I was a volunteer at Clinica Esperanza for about three weeks last March. Although my time was shortened due to the Covid-19 outbreak, I was so grateful to have spent even that short time serving the people of Roatan and learning from the amazing clinicians. I’m a premedical student and found the clinic through a professor at Stanford- he was a good friend of Peggy’s and told me about an opportunity to volunteer providing quality care to those in need. As a student, you don’t get many chances to interact with patients before your formal medical education, so the position in Roatan allowing me to engage while maintaining clear ethical standards was a premed’s dream come true.
I arrived in Roatan in February, just a month before the pandemic would shut international borders, and immediately fell in love with the island, the clinic, and most importantly, it’s staff. I’ll never forget Martha (affectionately called Martita en espanol) instantly cracking jokes while giving me a tour, and her warmth and joy never diminished throughout the weeks she spent driving me to work each morning. Peggy and Susie were also exceptionally welcoming and understanding of our desire to be put to good use during our stay. The clinic was a well-oiled machine, providing a standard of care unmatched by other local hospitals and uniquely positioned to accept volunteers, supplies, and practitioners from the US and Canada. There’s a feeling you get when you step into a well-run and intentionally designed global health organization - the idea that a clinic had use for a helpful volunteer and could also function seamlessly without any outsiders is illusive but absolutely necessary when providing sustainable care to native populations. I’d studied a number of failed outreach programs in the global health concentration of my major, and in doing so, I saw Clinica Esperanza as the pinnacle of what a community-based health organization should be.
Despite only being at the clinic for a fraction of my intended stay, I was able to work in the pharmacy, translate for visiting doctors, and shadow in peds and OB GYN. The magic of being there while a young woman is told, after multiple miscarriages, that she is finally pregnant into her second trimester, is something I’ll carry with me my entire medical career. As the pandemic reached the shores of the Bay Islands, the doctors braced themselves for the onslaught of questions and fear with utmost grace. I shadowed the pediatrician during my last week, and the way in which he comforted both the parents and the children was a lesson in bedside manner and compassion unmatched in my previous studies. Once the pandemic eases enough to allow international travel, I sincerely hope to return to Roatan and continue working alongside these excellent providers. To anyone considering volunteering with or supporting Clinica Esperanza, I strongly encourage you to do it. You have no idea how far your help will go in continuing the tradition of excellence this clinic proudly boasts on Roatan and beyond.