Gregory Norris, left, got help in putting the fundraiser together from Patrick Nelson, David Pruitt and David Zimmerman. (Submitted photo / October 31, 2013)

When Columbia resident Gregory Norris' ear began to throb during a scuba outing while vacationing in Roatan, Honduras, he knew he needed medical attention.

But what Norris didn't know is that the visit to Roatan's Clinica Esperanza would be the best trip to a doctor's office the 42-year-old had ever had.

"The type of care and compassion I was shown was just so overwhelming," Norris said of the clinic, which is funded by donations and run by an American nonprofit called Bay Islands Community Healthcare Association.

According to Norris, the demeanor of the staff, the efficiency of the clinic and the price, it cost him $5 for a diagnosis and 10 days of medication, was simply remarkable.


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It was so remarkable that when Norris returned home he immediately set out to raise $10,000 for the clinic.

"They are doing something we in America are unable to do, give affordable health care to everyone," Norris said. "At a time when our government fails us, this country is showing that without government, at least in this instance, things are working better."

Norris also was impressed by the Honduran doctor, who was refreshingly honest when he told Norris his own neglect caused the problem.

"I did something stupid and the doctor actually told me how stupid it was. He reprimanded me for it and took care for it," Norris said. "I appreciated that; his lack of compassion for my idiocy. I've never had a doctor in America be that blunt."

Norris has raised about $1,200 after a month of fundraising, according to his account at GoFundMe.com/clinica. He hopes to make a big dent in his goal at a fundraiser set for Tuesday, Nov. 5, from 6 to 10 p.m. at Sonoma's Bar and Grill in Owen Brown.

At the fundraiser, Norris, a die-hard Baltimore Orioles fan and season ticket holder since 1998, will auction off what he estimates to be $1,500 worth of Orioles memorabilia, including an Adams Jones autographed baseball, an autographed Matt Wieters framed photograph, a Wei-Yin Chen jersey and more.

Norris added that the Oriole Bird will be in attendance for pictures and autographs.

And while he cherishes his memorabilia, Norris said he can spare some of the decor in his "baseball room."

"They will no longer be sitting on my wall, they'll be going to a greater purpose," Norris said.

That greater purpose is helping Clinica Esperanza, which, according to Norris, had its funding cut by $60,000 in the past year.

And, while Clinica Esperanza is struggling financially, Norris said you wouldn't know it.

"What was most impressive to me is that not once did they have a hand out," Norris said. "They've lost a lot of funding, but they haven't raise their rates either."

'Disposable clothes'

Like his love for the Orioles, Norris' inclination to suddenly help those in a foreign country did not come out of left field.

Norris, a teacher at Arundel Middle School in Anne Arundel County, is an avid traveler. Since 2007, he's visited China, Thailand, South Africa, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, England, India, Haiti and Bermuda, to name a few.

And, while Norris usually plans his trips as vacations, he has made it a point to give back to every country he visits.

"It's one of the things that makes me feel better as a tourist," he said.

Once on a trip to China, Norris said he gave all his extra clothing to a family living in the parking lot of the hotel he was staying at.

"Since then, I travel with what I call disposable clothes," he said.

Norris said he always packs 8 to 10 days worth of clothing for a trip. At the end, he said he hands out all but one outfit and returns home with only the clothes on his back.

"It does more for the world if I donate them," he said.

On Tuesday, Norris is hoping people will come out to do more for the patrons of Clinica Esperanza.

"Whatever you donate is enough, and is always appreciated," he said.