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Dr. Emily Harrison, executive director of Shoulder to Shoulder, our current poverty and health beneficiary, sent us an update about what Shoulder to Shoulder has been up to in Honduras.
It would certainly be easier to describe Shoulder to Shoulder’s partnerships with rural communities in Intibucá, Honduras, if our work fit into a neat, tidy package. Yet if fulfilling Shoulder to Shoulder’s mission was neat, tidy, and easily summarized, would we truly be meeting the needs of our communities?
Imagine trying to do a traditional 20-second “elevator speech” that does justice to nearly 25 years of accomplishments in medical care and public health ... and that also covers our work on all the factors that enable long-term well-being: good dentistry, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, and education, among others. Then, add to this the incredibly diverse community of people who enact the mission of Shoulder to Shoulder (“Hombro a Hombro” in Spanish) on a daily basis.
Our 110 employees on the ground in Intibucá are mostly from Honduras themselves: doctors and nurses and dentists, health educators and operations experts. Then, hundreds of volunteers each year travel via partnerships with U.S. universities and medical groups to supplement our employees’ work in two mini-hospitals and a half-dozen smaller clinics.
Many volunteers come for medical, dental, and nursing brigades and hike out to the most remote villages for a day to provide primary care and triaging; others provide additional advanced medical services at our clinics, give health talks, or offer professional development for our staff. For those who are medical, dental, and nursing students or residents, these trips add hands-on global health education to their portfolio of work.
Additionally, long-term volunteers from the U.S. travel each year to live in our communities and fulfill multi-month projects, often as an extended service experience between jobs or after college. Clearly, with only two full-time employees in the United States, and with so many volunteers supplementing our work, we make sure that nearly all of our resources go directly to services in rural Intibucá.
We serve approximately 50,000 people every year, so each week with Shoulder to Shoulder brings many incredible stories and moving accounts of work that makes a real difference for people who live on less than $1 a day. Here are just a few:
Shoulder to Shoulder’s work may not be easy to sum up in a few easy stories or phrases, but, clearly, neither are the deep needs that rural Honduran communities experience. This complexity is a rich part of our story—a nearly 25-year history of helping North American and Central American people work “shoulder to shoulder” to identify problems, propose solutions, and implement them together.