumonia and breathing problems.)

During the initial planning the Mayor of Teupasenti had agreed with then HTSF president Martine Jourde that a dispensary could be set up in the Red Cross building. A small room was available for the dispensary and with the support of the Red Cross coordinator Marixa who showed an interest in learning homeopathy the local dispensary was created. It was important to give a first line HTSF training to a group of people and with that group it would then be possible to have help with translations, preparation and distribution of remedies as well as to explain the proper ways to take the remedies during the early days of the project. Unfortunately this group did not stay involved with the ongoing work of the dispensary and helping with patients, although Marixa has been able to do this work in between the fall and the spring missions.

IMG_20171019_100049666_HDR(The dispensary’s stocked shelves. The HTSF method of homeopathy is simple and easy to maintain and does not take up much space.)

IMG_20171020_134128871_HDR(Nicole, Marixa, Jorge Mario and Carla at the Red Cross building setting up for the patients.)

For me having never been on a mission and not speaking any Spanish I found myself with a great team consisting of three homeopaths that speak Spanish, Carla Marcelis, Norbita Medina and Nicole Préault, as well as the local liaison for HTSF in Honduras, Diony and also Marixa preparing remedies for patients to take home. Diony’s husband Jorge Mario, who was volunteering his time to HTSF but has since become a liaison as well, would welcome patients and take their basic information as well as their blood pressure if it was required. He was also responsible for informing the patients how to take their remedies and when to return to the dispensary for either a follow up or refills.

With this efficient and organized team we were able to see around 40 people per day on Thursday and Friday and 20 people on Saturday. Over the four and a half days we were able to see 158 patients in total. Quite a success and it was proof that the local people are aware of the dispensary and want to make use of homeopathy. Some of the people we saw in sessions are wanting to only use natural methods for their health care, either with herbs or with homeopathy. Some have tried medications but found that they made them feel unwell or had unpleasant effects so they stopped them. It is great to be able to offer a method that has none of these side effects and usually improves their health in many ways, not just the current symptoms that they are complaining of.

IMG_20171019_191245107(Diony and Marixa preparing homeopathic remedies in take home bottles at the dispensary for the day’s patients.)

There were several patients that had had Chaga or Dengue in the past or currently. They often developed other infections or issues with low vitality and fatigue. Usually they have gone to the doctor or hospital for medical treatment and sometimes this helps but sometimes not. With homeopathy we are able to help build back the immune system, rebuild their strength and improve their ability to assimilate nutrients. We can also see what specific symptoms they may have and help to clear those up as well. This allows for a better recovery from these debilitating diseases. The issue of poverty often plays a role in the person’s health. Either they have a poor and meager diet with not enough proteins, fruits or vegetables as they can only afford tortillas and maybe beans, or there may be problems with maintaining cleanliness and a strong immune system and therefore keeping parasites at bay. Often a parasite protocol is given to the whole family to help with infections, skin problems, weakness and lack of concentration, detoxing and to improve digestion and intestinal flora as well as to expel the parasites.

IMG_20171022_160341405_HDR(Poverty is common in rural Honduras, a pattern that is reflected throughout Latin America. Therefore the rural people have limited access to medical resources, and can only afford basic foods such as rice, maize and beans. –Wiki)

Since 2006, HTSF has had a homeopathic dispensary in Valle de Angeles. In 2015, it was decided to make this the central dispensary for a network of homeopathic dispensaries to be developed over the next five years in four Honduran communities. A dispensary was created in Teupasenti as part of these new pilot communities.

Teupasenti is a municipality in the region of El Paraiso that borders Nicaragua. The name Teupasenti is an indigenous Mexican name that means ‘Respected Temple.’ It certainly has the feeling of a place that holds onto its people. The energy here is also really amazing, the people are friendly and warm, smile easily, and once the earplugs go in I have had the most amazing sleeps here. Even the first night I slept soundly and that usually never happens in a new place. In fact I have never slept so well anywhere while travelling as I slept in Teupasenti. The main economy in the area is based on agriculture with the most common production being coffee. Other main crops include corn, beans as well as tomatoes, sweet peppers and other vegetables.

They also raise livestock on a small scale, my guess would be mostly chickens, although on our last day we saw many cows on the roads as we travelled to Cantarranas. This makes sense as the usual meal includes corn tortillas, beans, chopped tomatoes and chicken. Hondurans also like to drink juice with their meals. Often it is tamarind (my favourite), cucumber lemon, passion fruit, lemongrass, sweet lemon and always with added sugar! It is good to always ask for it plain, and hope for the best. Some of the health issues here like diabetes and heart disease are due to the diet that is high in sugars. Soft drinks are very popular, and Hondurans eat a lot of meat, grains, starchy foods and few vegetables. They can also tend to eat a large, heavy meal very late at night and when cooking they add lots of MSG and packaged chemical flavorings to their rice and soups which can disrupt healthy digestive function. I didn’t try the coffee, although I heard it is better in Cantarranas so I am looking forward to giving it a go while I am there.

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(The usual breakfast and lunch fare of eggs, red beans, tortillas made out of a white corn, chismol with onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, radish and cilantro herbs, and fried plantain. All very simple but delicious.)

IMG_20171019_094738205_HDR(Transporting the infamous green HTSF bags from the hotel to the Red Cross building by local motor taxi.)

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(The hotel in Teupasenti with the restaurant across the street making our stay warm, friendly and wonderfully convenient.)

Staying in Teupasenti was a wonderful experience I found. We stayed at a hotel managed by Jimmy, who is gentle and kind and unfortunately has a Tourette’s like issue with repetitive sounds, a bit like he is sneezing but very loudly. I decided that LOUD is my chosen adjective for Teupasenti and perhaps Honduras as well. The day here begins early, by four and five am the streets are awake and by six it is ok to bring out the power tools. This accounts for the daylight hours that more or less begin around 4:30 and ends by 6pm year round.

The locals tend to eat late around six when it gets dark and the evenings are often about socializing and chatting late into the night. At the hotel the family table is outside next to the kitchen and like so many of the houses here, part of life happens outside since it is a fairly steady 24°celsius year round. So the washing, the laundry, the dining rooms and TVs can be outside under tin covered terraces or in other outdoor open structures. I have always appreciated this way of living since the 4 years I roughed it on Denman Island in my early 20’s. My hotel room happens to be next to the kitchen so the outdoor table is also outside of my room. It is pleasant to listen to Jimmy’s family and friends chatting away in Spanish and the kids laughing, but by 10pm I find the earplugs give me a bit of peace and quiet and I can drift off to sleep easily. I have discovered that earplugs are the way to go; I would not be able to sleep otherwise.

The weather is hot, and if the sun comes out it is downright sweltering. At 8am the sun is as hot beating down on your head as it is at two in the afternoon. The dogs seem to melt every afternoon. They lay on the concrete or tile front sidewalk of a house and become an oozy mass of fur, paws and sad dog face, all as if it was liquefied just a bit more than necessary to quartz a glaze on a piece of pottery in the kiln. I noticed a lot of people use umbrellas as sun shade and we saw several patients that had sensitivity to the sun including rashes and blisters. It is common to suggest they take Sol, an imponderable remedy made from sunshine, for this type of sensitivity. I did see one albino woman as well half hidden under her umbrella and considering the sun must be much more intense during the dry season, it must be a challenge for her to live in this climate.

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(An umbrella is a useful under the hot sun as it is during a rainstorm.)

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(Walking to the dispensary wearing the green HTSF smocks so it is clear that we are health professionals and part of a team.)

The dry season here is coming up and starts in November lasting into April with the wet season starting in May and ending in October. So far we have had a pleasant mix of both dry, hot parts of the day and some light rain or just cloud cover. The worst for me was when the air became trapped in the valley and the smoke of many wood fires used for cooking food was trapped with it. The women often cook in the backyards on ovens that are built more like simple adobe rocket stoves but without any baffle or means to burn off the gases of the smoke.

Many women who are spending a lot of time over the stoves cooking or making tortillas suffer from lung problems and watery, burning eyes. In homeopathy, the first step is to remove the exciting cause of the symptoms but that is often easier said than done. The best we can do sometimes is to strengthen the eyes, or remedies related to the liver and that can cleanse and detox the liver. In my case as I soon had a terrible migraine like headache and low energy. Nicole came to the rescue and suggested I take the remedy Ignatia for smoking inhalation. It worked very well and I was able to function fully again for the rest of the day at the dispensary taking cases.

In a similar vein there are also potential problems with women who are negatively affected by their contraceptive methods. Here the doctors often offer them the implant Implanon or the injection Depo Provera. When a woman has negative side effects it is best to suggest they stop using them. The alternative however such as a copper IUD is far too expensive, or it is inconvenient in the case of condoms. So it is a difficult suggestion to make to them knowing how hard it may be to comply. Doctors here sometimes also give these contraceptives to women as soon as two weeks after giving birth. A woman who is only breastfeeding, which is usual here since formulas are too expensive for most families, risks to reduce her milk supply and to negatively impact the baby. It is recommended to wait at least six weeks after delivery before taking any hormone based contraceptive so that the milk supply is well established and the baby is stronger.

The lack of good nutritious food and a poor supply of milk may actually explain why some of the five, six and even eight year old patients I have seen seem so much smaller and younger than their actual age! Even with the progestin-only forms of contraception it is still best to wait the six weeks after delivery. Perhaps it is a lack of education on the doctor’s part or they are just trying to keep a woman from having yet another unplanned pregnancy and see that as more important than the best health outcome for the current baby and the mother. It is a frustrating situation no matter the reason.

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(Jorge Mario explaining to a mother with her child how to take the homeopathic remedies.)

Heading to the airport at 2:15am to catch a 6am international flight is one way to start an interesting adventure. Partly due to the excitement and partly to be alert when I arrived at the airport, I did not sleep that last night in Montreal. I was appeased by the very large spider inhabiting the top of one of the check-in kiosks on the way through the entrance to the baggage check. For me seeing a spider is usually a good sign I am doing something right. Nicole Préault who has been on many previous missions was there early but I arrived at 3am due to the infamous Montreal road construction that rerouted my taxi through the city rather than around it on the highways. My being late was not such an issue however and as we waited in the baggage check-in line we realized the Delta staff were all very late and only arrived a bit before 4am.

Our green HTSF t-shirts garnered attention and we started some conversations while waiting in line, and at least we were at the front of the line as it grew longer and longer over that early hour. It was certainly refreshing to run into a couple of women who already knew what homeopathy is, having used it before and who were interested in learning more about our volunteer medical mission and where we were going. Nicole explained what TSF (Terre Sans Frontière) does and how they are different than organizations like Doctors Without Borders since HTSF (Homéopathes de Terre Sans Frontière) works directly for the local people rather than just with local doctors and other professionals. She also explained that it is also possible for us to provide training to non-medical volunteers who can then use the homeopathic remedies when we are not in Honduras during missions.

When asked what we do exactly, we responded that we volunteer giving first line health care directly to the rural people. I had learned that the most common health issues in Honduras are often diabetes and heart disease. Nicole who has been many times before explained that we can also see issues related to violence, including domestic violence. Our new acquaintance seemed confused as to how homeopathy may help in this case and we explained that, as well as for physical traumas from violence, we can also help with emotional issues such as grief and loss, trauma related to sexual abuse, and problems of alcoholism. Homeopathy can be a one stop for all that ails you, which is why it is so advantageous for this kind of humanitarian medical mission.

IMG_20171019_191339248(Homeopathic remedy prescription being prepared for an HTSF patient. The remedies are in liquid form and are taken as drops usually once a day for a month or more.)

Once the three 50lb green bags for HTSF and our own luggage was checked it was a relief and much easier to move around, or so we thought. We only made it 20 paces and then were once again in a line, this time to get through customs. The staff there was also late and we were standing for another half hour or so. Next was security, which was no problem for us, and then we were off to find a very early morning croissant and coffee and to locate our gate. We saw familiar faces from our first wait in line at the seating area but everyone was too sleepy to chat again. In the bathroom I saw the mother of one of our new friends taking medications for pain. She had to be over 60 and it had been a terribly long wait standing in all those line-ups. For this case I would be taking Arnica rather than over the counter pain medications. Arnica is amazing to have on hand for airports as it helps with pushing our limits in all kinds of ways including staying up for a late night, sore muscles, aches and pains from standing, and on the other end with jet lag. I usually take Arnica before and after every flight but in my excitement I had forgotten on this trip. I decided I could take it later if I needed to. Once we were on the plane it was finally time to take a nap, I had essentially just pulled an all-nighter after all.

Arriving in Tegucigalpa was a relief, especially after the bumpy landing. Apparently this airport is known for its extremely short runway due to the nearby mountain ranges. Pilots need to be dexterous to land and take off in such cramped conditions and our pilot was definitely not. After some alarming initial wobbles the plane became steady on its wheels and we taxied off to the gate. Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras was founded by Spanish settlers as Real de Minas de San Miguel de Tegucigalpa in 1578 on the site of existing native settlements of the Pech (Paya), the Tolupans (Jicaque), and the Twahkas. Tegucigalpa, like any major city in the world, has sprawled way beyond its former colonial core and is now a large, disorganized metropolis. It seems modernity is also arriving in Honduras in the rural areas now and in many ways the infrastructure and conveniences are developing and increasing by the year. For me it was the first time being in a vastly different culture than my own and although the city centre was similar to those in Canada, the further away we drove, the more it became a different world. It was as if all the historical means of transportation blended onto one small highway. Small trucks and buses, families in the back of pick ups, men on motorcycles, people on bikes and then the occasional Hombre on a horse and wandering donkeys all seemed right at home.

Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 19.41.47(The homeopathic team for the mission in Honduras, Lauren, Diony the local liason, Norbita, Nicole and Carla.)

Our local liaisons Diony and Jorge Mario had warmly met us at the airport and explained the plan of how we were to get to Teupasenti to meet up with Carla Marcelis and Norbita Medina, who had already completed a two week mission in late September with two other Quebec homeopaths, Ilinca Domsa and Janik Tremblay. After cashing some US dollars for Lempiras they took us to a favourite restaurant for pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran dish of a thick corn tortilla stuffed with a beans, meat or cheese filling. A warm hot meal was definitely appreciated and the pupusas were filling and tasty.

I was privy to observe the enthusiastic explanation of how homeopathy works as Diony and Jorge Mario described to our government issue AMHON driver what it is. I have given this speech many times including the explanation of the Law of Similars (the main principle of homeopathy), using the example of how drinking too much coffee can cause alertness, anxiety, headaches and upset stomach, and therefore the homeopathic remedy Coffea can be used to alleviate symptoms like fatigue, insomnia, headache, migraine and tremors with this principle of like cures like. Only this time it was entirely in Spanish and I barely understood the words, but I could definitely relate to the passion and enthusiasm. HTSF is fortunate to have these two wonderful people as their representatives in Honduras that was certain.

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