By Danielle Frawley
The Shelburne News
At this time of year, good will for those less fortunate is on the minds of many: the Charlotte/Shelburne Rotary Club is no exception. This will be the fifth consecutive year that the club has brought their good will and volunteers to people living in the Tela region of Honduras. When the rotary club began their volunteer efforts in Honduras few people participated. This year there are 72 volunteers going to Honduras and 20 people are from Shelburne. Each person is responsible for paying his or her own travel expenses.
“There is a tremendous effort given to this project,” said Colleen Haag, Town clerk and long-time Hands to Honduras volunteer. “So many people give so much time and energy to this community to community program. It changes people’s lives – both there (in Honduras) and for those who volunteer.”
Samuel Feitelberg of Shelburne is one of the people who will join this upcoming January/February 2009 trip. Feitelberg has been a physical therapist for 55 years. His first teaching job was at Walter Reed hospital in 1959; he has he has since taught at the University of Vermont for 27 years and Clarkson University for 10 years. He and his team of physical therapists love their work and volunteer efforts in Honduras. Some team members stay for a month at a time. They make three trips each year to Tela: in January/February, May, and October. This will be Feitelberg’s seventh trip to Honduras since his initial volunteer visit in 2006.
In relation to his local experience with Vermont pediatric patients, Feitelberg said, “We just had to adjust for what Honduras needed. We have so much more (than they do).”
Feitelberg also taught some of the physical therapists that now travel with him to Honduras. He is happy to see his students graduate to become professional physical therapists who volunteer their time and skills in service to others.
“The group is my strength,” said Feitelberg.
When Feitelberg first started helping with the Hands to Honduras efforts, only 16 children participated in the physical therapy program. Now, 130 people, including 35 adults, receive care at the hospital. Feitelberg designed one of the two therapy buildings and helped to raise the number of therapists who work at the facility.
However, physical therapy is only one of many projects that Hands to Honduras helps to support. The group also works with women’s health initiatives, school projects such as constructing classrooms, water projects, and various other medical and dental projects. Additionally, Saint Michael’s College has donated an ambulance to the program and in January Shelburne resident Tom Candon will join the Hands to Honduras trip to train the Tela Honduras people in emergency care services.
Yankee Magazine recognized the Charlotte/Shelburne Rotary Club for its efforts and included the group and its Hands to Honduras program in a feature article on New Englanders making a difference.
These volunteers truly understand what it means to make a commitment and to make a difference: they bring their gifts of service and skill, along with their goodwill, regardless of how far they have to go.
If you would like to help support the local Hands to Honduras efforts, one way is to purchase Honduran coffee at the Shelburne Town Offices, or by contacting Colleen Haag at 264-5036.