Honduras, which is approximately the size of Tennessee, is one of the poorest countries
in the Western Hemisphere and the 2nd poorest country in Central America. Approximately
60% of the 8.4 million people in Honduras live below the poverty line. A family’s daily
average income provides barely enough to buy food for a day. There is only one physician
per 2,800 people and one dentist per 18,000 people. Because the majority of these professionals
reside and work in urban areas, most villages have neither physician nor dentist.
Since 1988, Cape CARES has treated over 156,000 people for various dental, medical,
optometric, and chiropractic problems.
Our story begins in 1988 when Ted Keary, a dentist from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, recruited family
and friends to volunteer with an organization from Texas that provided medical and dental care
to the underserved in Honduras. This organization traveled to a different site on every visit and,
consequently, the people they treated did not receive follow-up care. After making 4 trips with the
Texas group, Dr. Keary and other Cape Cod volunteers decided to establish an organization that would
provide medical and dental care, as well as follow-up care, to people who otherwise have no access to care.
Within a short period of time, six dedicated and caring professionals, Grover Baxley, Dan Fraunfelter, Seth Harvey,
Ted Keary, Einar Ruud, and Mitch Tishler, established Cape CARES, Central American Relief Efforts. The group
elected Mitch Tishler as the organization’s first president. Mitch served in this capacity for seven years,
during which time he devoted energy, expertise, and resources to ensure that Cape CARES was serving those
most in need and had the ability to provide ongoing care.
In February of 1991, Cape CARES adopted one community, San Jose de Pespire, in thedepartment of Choluteca, and sent five teams into this region. In these early years, AmeriCares generously provided use of its warehouse
and access to medical and dental supplies in Honduras. AmeriCares support, as well as the support from other
generous benefactors, enabled Cape CARES to adopt two more communities. In 1993, we began serving the communities
of Los Encinitos and El Jicarito.
In 1997, Mitch resigned as our president and Mike Fishbein was elected to lead Cape CARES. By now, our ability to provide
critical health care services was expanding to encompass a larger population and a broader
geographical area. As we strengthened our focus and began to implement more preventive health care programs,
the good news spread regarding our work in Honduras. Our volunteer pool grew significantly allowing us to
double the number of teams we were sending to Honduras annually. In 2000, we sent five teams to two new sites
in San Marcos and El Conchal in the department of Valle.
At the end of a clinic week, we provide reports to the Honduran Ministry of Health. Based on reports provided in the ‘90’s,
the government designated San Jose as a medical post. It now has a Honduran doctor in residence – a
goal for which we had strived. Other medical groups have established medical services in the El Jicarito
region and, rather than duplicating efforts, we left that area to concentrate on our existing and new sites.
Upon learning that El Conchal had resources and access to medical and dental services in nearby Nacaome, we
looked for another site and found El Algodonal in 2001. Our volunteers provided care to the people of El Algodonal
for 11 years.
In 2012, we learned that a medical clinic was established in an area
near El Algodonal, ending the need for us to provide services in the
surrounding villages. Our search for a site to replace El Algodonal
led us to the San Lorenzo region. In this region, we learned
of the great need for our services and began providing care at a
clinic in Bertin Umanzor. Less than two years later, we
branched out to a second, more destitute area, called Apacilagua.
The Bertin and Apacilagua clinics are located in very poor areas -- 40% of the population lacks latrines, many houses have only dirt floors (a serious problem during the rainy season); some houses
are made of earth and others are put together with plastic and cardboard.
The Agrolibano Foundation, as part of its community development efforts, has helped to put some houses up on stilts. They have also built schools in addition to clinics.
In June 2014, we sent our first team to Bertin and, since then,
three more teams have served at that site. A pilot team served
in Apacilagua in June 2016 and, after witnessing the desperate need
for care, the volunteers returned eager to go back again. The
team leader stated that the team "saw many patients who had never
seen a doctor for the issues they presented".
Cape CARES teams have been providing services in Los Encinitos for more than 22 years, in San Marcos for more than 15 years,
and is now committed to serving the people in the San Lorenzo region.
As long as there is a need for care and we have the teams to send, Cape CARES will provide services to the residents of these areas.