Updated: Mar 18
Several years ago I had an issue with a tooth that required enduring a weekend of pain before I could see the dentist. That was a difficult experience. On a trip to Honduras during the last week of February 2023, I met a 65 year old woman in San Luis municipality in the department of Santa Bárbara. She had come to a medical brigade offered by a Christian missionary clinic (Clinica Luz y Vida) in the small settlement of Las Flores. After going through triage with one of the doctors, she was sent to the nurse for whom I was translating.
The patient was In obvious pain and we tried to determine how to help. Aside from giving basic aspirin and recommending that she go to a dentist in the town of San Luis, we could not help with the issue at hand which was her major toothache. We consulted with a dentist in our group who was screening children for cavities and advising parents of the treatment that would be available in June when another brigade is scheduled for San Luis. I asked the dentist what would it cost for a tooth extraction in San Luis. The response was $1.80. We asked about her resources and she said that she had no work, no money and that her son had moved to San Pedro Sula (Honduras' industrial center) to find work. "The son sends money when he can," she said, "but there is not enough to treat my toothache."
My initial reaction was to give the lady the cost of the tooth extraction but a book I had read prior to going to Honduras told me to seek another path -- the book was entitled "When Helping Hurts" by Steve Corbett. The book's premise is that well intentioned gifts hurt rather than help by robbing people of their self esteem and decreasing their ability to marshal resources to solve their problem. They become dependent upon others in a way that is counterproductive.
Thinking about this situation, we are beginning to design a model that would encourage a poor patient to provide at least one-fourth the cost of treatment with a donation covering the other three-fourths of the cost. This would be a coupon system arranged with local doctors and dentists in San Luis to treat indigent patients. Our initial thought is to partner with local churches to administer the coupon system. Accountability and transparency is critical and we are still working on how to ensure funding is used appropriately. One plus is that there is a local Red Cross unit in San Luis that potentially could coordinate this effort. Please join us in praying for the Lord's guidance in how to move forward.
The trip report from our recent visit to San Luis is in the link below.