Posted by Carl A. Gross
19 years ago, Glenda Fae Woods had a dream.  She saw the needless complications of diabetes and hypertension, no access to medical care or medications were killing her people.  With a small inheritance from her father’s estate, she built a clinic and volunteer house for her people.  This was 19 years ago.  Since then, her dream has been realized.
Glenda was born and raised on Roatan, a 40-mile-long island, 30 miles off the coast of Honduras.  She moved to Los Angeles where she currently works as a registry nurse on the obstetrics wards of several Southland hospitals and enjoys dual citizenship. She works tirelessly and makes 2-3 trips a year to the Island to serve her people.
I am a Family Physician and Rotarian in Ojai and first heard about her clinic in 2003 when a physician team from Ventura needed an extra caregiver on their trip.  Since then, several other local Rotarians and non-Rotarians have made trips to Roatan every 6 months to see patients and restock their medications. Ventura Community Memorial Hospital has even sent medical interns on some of these trips to gain additional clinical training. The Rotary Club of Ojai International Service Committee adopted the program about 6 years ago.
Each trip to the Island is like coming home.  There is the 1 AM red eye from LAX to San Salvador and a 1-hour trip by propjet from there to the Island. The people are warm and welcoming.  We clear customs with about 400 lbs. of medication carried in spare suitcases.  The medications are donated by Community Memorial Hospital of Ventura and local pharmacies.  Never thought at this point in my career that I would be smuggling drugs out of the country!
The trip lasted 8 days and, in that time, we saw about 600 patients. The day starts at 7 AM with patients lined up around the block.  We see anybody, free of charge, and provide needed medications.  Donations are appreciated.  In addition to hypertension and diabetes screening, we provide basic diagnostic services and treatment.  We have supported the local physicians to see patients when we are not there along with support staff.
Through the generous contributions of a local resident, we have been able to make many structural improvements to the clinic and provide a safe, supportive environment for our patients.
This program has spawned many benefits for our volunteers:
  1. The Community Memorial Hospital and Ventura County Hospital residents accompany us to the Island and participate in patient care and instruction.
  2. We have enjoyed our association with non-medical volunteers and our Nurse Practitioners in delivering care to these people.
  3. Roatan had a Rotary Club which disbanded many years ago.  They have reformed the Club and are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year.  We always attend their Thursday night meetings and appreciate their help.
  4. We have supported local volunteers and have helped them get their nursing certifications.
  5. Our volunteers get to participate in this program and know they have made meaningful impact in the lives of the Islanders.
  6. While there, our volunteers can experience zip lines, swim with dolphins, dive, and just enjoy the beauty of the Island and its people at the end of their service.
This has been a rough year for these people.  The primary source of income is tourism.  The Island has been closed due to the pandemic.  Cruise ships have not been running. They have had heavy rains with flooding.  With the reduced income, there has been a rise in petty thefts.  In spite of it all, the people face these challenges with faith and resolve.
We hope to make the trip in October and reform a team for April next year.  If you are interested as a caregiver or just want to volunteer, please contact me at: