By Jerry Duggan
As hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 rise around the world, many are looking to help overburdened health care workers. The Jesuit Community of Belize has found a novel way to help, offering their second floor bedrooms to health care workers from a local hospital.
The Jesuits hatched the idea at a brainstorming session.
“In March, we held a meeting and bounced around ideas, and one that stuck was offering our second floor bedrooms to health care workers,” said Fr. Brian Christopher, SJ, superior of the Jesuit Community of Belize. “Our second floor is usually used for guests, but because of the pandemic, we haven’t had any guests, so this made perfect sense.”
As much of the world became engulfed by COVID-19 in the spring, Belize was relatively unscathed, thanks to proactive government protocols and a populace who took the pandemic seriously. From April 15 until June 4, Belize – a nation of nearly 400,000 – plateaued at just 18 cases.
In summer, restrictions eased, and numbers spiked. Today, Belize over 11,000 cases – a small percentage of the population infected, but still cause for great concern.
Eventually, the Jesuits got a phone call from Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, taking them up on the offer they made in March. Many health care workers at Heusner live outside Belize City. A long commute every day, plus potentially exposing their families to the virus, left health care workers looking for options. The Jesuits offered an easy solution. Since September, the Jesuits have made eight bedrooms available to health care workers as a place to rest. Safety protocols are in place.
“Jesuits live on the third floor, so we have to make sure not to go down on the second floor, but so far we haven’t had any issues,” Fr. Christopher said.
According to Fr. Christopher, this outreach is Ignatian.
“Our mission isn’t about helping people spiritually to the exclusion of the physical. Grace is at work through these doctors and nurses – what they’re doing is holy – and our job is to support them so they can keep helping the country through this terrible disease.”
Father Christopher also acknowledges that the Jesuit community has some limitations as to what they can do. Still, they are glad to help in this way.
“We’re not trained as doctors, and because of the age of some of our guys, we can’t really have direct contact on the front lines,” he said. “This is something we felt was safe enough to do: to provide a place of rest for those who put their lives on the line every day. We’re happy to do it as long as it’s needed.”