Mission of mercy

St. Gregory Parishioners Provide Medical Care in Honduras.

When Anne Hast and her daughter, Rachel, traveled to Honduras last summer to assist in a medical mission, they woke up at 4 a.m. each day. From June 17 to 24, 2017, they worked in a pre-operative area with people waiting hours to see doctors and nurses for surgery in the Honduran countryside.

“That was my favorite part of the day. We would walk down these paths with my flashlight to get to One World Surgery… It’s this peaceful, wonderful walk through the pastures,” Anne said.

“We met the most amazing people from all over the United States and all over the world.” Anne and Rachel told the tale of their journey Feb. 25 at St. Gregory in Upper St. Clair, Pa. The Speaker’s Platform event was sponsored by the church’s Library Ministry.

Anne, chief executive officer of Advanced Surgical Hospital in Washington, Pa. and chief nursing officer of Surgical Care Affiliates; and Rachel, who teaches special education for kindergarten through fifth grade students in the Keystone Oaks School District, traveled with a brigade of 40 people from the United States.

St. Gregory Libnrary Ministry members Barbara Spadafore, Pat Paslowski and Susan Flynn with Rachel and Anne Hast.

Their destination was NPH, or Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (“Our Little Brothers and Sisters”), a ranch for orphaned and abandoned children, located outside of Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras. “We learned very quickly, within a five-minute bus ride, we were out of the modern city into abject poverty. We were thrust into really understanding the disparities our world is facing today,” Anne said.

NPH houses more than 400 children ages two years through teenagers, whose family lives have been shattered by circumstances such as drugs, alcohol and violence. They are raised as a family, attending school and learning to be independent. Anne and Rachel, both of Upper St. Clair, gathered vital signs and other medical data so patients were ready for surgery by the physicians of One World Surgery, an organization founded by Dr. Peter Daly and his family.

No one is denied care and patients pay what they can afford. “They knew they were going to get care they couldn’t get anywhere else in Honduras,” Anne said. She said one woman who was injured by gang violence had her deforrned arm and range of motion restored following surgery.

“One mother held her son in her lap — he was a disabled child — for literally 10 hours. Never a word of complaint from her. He was getting surgery to correct an orthopedic issue.” Rachel said the children living at NPH were kind and genuine; singing, dancing, full of energy and happy to be somewhere they were safe.

“We couldn’t help smiling seeing all their boots lined up and hearing all their joyful voices,” she said. “They found a safe haven on this ranch. They found brothers, they found sisters, they found aunts and uncles who would take care of them. They have become a family.” Anne said of the 9 million people in Honduras, 20 percent live on $1.25 per day. One in 4 children do not finish elementary school.

“The Honduran people are one of the most kind, religious, spirited, genuine, loving group of people we’ve had the pleasure of interacting with.” While there, Anne and Rachel became “godmothers” to orphans Erickson and Jefferson, both 14. “They melted our hearts, little gruff guys that (previously) lived on the street,” Anne said.

“Those are our guys. That’s who we’re going back to see (in July).” They said the experience was life-changing, originally planning the trip because they are grateful for the blessings in their lives.

“We went there thinking we were going to give back. We wanted to give back to the Honduran people and give back to our brothers. However, I can tell you without a doubt, Rachel I received much more than we thought we gave,” Anne said. “We live in a time and a world with so many blessings. Lent is a perfect time to reflect on all of those.”

For more information about NPH ranch, go to www. nph-honduras.org.