By Emily Collins
Countless lives are being saved every day by the interventions of lay missionaries of all faiths and backgrounds who visit the earth’s poorest areas and lend their hearts and hands to people and situations that most of us would consider too difficult or hostile to approach. These are special people who view their missionary roles as a fundamental way of life. This world owes them its deepest gratitude. One of these people, Emily Collins of Concord Mass., is especially close to the Ray Tye Medical Aid Foundation. Emily is a trained social worker who advocates for impoverished families locally. Her husband, Tom, is a pediatrician in private practice and also with Concord Academy. They have six children, two grandchildren and many foster children. They are active members of their church where they receive spiritual and financial support for their mission work. Driven by their desire to help people, Emily and Tom began traveling to Honduras in 2001. The fruits of their labors have had, and will continue to have strong positive effects on the lives of many. Here, Emily’s own words can tell you so much more.
They are no longer just faces in the news…they have become our neighbors, our friends, our godchildren. Our journey to Honduras began in 2001, born of the desire to help others. Little did we know then the impact it would have on our own lives.
We’d been told that the first time you visit a place on a mission trip, it is for your own edification; it is when you honor a promise to return, to follow through, that the bond is formed. From the beginning, the people of Honduras captured our hearts and we felt we could make a difference there.
The needs of the people of this small country in Central America are overwhelming. They endure substandard housing, homes without electricity or plumbing, contaminated water, minimal education and limited access to healthcare. Since my husband is a physician, we decided to focus our efforts on medical care. Word spread quickly that a doctor from the U.S. was in town, and people walked for miles and waited for hours just to be seen by an American. It was not just the free medical care they sought – often we were their only source of hope.
It was in November of 2005 that Meeta Gomez brought her four-year-old son Noel to meet us. She told us the boy would die unless he received specialized cardiac surgery. Not only is this surgery unavailable in Honduras, but the families living there could never afford the cost even if it were available. As I took the child’s history I could make no promises but the voice inside me was loud saying “I will not let this child die.” When we returned home, I placed Noel’s picture on our fridge…I did not want his face to fade. I began searching for a way to help Noel when I remembered reading an article about The Ray Tye Medical Aid Foundation and the life-changing differences it had made. I reached Judy Dennis at the Foundation who soon became Noel’s guardian angel and my constant comrade. She put me in touch with Drs. Brian Cohen, Kenneth Warner and Anirban Banerjee at Tufts-New England Medical Center and the miracle began.
Noel’s case was accepted, his medical visa was granted and he was on his way to our home. At the hospital as he was having his first electrocardiogram, I looked up and saw in the doorway Mr. Tye. It was then that I realized this was more than a charity – here was a man acting on a heart filled with love.