Refuge International

Improving lives through healthcare, nutrition, clean water, and education.



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Located on the river between Belize and Guatemala, Sarstún is an isolated community greatly in need of basic health care and education systems. Their “road” is the river and the “highway” is the Gulf of Honduras. The nearest health care facility is a two-hour boat ride away in Puerto Barrios. The journey there costs about $100 round trip and is too expensive for the local residents to afford.

Upcoming Trips to Sarstun

UMU Village Clinic Week
Nov 29 - Dec 6, 2020
Sarstun Medical Mission

December 4-11, 2020
Sarstun Medical Mission

Travel Guidelines & Packing Information

Health Concerns

Sarstun ClinicHonoring a Traditional Way of Life
Sarstun is a no-cash economy of subsistence fishermen and farmers, and Refuge is committed to honoring this way of life. The Clinic was built with only one full-time, paid construction worker, and all other labor was provided by the local residents. In exchange for their contribution, each person received credits that allowed them to pre-pay for clinic services.
When the first Refuge International team arrived in 2003, a majority of the Sarstún community was suffering severe health effects from dirty water systems. Very few children attended school and many residents died each year, unable to receive medical care at times when it was needed most.

Since that first trip, Refuge International donors and volunteers have made amazing strides in improving life in Sarstún.

Improved Water

Child pumping waterTo end the cycle of poor health in Sarstún we knew we had to start at the root of the problem, the water. Refuge teams have drilled two water wells and provided numerous water filtration systems where wells cannot be dug. Now, the community has regular access to clean, drinkable water.

Improved Health

Refuge International, in collaboration with Faith in Practice and many individual donors, constructed a medical clinic in Sarstún that is now open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and serves nearly 10,000 people annually.

  • "Ambulauncha" boatEmergency Transport & Safer Childbirth

    The Joseph family, residents of Longview, Texas, donated funds to purchase an ambulance boat or “ambulauncha,” which transports patients to the clinic or on to the larger hospital in Puerto Barrios, if necessary. As a result, the perinatal mortality rate in Sarstún has dropped to near zero, now that women with complicated births can more readily be transported for advanced care.

  • Fer-de-lance snake (ultimate pit viper)Lifesaving Antivenin

    This region is home to one of the most venomous snakes in the world, the fer de lance or “ultimate pit viper.” Now, because there is a full-time professional nurse in Sarstún, the Ministry of Health agreed to provide the clinic with critical antivenin medication, often making emergency transportation to Puerto Barrios unnecessary and survival more likely.

  • Andy Castro smilingHealthy, Worm-Free Kids

    After receiving deworming medications on a regular basis through our Adiós Lombrices program, the children in Sarstún are growing and will be much taller than their parents. Here, 6-year-old Andy Castro opens his mouth to show his teacher that he has taken his dose of albendazole.

  • Good Dental Care Supports Overall HealthDrBoylesDDS

    Dentistry is an important part of our mission in Sarstún to provide preventative and restorative dental care to children and adults in the area. Dr. David Boyles, DDS has brought a team of dental assistants and hygienist to Sarstún and do provide dental care both in the clinic and by visiting local villages. 

Improved Education

Children carrying desks into the jungleWhen Refuge arrived, the Sarstún school was a 10-year-old block building missing the solar panels that once provided lighting. With many holes in the ceiling, student's desks had to be arranged to avoid the puddles created by frequent rainstorms. The teachers didn’t live in the area, so their attendance was sporadic, and there were no school supplies, not even pencils. Parents had long ago stopped bothering to send their kids to school. After Refuge met with the Ministry of Education and local municipality several times, Sarstún now has 6 full-time teachers and over 170 children enrolled in school. Refuge uses donated funds to pay the salary for two teachers, and many donors have provided much-needed school supplies.

How Can You Help?

Ongoing financial support for Sarstún is needed to pay the salaries of a full-time professional nurse, who functions as a Nurse Practitioner; an auxiliary nurse; and the boat driver who also does general maintenance on the clinic. Funds are also required to provide medications that are dispensed at the clinic, to pay for ambulance fuel, the electric bill, repairs on the clinic and the teacher’s salaries at the school.