Mike Bloomfield brings help, hope to Hondurans
Dispensing medication and treating minor illnesses is what you would expect
a pharmacist to do on a medical mission to a poor country. When he travels
to Honduras each year, Mike Bloomfield, sixth floor satellite pharmacy supervisor
in Emory Hospital, does a lot more than provide basic pharmacy and medical
"For this year's project," Bloomfield said, "we're going
to build a bridge across a river. The river floods a lot and has a lot of
raw sewage in it, and the kids walk through it on their way to school. They
don't have any shoes, so consequently they get all kinds of worms and other
intestinal parasites. So we're building a bridge so they will be able to
walk over the river."
Building better lives
Bloomfield began traveling to Honduras on medical/construction missions
five years ago through an organization called Honduras Outreach Inc. (HOI).
The organization was begun by three Atlanta men who also own a ranch in
the San Esteban Valley in a remote part of Honduras. HOI has built a small
hospital on the ranch and a few small medical clinics in outlying areas
to serve more than half of the valley's 55,000 residents. The hospital is
staffed by a Honduran and a Nicaraguan doctor, both of whom speak English
and have received training at Emory and DeKalb Medical Center.
Each February or March, Bloomfield and the rest of his group make the long
and complicated trek to Honduras, which he said is the poorest country in
the western hemisphere. They fly to Miami and then to Tegucigalpa, the capital
of Honduras. Then they take a seven-hour bus ride through the mountains
to a tiny town on the frontier, where the paved roads end. They spend the
night in a hotel, and the bus leaves early in the morning to get them to
the ranch in time for late morning church services. They can't travel the
last leg of the journey at night, Bloomfield said, because that's when the
"banditos" in the mountains attack travelers.
One of the villages that the HOI group visits is called El Perdrero (the
rock), which Bloomfield said is "way up in the mountains," another
two and a half hours from the ranch. "When the dirt road ends,"
he explained, "we throw all the medicines on top of a mule and walk
for about an hour to a river, which we cross in a dugout canoe. The mules
are brought across the river, and then we repack. Then it's another hour
and a half to the village."
In addition to spending 17- to 18-hour days dispensing medicine (mostly
antibiotics), treating minor illnesses and assisting with basic dental care,
Bloomfield also helps with the group's ambitious construction projects.
The group has built a dormitory building for 75 people as well as a cow
barn. "This past year, we built a chicken house," Bloomfield said.
"The year before, we built a big barn to put farming equipment in and
to store corn for feed. It's obviously a very agrarian culture."
One of the group's future projects involves a building on the ranch that
used to be an orphanage. "They moved the orphanage to the coast, which
is about a four-hour drive," Bloomfield said. "So we are thinking
about making that building into a trade school so that we can teach the
villagers a skill. One of the wealthiest people in the whole valley is the
pottery maker, and she makes lots of decorative pots. So if we can teach
the villagers a trade, we can make them self sufficient."
A lifelong volunteer
For his work in Honduras as well as with his church, Bloomfield recently
received the Community Service Award from the Georgia Society of Hospital
Pharmacists. He has coached youth sports in Gwinnett County for seven years.
He has coached mostly baseball, but has gotten into basketball coaching
the last couple of years.
Bloomfield also has done a great deal of community service work through
his church, Mountain Park Methodist Church in Stone Mountain. He has volunteered
many hours at soup kitchens and homeless shelters in the metro area.
Being able to sympathize with those in need is natural for Bloomfield, who
grew up in Texas 10 miles from the Mexican border, an area he said is one
of the poorest in the country. "I can appreciate what people go through
because I've lived it and I know what it feels like," Bloomfield said.
"But my mother never told me we were poor when I was growing up. My
sister and I have asked her why she never told us, and she said she never
thought it was important."
Growing up without material wealth and going to help the poorest people
on this side of the planet has influenced Bloomfield's perspective of the
average American lifestyle. "I'm embarrassed by my wealth when I go
down to Honduras," he said. "We don't take any watches or jewelry
or any other valuables with us, partly because of safety concerns, but also
because you realize just how obscenely rich you are. I think there needs
to be more of an equilibrium, more of a balance in a country that has so
Regardless of what decisions the Honduran government makes, Bloomfield plans
to continue his missions as long as there are poor Hondurans who need his
help. "I just try to keep my hands busy helping others," he said.
"I've been very fortunate in my life and I just want to return the
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