Stockbridge residents Daniel and Frances Puerto have volunteered at Piedmont Henry Hospital for 10 years but their giving spirits reach far beyond the local community – all the way to Honduras. Their connection with Honduras dates to 1998 after Hurricane Mitchell devastated the area. Father Gregory Hartmayer of their parish, Saint Philip Benizi Catholic Church, visited Honduras in 1999 and returned with a deep desire to help the people recover. Plans to establish a sister parish in Honduras began, and the connection has grown stronger each year. “It’s not that we’re rich, but we have the means to help,” said Puerto. “And we have the willingness to help.”
Puerto made his first trip with the mission group in 2000. Although Frances has never been to Honduras, she and others in their parish spend months on preparations. “Some of the ladies at our church make hats and clothing for us to take,” said Puerto. “It’s very special to see a little girl wear a new dress for the first time.”
Parishioners have learned over the years to watch for opportunities to gather supplies the people in Honduras might need. When one gentleman visited Niagara Falls, he asked what happened to all the disposable sandals that tourists wore while sightseeing. He was told they’re all thrown out. In time, the parish was able to have 15,000 pairs of sandals sent to Savannah and then shipped to Honduras.
Piedmont Henry Hospital also has come alongside the parish to help make a difference. “I volunteered for a while in the pharmacy,” said Puerto. “The director at the time learned what we were doing and suggested checking with some pharmaceutical companies about contributing antibiotics, vitamins or other supplies.”
As word spread, other departments of the hospital found ways to help. Piedmont Henry has donated bandages and other basic supplies, sterile pieces from medical kits, and even computers that were about to be replaced. Physicians and nurses have sometimes joined the team. “The computers don’t really work with the internet because of poor electricity,” said Puerto. “But they can be used for reading documents and for education. Very few of the young people attend high school. When they get a diploma, it’s hard earned. It’s so rewarding to know we played some small part in that.”
Much of the group’s other work focuses on medical care and education. They test water supplies and recommend ways to make conditions more sanitary. They teach families how to stay healthier by simply boiling water before using it for cooking, and show ways to improve personal hygiene.
“The situations of these people are horrendous to us, but are common to them,” said Puerto. “They have latrines instead of bathrooms with flushing toilets. Children eat soil because some of the elements in it help them feel better. Many of them have intestinal parasites. “The interesting part,” he adds, “is that they survive. It’s a miracle.”
It’s a miracle that will continue, if Puerto and his fellow parishioners have their way.
Other quotes from Daniel you might be able to use in layout …
“I don’t know anything about medicine, but I have a heart. I know what others need and I’m glad to give whatever I can to them.”
“Many people have asked if we get paid for what we do. I tell them the reward doesn’t necessarily have to be monetary.”
“I believe every human being has a sense of caring and a willingness to volunteer. Sometimes we’re just timid or not willing to do it.”