Homeopathic Missions in Honduras, bringing homeopathy to the people one case at a time
In October 2017 I took part in my first homeopathic medical mission to Honduras. As a homeopath it was an amazing opportunity to practice homeopathy as front line medical care with rural people. The mission was for 2 weeks, one week in Teupasenti and a second week in Cantarranas with three days at the main dispensary in Valle de Angeles to collect data and prepare for the next mission in six months time. I can share a bit about the background of HTSF and the team.
Since 2006 the Quebec based Homéopathes de Terre Sans Frontières (HTSF) has had a homeopathic dispensary in Valle de Angeles, Honduras. During numerous homeopathic missions in Africa, Central and South America, Martine Jourde developed the HTSF complexes and protocols as a complete set of remedies that were beneficial in areas with both wide-scale poverty and a lack of medical services. The methods used are not the typical Classical method of homeopathy but are in the vein of the Banerji protocols developed by Indian Homeopaths originally working with cancer patients and who later created protocols for all types of chronic and acute disease states. Martine has a background in physiology and epidemiology, as well as more than 30 years of experience in using homeopathy with animals, people and plants.
Setting up the organization HTSF and developing the complexes is one of Martine’s many contributions to helping humanity benefit from the ecological and economic aspects of homeopathy along with its resulting contribution to sustainable development and providing access to safe and affordable health care in Developing and Developed Nations. The HTSF model of intervention is about access to homeopathic services but also about training locals and community leaders and giving them the capacity to provide these homeopathic services themselves and increasing their healthcare autonomy. This project reflects Martine’s vision of seeing the positive impact of homeopathy wherever it is used and her understanding that homeopathy can also help to restore balance between all living organisms on the planet.
In 2015, it was decided to make the dispensary in Valle de Angeles central for a network of homeopathic dispensaries to be developed over the next five years in four Honduran communities. This project receives funding from Global Affairs Canada, the department related to foreign affairs. Around this time Carla Marcelis took over leading the project missions in Honduras from Martine. Carla completed medical school training but decided not to practice medicine and instead chose to study and practice homeopathy. With a comprehensive understanding of human physiology and of pathological processes and many years of studying naturopathy and nutrition, this type of first aid/first line homeopathic healthcare that HTSF is offering in Honduras comes naturally to her, and she admittedly loves doing it. As of this September in 2017 she has replaced Martine Jourde who decided to retire the position of President of HTSF.
Having never been on a mission and not speaking any Spanish I found myself with a great team consisting of three homeopaths that did speak Spanish, Carla Marcelis, Norbita Medina and Nicole Préault, as well as the local liaison for HTSF in Honduras, Diony Flores. Diony’s husband Jorge Mario was volunteering his time to HTSF but has since become a liaison as well. Once the team arrived and got settled in the hotel, we would go and set up the dispensary office to be able to see patients. In our first town the dispensary was located in the Red Cross building. The team wears the green HTSF colours while on duty partly for safety and partly to present themselves as medical professionals and advertise our presence in the town. Jorge Mario would welcome patients and take their basic information as well as their blood pressure if it was required. He was also responsible for informing the patients how to take their remedies and when to return to the dispensary for either a follow up or refills. Diony was responsible for making the copies of the complexes and remedies for the patients to take home. The idea with the dispensary was that once the mission team had left, patients could come back for refills or further supports if they were simple to prescribe for. A volunteer is trained and placed in charge of each dispensary and available to see the patients that return.
The homeopaths would see patients and take their case, usually in ten or fifteen minutes rather than the standard one or two hours. For the methods used it was an adequate amount of time and once the patient returned to the waiting room the homeopath could either chose the appropriate complexes or dialogue with Carla as to what was the underlying health issue and what might best help them. Since I needed translations I sat with Carla and wrote her notes on the computer as she described what was said by the patient. The dialogues were all mainly in English so it was easy for me to take part and help with exploring the cases. Dialogue is a communication method used during case taking but also as a way of exploring a case with more than one homeopath. It allows everyone to add to a shared train of thought and to sink in to the group understanding to feel the person’s state. I think any homeopath trained in this way would admit that two or more homeopaths means a much greater and broader perspective on a case and that it is a fulfilling way to work since you can learn so much and the inclusion and appreciation of a larger picture makes an even better prescription possible.
With this efficient and organized team we were able to see around 40 people per day during the weekdays, and around 20 people for the half day on Saturdays. The local people are aware of the dispensaries and want to make use of homeopathy. Some of the patients we saw in sessions only want to use natural methods for their health care, either with herbs or with homeopathy. Some have tried medications but found that they made them feel unwell or had unpleasant effects so they stopped using them. It is great to be able to offer a method that has none of these side effects and usually improves their health in many ways, not just the current symptoms that they are complaining of.
Honduras has a relatively poor, rural population with limited access to medical care. The general health issues here are heart disease, diabetes, pains, traumas and parasites. The diet is often very high in sugars and many people can only afford basic food such as beans and tortillas. To give you an idea, it is common to drink an 8-ounce glass of juice with sugar added during meals! Vegetables and fruit are not consumed as often as one would think for a tropical area. Another issue is violence and lawlessness. Honduras is not a safe place to travel as a tourist outside of the main towns. Social roles are very rigid and women do not have the opportunity for an education, many are giving birth in their early teens and will spend their life tending to the house, the cooking and child rearing. Without economic independence they are at risk of violence as well.
There were many patients that we saw who had Chagas, Chikungunya or Dengue in the past or even currently. They often developed parasite infections or issues with low vitality and fatigue. Usually they have gone to the doctor or hospital for medical treatment and sometimes this helps but sometimes not. With homeopathy we are able to help build back the immune system, rebuild their strength and improve their ability to assimilate nutrients. We can also see what specific symptoms they may have and help to clear those up as well. This allows for a better recovery from these debilitating diseases. The issue of poverty often plays a role in the person’s health. Either they have a poor and meager diet or there may be problems with maintaining cleanliness and a strong immune system and therefore keeping parasites at bay. Often a parasite protocol is given to the whole family to help with infections, skin problems, weakness and lack of concentration, detoxing and to improve digestion and intestinal flora as well as to expel the parasites.
Many women who are spending a lot of time over wood stoves cooking or making tortillas suffer from lung problems and watery, burning eyes. In homeopathy, the first step is to remove the exciting cause of the symptoms but that is often easier said than done. The best we can do sometimes is to strengthen the eyes by giving remedies that can cleanse and detox the liver. I suffered from wood smoke for two days and had terrible migraine like headache and low energy. Nicole came to my rescue and suggested I take the remedy Ignatia for smoke inhalation. It worked very well and I was able to function fully again for the rest of the day at the dispensary taking cases.
In a similar vein there are also potential problems with women who are negatively affected by their contraceptive methods. Here the doctors usually offer them the implant or the injections. When a woman has negative side effects from these hormones it is best to suggest they stop using them. The alternative however, such as a copper IUD, is far too expensive, or it is inconvenient in the case of condoms. So it is a difficult suggestion to make although you can see it causing symptoms around their hormonal system. One young woman came with such painful varicose veins she was having a hard time walking. She had other symptoms of poor circulation like numbness and tingling in her arms, and hands that sometimes had a dark purple/blue tinge. At 14 a doctor had suggested she have surgery for her veins before having any pregnancies. Now at 34 yrs she has had four children and has been using contraceptive injections until recently when she switched to the implant. Carla suggested she wear looser pants than the tight jeans she was wearing, and that she no longer use hormone based contraceptives. The team explained vasectomy procedures to her so she can suggest it to her partner. The risks to her health currently are far greater than the risk from a vasectomy for her partner. She was given complexes to clear her system, to help the lymphatic system and reduce inflammation. Also, we gave her complexes for the varicose veins and the irregular menses and hormonal imbalances.
One day Carla and I saw a woman with very high blood pressure who was in tears as she had lost her nephew the day before and a son just over a month ago. Carla was very concerned she could have a stroke at any moment, as all the signs were present for this. Her daughter who came with her has had chemo treatments for Lymphoma and despite this was looking quite healthy with her only two months of hair growth. We were able to give each treatment for their complaints noticing some similarity between the mother and daughter with their high blood pressure. The mother had been given an acute homeopathic remedy in the waiting room immediately after taking her blood pressure since it was so high at 240/124. After the case taking Jorge Mario took it again and found that it had reduced greatly and was down to 209/119. Only one dose of a homeopathic and she was showing such improvement! Carla was also more comfortable now that her stroke risk was reduced. She will take remedies regularly for a week to help to further lower her blood pressure and another treatment for longer term to help with her health issues as well as the remedy Ignatia to support her during this period of grief and loss. Her daughter will also have a treatment for her issues taking into account that she still has one round of chemotherapy left.
Sometimes the work the volunteers do here is heartbreaking. A young man saw us passing on the street in the morning wearing our green HTSF aprons while on our way to the dispensary. He stopped us to ask us if we could help him, if we could answer his questions about his health. Carla said of course, come to the dispensary and sign in. He came that afternoon bringing his wife and young twin babies. We were all surprised by their story, as his appearance did not suggest their situation. The babies were born prematurely by two months and the mother had given birth in the mountains while alone since she was not expecting to give birth so early. She has four children already but we were all amazed with her strength and tenacity. After she gave birth alone to twins, she walked with the babies for an hour to get them to medical care.
The young man had recently lost many men in his family including his father, so he had no support for his young family. He had also lost his job so the whole family has been unable to eat, including the mother during much of her pregnancy. The young babies spent nearly a month in the hospital as they were premature and were certainly also malnourished. Any money the family did have the past month was spent on medications for the young babies. The twins had pneumonia when they left the hospital, which is not surprising since premature babies have undeveloped lungs and are susceptible to any lung problems. They had had cyanosis and were definitely having problems with breathing. They really needed the remedy Laurocerasus but we did not have it here at the dispensary so Carla included Carbo-veg along with the chosen complexes to be given often over the next 24 hours to help them get stronger and recuperate their lung health. It was also important to give the whole family a parasite treatment and to support their nutrition and rebuild their systems. We sent them home with a lot of worry and concern but the parents were very capable and took the suggestions Carla gave them seriously.
The young mother returned the next day for a follow up and so we could see how the babies responded to the remedies. The mother was doing noticeably better and was much calmer and more confident. The babies looked very peaceful and were breathing better. We were all relieved and the family was very encouraged by our treatments. They will continue the lung treatment for the next week and Carla added another treatment to help the babies to better absorb and use the nutrients they so desperately need.
Another difficult case was a woman whose husband had been killed in a revenge killing and the whole family saw his body tied up and lying in the street. It was hard to imagine a family of four children losing their father and the mother unexpectedly pregnant with another baby. This was an unfortunate side effect of a medication she was taking that altered the effectiveness of her contraception. It was interesting to see how each child was dealing with grief differently. We saw the youngest boy who was likely too young to understand the loss in the same way as the older children but wanted to comfort everyone especially his mother. The pre-teen daughter was sad with unpredictable rages and anger. We made sure she would have Staph in her remedies. We gave the children a parasite treatment that would also help with any infections, offer some detoxification and after build up their system. Grief and stress can lower the immune system so this was good. We also gave Rescue Remedy for the whole family to help with the grief and shock. The HTSF method has found that essential flower remedies can be very helpful along with homeopathic remedies.
As a practicing homeopath the two week experience really helped with my confidence and knowledge. I was thrilled to see situations I had read about in old master’s texts or in The Homeopathic Domestic Physician being applied and working! Of course most homeopaths a hundred years ago were doctors making house calls and either a patient saw a homeopathic doctor or they saw an allopathic doctor and both could treat most anything unless it required life saving surgeries. It also gives me a lot of hope, for what homeopathy has to offer us in treatment of chronic diseases and illnesses for rural areas or for people that can’t afford Traditional medical treatments or don’t want to use them and prefer a more natural approach to their health. The HTSF protocols are used mainly to promote health, to maintain chronic conditions from worsening over time, and to treat first line health issues. It is not meant to replace the constitutional care that Classical homeopathy offers, but to save people from undue suffering and the need for more complex or expensive treatments later on. The HTSF missions are open to homeopaths and general volunteers who are interested and would like to make an application. There is more information on the recruitment page at TSF.