In October 1998 Hurricane Mitch, the most deadly hurricane to hit the Western Hemisphere in two decades, wreaked unprecedented havoc in South America. Packing sustained winds of 155 knots and torrential rains, the monster storm pummeled Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Nicaragua for 10 days, causing widespread flooding, lethal landslides that buried thousands beneath tons of mud, and wiping out most of Nicaragua’s crops and vegetation. According to estimates by the National Emergency Committee, Nicaragua - already one of the poorest countries in Central America - sustained over $300 million in infrastructure damage, and had over 870,000 people (20% of the population) affected by the hurricane.
As Dr. Coopersmith watched the media coverage he knew he had to help, and being a doctor he knew he could. Soliciting the support of Holy Cross Hospital, he and four other health professionals embarked on a medical mission to the area, unaware at the time that it would be the first of many. To date there have been 39 missions to poverty-stricken countries including Nicaragua, Honduras and Venezuela, delivering basics like toys, clothes and shoes, as well as medical supplies and services to refugee camps and orphanages.
It was on one of these missions that Dr. Coopersmith and Guillermo Castillo met through the local Hope & Development Foundation, and Castillo shared his dream of building a community center to help the kids living on the dumps outside Managua.
Dr. Edward Coopersmith, a doctor of pulmonary medicine at Holy Cross Hospital in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, has experienced his share of loss. It was while dealing with the sudden accidental death of his son Ben that he heard the call to go and help those who’d lost everything in Nicaragua - a call that empowered and strengthened him even in the weakness of his loss. By dedicating missions and projects to his son, he continuously ensures that Ben’s death will never be in vain, but will instead bring life and relief to others.
The Benjamin Coopersmith Hospital, located on the Rio Coco on the northern Nicaraguan border with Honduras, was set up at the government’s request because no one else was willing to go there. It serves as the mission base as well as a treatment center.
Dr. Coopersmith’s association with Holy Cross and their well-established Mission of Mercy has been a giant assist to the region, and his passion has played a crucial role in the La Chureca project so far.
“Missions are always dedicated to someone [not always to Ben], and for Ben’s sake I won’t stop doing them until I die,” he says.
Mr. Guillermo Castillo, the CEO of Don Bosco Funeral Homes in Managua, Nicaragua, has long had a heart for the children in his community. In fact, over the last decade he has volunteered in numerous active roles under several charitable organizations that care for children with one-on-one compassion as well as through financial and food contributions. Guillermo has a long history of success in charitable work and fundraising.
Guillermo’s passion for underprivileged children has fueled his active involvement with Mission of Mercy since 2001 when he met Dr. Coopersmith. His role as the man ‘on the ground’ in Managua for La Ciudad del Nino La Chureca is critical for ensuring the dissemination of funds and the logistics of the building project.
HGX Creative is a full-service marketing, design and promotions company that serves the east coast with locations in Boston and Fort Lauderdale. When Debbie Nierman, the company’s CEO, met Dr. Coopersmith through a family connection, she found his passion for this cause contagious. So much so that she took a trip to Nicaragua where she explored the city and surrounding areas of Managua, visited with children in a local orphanage, and met with Guillermo to discuss a charitable alliance between both companies.
“I wanted to help but I’m not a doctor or even a healthcare professional. But marketing is what my team and I do everyday, and La Chureca needed marketing to complete this project, so we stepped in.”