By Laura Taylor
Twenty years after his first humanitarian trip to Honduras, Dr. Barry Byer and his Virginia Medical Brigade is continuing to help the country’s locals by seeking baseball cap donations for its Hats for Honduras Drive.
Baseball hats have health benefits that can be made accessible to the poor in Honduras, where the direct exposure to ultraviolet B rays from sunlight can cause skin cancers and cataracts.
“In Honduras, many people work outdoors for most of the day, putting them in increased harm’s way,” said Byer. “Sunglasses could also help protect people from the harmful rays but they can easily be broken and can only protect the eyes.”
Byer started Virginia Medical Brigade after Hurricane Mitch devastated Honduras in 1999. The initial effort of the brigade was to provide disaster relief, but the group added programs that work to improve the health of communities in Honduras.
In addition to engaging other Northern Virginia organizations such as Northwest Arlington Lions and local rotary clubs, there are close to 100 volunteers, many from the Falls Church area who donate their professional services in Honduras each year.
“In 2018, Brigade Teams performed 165 surgeries, provided glasses to 2200 patients, educated physical therapists, donated equipment for disabled patients and managed medical clinics and potable water projects in 13 mountain villages,” said Byer.
This is the first year of the Hats for Honduras Drive, and because there’s a lack of brimmed hats in Honduras, this opportunity provides them the possibility for protection against life-threatening health conditions caused by the harmful rays from the sun.
“There has been an increase in eye cataracts in Honduras causing both impaired vision and blindness,” said Byer. “Honduras is located very close to the equator and therefore has enhanced sun exposure (UV light). Most people have little access to hats with brims.”
According to Byer, the Centers for Disease Control and healthcare organizations strongly recommend wearing hats with brims to protect the eyes and skin from harmful UV rays from the sun.
This Sunday, there will be a Hats for Honduras kick-off celebration from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. at Famille Cafe, which will host raffles for prizes, brews, hot dogs and opportunities to donate new or gently used baseball hats.
There will be donation boxes across Falls Church set up for baseball hat donations. From April 7 – May 4, the boxes will be located at the Falls Church Community Center, local churches in the community, local businesses and the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce.
Little League baseball games will also be providing donation boxes for the hats.