by Patricia Salber
The village of Monkey River in Belize is surrounded by river, sea, and forest. It is a beautiful place, but difficult to reach. Like rural communities everywhere in the world, access to health care can be challenging. Lucky for those who live in Monkey River, there are folks, like Walt Reed , Ted Hoskins, and emergency physician Joe Babbitt (AKA the Monkey River Crew -all from the Blue Hill and Deer Isle area of Maine) who want to help bring health care to to them. Let travel along with Ted via video, as he makes a trip to the village:
Why Monkey River?
According to Walt, he had never heard of Monkey River, but was interested in participating in a medical mission. So he spoke with Ted Hoskins, a minister and fisherman from Blue Hill, Maine, with whom he’d worked on a non-profit board for several years. Ted had first visited Monkey River Town, Belize in 2001 in order to help rebuild this remote fishing island village after a damaging hurricane. He had been returning ever since. Ted told Walt that medical care was almost non-existent there. After talking with Dr. Jane Garfield, a physician who had been there, Walt took his first trip the following year.
The Needs are Great
Walt discovered that diabetes and hypertension were very prevalent in the Monkey River villagers, particularly in the women. So he set about measuring blood pressures and glucose levels of the villagers. And he started talking with the villagers about the importance of of losing weight, eating right (meaning to include vegetables & fruits in their diet) and getting more exercise. It seemed to work. Walt says that when he arrived in the village last year, one of the women he had been working with came up to him and said proudly, “please check my sugar.” It was down considerably to a much more manageable level. He was thrilled and so was she. He was also able to gave her a glucometer and strips so that she could monitor her progress herself.
Unfortunately, there isn’t an ideal solution for people who need more advanced care, such as medications or medical tests. They are referred to the physician in Independence, the nearest city with regular medical care. However, it is difficult to reach due to the rugged terrain. A clinic has been built in the village to try to provide more local care, however, it has fallen into disrepair and termites are devouring it!
There are other crucial health issues for the people of Monkey River, such as wilderness first aid. Infections resulting from minor wounds progress rapidly in the tropics and gangrene is all too quick to occur, necessitating the amputation of a limb. Sadly, there are young people in the village who have suffered this fate. One young boy Walt encountered had a laceration on his foot that was becoming infected. Walt cleaned and dressed the wound and told him to go home and keep it clean until it had begun to heal. Few of the children wear shoes, so this was a difficult assignment for him. A few hours later, Walt saw him playing soccer barefoot, the wound was again filthy. So back he went, cleaned and dressed it again, but this time covered his foot with a plastic bag and told him how serious it was that he keep it clean. Later Walt saw him out with his friends-the bag still in place. The boy held his foot up in the air and flashed a big grin to show that he had followed Walt’s directions. His foot is fine today.
Contributing to the Solution – Here is Where You Come In
Fortunately, the solution to many of the health problems of the village are readily identifiable and easy to solve. Medical care has already been brought to a whole new level simply by the availability of desperately needed over the counter drugs, common first aid supplies, plus blood pressure and blood glucose monitoring equipment.
Although the communities around Deer Isle, Isle au Haut and Blue Hill, Maine where Walt, Ted and Joe live have been tremendously supportive of this cause over the years, funding is becoming progressively more difficult. In order to continue their work next year, they need things that only money can buy (but they don’t really need much money). They need over the counter drugs, vitamins, bandaging supplies, creams for rashes, condoms, 5-6 glucometers, and several hundred glucometer strips so the villagers can monitor their progress when we are not there. All this could be accomplished for approximately $1,000 per year.
The Monkey River Crew are trying to raise $1000 on the Health Tech Hatch platform (full disclosure – this is my new company). All donations will be used to purchase supplies and provide medical aid, or, if they are fortunate enough to exceed their $1000 goal, to also help improve the school and rebuild the clinic. In Walt’s own words:
“If we raise more than the $1,000 we need for this year’s supplies, we will
- Be able to provide all diabetic patients with adequate glucometers and strips to measure their blood sugar levels for a year.
- Greatly expand the vitamins and medications available to both children and adults in need.
- The clinic building is suffering from extensive termite damage and is in need of repair.
If you donate $1,000 or more, we would love to invite you to join us and/or speak with you about what you would like to be involved with. There are a number of other projects that could use your funds in Monkey River
- The school is desperately in need of a wide variety of supplies.
- The village just got electricity and phone three years ago. We were able to provide the school with 12 lap top computers and Wi-Fi so that the students could obtain the skills and have access to the information needed to compete in the modern world. More computers are needed as the first batch is starting to wear out.”
Every $5 0r $10 will help. Please click on over to Hatch and make a contribution to this worthy project.