In the western mountains of Honduras lies Santa Rosa de Copan. This is the poorest region of the country and far from the touristy coast, yet since 2008, Bobbie Randall, MEd, RD, LD, CDE, has spent her vacation volunteering with Central American Medical Outreach to strengthen health-care systems through sustainable community development.
“CAMO had set up modern medical technologies that improved life expectancies of the patients, but the food delivery wasn’t even up to 20th-century standards,” Randall recalls. There were half as many plates and utensils as patients, and staff had to bring kitchen tools from home each day. And with no hot water, sanitation was of enormous concern. “They were saving more people, but at least half of those who survived would end up with a parasite or foodborne illness,” Randall says. “The hospital’s infection control physician pleaded with us to make a difference.”
After securing actual serving trays, Randall’s team replaced chow lines—a pot that was wheeled around on the back of a cart—with a centralized system to distribute food from the kitchen on individual patient trays, allowing for therapeutic diets. The team also established hot water access and installed a sanitizing dishwasher. Randall created sanitation checklists in Spanish, which staff emails to her throughout the year in exchange for kitchen utensils—knives, colanders, measuring cups, spatulas and tongs—collected through Randall’s church and hospital in northern Ohio.
“The experience is bigger than I ever imagined it would be,” Randall says, “and more than I ever thought I could accomplish in my life.”