Three hugely successful humanitarian trips reveal that the suffering of individuals with Huntington’s Disease (HD) exacerbated because of lack of knowledge, extreme poverty and widespread corruption in Colombia.
Prior to embarking on my first humanitarian mission I went to an immunization specialist who helped me work out which vaccinations I needed to take before I left and which pills I needed to take while in Colombia to avoid getting sick. Prior to my appointment with the immunization specialist I also printed out pages on Colombia and current recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website. My arms were sore for weeks after getting immunized and some of the rounds of immunizations for Hepatitis A and B were finished off after I returned.
I also logged onto the U.S. State Department’s website and noted which cities I would be in on each day I was there. This way, if there happened to be any terrorist attacks close by, the U.S. Embassy would know where I was and be able to help. Colombia has been on the “No Travel” list for U.S citizens during these last three years because of approximately 40 kidnappings a month for ransom of U.S. citizens by narco-terrorist groups. The Colombian embassy and the State Department sent me e-mails updating safety concerns and cities not to visit periodically. I felt like if I was doing good then I would be protected- and I was!
Medell?n and Juan de Acosta April 3-18, 2006
Juan de Acosta February 17-25, 2007
Bogot? and Juan de Acosta November 9-22, 2008
From April 3 to April 18, 2006 I had the privilege of traveling to Colombia, South America to visit Medellin, a bustling and beautiful metropolitan city and also the small rural town of Juan de Acosta (JDA), about 30 minutes from Barranquilla, to help impoverished individuals and their families who were struggling with HD. JDA has the world’s second largest concentration of persons with HD, after Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. Lake Maracaibo is only about 10 hours south of JDA on the eastern coast of Venezuela.
I was able to observe firsthand the kinds of dramatic issues facing those suffering from HD in other countries around the world. Juan de Acosta was introduced to HD by a Spanish sailor named Lucas Echeverria in approximately 1790 who married Josefa Arteta and decided to stay. Patricia collected 975 names of their descendents which I later typed into a family history program.
In Medell?n, I was honored to speak twice at the University of Antigua on HD and its devastating effects it has on the individual and families. Over 100 interested people attended my Power Point presentations while there. Everyone who attended was given free copies of ALL of the information in Spanish that I had collected prior to my trip. I took originals of everything in Spanish with me and then had a local print shop in Medell?n copy and bind everything into nice booklets.