Born of necessity
Rev. Vaike Madisson Lopez had visited a lot of sick people in their homes, given the last rites, and led the funeral liturgies too many times. She thought that a lot of that pain and suffering could have been prevented with some basic medical care.
She knew that she needed to do more than pray.
Rev. Vaike was the vicar of the San Bartolomé Episcopal Church in the outskirts of Siguatepeque, Honduras.
Her parish serves a poor neighborhood and its rural surroundings whose hardworking families struggle every day to keep their families fed, clothed, and healthy.
Basic medical services are out of reach, being too far away from clinics in the city and too expensive for the majority of residents living in poverty.
Rev. Vaike thought about becoming a nurse herself, but quickly realized that she alone could not provide enough.
Instead, she decided to open a school to train young nurses who could become the caretakers of their own communities.
With access to basic care, Rev. Vaike envisioned the urban and rural poor to whom she ministers being able to live full lives with dignity.
Today, most Nightingale students come from very small villages around Siguatepeque.
After their training and certification, they return home where they are known la doctorcita, or the “the little doctor”, and attend to everyone for anything from bandaids to births.
This dedication to quality and service characterizes each Nightingale nurse.
In August 2011, the school was established as Nightingale: Centro Episcopal de Formación de Auxiliar de Enfermería.
The name honors Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing who the Anglican Communion celebrates with an annual feast memorializing her life and work.
Rev. Vaike read her biography in seminary; a great admirer, she follows in the British nurse’s efforts to make healthcare professions accessible.
The school and clinic started in the parish hall.
The initial teaching and clinical staff included a general practitioner, a gynecologist, a dentist, a professional nurse, a Spanish and math teacher, and a health administration teacher.
All are active professionals working in Siguatepeque who understood the unmet need for more certified auxiliary nurses to serve the area.
Tuition and clinical fees barely covered expenses, but were not nearly enough to reinvest in proper facilities.
In 2014, after three years of just getting by, the Honduran Ministry of Health gave notice that Nightingale needed to bring the parish hall to code in order to renew its operating license.
Rev. Vaike had made whatever improvements she could herself, but did not have the money to build separate classrooms, examination rooms, bathrooms, and offices. She was desperately looking for help.
In March 2015, the Episcopal Church invited Rev. Vaike to represent Honduras at the fifty-ninth Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York.
There, she met Rev. Viktoria Gotting, then associate rector of St. Christopher Episcopal Church in League City, Texas, who shares her interest in healthcare.
This first connection led to a series of happy coincidences that ultimately introduced Rev. Vaike and C&M Lifeline, which today counts Nightingale among its projects.
Later that summer, C&M Lifeline volunteers visited Rev. Vaike in Siguatepeque for the first time. We immediately fell in love with Nightingale.
While we saw that there was a lot to do to bring the school and clinic up to standards, we could also see all that Rev. Vaike could accomplish with so little.
Undeterred, C&M Lifeline committed to building new facilities that would keep Nightingale open and implementing a new strategy that would make the school and clinic self-sustaining.
We renovated the San Bartolomé campus in two phases. First, we replaced the leaking septic tank with a system large enough to handle wastewater from the church, school, and clinic.
Our new multi-step septic system treats wastewater on-site and returns purified groundwater. This basic infrastructure we are accustomed to elsewhere does not exist in underserved communities like that of San Bartolomé.
This work was made possible by a Global International Grant from Rotary International.
Next, we expanded the parish hall to accommodate the school and clinic. The building now has a waiting room, three examination rooms, a pharmacy, a laboratory, bathrooms, offices, classrooms, and a function hall.
The design uses contemporary and traditional building techniques, primarily bahareque, to create a breathable structure.
None of this would have been possible without the support of our family and friends, especially the Dana Beck Fancher Foundation and the First Presbyterian Church of Dunedin, Florida.
We finished construction in October 2020. Our next goal is to make Nightingale self sustaining.
To do that, we need seed money to hire a doctor, an administrator, two nurses, and to buy medicines and supplies for the medical and dental clinics.
This investment will let us operate the school and clinic at full capacity, and get Nightingale on the path to self sufficiency.
We are also collecting donations for our scholarship fund to offer a nursing education to any motivated student regardless of ability to pay.
All of our students come from difficult financial situations for which forgoing a paying job to go to school is a hard choice.
Training nurses to serve their communities is the heart of our mission, and this funding helps those for whom such an opportunity would otherwise be out of reach.