Helping Out in Honduras

The delightful winter season in our Arizona desert home is over, and we have embarked on our next month-at-a-time travel adventure in the South American country of Ecuador. Before we started our Ecuadorian sightseeing and holiday-making; however, we joined a volunteer vision-care mission in Honduras to help the local people improve their eyesight.

L-R: Sue, Stephen, Marci, Danny, Esther, and Joe (aka, The Arizona Six)
The Eye Team at El Ayudante in rural Honduras

The invitation to volunteer came by way of our Arizona neighbors and friends Marci and Stephen and Sue and Danny. Sue, a professional optician, leads the Eye Team, consisting of an optometrist, optical technicians, opticians, and a few regular Joe’s and Esther’s like us.

Some of the many students who volunteered to help and translate for the Eye Team
Eye Team setting up eyeglass station in rural Honduras

For five days, the Eye Team set-up remote optical examination and eyeglass fitting stations in suburban and rural locations around Comayagua, Honduras. Local volunteers from service clubs and bi-lingual student translators from area schools supported our efforts.

Waiting room auditorium where over 700 patients took their turn to check-in
Eye Team and local Lions Club volunteers checking-in patients at a suburban school

We saw over 2,200 patients, many of whom traveled long distances or walked hours out of the mountains to wait their turn for an examination and a pair of spectacles. Because I understand a little Spanish and have no other useful optical training, I worked as a “greeter”, managed crowd control, and helped to check-in the patients.

Eye Team optical technicians quantify prescriptions using hand-held refractors
Dr. Jennifer Luckie examines elderly patient with advanced vision concerns

After signing in, each and every patient was screened and had their optical prescription quantified by an Eye Team technician using hand-held refraction equipment. Following this initial screening, our optometrist Dr. Jennifer Luckie examined patients with advanced eye disease or other abnormal vision problems.

The Eye Team Optician Unit fitting patients for corrective lenses
Stephen and student volunteer work to fit gentleman patient for eyeglasses

The vast majority of patients required corrective lenses. With prescription in hand, they proceeded to the optician unit to be fitted for a pair of eyeglasses donated by Lions Clubs International. Here, Sue, Danny, Marci, Stephen, and Esther worked tirelessly and enthusiastically to find the right prescription and style for every person. With a newfound ability to see their world clearly, each recipient left with a pair of glasses, a beaming smile, and even some tears of joy.

Eye Team playing a game of Codenames
Dancing to mariachi music

At the end of each long day, after every person had their vision evaluated and prescription filled, and our equipment had been packed-up and returned to our base hotel, the Eye Team had a little time to relax. From competing against each other at board games to dancing in-line to a mariachi band, we bonded as a team while exposing our shortcomings on the dance floor.

Aaron Moore, Executive Director
Dr. Barry Byer, MD, Brigade Founder and Mary Ellen Gannon RN, Director of Operations

This worthy charitable effort is part of the Virginia Hospital Center (VHC) Medical Brigade. Since 1999, the Brigade has been building medical clinics, performing surgeries, and training local health workers in a variety of disciplines. Their vision is to create a healthier Honduras where underserved communities get the healthcare they need and deserve.

Patient reacts to her ability to read clearly with her new eyeglasses
Patient walking out the door with her new corrective lenses

For many in the developing world, poor eyesight is a debilitating handicap. In Honduras, clear and healthy vision is often an impractical and unaffordable luxury. Without corrected vision, local people struggle in their daily lives to work effectively, educate themselves, and move about safely.

Eyeglasses for even the youngest patients so they can excel in school
Happy patient with her new eyeglasses that are both functional and stylish

As we move about safely and view the world away from our advantaged Arizona desert home, it is easy to take our own healthy vision for granted. Beginning next week, we will see many new faces and places on our two-month visit to Ecuador. Before then, we experienced a fun and rewarding week aiding some long-suffering and grateful people, by helping out in Honduras.

Dr. Luckie examining a patient with more complex vision issues
Marci working with a rural farmer to find him the right pair of glasses
Veteran Brigade volunteer Nate Smith with rural gentleman and his new shades
Some of the Eye Team members celebrating the end of a fun and rewarding week

Blogger’s Note: I am posting this dispatch from the Galapagos Islands. We would love to receive your comments and correspond back. Due to slow internet here in the islands, please accept my apologies in advance for any delays in our reply.

Photo Credits: Many thanks to Lamar Goodwine, Aaron Moore, Alexi Mann, Victor Zamora, Marci Imbriaco and others who shared their photographs, several of which I have included in this blog post.

16 thoughts on “Helping Out in Honduras

  1. Amazing work guys, well done you and the rest of the team.
    I am sure the work you have done has been life changing for a lot of people. Now you can relax and enjoy the beautiful Galápagos Islands, a place I would love to visit.
    Looking forward to your future blog post about this trip.

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Eye Team, Esther, and I all thank you for the encouraging words, Gilda. Because the VHC Medical Brigade is so experienced doing this work and the leadership is so well organized, it was easy for us to fit right in and get to work. As an eyeglass wearer myself, I know how hard it is to function, even when I misplace my specs for just a few minutes. Many of the patients in Honduras have needed glasses for decades, but have just received their first pair. I can only imagine how life changing that is for them. So far, we are enjoying the beauty and laid back vibe in the Galápagos, and some needed rest and relaxation after our week in Honduras. All the best to you and Brian!


  2. Wa hey, Joe and Esther are on the road again! What a fabulous thing to be involved in and to start your next adventure. It must have been seriously edifying to be part of such a helpful, influential project. Anything to empower under privileged people , particularly youngsters, has got to be good. I take my hat off to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right about the power of empowerment, Phil & Michaela! Helping out in Honduras was a fun and rewarding week. As someone fortunate enough to see the world, I feel like Improving and restoring under privileged people’s vision is a worthy cause. Many of the patients were schoolchildren in need of their first pair of spectacles. Just being able to read the chalkboard in class should make a big difference for them. In addition, of the 2,200 patients that we examined, twenty adults were selected for surgical procedures to be completed this fall. This too will be truly life changing. It is good to be on the road again, goin’ places that we’ve never been.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Joe and Esther,
    You two are so awesome. Love the blog and photos. What a wonderful opportunity to provide life-changing spectacles to the Honduran people.
    Look forward to hearing more of your adventures.
    You are only missing the mass exodus of snowbirds, the return of the rattlers, as well as many new baby birds!
    We are holding down the fort until your return. Safe travels.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for holding down the fort, Kimberly! Because we enjoy our new friends and Arizona home so much, it is getting harder and harder to pack our bags and go traveling. By jumping around the world as we do, I suppose we are behaving like a couple of confused snowbirds. We are having a lovely time on our trip, but already excited to be coming back home for the summer golf, pickle ball, and social seasons. Look forward to seeing you, Steve, and Pia in early July!


    • Hi Marty! I am pleased to see that you are back from your short hiatus. This medical mission to Honduras was a good way for us to restart after our own six month travel break. It was especially satisfying to work with some optical professionals and meet and help the local people. The organization arranged for all our lodging, meals, and in-country transportation, which made life very easy. There was no need for us to figure out bus schedules, decipher restaurant menus or remember how to find our hotel room. Best wishes to you and Gorgeous!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m not surprised that you were involved in such a good cause! Please pass on my thanks to everyone involved in providing eye care to people who need it. It’s so inspiring to know that there are still so many people willing to do good in the world!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Ann! Due to the pandemic, the optical mission was unable to visit Honduras for the past three years. As such, many local people have been struggling to cope without corrective lenses. To address the demand, the organization expanded the effort this year, making it possible for us to join the Eye Team. I think every member of the team worked hard and was inspired by the gratitude of the patients. After our experience, we hope to continue our support of the program, and return next year if spots are available. Until then, we will try not to always take our advanced health care and corrected vision for granted.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Well done eye team!

    I’ll be interested in seeing your Ecuador trip stories. We came very close to booking a tour with a bit of Galapagos and a chunk of Amazon, but couldn’t really get the flights to work out timing wise short of flying into Miami a day or two early for a long layover. Not sure why Miami doesn’t inspire me. I guess Ecuador will be vicarious…

    Liked by 1 person

    • The remote islands of the Galápagos were difficult to get to, Dave. Our transit from Honduras required three flights and more than 16 hours of airport layover time. Once on the islands, the tours, independent travel destinations, and cruises required a bit of physical exertion. Our hikes on the hot humid trails, transits on often rough seas, and snorkeling in sometimes strong currents were worth the effort, as we gained access to remarkable birds, animals, and marine life. Now that we are back on the Ecuadorian mainland, I hope to pull together a couple of blog posts about our experiences.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Joe- loved reading your eloquent words describing your whole team’s work in Honduras. Life changing for many people to have optical care/glasses. Life changing, I’m sure, for you & Esther as well & rewarding to see the hope you gave to people. What an added bonus to do it with amazing AZ friends. Safe & fun travels in Galapagos. We miss you both here, but know you’re enjoying your dream to travel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is wonderful to finally have internet access and to receive your heartfelt comment, Sylvia. Yesterday, we returned to mainland Ecuador after 16 days of terribly slow or non-existent wifi in the Galápagos. The islands and their strange and docile wildlife were spectacular though. Our week in Honduras was not only gratifying but also very fun. It was especially enjoyable working with such dedicated volunteers and having the chance to share the experience with some of our dear Arizona friends. Although our travel dreams keep us apart, we think about you and Jeff constantly, and relish our reunion in a few short months. Have a sensational summer in the North Star state!


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