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.
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.
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.
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.