When York Hospital nurse Cathy Stauffer returned from her first trip to Honduras, she experienced a moment of guilt. It came when she hit the automatic garage door opener at her home in Lancaster.
She had spent a week in the Latin American country, providing medical care for people in a remote mountain village. The inhabitants lived in huts made of mud or sticks bound together with plastic strips. The only feature on the inside might be a bag of rice tied to the ceiling so animals couldn’t get to it. Automatic garage door openers were well beyond their experience, to say nothing of advanced medical care.
“I felt guilty having so much when people have so little,” Stauffer said. “It’s pretty overwhelming.”
In the intervening years, Stauffer’s had ample opportunity to get over her initial culture shock. She’s returned to volunteer in Honduras many times through the process of establishing a nonprofit group to help the poor, rural people in the country.
Casa Corazon Volunteers Provide Medical Help for Hondurans
Stauffer’s organization, Casa Corazon, has two main components. Through Casa Corazon, medical teams composed of local volunteers travel to Honduras several times a year to provide medical care for people in remote mountain villages.
The group also arranges for about 10 Honduran children a year to travel to the United States. While they’re here, the children receive medical care, such as open-heart surgery, not available in their country.
Stauffer recently received the Kitty Reisinger Heart of Nursing Award from York Hospital. The award is named for Kathryn “Kitty” Reisinger, who practiced nursing in the York area for more than 40 years before her death in 2002. But Stauffer emphasizes the fact that about 20 volunteers also make the group’s mission possible.
Stauffer wanted to be a nurse since she was a child. The idea of helping people just appealed to her. In high school, she decided she wanted to be a missionary nurse and help people in other countries.
After graduating from nursing school in 1992, she started working at York Hospital in Hanover, PA. She wanted to work in the emergency room, which wasn’t available to her in Lancaster.
In 1995, she learned of an opportunity to do the missionary work she had once dreamed of. A friend of hers was going to Honduras on a medical mission with a nonprofit group, and she volunteered to go along. She left the United States for the first time and experienced the country that would be so much a part of her future.
Stauffer started Casa Corazon in 1997. Since then, the group has sent about 75 children to the United States to undergo surgery.
It’s often a culture shock for the children, she said. Before they leave Honduras, they’ll sometimes get an orientation to familiarize them with things such as silverware and bathrooms, which they’ve never experienced before. But to date, Stauffer said, host families and children alike have been able to make the adjustment very well.
“Regardless of whether you speak Spanish, the love in any language goes a long way for them,” she said.
Learn more about being a Volunteer in Honduras.