Westport teen brings dental, medical care to rural Honduras

WESTPORT — While headlines of the coronavirus’ looming impact on the country’s health care system dominates the news, a month ago one Westport student traveled to Honduras to provide care for those in need.

“It’s a trip that has left a big impact on me,” Staples High School junior Lindsey Baldwin recalled.

The mission trip to San Marcos was sponsored by CapeCARES, a humanitarian nonprofit, and placed Baldwin alongside a dozen dentists and doctors who delivered supplies to children and adults from rural areas of Honduras. The trip took place from Feb. 15-25, during which Baldwin said they were able to help hundreds of Hondurans.

Baldwin’s connection to both medical care and the area is deeply rooted, with her grandfather, a retired Ridgefield dentist, urging her to participate in the trip ever since she became a certified emergency medical technician.

“My grandfather has been going on this trip since it started,” Baldwin said, adding she welcomed the opportunity.

The mission trip also fell in line with a passion she’s had since middle school; Baldwin said she’s always had a love for helping people and the medical field.

“I definitely have my heart set on being a doctor,” she said. “At some point I decided that there’s not really any other career I could see myself in.”

Leading up to her trip, Baldwin said she placed donation bins around the town, including at a CVS Pharmacy, dental offices and Saugatuck Congregational Church.

“I put a sign on the bins explaining my mission, and a lot of people ended up donating,” she said, having collected 847 tooth brushes, 369 tooth paste products and 729 flossing products.

Baldwin also started a fundraiser on Facebook and raised $1,430 for the nonprofit.

“I wanted to make a big a difference as possible by bringing in donations,” Baldwin said. “I really wanted to go the extra step.”

While setting up a clinic in Honduras, she said she realized the hardships many natives in the surrounding area face. Some had to walk for hours just to reach services that are not always readily available, she said.

“I feel we take things for granted,” Baldwin said. “These people could call an ambulance and it may not come for hours.”

Every night, she said she would reflect in her journal about her daily experiences, and recalled bright smiles on children’s faces as she handed them dental supplies.

“This trip really stuck with me, and I think it will stick with me for awhile,” she said.

As she left Honduras and headed back home to Westport, the effects of the novel coronavirus were making their way to the states as well. Some fellow passengers in her plane were even wearing masks, she said.

“I would be freaking out more about this pandemic if I hadn’t just taken this trip,” Baldwin said. “Obviously what’s happening here is really bad, but what we go through here doesn’t compare to what they have had to push through.”

With the trip leaving a lifelong impression, Baldwin said she wants to put together a photo exhibit to share her experience with others.

“I want people to see what I saw,” Baldwin said. “I also want the people who donated to see the impact their contributions had.”