The Press Republican

Mission of Hope

Main | August 2007 »

February 27, 2007

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

By Bonnie Black

A leisurely morning began with Chef Marty’s famous pancake breakfast which included maple syrup…such a treat! We finished packing the suitcases everyone is taking back to MOHTown so that the summer travelers, who travel commercial airlines rather than charter, have something in which to bring the needed supplies and materials.

Mission travelers perform their farewell song for the young students at Colegio Nino Jesus de Praga. (l-r): Gen Hill, Eliza Anderson, Jenn Washburn, Andrew Garami & Alison Gratto.  Marisa Rose Wolosz is in the back row. Just around 7:45am, we all went over to the auditorium for the desperdida where we were first presented with a song by the Pre-K # class (similar to our Kindergarten). Then, a soloist performed a folklorique dance for us. She was followed by three secondary students (and I am proud to say the young girl I sponsor was one of them). The young men who are part of the church band sang a Nicaraguan tribute tune for us to enjoy. Our teens then went up on the stage and performed – for the final time – our Unicorn song…including the first two verses in Spanish! Photo Caption: Mission travelers perform their farewell song for the young students at Colegio Nino Jesus de Praga. (l-r): Gen Hill, Eliza Anderson, Jenn Washburn, Andrew Garami & Alison Gratto. Marisa Rose Wolosz is in the back row.

Sister Rosa then presented to mission a handmade cloth which she said could be used for any purpose we wish. It is a field of dark green with thin yellow and red stripes. It will either be hung at MOHTown or in Sister’s office at Seton. There was also a book, published by the “Save the Children” foundation, which will be a part of our library in Plattsburgh. I am sure it will be inspirational for those who give presentations throughout our area.

Eric and Genny decided that they wanted to sponsor a child here at Nino – one that they could sponsor for their entire schooling over the next few years. And their wish was granted as Magaly and Sister Debbie made it happen! They got to meet the first grader and, with the help of the other travelers, has a small gift bag of small toys and stickers for her.

Evan and Sarah LeFloch along with Kevin McGowan and Laura MacMillan had to depart Nicasa at 9:30am, as their flight to Miami was much earlier than the rest of ours. They made a stop on the way to the airport, though, as Evan had decided to donate his guitar to the sisters at Nejapa. When Sister Debbie told them yesterday, as she was leaving after a meeting with the Mother Superior, she said they squealed with glee!

Sister Rosa agreed to let the children out of classes at 10:30am in order to spend time with our younger travelers before departing. Just around 11:30, the A Team waved farewell to the other 43 travelers plus our newlyweds, Eric and Genny, on their way to the bus station returning to the resort they are staying at for their honeymoon.

Mauricio arrived this morning with great news. We have in our hands the letter from the National Assembly designating the Mission of Hope as an official NGO (non-governmental organization). This has been in the works for years and all the hard work and many meetings with the lawyers here have finally resulted in an official position for MOH.

Seven of the eight travelers left behind to shut down Nicasa bid farewell to the 47 headed to the airport Tuesday morning (l-r): Matt Jennings, Marilyn Knutson, Marty Mannix, Joy Cayea, Jesse Crosier, Bill Calmbacher and Andrew Garami.  Missing: Bonnie Black. Our Leadership Team on the ground (Marty Mannix, myself, Nicky Lundy, Andrew Garami, Matt Jennings and Michelle Armani) took Magaly to see one of the newly constructed latrines and reminded her that this was her vision coming to fruition. She, in turn, noted that they may have ideas and dreams and hopes, but it is the people of the Mission of Hope which make them a reality and that they are indebted to us for all we do here. Photo Caption: Seven of the eight travelers left behind to shut down Nicasa bid farewell to the 47 headed to the airport Tuesday morning (l-r): Matt Jennings, Marilyn Knutson, Marty Mannix, Joy Cayea, Jesse Crosier, Bill Calmbacher and Andrew Garami. Missing: Bonnie Black.

And what did we do after everyone left? Start the closing of Nicasa which the “luxury” job: washing, cleaning, sorting, packing – in other words, preparing for the arrival of our next large group this summer.

Caritas came and took 46 boxes to storage for us to use on subsequent missions and they brought with them a letter from the Archbishop which is needed to apply for the Loyola Foundation grant – a happy day!

It has been my honor, as well as my pleasure, to send you information each day. I hope that you have experience a bit of the flavor of being on the ground here in Nicaragua for the past 6 days. I wish all of you well and advise you, as someone who had a daughter travel many times before traveling myself, to honor the silence and contemplation which may occur over the next few days. It has been a joyful and rewarding time but, even though there has been a lot of journaling, more processing will be occurring over the coming days and weeks. The deeper the impression has been on us of this new country of ours, the more time we need to take on our re-entry to daily life at home.

I must thank all of the travelers who were willing to share their photos each night so that I could compile the Mission #23 CD set which will be available at a very nominal cost within a couple of weeks to all travelers. While they slept, their photos were being reviewed and sorted on our laptop computer.

Monday, February 26, 2007

By Bonnie Black

Today is the last full day for all 54 travelers – now viewed as veterans – in service to our friends here in Nicaragua. But, we were not slouches! In a way, it felt busier than other days as we had so many projects to bring to closure. As Marty Mannix at this morning’s meeting, we were all going to be multi-tasking in a heavy duty way! Eric Rodrigue and Genevieve Barry had stayed at the Flores’ home last night and thanked us so much for allowing them to continue with us on a work day today. “We are proud to be working with you,” said Eric as we ended our morning meeting.

Our Leadership Team had a quick meeting to discuss and decide on a couple of items as well as defer others to our next monthly meeting coming soon. It is interesting to note that the cost of supplying the library with a reserve copy of all of the textbooks for students up to secondary was only $161; the nominal cost of Spanish-English dictionaries was then added to that amount. The cost of the secondary textbooks will be given to Mauricio soon and we will be able to provide the library with those, we hope.

(l-r): Diane Crosier, Lauren MacMillen (hidden) and Alexa Cosgro are part of an all-women's crew which built the home in memory of Jim Lundy's mother. Bright and early this morning, our all-female crew headed out to build a house for a blind man who had moved in with his 2 grand-nieces for they are his only family. This home was build with funds from the Mission of Hope Leadership Team in memory of Jim Lundy’s mother who passed away this past year. It is fitting as she had cataracts which limited her sight. Oscar supervised the crew of Diane Crosier, Michelle Armani, Sarah LeFloch, Kendra Kline, Laura MacMillan, Gen Hill and Alexa Cosgro. Photo Caption: (l-r): Diane Crosier, Lauren MacMillen (hidden) and Alexa Cosgro are part of an all-women’s crew which built the home in memory of Jim Lundy’s mother.

Our Environmental Committee, chaired by Marilee Patnode, began our on-the-ground relationship with ECHO this morning. She and Matt Kennedy, along with Sister Debbie and Yamilette Flores, met with Mel Landers about the Moringa tree concept we began later this afternoon. He is an interesting person to speak with about various environmental issues, including potential seismic activity in this country. Seeds provided through ECHO were given to the sisters at the Angels of Hope orphanage in El Crucero to plant and will be taken to Parajito Azul Disability Center, too.

Many of our travelers, knowing this was our last full day on the ground, purchased t-shirts and the new pants at the Nino school store….so you will see even more people sporting the school uniform at home now!

Kevin Cosgro and Evan LeFloch went to the Parajito Azul Disability Center to make the electrical repairs needed that they ascertained last week. Genevieve Barry went with them to see the facility for herself.

A project for Nicasa today was replacing the walkway into the enclosed area, removing the stones, cacti and patched concrete first. Our men wielding the pickaxe and hauling the broken pieces were Evan LeFloch, Jon Provost, Paul O‘Connell, Matt Jennings, Andrew Garami, Louis Racette and Kevin McGowan. They then placed the forms and poured the concrete. But I don’t want to minimize what they did, for here you need to through the concrete on the ground, add water and shovel it in order to mix it. That took quite a while with many participating, including the all female crew which had already returned from building their home.

Alyssa Malone (l) assists the doctor dispensing parasite medications to first graders at Colegio Nino Jesus de Praga.Early this morning, as first grade through grade 6 went to Children Feeding Children, they stopped first at the clinic for the doctor to give them parasite medicine. Marisa Rose Wolosz and Alyssa Malone helped by pouring water in to the cups which each student used to consume the tablet. It is our hope that this treatment – which will have to be taken again in 6 months – will reduce the number of children with gastrointestinal complaints and allow them to concentrate on their schooling more. Photo Caption: Alyssa Malone (l) assists the doctor dispensing parasite medications to first graders at Colegio Nino Jesus de Praga.

A group put together the First Aid kits which Bill Calmbacher will present to the 22 Red Cross-trained women in the barrio. The precisely completed kits under Bill’s direction, were compiled by Flo Renaud, Marilyn Knutson, Marisa Wolosz and Gen Thompson.

At 10:30am, a bus left for Nejapa where we headed to meet the 20 newly sponsored students (of the 200+ who attend) and spend a short time with them. Vitamins were presented which were donated by Richard Price as well as gift boxes from the sacramental class at St. John’s to the third graders who are in the program at Nejapa. We again performed our “Mission #23” theme song for the students and the sisters as well as the priest. Again, they followed with the Spanish version of the unicorn song. Our guests, Genny and Eric came with us and enjoyed the time together. Each of us were blessed with a handmade card created by the sisters the previous evening. They had enough that we were able to bring back enough for every traveler on mission.

A time that many of us had been looking forward to was at 1pm today – the giving of sponsorship gifts to our families. We planned our entire work schedule today around this event as it is so heart-warming to those of us who sponsor students here at Nino. Lots of hugs go around and a few eyes get wet, too!

(l-r) Matt Kennedy, Rachel Luscombe and young Gabriel plant the moringa seeds which should be ready to plant as seedlings in about two weeks.This afternoon a group trekked down to Nora’s house and out to the field in back which is actually owned by Mauricio. He and Mel Landers (from ECHO) ascertained the best place to begin our Moringa tree project. The rest of our Environmental Committee joined Marilee and Matt Kennedy planting the seeds: Rachel Luscombe, Michelle Armani, Marilyn Knutson as well as Diane Crosier who was wonderful working with the young boys who tagged along. We had Gabriel, who is Nora’s son, as well as another young boy and Chico helping to plant the seeds in the plastic bags donated by Price Chopper, poking holes in the bottom and watering the seed which was placed about an inch into the soil. At the end, Gabriel was given Marilee’s hat off of her head at the end – Master Gardner. He is going to make sure that his Uncle Mauricio keeps the bags all watered so that in a couple of weeks, the seedlings will sprout through the soil. Around May, these can be planted to create a new Moringa arbor on his property. Photo Caption: (l-r) Matt Kennedy, Rachel Luscombe and young Gabriel plant the moringa seeds which should be ready to plant as seedlings in about two weeks.

This afternoon we capped four of the latrines for which pits had been dug by our resident crew. We will have a total of 37 completed by our arrival in late July or early August and a total of 155 completed within two years. This entire project is currently funded by a Matching Grant through Rotary International jointly sponsored by the Rotary Club of Managua, the Plattsburgh Noon Rotary Club and the Bergen-Highlands-Ramsey Club (NJ). It is the brainchild of Magaly who, when her uncle urged that we build bigger dwellings for people, voiced her opinion that we need to help the poorest of the poor and provide for them some of the “basics” such as an outhouse. Her vision has now become a reality and tomorrow morning our Leadership Team on the ground here will take her to a completed one and show her that her idea has become a reality. The latrine-building crew was comprised of Flo Reynaud, Ilona Flores, Jon Provost, Kevin Cosgro, Kristin Gagnier, Marty Mannix, Sarah LeFloch, Oscar Flores, Jr., Bill Calmbacher, Marisa Wolosz, Jenn Washburn, Ariel Benoit, Alyssa Malone, Christina Gehrig and Roger Patnode.

Our kitchen crew which kept us all quite content for our last day of many projects at a myriad of times was Gabriella Flores, Alison Gratto, Katrina Bouchard, Carol Dumont and Karen O’Brien.

Our last rice & beans delivery was headed up by Jesse Crosier who had a large team made up of April Yeaney, Laura MacMillan, Eliza Anderson, Alexa Cosgro, Marissa Dillenberger, Gen Hill, Cathy Hill and Kendra Smith.

At this evening’s meeting, we had our final sharing time and concluded with a closing service reflecting on our 6 days in our adopted country. Eric and Genny told us they were looking for a future mission in Nicaragua in which they could become involved when they planned their honeymoon…and now they think they may have found it. “Congratulations,” noted Eric, “It takes a lot of strength to do what you do.” Our final task for the evening was the assignment of suitcases, rockers and hammocks so that all returning could help each other.

February 26, 2007

Sunday, February 25, 2007

By Bonnie Black

Our day of rest! But, we had our regular 7am meeting followed by our “official” group photo. We then headed to Mass at 9am and were ready to board our buses for the Masaya Volcano and the Granada boat tour on Lake Nicaragua when newlyweds from Canada arrived who we had met on the AirTransat flight: Eric Rodrigue and Genevieve Barry. They had been following our daily activities by reading the Press-Republican website and decided they wanted to come over from their Pacific resort villa and see what we are all about – in person! So, we invited them to join us on our day of leisure and they are staying at the Flores residence as they want to be a part of our daily work tomorrow! Eric will most likely go to the Disability Center with Kevin Cosgro and Evan LeFloch while Genevieve, as a registered nurse, will travel with the medical team.

So, we headed out of the campus just around 10:15 toward Masaya. Our first bus arrived at the Volcano National Park just after 11am with their first stop at the Interpretive Center (don’t read too much in to that – it is where the bathrooms are!). The 18 who spent their time at the Masaya Volcano were dutifully impressed with this natural phenomenon: Jim & Carol Dumont, Karen O’Brien, Marissa Dillenberger, Jon Provost, April Yeaney, Alexa Cosgro, Roger & Marilee Patnode, Flo Reynaud, Joy Cayea, Kevin Cosgro, Bill Calmbacher, Sarah & Evan LeFloch and Gabriella Flores.

The other 34 plus Jeremy Eppler, continued up the road to Granada, the site of the Spanish settlement in what is now Nicaragua. We split up in to three boatloads for a calming, casual hour around the small islands near Granada. One of the island homes is owned by the family involved in Payless Shoe and Flora de Cana. Another – which boasts an inground pool – is a B&B where you can stay three nights for only $260…total. Another boasts new construction for a soon-to-open hotel. So, this little piece of serenity along the shores of Lake Nicaragua is becoming quite inhabited. The island where a family of monkeys live may very well not host them when return again in the future.

Both groups met up at Pollo Narcy at the foot of El Coyotepe, the former scout training grounds of Somosa. After that we headed to the Masaya Market for close to two hours among the artisans of Nica.

Returning to Nicasa, we were treated to pizza and beverages courtesy of Sean Watson – a tradition on our day of rest. We were able to share this with Magaly and her husband, Inocencio, the sisters from Nino as well as the sisters and priests from Nejapa who had their Mother Superior visiting. Sister Debbie presented them with a Polaroid camera for their use at the school. All seemed to have quite a good time as Evan LeFloch got out his guitar and our students started the entertainment with a Peter, Paul & Mary tune they have been practicing to perform for the students at Nino on Tuesday. Well, little did we know, the sisters from Nejapa knew the song – in Spanish – with their own hand versions of the various animals: green alligator, long-necked geese, humpback camel and chimpanzee, a cat, at rat, an elephant and….a unicorn! They entertained US and we all ended the evening with many smiles and laughs and hugs. The priest had a 2007 calendar from the Servium order which he provided to many of us so we can remember them as we prepare to leave.

Tomorrow is our last day, but a full day of activities trying to tie up the various projects we still have to accomplish.

February 25, 2007

Saturday, February 24, 2007

By Bonnie Black

The ground outside of Nicasa in the warm sun of Chiquilistagua was broken up by shovels this morning as bougainvilleas were planted along the wall. Marilee and Roger Patnode donated the plants (which are so vibrant in color) with the plan that within a year they would be growing in front of the fencing along the top of the wall protecting us from the dusty road below and sustain good soil all year. Marilee was joined by Kendra Kline, Carol Dumont and Marilyn Knutson. After a while, a local boy named Francisco came along and offered to assist; they were quite thankful he did for they had not been planting them in the most beneficial manner. And, not only did Francisco come along and assist in this job, but he was doing it in his school shoes. Kendra asked him if he played sports and he acknowledged he did. She then asked if he had another pair of shoes besides the school shoes which he was wearing. He said he didn’t and she then asked to see if he could fit in to her sneakers. It was a Cinderella fit! So, Kendra will be leaving behind her sneakers – which Francisco doesn’t know yet – when she leaves on Tuesday.

Plattsburgh Noon Rotarians Bonnie Black and Marty Mannix stand at the first latrine of about 150 be built over the next three years with funds from their club, the Bergen-Highlands-Ramsey Club (NJ) and the Rotary Club of Managua.  With them are (l-r) Managua Club Past President Francesco, Inocencio Velasquez who heads the construction crew, Desiree and Abraham Sanchez of the Managuan Club. This morning we also had a visit from a few members of the Rotary Club of Managua. Gunther Hewig, Past President Francisco, Abraham Sanchez and Desiree joined Plattsburgh Noon Rotarians Bonnie Black and Marty Mannix on a walk to visit the first latrine constructed under the multi-year Matching Grant through Rotary International. There will be a total of approximately 150 latrines built over the three year period of the grant. We also visited a pit which is now ready for Monday’s completion. We hope to not only construct those two latrines on Monday, but also two more shelter. Photo Caption: Plattsburgh Noon Rotarians Bonnie Black and Marty Mannix stand at the first latrine of about 150 be built over the next three years with funds from their club, the Bergen-Highlands-Ramsey Club (NJ) and the Rotary Club of Managua. With them are (l-r) Managua Club Past President Francesco, Inocencio Velasquez who heads the construction crew, Desiree and Abraham Sanchez of the Managuan Club.

A group went out to Nejapa to run a morning only clinic headed by Clark Knutson. With him on that venture was Ilona Flores, Kendra Smith, Karen O’Brien, Bill Calmbacher and Nicky Luncy.

Although we thought we could have all of the sponsorship photos completed, we found out today that we will still need to plan on an hour this Monday. Sister Debbie’s team has stuck together and are running like a well-oiled machine: Gabriella Flores, Alison Gratto and Eliza Anderson.

Road cleanup crews were out this morning getting the condition of the roadway in shape for coming to church tomorrow. With plastic bags in hand and masks on their faces, they forged out to the street below: Diane Crosier, Flo Reynaud, Jesse Crosier, Kendra Smith, Kristin Gagnier, Paul O’Connell, Sara LeFloch, Amanda Rosselli, Lauren Macmillan, Rachel Luscombe, Ariel Benoit, Marisa Rose Wolosz, Jennifer Washburn, Genevieve Hill, Marissa Dillenberger, Christina Gehrig, Andrew Garamia, and Alexa Cosgro.

The final touches were put on the school in Nejapa by Kevin McGowan, Matt Kennedy, Gen Thompson, Jim Dumont and Evan LeFloch. And, let us not forget the Kitchen Crew: Michele Armani and Sister Stephanie.

Tonight’s meeting began with a statement on reflection by Sister Debbie. She said, “You have been looking forward at this moment since October first; it is now hard to face the reality that there are only two days left.” That gave a rude wake up call to most of us sitting in the circle.

(l-r front row):  Oscar Flores, Jr. (r) translates for Paul O'Connell (l) who presented the donated baseball mitts from people in the North Country to Inocencio Velasquez (second from right).  Lauren MacMillan (c) looks on as she was about to present the soccer balls from Florida to him also.
(second row):  Ariel Benoit and Kevin MacGowan. Liz Hill shared that when she went to give rice and beans the other day she recognized the 90+ year old who her mother had treated in 2004 for chemical burns.. The woman looked at her when given the food and said, “Every year I wait for you and every year you come back.” That struck a chord in most everyone. Photo Caption: (l-r front row): Oscar Flores, Jr. (r) translates for Paul O’Connell (l) who presented the donated baseball mitts from people in the North Country to Inocencio Velasquez (second from right). Lauren MacMillan (c) looks on as she was about to present the soccer balls from Florida to him also. (second row): Ariel Benoit and Kevin MacGowan.

Nicky Lundy shared that the priest told her this morning when she was at the clinic in Nejapa that tomorrow morning at Mass he is going to consecrate the chalice and platen which she and Jim donated yesterday. Sister Karla, knowing Jim’s studying to be a deacon asked Nicky if they might consider sponsoring a 17-year-old young man who they believe is a good candidate for priesthood. Nicky is going to meet with him on Monday, but felt honored to be asked.

Gabby thanked all of us who went to her quinceanera this afternoon and shared the celebration and tradition of her culture….everyone applauded!

Jim Dumont told us that he was pleased to bring monetary donations this afternoon which were given to the Angels of Hope orphanage in El Crucero by the families of two travelers on last February’s mission. Both Neil and Paul will be pleased to know that the gift was viewed as a Godsend and the sisters immediately told Jim that they will use it to repair the irrigation system at the farm they have which provided the food for the children.

The orphanage struck many hearts. Michele Armani felt that she would rather live in the dump with a mother than be an orphan. Jon Provost noted that as a special education teacher he had thought he would be able to handle the trip. But, when Michele brought him in to the hallways where the classes are held and in to the living quarters (where at first he thought there was a skylight but found it was a hole where the roof had blown off) he was taken aback. The condition of the beds – many without even a sheet or pillow – left him aghast. Yet after playing with the children, he realized that they have an inner peace and have broad, happy smiles which they readily give. Inner peace does not correlate with living conditions and maybe we need to contemplate and reflect on this when we return to the states and our homes and situations.

Marilee Patnode, along with other volunteers, plants bouganvelia plants along the wall at Nicasa.  The hope is that these plants will grow as protection from the road dust.  It should also preserve the dirt anchoring it in.Paul O’Connell met Omar in the clinic while up at the orphanage todady and played with him and his toy truck. When he went in to see our medical team, they recommended 10 minutes on a nebulizer, so he chose to sit with Omar. The child was then to run about playing soccer for a while so our team could assess the effect. So, Kevin Cosgro took Omar over to the courtyard area and played with him. Later in the day, Omar was being embraced by Jim Dumont and enjoying himself. Paul realized that the torch is being passed and that our experiences are not all about “me.” Photo Caption: Marilee Patnode, along with other volunteers, plants bouganvelia plants along the wall at Nicasa. The hope is that these plants will grow as protection from the road dust. It should also preserve the dirt anchoring it in.

Marilee Patnode had a similar response to what she saw at the Managua Dump yesterday. She noted that if they can make a life there, then we can make a life anywhere.

Alison Gratto had two incidents to share tonight. Coming from a family of educators, she has always been brought up to value education. Being a part of the sponsorship photography team, she has seen hundreds of students over the past few mornings. Today, she was so impressed that the secondary students gave up their Saturday morning to walk here in their uniform on their day off from school when many also had to work. She realized how important the scholarship is to these students and their families. Even coming from the family that she does, she had always taken involvement in school for granted. She now knows how important education is valued by the students here.

Sarah LeFloch was on road cleanup this morning and noted how proud the secondary students were with their notebooks and folders and pencils as they walked up the road after having their photos taken.

April Yeaney had been on a home crew Thursday and she, along with a couple of others, had passed on their bracelets to the children there. Yesterday, when she was doing the height and weight measurement, one of the girls was there and pulled out of her shirt pocket the bracelet to show her she had brought it with her and kept it close. Then, her other experience this afternoon was another tear jerker. She and some others had begun to board the bus to return to Nicasa when they were requested to return to the foyer. The children sang a song for all of us, joining hands with us and having us join them for the second time…it was Auld Lang Syne.

Roger Patnode shared that as a pediatrician he doesn’t normally see patients over 20…but down here he has been put in to the clinical situation of assessing and diagnosing whomever is sitting in the chair in front of him. He has been enlightened that he can be effective with older patients and believes the mission is a wonderful way for us all to recognize the skills and gifts we don’t normally get to use.

Marissa Dillenberger reflected on her trip to the Parajito Azul Disability Center on Friday. She noted, “These kids have nothing and on top of that they have a disability.” Later in the day she was in the infant room and spent along time with a girl who she rocked and hugged who responded with broad smiles appearing happy and content. Just before leaving the room, she turned and saw the boy with no brain. His fists were clenching and he had facial tics; she recognized at that moment that he will never have a life even like the little girl she had held – he will never know joy.

Michele Armani had the honor of closing prayer tonight and she shared a quite from the book that she and her 8-year-old are reading in their book club. She asked us to reflect on the passage: “What does it do to be honest if you are not kind and generous…we are all God’s family and need to stay together.”

We laughed, we cried, we shared, we prayed. And tomorrow, we will experience our newly-adopted country in a totally different way.

February 24, 2007

Saturday, February 24, 2007 — EARLY EDITION

By Bonnie Black

For most of us, we have forgotten it is Saturday and only two more full days left. We have had so much to do today, I will tell you more when I have a chance to give everyone credit for what they experienced or did.

But our “big” moments today included a visit by the Managuan Rotary Club members to a completed latrine site and to the pit (18 feet deep) over which a latrine will be placed on Monday by a team of us. This project will take close to 3 years and provide 150 individual latrines to families. It is a joint international project among the Plattsburgh Noon Rotary Club, the Bergen-Highlands-Ramsey Rotary Club in New Jersey and the Rotary Club of Managua.

Arriving bright and early this morning was former travelers Jeremy Eppler who is in the second year of his Peace Corps work in Nicaragua. Having another fluent interpreter is always welcomed even if his stay is only for two days.

But topping it all was Gabriella Flores’ quinceanera which was held in the church here at Nino Jesus de Praga. The priest gave a wonderful message about the meaning of her name and what this day means in her life and her life-to-come. It was filled with joy with many of us in attendance as well as many of her relatives from Chiquilistagua and Managua as she celebrated her 15th birthday and her move from childhood toward adulthood.

More tomorrow as I must get back to other on-going tasks!

Friday, February 23, 2007

By Bonnie Black

It is our third day on the ground, but it seems like we have been here a week. The days – and sometimes the evenings – are so packed with activities and projects that it seems it is a “normal” life of early bedtimes, early mornings, multiple tasks and meetings, dusty roads, glorious sun (sorry, but it is true!), much perspiration and the most beautiful smiles and greetings we could ask for. As we have been told – and those of us who have been on mission before know – we get back so much more than we can try to give.

First thing this morning, as arranged with the teachers, we had multiple people visiting the classrooms for about 10 minutes in each. For the students who were sponsored, we presented a paper on which they could draw a picture or write a brief note to their sponsors which we will hand carry back with us. For the students in the classrooms who are not sponsored, we provided a blank piece of paper on which they could draw or write something brief about themselves, their family or their life and aspirations. These we will share with people at the Clinton County Fair who visit our booth, at our Silent Auction at CCC, and at other locations where presentations are given. Those who took on this quick but vital project were: Kendra Kline, Rachel Luscombe, Katrina Bouchard, Alyssa Malone, Christina Gehrig, Flo Reynaud, Ilona Flores and Sarah LeFloch.

(l-r): Ilona Flores records the height and weight of a young patient as Jesse Crosier measures.Continuing with sponsorship photos was Sister Debbie’s “dream team” of Eliza Anderson, Gabriella Flores, Alison Gratto and Dorothee Racette. We now only have the last three secondary classes which will be done in the morning…we think! Photo Caption: (l-r) Ilona Flores (back) and Sarah LeFloch take Geral Rivas' height and weight while Katrina Bouchard records the information for the 6th grader.

Processing the last few classes of the students who participate in the Children Feeding Children program with noting the height & weight of each student were April Yeaney, Gen Hill, Carol Dumont, and Karen O’Brien. Doling out the nutritious meal to the students were Marisa Rose Wolosz and Louis Racette.

Our morning rice and beans team were Liz Hill, Jon Provost, Kendra Smith and Kevin Cosgro who brought the staples of the Nicaraguan diet to those who need it most.

Medical outreach was comprised of Amanda Roselli, Alexa Cosgro, Cathy Hill, Clark Knutson and Kristin Gagnier. Home personal health kits were also distributed along with the quilts, rosaries, and stuffed animals for the children in the household.

We went back to the Managua Dump Clinic to provide more medical care to the residents. Roger Patnode was joined by Oscar Flores, Jr., Jesse Crosier and Bill Calmbacher.

(l-r):  Nicky Lundy, Yamilette Flores (back) and Sister Debbie Blow are greeted by Archbishop Leopoldo Brenas on Thursday.  Facing the camera is Johana of Caritas.This morning Sister Debbie, Yamilette Flores, Nicky Lundy and I went to meet with the Archbishop of the Diocese of Managua, The Most Reverend Leopoldo Brenes. He is so gracious and has an assistant, Father Raoul, who speaks beautiful English. So, as Yami was translating for Sister, he was doing the same for the Archbishop. Johanna, our contact at Caritas, was also present. It is interesting to note the level of responsibility she has and the respect she garners from all, including the Archbishop. There is complete trust between them. Yami presented the archbishop with a complete list of what the mission provides in medical care in Nicaragua – and he was impressed. Much was accomplished in this meeting which will allow us to complete the Loyola Grant application once we return to obtain a light truck for our medical clinic use when we are in the country. It will have the diocese logo on the doors and our name along the bottom! We struck an agreement that if any of the people seen by either Dr. Zamora or by Dr. Lopez in our clinics need x-rays or general surgery, they can be treated at a nearby Catholic hospital. As we provide the medicines and equipment to Caritas and a few of the hospitals/clinics directly, we can now count of Caritas to provide a higher level of care when needed. Photo Caption: (l-r): Nicky Lundy, Yamilette Flores (back) and Sister Debbie Blow are greeted by Archbishop Leopoldo Brenas on Thursday. Facing the camera is Johana of Caritas.

It is interesting to note a coincidence which occurred in the waiting area before we were brought in to meet with the archbishop. One of the Servium sisters of Mexico who sat with us is the sister of one of the co-founders of the order. It is this congregation to which the sisters at Nejapa and the priest belong.

Sister also asked the archbishop to include her uncle, Ernest Hebert, in tonight’s mass; he responded he would and also include the family. Quite touching.

The home crew for the morning was comprised of Kevin McGowan, Jenn Washburn, Andrew Garami, Joy Cayea and Marty Mannix. We are now past the halfway mark in home construction for this trip and will be able to complete another this afternoon so we can shift our tasks tomorrow and Sunday leaving only the last two houses to build on Monday. This afternoon’s crew who achieved this milestone were Kendra Smith, Marty Mannix, Marisa Rose Wolosz and Eliza Anderson.

Amanda Roselli and Alexa Cosgro present handmade 
rosaries and quilts to a woman on the home health outreach visits.Holding down the tasks in the kitchen today were Matt Kennedy, Ariel Benoit, Diane Crosier and Marilyn Knutson. Keeping 54 people plus the local home building crews fed and content is a task which this team did quite well. Photo Caption: Amanda Roselli and Alexa Cosgro present handmade rosaries and quilts to a woman on the home health outreach visits.

Disability Center visitors today were Matt Jennings, Alison Gratto, Marissa Dillenberger, Jim Dumont and Sister Stephanie. This was our last day at this site with only an administrative meeting left sometime on Monday between Sister Debbie and Saundra.

The next place for Sister’s entourage to visit was Caritas itself where we spoke with Dr. Yamilette Zamora and learned of her background specialty of removing tattoos. We now have a step-by-step photo of her process which has been covered in the Managuan daily newspaper. Nicky asked what equipment she might be interested in obtaining/replacing so we will be delivering an autoclave and nebulizer before we leave.

Out at Nejapa were Evan LeFloch and Kevin Cosgro doing all things electrical. The painting team which had completed the outside of the building returned to complete the inside and the exterior walls of each classroom. This afternoon our paint crew was Carol Dumont, Jon Provost, Katrina Bouchard, Jim Dumont, Marilee Patnode and Kendra Kline, April Yeaney, Amanda Roselli, Lauren MacMillan, Kevin McGowan, Matt Jennings, Katrina Bouchard, Marissa Dillenberger, Gabriella Flores, Christina Gehrig, Alexa Cosgro and Andrew Garami.

Midday rice and beans, donated by travelers of Mission #23, were brought to the soup kitchen at the Managua Dump along with 4 dozen oranges which the Patnodes provided through a donation. The 3 bags of beans and also of rice, will feed the people in this section of the dump for about three weeks. Passing out today’s lunch were: Lauren MacMillan, Marilee Patnode, Paul O’Connell and Michele Armani.

Meanwhile, at Nejapa we held an afternoon medical clinic of Cathy Hill, Oscar Flores, Jr., Roger Patnode, Clark Knutson, Dorothee Racette, Ilona Flores, Jesse Crosier, Joy Cayea, Kristin Gagnier, Nicky Lundy, Michele Armani, Bill Calmbacher, Rachel Luscombe, Liz Hill and Karen O’Brien.

This afternoon our rice and beans were taken into the community by Flo Reynaud, Sarah LeFloch, Gen Thompson and Gen Hill as well as Alyssa Malone and Alison Gratto.

Just before our regular dinner hour, we received a call from the archbishop’s office inviting us to mass at the Cathedral tonight. It was an option for all of us, but most of the group traveled in to Managua for the mass. When we arrived, they were in the process of the Stations of the Cross and a few of our group joined in. For two of the stations, the archbishop asked Yamilette Flores and Carol Dumont to carry the icon of Jesus carrying the cross. What an honor! The mass was a memorable experience for those of us who chose to go.

Our regular evening meeting was waived due to this experience and, because everyone was whisked away to do this, we extended our “lights out” to 10pm….although very few took advantage of it; most were snoring before others had their teeth brushed. We had an intense day of work and look forward to our weekend coming up.

February 23, 2007

Thursday, February 22, 2007

By Bonnie Black

At this morning’s meeting, we were each given a bracelet made by Laura Gregory, a veteran traveler and student representative on our Leadership Team. Whichever bracelet we picked out of the bag, was to be ours. Each had a word on it which allows us to reflect on about the connection with Mission #23. Sister ended our meeting asking each of us what it means to be a 21st century missionary.

Photos of the sponsored children at Nino began this morning with a fantastically smooth team of Sister Debbie, Dorothee Racette, Magaly, Gabriella Flores, Alison Gratto and Eliza Anderson. In approximately two hours, they processed Pre-K through first secondary. This team will complete this project tomorrow morning, for sure. Dorothee translated for the three students sponsored by the Press Republican when Suzanne Moore was on the phone this morning. First Idalia Vanesa Murillo Lopez, first secondary, spoke with Shan; she was quite shy until she asked her when she will be coming down to Nicaragua! Jose Ignacio Osario Rodriguez is in his next-to-last year (4th secondary) and asked to speak directly to Shan as his confidence in his English has grown immensely. He was quite successful trying out his English. Third-grader, Meurel Massiel Medrano Benairdes was the last interviewed this morning. What a joyful smile she has!

(l-r) Ilona Flores (back) and Sarah LeFloch take Geral Rivas' height and weight while Katrina Bouchard records the information for the 6th grader. Concurrently, we had a team weighing and measuring the height of each of the children who benefit from our Children Feeding Children program: Andrew Garami, Ilona Flores, Sarah LeFloch, Karen O’Brien and Jenn Washburn. A total of 259 were seen today, leaving about 100 more to process tomorrow morning. Photo caption: (l-r) Ilona Flores (back) and Sarah LeFloch take Geral Rivas' height and weight while Katrina Bouchard records the information for the 6th grader.

Many of our team who were assigned to sorting meds along with some of the kitchen crew, helped to transport boxes donated by CMMB to the courtyard in order to be more segregated further. Many allergy and cough medicines shipped through CMMB from the Albany-area donations obtained by Mark Wahl were also dealt with today.

In the morning, our home building crew consisted of Carol & Jim Dumont as part of a team constructing a home they donated. Others with them were Marty Mannix, Kristin Gagnier, Gen Hill and Marissa Dillenberger.

This morning’s rice and beans delivery crew was comprised of Paul O’Connell, Kendra Kline, Lauren MacMillan, Ariel Benoit and Christina Gehrig.

Our wonderful kitchen crew kept smiles on our faces, too: Marilee Patnode, April Yeaney, Kendra Smith, Amanda Rosselli and Louis Racette.

Our team at the Parajito Azul Disability Center was Sister Stephanie, Diane Crosier, Jon Provost and Matt Kennedy.

(l-r) Eliza Anderson and Marilyn Knutson serve a woman lunch at the daily soup kitchen in the Managua Dump.A small group went to the soup kitchen at the Managua Dump run for the past 10 years by the pastor of the Mount Sinai Assembly of God Church right there in the dump. He and his team of three others provide (for 30 minutes) each weekday rice, spaghetti, stale bread and a juice drink to all who come while food lasts. Three days a week there are in one location in the dump and the other two days they are in a separate location. Those at the soup kitchen today were Matt Jennings, Liz Hill, Eliza Anderson and Marilyn Knutson. All were interviewed by Suzanne Moore of the Press Republican while at the site. Reflections on what we saw were shared throughout most of the afternoon with others. Photo caption: (l-r) Eliza Anderson and Marilyn Knutson serve a woman lunch at the daily soup kitchen in the Managua Dump.

Painting at Nejapa this morning were Marisa Rose Wolosz, Gen Thompson, Oscar Flores, Jr., Jesse Crosier and Michelle Armani. Evan LeFloch and Kevin Cosgro headed that direction to assess the electrical needs – and they found a lot! Returning this afternoon, Evan and Kevin along with Michelle were joined by a fresh team of painters: Carol Dumont, Ilona Flores, Kevin McGowan, Jenn Washburn, Eliza Anderson, Ariel Benoit, Liz Hill, Gabriella Flores, Chrsitina Gehrig and Matt Jennings.

Late this afternoon, Dr. Zamora reported to us that she saw 32 more patients in Los Guerreros clinic…by herself! We will be providing Carritas with donated medicines from CMMB tomorrow morning around 8am to take up to the clinic.

The rice and beans crew for the afternoon was made up of Marisa Rose Wolosz, Katrina Bouchard, Andrew Garami, Alexa Cosgro, Karen O’Brien and Jim Dumont.

This afternoon’s painting team at Nejapa was Carol Dumont, Ilona Flores, Kristin Gagnier, Michelle Armani, Kevin McGowan, Jenn Washburn, Eliza Anderson, Ariel Benoit, Liz Hill, Marissa Dillenberger, Gabriella Flores and Christina Gehrig.

The CMMB med sorting in the courtyard, which had been brought in earlier today from storage, was handled by Roger Patnode and Diane Crosier who organized much in preparation for distribution over the next few days.

There were two medical outreach home visit teams later today which were comprised of Cathy Hill, Clark Knutson, Dorothee Racette, Flo Reynaud, Joy Cayea, Nicky Lundy, Oscar Flores, Jr., Paul O’Connell, Sarah LeFloch, Bill Calmbacher, Rachel Luscombe, Gen Hill and Alison Gratto. Interviews with the Press Republican were given by Sarah, Rachel, Alison, Clark, Flo, Nicky and Magaly’s brother, Norm, who led one of the teams and speaks English very well.

Late today, Dorothee Racette and Sister Debbie met with Magaly and Yami to organize the newly sponsored students and other education concerns. We are in the final stretch of this project for this year. We found out later at our joint Leadership meeting that there are just over 1,000 students enrolled this year – an increase due to the political climate. They are negotiating a payment plan with many of the families who want their children educated here but cannot afford the registration and tuition all at once. They have also established a special needs class of about 23 who come from an area around kilometer 7 where many orphans live in desperate situations. Many are hyperactive and their other behaviors have led the sisters to segregate this group of students in order to teach appropriate social behaviors.

An obvious new focus of our medical clinic is now the primary care for women, children and pregnant women. Dr. Melida Lopez is at the Nino clinic 2 days a week, the Nejapa clinic on Fridays, and at the Refugee Center on Saturday mornings. Providing primary care for this segment of the population (the majority) expands our services and hopefully be viewed favorably as we look toward future grant applications to provide health and nutritional services in Chiquilistagua and Nejapa. She agreed to an annual exam for the sponsored students at Nino and to communicate with Mauricio or email the medical group directly so joint decisions can be made, when necessary. She is honest, direct, and quite well-suited to what we do. When the meeting was over, she joined us for dinner in the CFC area where we all dine.

At this evening’s meeting, as we began, Sister Ligia from San Jose Hospital arrived with Sister Teresa de Jesus and Sister Marta. Sister Lidia thanked us for all we do for the poor with our medical donations. She is finishing her Master’s in Public Health and in her position at San Jose Hospital in Diriamba, oversees all aspects of the medicines we donate: for eyes, pregnant women, general surgery, psychiatric medicines and more. She told us that they let the people know that the meds have been donated by the Mission of Hope when they are given out. She thanked us for our generosity saying, “God will repay you for what you do.”

Just before we resumed the meeting, Sister Debbie presented Nora with a gift for Alison as well as one for her brother and sister.

Marilee spoke about the kitchen crew; they had tried to convince Louis that he is a budding chef based on his creativity today. They also had the two avocado pits and all of the orange pits from tonight’s fruit in a bag which they are going to plant on the premises in hope that we will have an orchard in the future. The kitchen crew was also commended for their immediate volunteering to assist in moving the boxes of medicine from storage to the courtyard.

Christina was thanked for volunteering to begin the Excel spreadsheet of the 259 names, heights and weights which were processed earlier today. Oscar joined her trying to make the process a bit faster.

Bill thanked Cathy for remaining focused on outreach this afternoon while others on the team, including himself, were watching the clock and thinking about dinner and upcoming evening meetings. And he thanked her because the last lady they saw was 101 years old and dressed in what appeared to be her best dress when they arrived. She had been sitting there a while knowing that we were to arrive. Focusing on others is what we are about – not our own needs.

Sister Debbie shared that she has known Yami for 20 years and they are good friends as well as two of the three co-founders of the Mission along with Eve McGill. When they were exiting the Managua Dump, Sister turned to Yami and asked which of a laundry list of items they should do next. Yami turned to her and said, “After surviving earthquakes, hurricanes and attacks on family, just pick whatever we are to do next.” Sister admitted that Yami made her focus on the fact we need to just get it done as there are so many important things in life.

Marilee shared her observations yesterday about the children at Nino and at Nejapa. “Every child is happy and polite. These are supposedly very poor children, but they are very happy. So many in the states have so much and aren’t happy.” That gave us much to ponder.

Michelle got Christina to share her philosophical state at Nejapa earlier today. Christina said that she didn’t think that she was accomplishing much for the Mission “just” painting the exterior of the school. But when she stepped back, she noticed the wall looked to good in comparison to the unpainted part. So, each of us should step back from our immediate experience here in Nicaragua and take a look at the bigger picture.

Marisa shared how they were at a home site constructing a shelter today and a young boy held by his mother had a roaring fever and the mother could only hold him and rock him as they had no medicines. It hit her that these people don’t even have something with which to reduce a fever.

Eliza told of her experience entering the Managua Dump today. Passing by garbage, burning garbage, and then being enveloped in smoke so think that Jairo had to stop driving for fear that he would hit a person or Mauricio’s car ahead. She said it was like passing through a wall while still in a bubble – the bubble of the car. We were moving from our world into theirs. Yet, when she finally got out of the car, she realized she was not being judged. The people did not resent us because we are privileged. There is no shame – on either side. I then shared an observation I made at that location. When it appeared that most of the fruit beverage was gone, Matt had put a covering over it and told each that there was no more. After the third child, Matt reached down and uncapped the water bottle he had with him and poured the remnants in to this child’s cup and in ther next. Eliza followed suit without a lost beat. That was the sharing and caring we are hearing about all week.

Sister Stephanie remarked about the fantastic job Matt Kennedy and Jon Provost did at the Disability Center. Matt met Hector for the first time and let him know he was taking over his sponsorship at the center. He handed Hector a baseball cap which he donned immediately. Jon carried a baby born with a brain stem but no brain. The rest of their 5 hours there was spent with tactile exercises and stimulations as well as feeding the youth. And….Sister Stephanie brought back a git from the center for each of us – quite tasty! Jon then remarked on what and how Matt handled everything today. “ It is refreshing to see his attitude and interest.”

Alexa shared that the driver on this afternoon’s Rice and Beans invited all to return to his home and property. Although he was more well off than others, it is still so much less thank we have at home. The man was so proud of his turkey and other animals.

Nicky noted that on outreach today, she observed 4 generations in a home and why it is such a cultural faux pas for us here when we remark about how many people will occupy a dwelling we build. Today she saw a young child who had lost both his father and his mother had recently died of cancer. He was not an orphan, though, as the family had come together to keep his life safe; she was impressed by the family connections.

Flo noted how affectionate siblings are down here. They seem to look out for each other whether it be playing with each other’s hair, sitting on laps, whatever. They all seem to be looking after each other. Liz Hill connected with that statement as a result of what happened on the latest Outreach home they did today. They had been distributing kits brought along by Bill and they were down to the last two, handing them over to Fransico who helped them. He opened both up and seemed to have a problem with deciding which he should chose; when Liz suggested he take both, he said that he was taking his time as his sister would be receiving one while he would keep the other.

Sister Debbie noted how proud she is of what we do and are committed to on this trip. Sarah LeFloch ended with prayer focusing on Micah 6:8. She asked us tit hunk about the way we walked humbly today.

As Sister Stephanie was passing out the cookies, Yami shared a piece of culture to help us understand what we see when we are on field experiences. When a couple marries, the husband moves in with the wife. The mother of the bride, or parents, move out and get a smaller dwelling on the property. Staying this close to each other and supporting each other is a part of the culture.

In all, a very busy but satisfying second day.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

By Bonnie Black

Here’s a catch-up on what the rest of Wednesday was like. We have to remind ourselves that we are only as functioning as our “base” is….and today that meant that Marilyn Knutson and her team of Lauren MacMillan and Marisa Rose Wolosz duly earned their round of applause at the evening meeting for their efforts at keeping us fed. A smiling group of ladies were able to handle the first day’s meal needs with aplomb!

Dr. Clark Knutson (R) examines a child in the Los Guerreros clinic established as a joint venture between the Mission of Hope and Carritas of Nicaragua. The stories of Los Guerreros (what we thought was a town called El Trepiche) hit everyone’s heart as Sister Debbie, Ilona and Yami Flores, Clark Knutson and Nicky Lundy told of their day. Sister recalled that when they arrived at the clinic with Dr. Yamilette Zamora and Johanna from Carritas, a young child looked at her and exclaimed, “Gringa!” Within a few minutes another child checked out the rumor and then, their mother came around the corner and affirmed the tale her children had told was indeed correct. Johanna explained that this village has never seen a gringa or gringo…a new experience on their part, too! Dr. Zamora will return to the village twice a month as part of the joint project between our Mission and Carritas, all funded by George Moore’s generous donation. Carritas has also offered that anyone needing medical treatment or surgery will be transported by Carritas to San Jose Hospital in Diriamba. As one of the 52 clinics and hospitals run by the Diocese, San Jose will treat these patients at no charge. Caption for above photo: Dr. Clark Knutson (R) examines a child in the Los Guerreros clinic established as a joint venture between the Mission of Hope and Carritas of Nicaragua.

(L-R): Matt Kennedy, Alexa Cosgro, Amanda Russell and Christina Gehrig join the family who now has a new dwelling donated by George Moore of Keeseville.The evening meeting brought the realization to our home crews that we are working ourselves out of a job – which is the self-sufficiency we promote. The morning’s home was built through a donation by George Moore and his granddaughter, Amanda Rosselli, was on the team which included Matt Kennedy, Christina Gehrig, Alexa Cosgro with our veteran homebuilders, Oscar Flores, Jr and Marty Mannix. Amanda cherished meeting the young children and giving them the stuffed animals they brought along. One was an Ewok and the little girl who received it ran to place it on a bench and leaned into it and gave it a big kiss! This home was given in memory of all of Amanda’s aunts and uncles and when we heard the story of the young child jumping up and down with joy at receiving a toy, all of us knew why home crews are so important – even if each member can’t drive a nail. Caption for above photo: (L-R): Matt Kennedy, Alexa Cosgro, Amanda Russell and Christina Gehrig join the family who now has a new dwelling donated by George Moore of Keeseville.

The afternoon home crew, which was comprised of Rachel Luscombe, Karen O’Brien, Jon Provost and Marty Mannix, had a similar experience. Karen told us that she couldn’t drive a nail and Jon had to come along and give it a good whack. Jon noted that he found it meaningful to be there and until you are on-site and look at the dwelling and the number of people living in it, you can’t fathom these living conditions. “How can I complain?” was his rhetorical question for each of us to ponder. The afternoon’s home was built with a donation from Herb and Mary Carpenter who heard Marty’s story about this family when he returned in January after assessing the prospective new owners with Inocencio and Oscar Flores, Sr. Two young sisters had been living in a burned out cement structure with 7 other family members. They take care of the family members as the aunt and mother are no longer around. Herb and Mary were so touched by the details Marty gave, that they were moved to make this donation. As Marty asked us to contemplate, “Here is a 10 x 12 shelter which will be the new home for a family of 9. Now think of the size of your bedroom.”

Rice and beans were packed this morning by Katrina Bouchard, Jenn Washburn, Marilee Patnode and Michelle Armani. The afternoon crews which distributed it all was comprised of Carol Dumont, Oscar Flores, Jr., Gen Thompson, Eliza Anderson and Louis Racette. Carol told us it was an awesome experience and very eye-opening. A two or three-year-old boy was crying from a cut on his foot, so she used her antiseptic wipes and band-aids to help him. Gen was horrified to see how people live – that it is life for them and they don’t look at it the way we do. There were so many children that she was searching through her fanny pack to see what she could give them after the toys were distributed. “Why can’t I give them more?” was her question. “It made me look at thins from a different perspective.”

This afternoon a team of painters sojourned to the Managua Dump: Dorothee Racette, Flo Reynaud, Kevin Cosgro, Paul O’Connell, Kevin McGowan, Ariel Benoit, Andrew Garami and Matt Kennedy. Tonight Matt noted that the “homes” in the dump city are fabricated from cardboard, pieces of rusted tin and whatever they can find to create a dwelling. Cattle, dogs, people – all trying to find something to eat. He saw three children scouring the burning trash; they were partially clothed and, when they found a ball, they all smiled. Kids will find joy in a ball whenever and wherever they are. Flo said that although she had seen pictures of similar situations on television, experiencing this with her own eyes, through the clouds of garbage smoke was impressive. “In some ways, the cattle looked better than the people,” she said. She had a series of emotions from seeing a two-year-old squatting in the mud, picking out garbage. “It gets you as you are leaving – like leaving Hell.”

Our Disability Center team of Sister Stephanie, Diane Crosier, April Yeaney, Gabriella Flores and Liz Hill spent most of the day among the residents and with their therapists. Great photos were taken of the equipment now in use to work with many of the youth there all donated through the Dorothea Haus Ross Foundation Grant.

Now, what did everyone else do? Well, the largest first (and second) day task is the sorting of the meds which we brought with us as well as that donated by CMMB and held in storage until our arrival. The school supplies were also sorted and prepared for the sponsored students here at Nino as well as those we will begin to sponsor at Nejapa this trip. Overall, a well spent day by all….with many again in bed by 9pm. The warmth is great, the sun is shining, we are all perspiring (and hydrating) and putting in a full day’s work. More to come tomorrow!

February 21, 2007

Wednesday, February 21, 2007: Early Edition

By Bonnie Black

Mission #23 has hit the ground and is already running! Yesterday afternoon, the majority of the travelers on this mission entered through the gates at Colegio Nino Jesus de Praga tired but ready to begin their (short) sojourn in Nicaragua.

Of the 54 travelers, 27 are beginning a new experience. Even the other half of this mission’s travelers will see differences, as always.

With the focus of the North Country Mission of Hope to serve the poorest of the poor, Mission #23 is turning its eyes to what can be done in Nejapa. In the afternoons for the next few days a team of painters will be revitalizing the exterior of the elementary school run by the Servium Sisters of Mexico.

An innovative move at Colegio Nino Jesus de Praga is to begin this school year with parasitic medications distributed to all students. These meds will assist in promoting the health of the young people at the school and, with better health, will come increased learning.

This morning, Sister Debbie, Yamilette and Ilona Flores accompanied Nicky Lundy and Dr. Clark Knutson as they were brought by Johanna of Carritas and Dr. Yamilette Sanchez up a mountain which Sister told us made the road up to Mombacho cloudforest look level! The dust from their two 4-sheel pickups communicated to the people of El Trepiche that the medical team promised by the Archbishop was indeed arriving. By the time they got to the top, there were already 60-70 residents waiting to be seen. Why the enthusiastic response? We were told by Johanna that this was the first time any medical personnel had been to this area – ever! Early on, our team was estimating that today they may see 200 people from this area.

Dr. Sanchez’s salary is being funded through a donation from George Moore in memory of his late wife, Shirley Moore, and her mother, Jeanette Chauvin. The doctor has agreed to take her salary and reduce her personal fee, allowing the funds to also cover the cost of a technician to handle sonograms, a pediatrician and a general practitioner.

This morning, Kendra Kline and Alison Gratto staffed the Children Feeding Children program along with the regular cooks. They were put to work grating a large amount of cheese which will be used on Thursday. But, after the students’ mass for Ash Wednesday, they had the opportunity to interact with the Pre-K through Grade 6 children who receive this daily nutritious meal. This was important to Kendra as she had taken the story of the Mission and this program back to her school, Academy of Holy Names in the capital district. After her first trip last February, Kendra gave a presentation to the Kindergarten through 8th graders and suggested they consider putting change in to the buckets she had placed in each classroom. The astounding result of each student feeding a student was a total of $1250 plus 130 bottles of children’s vitamins! A remarkable result from a school of about 100 students. So, today’s time in the kitchen was quite special to Kendra.

I will have a lot more on all of our initial day’s activities when I give the full day recap which you will receive tomorrow. As Sister Debbie said at the close of our first meeting, “Look for the deeper realities of this day – remember, you are hope.”

Tuesday, 2/20/07

By Bonnie Black

Even before arriving at Nicasa, Yamilette Flores and Sister Debbie were off to MINSA to meet with the new Director General of the country, Roberto Zapata Sobalvarro, while the other North Country travelers boarded buses with their boxes of supplies to be unloaded for the week’s upcoming projects. This afternoon’s meeting was an extraordinary one: Mission of Hope received official recognition by MINSA and is now designated as an “international medical brigade” allowing us to provide medical care anywhere in Nicaragua. Working with our long-time MINSA connections Mariellos – who in charge of all international medical groups – and Javier – who is the director of customs – MOH now has this official recognition under the new Minister of Health, Maritza Cuan Mochado.

Senor Zapata requested that we journal, through photographs, each of our medical ventures, especially the outreach home visits and outreach clinics. He hopes, and expects, that medical students in Nicaragua will team up with our medical professionals in subsequent missions so the students can learn about this aspect of medical care not addressed in their formal studies.

Kendra Smith, Florence Reynaud, Dorothee Racette, Louis Racette, Ilona Flores (partially hidden), Karen O’Brien and others queue up to check in the boxes coming off of the bus. Meanwhile, the rest of the travelers – including our four sojourners from Florida who had arrived earlier this afternoon – unloaded the buses and began their quick orientation to the Colegio grounds. Splitting up into predesignated groups, everyone had an orientation of five locations, giving each a quick overview of the physical layout of the space we will call home for the next week.

Dinner, prepared by Nora, was greeted with smiles. Especially since they had not had any sustenance since breakfast on the plane (around 9am), everyone was quite pleased with the meal.

Tonight the evening meeting was waived so all could unwind and hit the sack early – most everyone turned in before 9pm!

Much is to come with a full day planned for tomorrow thanks to the A Team’s organization. Marty Mannix, Joy Cayea, Marilyn Knutson, Andrew Garami, Matt Jennings and Bill Calmbacher had spent three days arranging for our tasks to begin on Wednesday. And we are ready to go!