San Jose Partners
We are a sustainable community development project out of the University of Rochester Department of Family Medicine and we are glad you have found us! Our Department has partnered with a rural community in Southwest Honduras called San Jose San Marcos de la Sierra. We started working with this community in 2005 and have made great strides improving the health of the local population through a collaborative approach to rural development. Although we are physicians by training, much of our efforts in San Jose are non-medical in nature. For the San Jose community members, lack of safe water and under-nutrition cause more ill health than does their limited access to curative health care. We realize this and create solutions to address the problems, even when the solutions are outside our comfort zone. We are constantly updating this web site as things change. Check back often.
|As you peruse our site, if you are as excited by our work as we are, please consider supporting us financially. We encourage you to visit our Donate page. Even if you cannot financially support our efforts in San Jose at this time, consider doing all your Amazon shopping through our link to Amazon. By clicking on our Amazon link, 4% of your purchase price is donated by Amazon to San Jose Partners. That 4% donation costs you nothing, Amazon pays it.|
For those who want more details on philosophy and project-specific information, visit the following link.
Fall 2015 Update
News from the October 2015 Brigade
Representatives from the Department of Family Medicine returned to the US on October 28th after spending 13 days in Honduras. The trip report should be ready in a few weeks. Below is a summary of some highlights from the trip.
Two MD faculty, one retired NP faculty, three family medicine residents, and one UR 4th year medical student comprised the group. We were joined by four Honduran interpreters. The 11 of us squeezed into the small three bedroom volunteer house. As always, the group was very busy with clinic work, home visits, multiple projects, and meetings filling the days. The group did a great job!
The clinic was steady busy. Many URIs and headaches were the baseline. Reports of worms were common. A few cases of scabies presented. A number of joint injections were given. A laceration repair was done. One 24 year old woman had a seizure while in the clinic. A young man with schizophrenia we know continues to struggle with his disease and does not take his medicines regularly. A man we diagnosed with complete heart block in May was unable to afford a pacemaker so he continues to walk around with a heart rate of 35. A girl of about 8 presented with a significant laceration below her knee cap. We had a concern the patellar tendon was severed so we helped pay for a local owner of a pickup truck to transport the girl to a government hospital which is about one hour away.
We had a couple interesting home visits. One lady developed a significant infection to her foot and could not walk to the clinic. Group members walked the 40 minutes to her home and assessed and treated her. After a few days she was feeling well enough to walk up to the clinic to be reassessed.
An elderly man was traveling to our area to visit family. He could not make it all the way to his destination so he slept in someone's house for the night. He reported seeing a caterpillar on the wall and woke up in the morning with a significant burning rash on one side of his body. There are caterpillars in the area that can cause a severe chemical burn to the skin, but we believe the man had a severe case of shingles.
We checked in with the existing scholars, and took applications for new scholars that will enable 6th graders to attend 7th grade starting in February. Unfortunately, the majority of graduating 6th graders cannot afford to attend 7th grade. Our scholarship program enables the best students who come from poor homes to get additional education.
The tutor we support continues to help area students be successful. Unfortunately, we have been unable to find another tutor who can help with English classes. English language classes are required, but no one in the area speaks English so our scholarship students struggle.
Brigade members made the 1.5 hour hike to the community of Portillon to work with the school children. The Unitarian Church tangram curriculum was revisited. Classes on puberty and sex education for the older children was well received, with the children having excellent questions and supporting a great learning environment.
An entire day was filled with microfinance. Both beginner and advanced classes were offered. Class members had great questions/comments and were very involved. Then began the long process of hearing business proposals and deciding on which projects should be funded versus denied. We only loan out as much money as was returned from the loans from six months ago that were repaid this trip. The repayment process occurred throughout the two weeks we were there.
Rural Development Projects
The selling of water filters, and the construction of cook stoves, latrines, and pilas has slowed over the past year, but we may have made some progress on increasing these rates. We are expanding these interventions into two new communities: Rancho and Salitre. Both communities have motivated members who are pushing hard to obtain these interventions that can improve the quality of their lives and their health. The necessary materials are on-site to at least start the interventions. We do need additional funding to reach as many homes as are interested. Filter sales during the brigade were brisk. Since last reported, 6 new cook stoves, 7 pilas, and 1 latrine have been built, along with 26 filter sales.
We imported many thousands of heirloom vegetable seeds last year. The Rancho school caretaker has been experimenting with these seeds and had great results with most of the seeds. Our hope is for these seeds to be spread to all interested inhabitants so people's daily diet can be more varied and more nutritious.
The largest fish farm we support has been struggling with a jealous neighbor constantly cutting the water hoses that bring necessary water to the fish farm. Multiple meetings were held in an effort to resolve this issue.
This group worked very well together and everyone worked very hard. We accomplished much and had a great time. Please consider supporting our efforts so we can continue these good works. Visit the Donate page to learn how.
Rancho caretaker with example of radish
Chanh and Mary teaching micro-finance class
Liz, Ryan, and Mary on a home visit to help an elderly gentleman
Spring 2015 Update
The May Brigade was a great success! The University of Rochester medical student, Joshua Back, has done a great job over the past six months while living and volunteering in San Jose. Below are some highlights
- Dental: Lina Vega, DDS, was on the Brigade and was extremely busy providing curative dental care. She also checked in on Josh's work strengthening the fluoride rinse program
- Medical Clinic: The clinic was comfortably busy. We were able to work with the new Community Health Worker, Anna, who runs the San Jose clinic two days a week under the auspices of Shoulder to Shoulder.
- Education: This program area was very busy all Brigade. Meetings with existing scholars, student education, and teacher education filled much of the time for many in the group.
- Microfinance: This was a great trip for the microfinance group. They had a high percentage of loan repayments and were able to fund all new loans from the repayments. Both beginner and advanced business classes were presented.
- Parteras and Health Volunteers: A very helpful focus group meeting occurred about unwanted young mother pregnancies. The Trip report will provide more details.
- Home Surveys: Josh completed 60 home surveys and data analysis is just beginning. This study should really help us better understand San Jose, and the needs of community members.
- Cook stoves, Latrines, and Water Filters: We met with two communities that are not part of our current project area, Rancho and Salitre, about expanding these interventions into their communities. We are hopeful this can happen. It is always reassuring to our group to realize just how valued our interventions are, that others really want to benefit.
We expect the May 2015 Trip Report will be available on-line by mid June. This will provide more details about the above mentioned activities, along with much more. Thanks to everyone for their continued support of our Global Health Program.
Sarah Porter working with teachers
Fall-Winter 2014 Update
The October brigade was a great success! We accomplished so much in these very busy two weeks. Probably the most exciting update is we have a University of Rochester 4th year medical student spending the next 10 months in San Jose. Joshua Back will be performing home surveys as well as increasing the pace of implementation for our other projects.
We have posted a few stories from the trip below. Consider viewing our trip report for more information on the Fall 2014 trip.
A young child and intractable seizures
A year ago we shared the story of a four year old girl whose parents raced across the hillside paths carrying their seizing daughter in their arms. We were able to quickly stop her seizure with an injectable medication, but it was clear that she had been suffering continuing brain damage with each subsequent seizure. We faced the tough decision of what to do to control her seizures going forward, after the brigade returned to the states. Although unconventional, we decided to teach her parents how to administer the injections in the case of a prolonged seizure, provided them with vials of the medication and carefully written instructions detailing how to prepare and administer the seizure medication. In contrast, this year the family arrives at clinic almost unnoticed, with a sense of poise and quiet confidence so absent last year. In the exam room, her father carefully unwraps the laminated instructions that we had given him last year and that the family carries with them wherever they go. They've used it twice he says. Both seizures occurred when she was sick, lasted 15-20 min, and responded quickly to medication. She seems completely transformed from last year, a reeling ball of giggles when approached with a tickling finger and speaking in full sentences when the tickling finally stops. Her father no longer worries if she will survive, but now he asks what can be done to catch her up and ready her for kindergarten.
Slope of poo
There's a romanticism I'm prone to surrendering to when I watch children run easily through these grassy mountainside foot paths. The winding ways and deep forest short cuts to their aunts, grandparents, and friends are worn deep into their minds – an integral part of their understanding of life. I walk their paths as a stranger attempting to not loose myself on the unfamiliar slopes, over come with the beauty of this countryside. Inevitably, glimpses of the harshness of this existence snap me back to a more grounded reality. Clothes lines filled with worn rags, children playing with broken pieces of a wooden chair, a quick glance of two mattress-less bed frames for a family of seven. At times the reality check comes as an olfactory assault – the strong unmistakable smell of urine and human feces stretch a 10' up-slope of path leading to a home. The do-to lists seem insurmountable in this world of pervasive need, but we caution our tendency towards pessimism with a generational approach to community development. This year's micro-finance loans, when placed in the right hands, will lead to sufficient beds, food, and school uniforms in 3-5 years. This year' scholarship recipients, if properly supported, will go on to find employment previously unattainable and bring new skills back to their communities. In the mean time, we continue to work with community members' more immediate needs - improved cook stoves, water projects, and latrines for schools and homes. A tour through the communities of Las Delicias lead me up a familiar fence-lined rocky slope to a home where Manuel showed us a recently constructed latrine, one of many in the past few months. As we left the home I looked back down the slope and realized both why it was familiar and why I hadn't initially placed it among my memories – its distinctive smell and accompanying disease potential had been moved, contained within a deep pit, returning odorlessly deep into the earth, replaced by fresh air.
Elderly home visit
“Would you mind, do you have time? There's a couple just up the road. He's broken his waist and she's dying of a fever that won't quit.” We've just returned from a 10 hr hike and tour of recent projects, but she's right, we do have time. Their son-in-law greets us at the road and leads us back through a grove of mango and calabash trees. A scant frame of a man lays flat under mounds of blankets and a walker stands next the bed – altogether out of place and otherworldly in this bare world of concrete and rough hewn wood. He wants us to know he's been in this bed for an entire year. He had broken his hip after a fall and was lucky enough to get surgical correction, placing a metal plate. However, his family could not afford the weekly trips to the city for his physical therapy and, now a year later, his leg still doesn't bend well. He wants to sit but he can't and he is in pain all the time. A quick physical assessment reveals a body atrophied at all points, barely more than a skeleton, but still trying so hard to be mobile. I think of what happens to a patient who fractures their hip in the States – 5 days in bed requires weeks of inpatient rehabilitation and painful physical therapy. How does one begin to rehabilitate after 12 months in bed and with no therapist to guide the process? We review exercises that he can do to improve mobility and we prescribe medications for controlling pain. His face livens, filled with a new sense of hope, but we know that without infrastructure for true rehabilitation, he will likely not walk on his own again. We walk home in the darkness, our path clear in the moonlight, a new understanding of "resource poor" settling silently on our shoulders.
One small daily commute for scholars, one insurmountable hike for the gringo
It is 6am and I find myself climbing the ascending road alongside one of the best high school students in the scholarship program. She is on her way school, a trip that started an hour before she encountered me and will continue for another hour more until she reaches the school in San Marcos. I consider myself a pretty good hiker, having walked all over San Jose during this brigade, but I am fighting with every ounce of energy just to keep up. At some point just before reaching the middle of the hill, I find myself actually matching her steps, momentarily restoring my ego her causal steps had just trampled. And then I realize that she only slowed because she is studying from her English notebook at the same time as she is climbing this seemingly insurmountable hill. The terrain here is so treacherous that I consider myself blessed every time I return to the volunteer house with all my limbs intact. But she has to study on this walk because it is hard to find enough time to study in between her twice daily two hour commutes. Any of us thinking back to our twenty minute bus rides to school can only admire the obstacles that these students overcome every day. Meeting these students over the past week has solidified for me how our scholarship program opens the door of possibility for these students and how their shared mix of hard work, perseverance, and optimism enables them to take hold of the opportunity.
Micro-loan receipients with receipt of repayment in full