HOI Launches New Partnership

by: Jerry Eickhoff

As previously announced, HOI has begun sending teams into southern Honduras to leverage the same successful approaches to improving public health, education, and spiritual development that we have used in Olancho for the past two decades. Two years ago we were approached by two large corporations based in the southern Honduran town of San Lorenzo, asking if we would be interested in establishing another base of operations in that area (location number three for HOI). The goal of the companies was to further their already considerable existing social responsibility efforts to help the people in the villages in this hot, dry and impoverished region.

We are happy to announce that after months of prayer and  due diligence by all the parties involved, and ongoing negotiations to delineate the responsibilities and goals of the various parties, HOI signed a joint  memorandum of understanding on March 20, 2015 at the Hotel Maya in Tegucigalpa. The two companies partnering with HOI are Agrolibano (Fundación Agrolibano), a very large melon producing operation, and LUFUSSA, the power generation company in the south.  These firms are providing infrastructure support for our efforts and they also work with the leadership of the villages where we’ll partner, to develop plans for improvement and on the ground logistical preparation for the arrival of our work teams.  Representing HOI were Board Chairman, Scott Luttrell and myself; LUFUSSA, Rolando Ramirez; and Fundación Agrolibano, Mrs. Pamela Molina, the foundation’s president.

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 (Left to Right: Rolando Ramirez, LUFUSSA Chairman; Pamela Molina, Fundacion Agrolibano President; Jerry Eickhoff, HOI CEO)

These companies were interested in utilizing our proven methodologies of partnering teams from the US with local leaders and residents by enacting long term, community developed, public health improvement plans. They were especially interested in HOI because of our faith-based approach.  The firms understand, believe, and embrace the fact that our groups and staff help local residents achieve great results because God is at the core of our mission. It was quite refreshing to receive this partnership request from the corporate world. It’s also very encouraging to us that Honduran citizens and corporations of means are investing in the fundamental improvement of living conditions for the people who so greatly need a helping hand.

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HOI has begun sending teams into this area, and has six groups already scheduled for the remainder of 2015. We are looking for more teams that want to expand their ministries into this area with us. The San Lorenzo trip will be different from the HOI Olancho experience. The poverty is very great here, the working conditions are challenging, and the quarters where we stay are comfortable but do not come with the ambiance and views we find awaiting at our Olancho and Nicaragua locations. This is a work trip extraordinaire, and I’d describe it along the lines of the hard core trips of the early years of HOI in Olancho. Oh, and did I say HOT. This area is the southern most part of the Dry Corridor in Honduras, and it is known for its wonderful people who live in an area of great poverty, high temperatures, and little water. Because of the water scarcity, this will be a major theme and challenge for us in this area. We are evaluating water partners to help in this regard.

San Lorenzo and Choluteca, with about 500,000 citizens between them, are located two and a half hours south of the Tegucigalpa airport, and they are central to where we’ll be working in the surrounding villages. They sit very near the Nicaraguan border on the Pacific Ocean. The very difficult work week will end with a day on Tiger Island in Alma Palma, which sits about an hour outside of Choluteca, for a little R&R. This is a fitting end to a very rewarding effort working alongside motivated, talented, and appreciative Honduran citizens who want to take advantage of the partnership opportunities we can collectively offer them.

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An exciting area of our focus that surfaced in our preliminary visits is the need for additional support to the two major hospitals in the region.  Healthcare in this area is in a critical state, and the hospitals reflect that stress.  To better understand the gravity of the situation, picture this:  Two pregnant women come to the public Hospital of the South in Choluteca to receive the help and medical attention they so desperately need.  Rather than receiving the prompt service and attention that expecting mothers deserve, the two women are relegated to a sheet less bed in the maternity ward where they wait receive to receive less than standard care.  The service they receive is not born out of a lack of compassion or concern, but is the byproduct of access to limited resources.

The San Lorenzo Hospital, largely funded and managed by Fundación Agrolibano (FA) and Ms. Molina, is improving daily and is becoming a model of efficiency in Honduras; however, there are still many needs. The first area the Hospital Administrator asked us to focus on was the establishment of a pastoral counseling service. That really impressed and encouraged us. The hospital team recognizes the importance of healing faith and support. To help in this regard, HOI has secured the assistance of Rev. Woody Spackman, the recently retired Director of the Pastoral Counseling Center at Emory University Healthcare. Woody and a Spanish speaking colleague, Jose Montenegro, have already been to the San Lorenzo Hospital and begun to develop their plans with the hospital staff. They have also engaged the local pastors and priests to provide the support network the people and patients of the area will need and that is so important in the healing and grief process. This is an early and exciting development. FA has agreed to support this effort and implementation will begin late this year and early 2016.

San Lorenzo
Additionally, with the support of Bob Hope of HopeBeckham and the HAVE Foundation, HOI has been able to form a partnership with MAP International to work with our southern partners to being shipping needed medications to these institutions. Steve Stirling, the CEO of MAP, visited with Pamela Molina in March and they began to discuss container shipments of meds to both hospitals and also the regional clinics. HOI will work to help facilitate these shipments. Eventually, medical personnel will supplement our work teams to augment the local healthcare professionals who are overwhelmed.

We will be offering some abbreviated site visit trips for leaders of potential teams at attractive prices so you can see for yourself the needs, the logistical situation, and the blessings that await you.If you are interested in learning more about sending a team to HOI’s newest location in the south, please contact our Short Term Missions Coordinator, Emily Grossman via email at egrossman@hoi.org.  Come and join us as we spread the Good News and the good works!

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Jerry is the CEO of HOI and has been heavily involved with the organization since its inception.  He enjoys fishing with his grandsons and is a Civil War history buff.