What We Do
The Health and Educational Relief Organization (HERO), is a U.S.-based 501(c)3 tax-exempt, not-for-profit organization providing quality health care and humanitarian assistance to communities of need. Since its inception in 2000, HERO has conducted annual medical missions to numerous Caribbean and South American countries where our volunteer physicians, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, and allied healthcare professionals have directly administered quality care and support to thousands of residents in under-served communities. All services, including the dispensing of medications as needed, are funded by volunteer contributions and delivered at no cost to the patients. Among countries served by our previous medical missions are Guyana, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, Haiti and Jamaica.
HERO typically conducts two overseas medical missions annually; the tours are undertaken in March and August, each lasting for approximately seven days. Mission volunteers are divided into teams and each team is assigned to a specific region of the country for the duration of the tour. In addition to our licensed professional clinicians, each team is also supported by student volunteers enrolled in pre-medical and other healthcare programs at accredited colleges and universities in the United States. The students are selected in a rigorously competitive process.
The majority of our medical missions are conducted in remote villages and rural communities where the need for service is often exceptionally acute. However, since the description of “medically under-served” can sometimes be applied to an entire country in the developing world, our teams often administer services in urban centers as well. While on tour, our medical teams also work collaboratively with local providers to share professional best practices and ensure continuity of care.
To learn more about our medical and other missions, and/or to volunteer, click here for additional details.
The HERO Vision Improvement Project is the most recent addition to our inventory of services offered during our annual medical and humanitarian missions. The program was launched in 2015 in response to a growing need recognized by our frontline medical providers in the field. For some time prior to the formal establishment of the project, volunteers had provided glasses on a limited basis to those in need at our medical outreach sites. However, the Vision Improvement Project now enables us to move significantly further into the arena of comprehensive vision care.
Since the inception of the project, our specialists have performed more than 500 vision screenings and eye exams and provided fully tested and adjusted prescription glasses to more than half of those individuals as needed. Nutritional counseling was also provided to those at risk of collateral vision complications arising from chronic conditions such as diabetes, and referrals were offered as warranted to those requiring ophthalmological interventions for anatomical abnormalities of the eye.
Our goal is to continue building the program to provide not only prescription glasses but also to perform corrective surgeries and other interventions as needed for individuals with various forms of visual impairment. Keep your eye on this page for other exciting developments in this newest and rapidly expanding area of our humanitarian relief effort.
First established in 2007 as Operation Kidcare, the HERO Surgical Program was initially aimed at correcting the congenital deformity in children known as “Clubfoot.” The program has since evolved to provide corrective surgery for a range of lower extremity deformities in children; our current focus is on the correction of Congenital Hip Dysplasia. Since its inception, our volunteer surgeons have successfully performed more than 200 procedures on children ranging in age from three months old to their late teens. We have also successfully trained two members of the orthopedic staff at the Georgetown Hospital in Guyana on the performance of these procedures, and additional trainings are being scheduled as part of our ongoing collaboration and mentorship initiative with local providers.
In addition to the resounding success of our Pediatric Project, our overall surgery program has also expanded significantly. Over the years, we have added procedures in other specialties including gynecology, arthroscopic surgery for individuals with ligament injuries to joints, plastic surgery that is currently focused on performing breast reductions for women with symptomatic breast enlargement, corrective surgery for children with cleft lip and palate, and vascular surgery for patients with kidney failure.
Our future plans include the addition of breast reconstruction surgery for women who have had their breasts removed due to breast cancer, and corrective surgery for children suffering from scoliosis. HERO is greatly indebted to the many specialists who volunteer their expertise to deliver these life-saving surgeries to children and other patients in need and we are especially grateful to our individual funders whose tax-deductible donations to our organization ensure the success of these annual relief and humanitarian missions.
The HERO Literacy program for disadvantaged children was founded by the late Mr. Mark Cort as an independent initiative to help struggling students achieve grade-level proficiency and to promote functional literacy among children of all ages in Guyana. He recognized that the inability to read is inextricably linked to poverty, unemployment, dependency and criminal activity among our youth. As a result of his interaction with young people from diverse communities across Guyana, he discovered that many were unable to read and lacked basic academic skills that would have enabled them to become productive members of society. He was convinced that once children were exposed to a supportive environment in which they were taught positive reading skills, they would rapidly develop the consciousness to further expand their knowledge and thereby prepare themselves for a productive future.
On August 7th, 2000, Mr. Cort launched the first summer literacy program at the East Ruimveldt Secondary School in Greater Georgetown, Guyana. Several teachers from various schools in the city volunteered their services and Mr. Cort acquired the Hooked on Phonics Reading Program as the basis of instruction for the children. Classes were held weekdays from 9:00AM to noon, with a mid-morning snack break. The initial enrollment of about two dozen children quickly expanded to more than 100 by the end of the initial six-week program. By 2002, the program had achieved a regular enrollment of more than two hundred students and a lengthy waiting list. Many parents were so impressed by their children’s enthusiasm that they asked to be involved in the effort under the pretext that they wished to assist the teachers. In response to this additional need, Mr. Cort initiated an adult literacy class organized as a “discussion group” between himself and the parents.
For the first six years — from its inception in 2000 until 2006 — the entire program was funded by Mr. Mark Cort, supplemented by donations from relatives and friends. At the end of each program, the children were provided with a certificate of participation and a set of school supplies to enable their return to the formal classroom for the new school year. In 2007, Mr. KenrickCort joined the program as a co-sponsor; this co-sponsorship included provision for a stipend to be paid to the teachers and a hot meal to be provided to the children at midday. That same year, the program was also relocated to a school in Central Georgetown in order to accommodate other communities of children in need.
In 2008, the program was merged with HERO’s Sophia Literacy project, which was fully funded by HERO. Classes were held at the Sophia and Den Amstel community centers, with a joint enrollment at that time of some 260 students and 18 teachers. During the course of the program, children were also provided free healthcare from the HERO medical team; in cases where they were diagnosed with an ailment they were treated and where follow-up care was required, they were referred to the nearest clinic for treatment.
From 2009 to 2013, the Literacy program was hosted at various locations within Sophia and Den Amstel with an average enrollment of nearly 300 students each year. In 2010, Mr. KenrickCort, the Director of Education for HERO, initiated a training program in Guyana for teachers and also introduced an annual evaluation of incoming students, using the WADE methodology, to determine their level of proficiency and to monitor their progress throughout the program. On the basis of those assessments, we are proud to report that students participating in our education program have made significant and consistent progress and have continued to excel in school.
In 2016, HERO expanded the reach of its education program by launching a one-year pilot project to assist eligible students in preparing for standardized exams offered throughout the academic year. The pilot project is being implemented in the hitherto underserved communities of Mocha Village on the East Bank Demerara and Lusignan on the East Coast Demerara. Our HERO Literacy program is also being expanded and diversified to offer additional support for students in mathematics and writing. As our education initiative continues to evolve, we are inspired by the enthusiasm of our students and the transformative success that this program has been able to facilitate in the lives of so many.