Dr. Luther & the Garifuna

While visiting the town of La Ceiba on Honduras’ Mosquito Coast, I met with Dr. Harry Castillo Luther, the founder of the First Garifuna Hospital. The hospital and its innovative programs specifically serve the region’s Garifuna community.

Currently, the Garifuna community comprises about 10% of the Honduras population, a total of about 700,000 people. Garifuna ancestors were West Africans forced into the slave trade and known for their rebelliousness. They were originally brought to the Caribbean islands of St. Vincent, The Grenadines and Dominica. To rid of the islands of these troublemakers, the plantation owners deported the Garifuna to Roatan island. They then resettled to the Honduran mainland.

A member of the Garifuna community, Dr. Luther has racked up some remarkable achievements in a relatively short time, including founding these ground-breaking initiatives:

First Gaifuna Hospital:

The First Garifuna Hospital serves the isolated Garifuna communities living on Honduras’ southern Caribbean coast. The hospital, built in 2007, receives medical equipment from Cuba and Medical Brigade doctors to provide free care. The hospital serves a community of more than 30,000 (60,000 including the surrounding area). To date, it has provided free medical consultations and medicine to more than 500,000 Garifuna patients. It is the only free hospital in Honduras.

Inter-cultural Medicine:

Dr. Luther travels the world speaking about inter-cultural medicine, which takes a holistic approach to medical care. For instance, a woman who suffers back pain will not only be treated for her physical ailment, but also the underlying cause of the pain.

Let’s say a woman strained her back muscles carrying heavy bundles of wood for her cooking fires (a common injury in this part of the world). She would need 10-15 days of rest and with no heavy lifting for the muscles to heal, but this isn’t possible since she has 8 children (the average number of children in Garifuna communities) to care for.

In Dr. Luther’s world – the First Garifuna Hospital — his patient will receive pain medication for the back ailment as well as a solar stove, so she no longer needs wood to cook. Inter-cultural medicine solves the medical problem from all sides.

Auxiliary Nurses/Midwifery Training:

Dr. Luther has developed a nurses training program that trains local women as nurses to help with the medical care of the hospital’s patients. The training program takes 2 years to complete and costs US$6,000 a year per nurse. The hospital is also working with U.S-based NGOs (a former client of mine, the Birthing Project USA), to help train local Garifuna women to be mid-wives.

GoErinGo! Fund Contribution

I think Dr. Luther’s approach to inter-cultural medicine is really smart and admire his dedication to his Garifuna community. The GoErinGo! Fund will donate $250 to purchase 10 solar stoves to be given to patients.

  • $25 – Solar Stove: the stoves are manufactured in the community and given to patients.
  • $388 – Doctor’s Stipend: to pay for a month of meals, transportation and hygiene products.
  • $3,000 – Nurses Training: to pay for one-quarter of the training needed
  • $10,000 – Lab Testing Equipment: to pay for blood tests and to specifically help with research on Sickle Cell
  • $20,000 – Ultra Sound Machine: A second-hand machine to use with OB/GYN care

Care to join me in supporting Dr. Luther’s efforts? For more information, visit the First Garifuna Hospital web site.

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This entry was posted on Monday, January 16th, 2012 and is filed under Adventure Philanthropists.

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