Saturday, January 31, 2009

Boyscouts and the Wheelchair Giveaway in Choluteca Honduras

There is no way I could have done all the work by myself. I am thrilled to have had the honor of working with the Boy Scout Troop of Choluteca.

They each and every one worked diligently in order to get all of the chairs put together.

The first few chairs were the trickiest as they learned how to put them together.
There was time for a short break and then back to work again.
It turned dark on us but we all continued to work.

The courtyard of the Flamingo Hotel in Choluteca looked like a factory for making wheelchairs.

All the hard work paid off as people began to be placed into their wheelchairs. Many of them arrived in their best clothes, while others arrived in rags, because that is all that they own.

A couple of the patients to the left.

To the left is Sergio Lovo co-owner of the Hotel Flamingo in Choluteca. He and his wife graciously loaned us the use of the hotel courtyard to arm and giveaway the wheelchairs. You can see by the big smile on Sergio's face how good we all felt to be able to help the people in need.

Teresa Searcy (me), the Boy Scouts and several wheelchair recipients.

The wheelchair recipient had waited until all of the other people had left to receive his wheelchair. He was so very patient.

At the end of the night, 32 wheelchairs later, the Boy Scouts were tired! and sweaty. But not too tired and sweaty (80 degree weather) to pose for a photo in the 13 extra chairs which they put together to give away next weekend.

Leader Esteban Troches of Choluteca, Boy Scout Leader is on the far left.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fly Eyes and Cataracts

When the people return from the cataract surgeries, they all have fly eyes. Over the last year we have performed 125 cataract surgeries. Each patient is sent home with Fly Eyes (dark sunglasses). Today I finished downloading some of the photos from some of the folks that have had cataract surgeries in 2008. There are two men in particular that I want to introduce you to.

The first is Don Theodoro. We identified that Don Theodoro needed cataract surgery when he arrived at one of our Eye Clinics in San Lorenzo, Valle, Honduras. You can see a photo of him when he arrived at the clinic to the left.

I was the hottest day of the year and he arrived in rubber boots, that is the what he works in. Don Theodoro collects cans and plastic and sells them in order to make a living. His wife sews. His children are all in school.

We always ask for an address and then when it is time for the surgery, we go track down the patient. Do Theodoro was a "BURRO". This is a nice way of saying he was VERY uncooperative!! I am 5 feet tall and I tower over Don Theodoro, BUT he is a tough cookie.

First I sent Jose "Cobra" Benavides, Ex Honduran Police Special Forces Cobra to track him down. He refused to come for surgery. Then Victor from COVA went looking for him and once again he refused. But his cataract was mature and we all knew that if he didn't have surgery soon, he would be blind. When the two men failed, I went myself.

Not only did he refuse to have surgery, but he turned around and walked away from me while I was talking to him. He made me mad, so I marched into his house and talked to his wife and children. He might have discouraged the men, but I was not going to be outdone by this shorty!

They said, "Dad does what he wants to do and no one can tell him anything." I responded, "You all have him spoiled!" I then told his wife, "Do you realize that when he is blind, one of you will have to be his eyes for him? Do you realize that he will need full time care, so instead of your daughter going to school she will have to stay home and take care of him. Instead of you being a seamstress, you will be a nurse." Then they told me, "We realize but Theodoro is going to do what he is going to do."

I then gave his wife a tip. I said, "When he comes home and asks where is dinner, tell him he needs to learn to cook now, before he is blind and can't learn, because you are not going to take care of someone who refuses to take care of himself." And I continued, "When he asks for his clothes for tomorrow you tell him he needs to learn to take care of himself, because you are not going to take care of a blind man that could have had surgery for FREE but refused."

The next morning much to my surprise Don Theodoro showed up to catch the ride to go to Tegucigalpa for his surgery. I said, "I am surprised to see you here." He said, "I am mad at you!" I said, "That is too bad. But why are you mad at me?" He responded, "Because you turned my whole family against me!" His wife stood beside him smiling from ear to ear. She was glad that he had "decided" to have his surgery. Meanwhile we did an eye exam on her and found that she also had cataracts in both eyes.

He unwillingly left for his surgery, piled into the back of the Land Rover with all the others like a bunch of sardines. But the surprise was when this "BURRO" returned! He was gentle as a lamb! Here is a photo of Don Theodoro after his surgery with his "Fly Eyes". Look at this photo and imagine, I am only 5 feet tall.

He returned saying that he could hardly wait to have his other surgery done. He wanted to send his wife to have surgery also. He wanted to hug me. He volunteered to be one of our speakers on the television program and he told it like it really was on the program. He said he was mad, he said he didn't want to go, he said he was forced by his family to go, then he said how much he appreciated the surgery. I even received another hug!

Last year was incredibly productive! We were able to identify over 450 cataracts and were able to perform surgery on 125+ of those. Hopefully this year we will identify more people with cataracts and be able to perform all of the surgeries.

In the photo to the left on the right hand side you will see a man in a blue jean jacket. This man is a pastor from a small village called Moracito. When we arrived at his church to have an eye brigade, the church was filthy! I was shocked. There was rat poop and bird poop all over the floor. My team of volunteers were appalled. We immediately started cleaning up the floor, but as we were doing so, I noticed the pastor was having problems seeing the latches on the windows to open them. It soon became crystal clear to me that he couldn't see hardly anything. I asked him if he would like to have his eyes examined, but he declined until after everyone else had received their examination. At the very end of the day we examined his eyes only to confirm my suspicion, he was almost blind from cataracts. He went for the surgery on his first eye and forgot to take his razor, he returned a few days later, seeing and thrilled! His church is now clean. He had no idea and no one had told him it was a mess. IMAGINE the change for him!
To the left is another group of "fly eyes". They all came home, to San Lorenzo part of the "Fly Eye" Club and all happy. Several will join us next month for their other eye surgery. The people do not pay anything for these surgeries. We are looking for people to donate to the cause. You can help change these people's lives!
To the left are the people all jammed into the Land Rover, returning from their trip to Tegucigalpa for their cataract surgeries.
This group had several women patients.
The newly seeing patients receiving last minute instructions prior to returning home.
A church loaned us their bus and we were able to perform surgery on more patients. Victor Montoya is standing behind all of the patients. This proves that the "Fly Eye" Club is still growing.

Breaking My Leg and Cream Puffs! Finally I Had Time To Bake Again! Cream Puffs!

In March of 2007 I stepped off of a one inch unidentified step and broke my leg. I was packed and ready to go to the United States to visit my family and on the way to the airport, I stopped at Continental Airlines in Tegucigalpa at the Clarion Hotel to pick up my ticket. As I walked in the door, I fell. I and everyone else in the room heard the bone crack as my ankle doubled. Immediately tears came to my eyes and I started praying. The pain was excruciating.

I went to the hospital, had x-rays and then... I went home and ordered Jose (my adopted son) around and forced him to make Cream Puffs for me. Now let me explain about Jose. Jose was raised in a Latino chauvinist world. His mom did all the cooking and the only way that he or his father participated in cooking chores was in the form of bringing wood for the fire or water from the stream. God forbid he do anything else.
Backtracking 11 years ago to 1998, when I met Jose Benavides as a young man he was in the Honduran Special Forces Police Unit called the COBRAS. Their motto is "win or die". Jose was assigned to me by the then Vice President Vidal Cerrato. This was just days after Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras with a fury never before experienced in Honduras. Final counts showed 28,000+ dead and missing. He was assigned to protect me and the donations I had brought in from the USA. The people were so desperate for food and clothing that they literally swarmed the truck and tried to take things by force.

This photo is of Jose in his COBRA uniform several years after I met him. Now he is much "larger" due in part to my cooking and due in part to his departure from the COBRAs several years ago and the current lack of rigorous physical exercise. He is currently finishing law school.

Several weeks later when I was finally able to get around or over or through the 7 washed out places in the road to get to Valle de Angeles from Tegucigalpa, Jose COBRA went with me. This was the first time that I had been in my kitchen for weeks and I was ready to cook!
I made a HUGE mistake and asked Jose COBRA to help by slicing the tomatoes. He refused telling me, "Cooking is women's work and men don't do that." Taking into consideration that he was Latino I let it slide. The following night was a different story. I asked Jose COBRA to peel the potatoes and I got the same response. But he didn't get the same response from me. I fixed myself dinner and sat down to eat. He wondered where his dinner was and I said, "He who is too macho to help is too macho to eat." He walked off down the road and bought some tortillas and hard dry cheese from a neighbor and suffered, all the while smelling my pot of beef rib and fresh vegetable soup.

That evening meal was a turning point in Jose COBRA's life. From then on, when I asked for help in the kitchen, he helped or he didn't eat.

Background information complete, we now return to March 2007. When I hurt, I look for comfort in food. On the very rare occasions when I do not feel 100% I wish for mom's potato soup. But with my leg broken, now in a cast and still in terrible pain, I had a craving for Cream Puffs. If you have ever been to Honduras you know, NO ONE sells cream puffs.

Jose was at home with me, since I was unable to move. My leg was in a cast and I was in pain. I had an insatiable craving for cream puffs that only cream puffs would cure. I asked Jose to help me make cream puffs. The apartment has tile floors, so I scooted in a plastic chair on the tile floor into the kitchen and gave him "orders". Little did he know how much he would love those little cream puffs. He complained the entire time he made them, but when they were completed and after he had tasted them he began calling his friends on the telephone telling them that HE had made cream puffs and they were delicious.
So here it is almost 2 years later and I have extra whipped cream in the refrigerator that I need to use. So once again cream puffs have become part of the daily agenda.
There are NO photos! Why? Because everyone ate them so fast, I couldn't even get a photo. So, I have borrowed a photo from the web. It can be found at along with some of Nancy's recipes.

The recipe for Cream Puffs can be found on
Cream Puff Pastry

Active Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 55 Minutes
Yield: Makes about 10 servings

4 oz butter (1/2 cup)
8 fl oz water
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 oz all-purpose flour (1 cup)
4 eggs

Place butter in a medium saucepan. Add water and salt. Bring to boiling, stirring till butter melts. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir till mixture forms a ball that doesn't separate. Remove from heat; cool 10 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, to flour mixture, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition for about 1 minute, or till smooth.

Scoop up some dough with a tablespoon. Use another spoon to push off the dough in a mound onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Leave 3 in between the puffs for expansion. Bake in preheated 400 degrees F. oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.. Remove puffs from pan. Cool on a rack.

Slice of the tops (or cut in half). With a fork, gently scrape out any soft, moist dough. Work carefully so that you don't puncture the crust.

Slice of the tops (or cut in half). With a fork, gently scrape out any soft, moist dough. Work carefully so that you don't puncture the crust.

Recipe reprinted by permission of Weldon Owen. All rights reserved. Date Added: 01/01/2008
I then whip cream, add a tablespoon of liquor to the cream and a few tablespoons of sugar and fill the Cream Puffs. Happy eating!
PS The cream puffs must have been good for me. I took the cast off two weeks later as I received a medical team from the USA. Lots of people received free surgery and I was happy!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Nacaome, Heat, Wheelchairs and Happy People

How can I describe Nacaome? With just a few words! Hot! Dusty! Breezeless! You might say, "Why in the world would anyone go there?"

The reasons are simple, love of people and free wheelchairs! Nacaome was the center of the world for me today as we had our 3rd Wheelchair Giveaway.
This man had on tennis shoes, but the bottoms were totally SLICK! The souls have rubbed off as he has been dragged from place to place. He has no use of his legs at all and is extremely poor. Does anyone have a pair of 10 1/2 or 11 wide tennis shoes?

This lady came to claim her wheelchair in her "P-jammies".

We held the wheelchair giveaway at the Church Of Christ in Nacaome. Pastor Santos Ramirez donated the use of his church and all of the men of his church worked hard to assemble 35 wheelchairs. Here Pastor Santos stands behind one of the men who received a wheelchair.

Picture of the television crews from the two television channels taking photos!

Our biggest little helper. I wish it had been one of my grandchildren helping! Little David, Mikey and Daniel all three are so sweet and considerate of others!

Our youngest recipient was a little overwhelmed about it all. He cried buckets of tears only to be comforted by our youngest volunteer. His mom has carried him around all of his life and now he is just too big. She placed him in the chair and he didn't know what to do.

This next weekend, I will be on the road again giving away wheelchairs.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Car Accidents, Trains Cutting Off Legs, Polio, Old Age, Strokes, Etc.

I just arrived in Choluteca after a long day! After leaving Tegucigalpa this morning early, (read the previous blog) I went to San Lorenzo, loaded the truck and then on to Goascoran. I left Goascoran and raced to San Lorenzo again for another wheelchair giveaway. There was no time to eat breakfast or lunch and I am famished! I have nursed several bottles of water today and I ingested an orange hastily, which a patient’s family member donated to my hungry cause. I vaguely remember someone handing me some homemade french-fries, I guess I ate them, I don’t remember.

Anyway, this afternoon was even wilder than this morning! I was supposed to arrive in San Lorenzo at sometime before 2:00 pm but it just didn’t happen. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get out of Goascoran and to San Lorenzo in time. Each patient wanted to hug me and tell me thanks for their new “CARRITOS”. They started calling them that because they have brakes and tires!

When I arrived in San Lorenzo, the patients were waiting for their new wheelchairs and it looked like there was carnival going on at SHADDI FARMICIA. Everyone was with their respective family member and they were sitting on the sidewalk drinking cokes and eating “CHURROS” (chips).

The owner of SHADDI PHARMACY is also a pastor and he and his wife are both doctors. They are friends and agreed to have the wheelchair giveaway at their pharmacy on the PAN AMERICAN HIGHWAY. You couldn’t ask for better publicity. They filled the parking lot with wheelchairs and the people began arriving as did the press! Three television channels arrived and filmed the giveaway.

I think the best thing to do is show lots of photos and then share the end of the story. Scroll down, look at the photos and at the end I will share some more.

This lady was a squinter and a smiler. She loved being out of the house and able to see and talk to others.

Cindy was brought to us by her pastor. She attends Principe de Paz Church. (Prince of Peace) Cindy in the pink shirt informed me that she had been praying for a wheelchair. Well, God answered her prayers. Thank you Free Wheelchair Mission!

This young man is blind and cannot walk. He repeated over and over saying, “I am going to church to say thank you God for my new wheelchair.”
This man kept raising his hand and saying, “Hallelujah!” Every time I looked at him, he raised his arms and shouted, “Hallelujah!”

This young lady has a goal! She wants to finish the next two years of university where she can be a teacher. She asked me for a scholarship, which unfortunately I can't give to her, but I am never the less thrilled that she has a goal!

This woman lost her leg in an accident.

He lost his leg to diabetes.

This lady was so sweet, she always touched me when I walked by her.

Several women came in their nightgowns or their houserobes, but no one seemed to mind!

Several other ladies arrived in their Sunday best clothes!

This young man didn't stop smiling from the time he arrived! He smiled and smiled and smiled.

This man couldn't smile but his grandson sure is happy!

These patients were all smiles.

This lady arrived late and we stayed until well after dark putting together her new wheelchair. She was number 36. That's correct! We gave away 36 wheelchairs this afternoon!

This little old man was so cute that I took several photos of him. I love the hat and the homemade wooden cane.

This young man came with a friend and waited patiently until the end. He knew the other people were desperate and he knew we would take care of him.

Many patients had to be lifted into the chairs and are absolutely like wet dishrag limp. This lady was one of those. She had no movement at all in her legs.

Her back was shaped like an "S".

This lady had a bad hair day, but she was thrilled with her new wheelchair.

This young man received his new wheels and then left in style all smiles!

I met this woman begging at a local steak place in Choluteca several months ago and told her I would give her a wheelchair. She didn't believe me, but I called the owner of El Torito ("little bull") and asked him to bring her to San Lorenzo to pick up her chair.

Pastor Reynaldo to the left of the man in the green shirt and tan pants helped unload the container tirelessly the night the truck finally arrived with the wheelchairs. This man came from the "old folks home". He and three other friends were blessed with wheelchairs today.

This lady talked endlessly.

I am not sure that this lady ever broke a smile the entire afternoon. I thought about turning her upside down to take a picture.

Several children needed wheelchairs. Some even slept through the ceremony.

Several people arrived in leg casts. This woman was one of them, her neighbors brought her to receive her wheelchair.

This young man was in a motorcycle accident and both of his heels were crushed. His doctors have said at least a year before he can put any weight on his feet, I think it will be less, he is already talking about giving the wheelchair away when he finishes with it. With that attitude, healing will come quickly. He arrived in the car of the manager of the Christian television station, who offered us free advertising any time we need it.
There have been so many blessings today, I am overwhelmed. I only wish my parents and the rest of my family were here to join in the fun. Sarah and Jessica would both have loved this day!
Dr. Joel Garcia was so tired that he finally took a seat in one of the wheelchairs for a few minutes of rest.

Some soldiers from the 11th Brigade showed up and helped put together a wheelchair.

I tried to teach them how to put the wheelchair together, but they learned better from the men. I wonder why?

Jose Benavides clowning around with one of the patients. He had promised this man a wheelchair many months ago and was happy to finally be able to give it to him.

Group photos!