When families living in Tela, Honduras, faced the prospects of being thrown out of their homes to make way for a multi-lane highway last fall, Oak Knoll alumna Dr. Claire Esposito ’79 stepped in, donating $100,0000 to a nonprofit organization to build new homes complete with solar panels, water purifiers and energy-efficient wood-burning stoves.
In addition to the homes ⸻ to be built by the Florida-based nonprofit Food For the Poor on land donated by the local municipality ⸻ Esposito’s donation will also provide a year’s worth of food as well as fencing to allow residents to grow climbing vegetables.
“They’re doing so well,” she said. “This just changed their lives. I can’t explain how they’ve been uplifted by this. There’s been a real sense of community and ownership.”
The donation was just the latest in what’s been a 25-year odyssey of service to the Caribbean nation for Esposito, a doctor whose specialty is in anesthesiology and works for the Yale-New Haven Health System in Connecticut.
For years, Esposito has assisted Honduran families by providing food, medical supplies, clothing and other essentials, but knew more was necessary given the plight facing these families.
Her time working in Honduras began more than a quarter-century ago when Esposito, then a student at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in Manhattan, was participating in a three-month fellowship to Las Crucitas, a community within Honduras’ capital city of Tegucigalpa, to report on people living without the benefits of modern medicine.
From there her service began, with food deliveries being one of her first major efforts through the Franciscan Friars.
“That’s what they really needed,” she said.
As she began to find success in her medical career, she was able to translate her career growth to increasing her service when she was able to purchase a home in the Caribbean country, which became a base of operations of sorts for Esposito, who began seeing patients both at her home and a local hospital.
Whether the people were in dire need of medical care or facing the potential of being expelled from their homes, Esposito said she’s been consistently inspired by the resiliency of the people she’s helped.
“It’s amazing what people have done with the little stretch of land that surrounds their house,” she said.
Return to service
Esposito will return to Honduras in October 2017 and has plans to help the community build a facility for the people to maintain bicycles, a major form of transportation.
“This community is a little off the beaten path. They’re really isolated,” she said, noting the nearest town is an hour and a half’s walk away.
To further complicate matters, a bus fare is roughly 30 cents, whereas the average daily income is less than $1.20.
Esposito also hopes to purchase bicycles that will be given to local youth who perform community service, as well as purchase land that will allow residents to grow food for themselves and for export.