NPH Honduras Is Protected in Crisis by One of its Own: Dr. Dora Berríos
When she was a little girl, Dora Berríos dreamed of becoming a doctor. Today, the hermana mayor is head of health services at NPH Honduras and leads the fight against COVID-19 at Rancho Santa Fe.
April 27, 2020 - Honduras
Dr. Dora Berríos is a kind, smiling woman from Choluteca, a small city located on the southern Pacific coastline of Honduras about 148 kilometers south of the capital, Tegucigalpa. The region is famous for scorching temperatures, a vibrant shrimp industry, and agriculture. The 35-year-old hermana mayor has headed medical services at NPH Honduras for about one year. She has led an interesting life so far, having lived in Cuba and Guatemala, but it hasn’t been easy.
Dora arrived at NPH Honduras on 15 April 1996 with her three older brothers. She was 11 years old at the time. Some 20 years later she still remembers her first thoughts as she walked through the doors of NPH Honduras, “What an amazing place! A big house surrounded by a lot of trees and welcoming people!”
Dora’s parents divorced when she was four. After that, each member of the family went their own way. Dora went to live with her mom and one of her three brothers in Tegucigalpa. Tragedy struck, however, when her mother passed away due to medical negligence.
It was then that Dora began dreaming of being a doctor, with the idea growing stronger and stronger over time. “I used to think about my mom every day and remember special moments when I lived with her,” says Dora.
“A teacher of mine who gave me career advice asked me what I wanted to be when high school finished. I didn’t hesitate. I said, ‘DOCTOR,’ and here I am,” smiles Dora.
Being at NPH helped Dora to grow personally and professionally.
“After finishing high school and my three years of family service, the great support from NPH and my own effort enabled me to obtain a scholarship to study medicine in Cuba. Nobody knew I was applying for that scholarship. I wanted to keep it a secret because I wasn’t sure I was going to get in. But once I told Reinhart Koehler, who was national director of NPH Honduras at the time, I received all the support I needed,” says Dora.
She completed her studies in Cuba, then returned to Honduras to complete her residency by doing two years of community service. Once Dora finished, she had the opportunity to work for NPH Guatemala and another private institution. She never imagined, however, what was coming her way.
“In July 2019, I received a phone call from Dr. Edwin Vallecillo, who talked with me about being the new main doctor for NPH Honduras. He had previously held the position, but was now starting his new role as director of Medical Services of NPH International. I was in shock thinking of the huge responsibility I would have, especially as the internal clinic had only recently been refurbished. It was a huge compliment to be thought of in such a way, and a great privilege, as well. It was more than just a job opportunity. It was the chance to care for the health and well-being of the family I grew up with.
“Of course, I said 'yes'. I wanted to rejoin the NPH Honduras family,” says Dora.
The Challenge of COVID-19
Less than a year into the role, Dora is now faced with an unprecedented challenge. The COVID-19 crisis impacts her professionally and personally. Dora feels that Honduras does not currently have a health system to cope with such a pandemic, especially having seen health systems in more developed countries become overwhelmed. According to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, as of 27 April there are 661 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Honduras and 61 deaths.
"COVID-19 poses a threat to our children and the family. We survive as on people’s donations and generosity. To make sure that everything is well-managed, we need to follow all preventive measures—constantly monitoring our kids, buying medical supplies, making salary adjustments, and buying enough food for the long-term, which has become even more expensive due to the situation,” says Dora.
Inside Rancho Santa Fe, however, the staff and children are adapting to the preventive measures, making decisions with careful judgement, and also praying.
Dora leads a team of nurses and volunteers working hard at NPH amid the crisis, ensuring they do their best to keep the children, youth, and the elderly as safe as possible. Dora feels that being a doctor is a job that calls upon deep reserves of dedication, much more so when it is about the family that watched her grow up.
“I am aware that if I hadn’t had the opportunity to come to NPH, my life would be in a very different place right now. Thanks to NPH, I opened my mind. I was encouraged to see the difference that I could make in the world around me. Thanks to NPH, I am what I am and I have what I have. It is time to give back as much as I can.”
NPH Honduras is reaping the reward of an investment in its children and in one girl in particular, who was welcomed into the NPH home more than 20 years ago. Dr. Dora Berríos is an example of perseverance and service to the NPH family and to the vulnerable communities of Honduras.
Please support our NPH homes during this time of need. Any help you can give is well received and accepted graciously. Please visit nph.org for more information.
Communications Officer, NPH Honduras