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Mission of Hope

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Friday, August 10, 2007

By Bonnie Black
Our first full day here was packed with mostly “around the house” activities and projects which prepare us for the coming week throughout the region. Our kitchen crew today was comprised of Sr. Stephanie, Julie Fredette, Jenn Stitzinger and Bailey Rabideau - they were able to please all 38 of us! Our “Bed, Bath & Beyond” staff kept our bathrooms and floors and facility quite tidy and clean all day long – which is a challenge when dealing with 95 degree+ heat and close to 100% humidity. Tonight, around 7pm, the rolling thunder and lightening finally resulted in a downpour which lasted about 10 minutes. Many people ran to get their shampoo and body wash and joyfully romped in the inside courtyard getting cooler than they had been since arrival and a bit cleaner! The electricity is staying predictable, but we were without water except for a few hours in the morning again. Bucket “showers” are the norm and we are all quite tolerant of the conditions, heat and humidity.

But let me start you out at our first morning meeting. We learned that only 1 of the 17 suitcases arrived last night which meant that Oscar, Mauricio and Sr. Debbie would spend most of the day at the airport with Mariellos and Javier from MINSA waiting for the suitcases and then inspecting them one-by-one. Before they headed out to the airport and the rest of us “on assignment,” we ended the meeting with the “Prayer for the Millennium Goals” set by the UN as worldwide aspirations to achieve by 2015. Reading all 8 goals which were printed on the reverse of the prayer hit home – they could be titled the “North Country Mission of Hope Goals” as they are so close to our mission and objectives.

Early this morning a fantastic crew headed over to the secondary school to paint the roof on one section. We had 3 crews of 4 people who rotated 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off allowing everyone to get the job done – as far as the paint would go. There will be more paint bought for the morning as we want to finish this project on Saturday morning. Tonight Marty thanked this crew in particular for their attention to safety and their painting techniques. Darcy Rabideau led her team of Shawney Bushey, Danielle Hamilton and Lauren Recny while Dennis Kaufman guided Liz Chaskey, Jordan Donahue and Sara Fredette. Joe Lewis had Karissa Monette, Kayleigh Garrand and Christina Gehrig with him on roof during their stint. It was pointed out later that Darcy had achieved notoriety for the paint designs on her shirt and shorts!

What could have been a tedious job was handled with ease in the courtyard this morning: sorting the suitcases which were here. Diane Crosier led her team of Nancy Scanlan, Kasey Garrand, Abe Munn, Sue Black and Mary Fredette into the types of medicines and other items – general categories. The crew continued in the afternoon, still under Diane’s guidance, comprised of Brenda Flynn, Liz Chaskey, Christina Gehrig, Shawney Bushey and “nurse” Nancy again.

The inventory of the Nino Clinic was guided by Cathy Hill along with Connie Tyska, Beverly Golgola and Brenda Flynn. They weeded out anything on the verge of expiration as we will be restocking with medicines which will last until our next large trip in February.

Roger Patnode instructed our CVPH-sponsored high school students (Elle Rathbun and Kayla Rabideau) with a CDC training video on anemia and lead testing via finger pricks. He then had them practice on his fingers learning how to use the lancet and the pipette and then read the results. They will be putting this into action on other fingers come Monday with the youngest students here at Nino when they are measured for their height and weight.

Judy & Marcel Charland were assigned to harvesting seeds from the nimb trees on the Nino property. Nimb is a natural pesticide for the vegetation which be planted near them. They found 35 trees growing in the area nearest the basketball court and they are thinking of fencing it off for future moringa planting. It seems, though, that we have arrived a bit too late to harvest the seeds. Last trip, Marilee Patnode had suggested we harvest the seeds in late July or early August – on this trip – but we are here later than ever before and we missed the opportunity as the pods had already opened and dried. This afternoon they traveled to Nejapa where they spoke with Sr. Karla and saw many possibilities – including a section near the end of their basketball court, too! So what had begun as a morning of confusion about the “harvesting seed” assignment turned into one which ended quite hopeful. Judy had just been reading a quote by theologian Thomas Mertoin which said, “Keep still and let Him do some of the work.” She knows now that there was a greater purpose to their initial assignment today as finding solutions to hunger that work seem to be unfolding with what will become known as the Moringa Project.

Nejapa was also the destination for Cathy Hill and Connie Tyska who provided exams for the sisters and for Roger Patnode who brought the informational handouts to Sr. Karla for distribution to the families regarding the anemia and lead testing we want to do next week on their 50 youngest students. While we were there, we were privileged to observe not only their drill team and band but also a dance lesson which was being given by a gentleman who is part of the Ballet Folklorique. Sr. Karla told us that a few went to the presentation last August and met him and now this year he has kept his promise to come to the school to teach the high school girls some of the traditional dances. He was a joy to watch – so fluid!

This afternoon we also had a crew sorting the building materials in preparation for the 13 home shelters we will build naxt week: Marilyn Knutson led her crew of Kayleigh Garrand, Elle Rathbun, Sara Fredette and Dennis Kaufman; Joe Lewis led Kasey Garrand, Kayla Rabideau, Lauren Recny asnd Karissa Monette. The third mini-crew was led by Darcy Rabideau: Abe Munn, Jordan Donahue and Danielle Hamilton.

As we opened tonight’s meeting, Sr. Debbie told us that the Mass which had been going on during our dinner hour was an anniversary mass for the woman who had been part of our CFC since the inception. She died right after we left here last August of a sudden heart attack. If we had known, we would have gone as Mary Fredette had chosen to do. Thanks for representing us all, Mary!

She then noted that all of the suitcases are now here, recalling the “events” they went through today getting them to Nicasa. On Saturday, they will be sorted first before getting the many boxes stored in Magaly’s office over to sort for distribution next week. Then she told us of taking Mariellos home this afternoon, as she didn’t have a ride from the airport. Sister was quite unnerved when they stopped in front of a habitat not much bigger than the guard’s stall here at Nino. As Sister said, it didn’t seem much more than the space in the shelters we build for the poorest of the poor. Mariellos, remember, is a high ranking government official in the Ministry of Health. She lives with her sick mother and her 3 children one of which is her son who was recently married and having his first child in December. When Sister asked her if they knew the sex of the baby, Mariellos replied that it doesn’t matter, as long as the baby is healthy. She noted that clothes for the child are needed as a stroller would be wonderful. We will look to see what we have on the container to meet her needs before we leave but, if not, we will work at obtaining them for her when we return to the North Country.

Marty remarked how everybody stayed very flexible today which made it all work smoothly. He noted that Bill Calmbacher and his crew of three women (Mary Fredette, Beverly Golgola and Sue Black) started on time, had all of their materials in the classrooms on the first trip and there were no hitches accomplishing their goals painting four blackboards.

We closed our meeting tonight with a song by Lori True: “What Have We Done for the Poor Ones” which resonated with everyone.

Most everyone was in bed with the sheets pulled up before the “lights out” at 9:30pm occurred. Another good night’s rest as we look forward to our second day and a trip to the Ruben Dario Theatre tomorrow night for the annual production of the Nicaraguan Ballet Folklorique.


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