Back to the jungle |

Back to the jungle

BRECKENRIDGE – The Jungle Doctor Club will hold a benefit at Downstairs at Eric’s Oct. 1 to raise funds to buy medicine, school supplies and construction material destined for a remote village in Honduras.

At least once a year since 1999, members of the club have traveled to villages along the Patuka River to help people displaced by Hurricane Mitch. This year, they leave at the end of October and return in late November.

Dr. Craig Perrinjaquet (Doc PJ) and Robin Albert, aim to implement a medical health worker training program so villagers will have someone on hand to provide basic medical services.

That was sorely lacking when a group of four Summit County residents visited the hurricane-torn country three years ago.

Storm water had destroyed villages and fields and contaminated local water supplies. Villagers were infected with malaria, pneumonia, parasites and intestinal disorders. The first two Jungle Doctors- Byron Swezy and Craig Keller – drove there in a van, then called PJ to let him know the severity of the situation they faced.

Others who have helped over the years included Michael Ratzan, Michelle Ball, Nick Story, Jen Harris, Joe Kusomoto, Philip Ring, Kate Fitzpatrick and Ann and Tony Harris.

Even that was an adventure. Volunteers flew from Denver to Houston and Tegucigulpa, the capital of Honduras. From there, they caught a small bush plane – now they take a six-hour bus or truck ride – to Nueva Palestina, the port town on the Patuka River. From there, they take a 40-foot-long dugout canoe, called a “pipante,” upriver to various villages.

The known, including poisonous snakes, alligators and malaria, was scary enough. The unknown – guerrillas and cocaine traffickers who hated Americans – was even worse.

The Jungle Doctors stayed four months, rebuilding the village of Wampu Serpei, treating people for medical problems, providing food to those whose crops were wiped out and teaching them about general hygiene and recycling. They eventually set up base camp in Subterraneo, located eight hours upriver from Nueva Palestina.

“They’re washing their hands and using latrines,” Albert said. “They went from not caring if their kids went to school to caring that their kids go to school. They’re forming community boards. Clinics are being built all along the Patuka that send out Cuban doctors. We’re really proud of them. With a little help from four people from Summit County, they’ve built whole communities. We’ve helped them learn they’re valuable human beings.”

Under the direction of the various Summit County folks who have ventured to Subterranea over the past three years, the villagers have rebuilt their villages – on higher ground – developed systems to collect rainwater, created more formal school systems and replanted crops that are starting to bear fruit.

This trip will be the eighth medical trip, and PJ and Albert plan to finish the new school the Jungle Doctors have helped build. Dubbed Escuela Robina Alberto – the Robin Albert School – it needs a concrete floor and screens for the windows.

Additionally, Albert will purchase books and school supplies in the larger cities for use in the village. They will train someone to be a village health worker, install radios in remote areas so people can get help in emergencies, and see if more children can attend the school or if other villages want to establish schools of their own.

Albert will also make sure 16-year-old Ada Lizeth Soriano Cruz gets school supplies she needs to continue her education. Cruz and Albert became friends during a recent Jungle Doctor trip and, recognizing the young girl’s potential, Albert has worked to get her enrolled in a high school in the capital city, more than an eight-hour boat trip away.

Cruz had a rudimentary sixth-grade education when she arrived in Tegucigulpa last fall. She had never worn shoes, seen how a faucet or doorknob works or used a telephone.

“She’s doing way better than they expected,” Albert said of Cruz’s schooling. “She used the phone the other day and called me. She actually reached out to me. I think Ada’s learning a lot. She’s come a long way.”

None of the money raised at the fund raiser will be used to get the Jungle Doctors to Subterraneo, Albert said, adding that she’s excited to get there and see the people with whom they’ve formed alliances.

“It’s like a second home at this point,” she said. “I am psyched. They’re my true connection. We’ve watched them totally improve their lives in the last four years, We watched them rebuild, get their health back, get their farms back and want things like education.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or

Jungle Doctor Club

– What: Fund raiser to buy medical and school supplies for villagers in Subterraneo, Honduras.

– Where: Downstairs at Eric’s, Breckenridge

– When: 5 to 8:30 p.m., Oct. 1

– Other: $10; all-you-can-eat pizza, soda; live music

More Information

MiZuppa in Breckenridge will donate all the proceeds from bread sales in October to the Jungle Doctors. The goal is to raise $800, and Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church will match

contributions through Wednesday soup suppers.

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