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Mission of Hope

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Friday, August 17, 2007

By Bonnie Black
We heard that some of you have been experiencing extreme weather conditions with high winds and rain, too, including the prolonged loss of power. Our thoughts are with you as well as the people of Peru, in that village about 100 miles from Lima that has been devastated by the 7.9 earthquake. As of this morning, there were 500 known victims, but Sister Debbie had been in communication with their congregational center and was assured that the sisters living in that location were still alive.

Bright and early this morning, Joe Lewis was assisted by Dennis Kaufman as he created stakes from the broken lumber for today’s ECHO raised bed projects at Nejapa and Nino schools.

Jordan Donahue accompanied Oscar and Mauricio Flores as representatives of the Mission in Masaya this morning for the funeral of the nun who died from cancer this week This sister was the mentor to Sister Ligia with whom we coordinate our services and donations at San Jose Hospital in Diriamba. What was remarkable about the experience, Jordan said, was entering the narthex where the elderly, who are the wards of the sisters, were sitting and laying on the ground for they cannot walk nor walk around by themselves. These are people in dire need of wheelchairs. Once inside the sanctuary, she said that the church was filled with flowers, many of which were taller than she. The deceased’s brother gave the eulogy and the singing was beautiful accompanied by an older man in a wheelchair who sat at the keyboard playing throughout the service.

With much to do both on and off campus on our next-to-last working day, our Kitchen Crew pulled double duty on some tasks, yet we were well taken care of by: Bill Calmbacher, Sue Black, Christina Gehrig and Kasey Garrand. It was quite similar with our BBB staff, too: Shawney Bushey, Bailey Rabideau, Marty Mannix and Dennis Kaufman.

Around 7:45am, the team to do lead testing at the Nejapa school headed out under the direction of Roger Patnode: Dan Ladue, Elle Rathbun, Connie Tyska, Cathy Hill and Danielle Hamilton. Roger told us later that “we’re on a roll when we do the leads!” There was wonderful support at Nejapa with mothers in attendance, too, which allow for an easier and more comforting environment for the children. After this morning, he said that most of the testing is completed.

We shared the results with Manna this morning which showed a few children at La Chureca with elevated levels of lead which are of concern. They are going to follow through so that the child is seen in the clinic there and is followed with the doctor.

Our ECHO project began at the Nejapa school, too, with Mel Landers of ECHO meeting them there. Caesar Augosto and Magaly Velasquez also joined our team of Judy & Marcel Charland, Marilyn Knutson, Julie Fredette, Kayleigh Garrand and Abe Munn. Worm beds were established, seeds planted in bags of dirt, and moringa seeds tilled. There are high hopes that with the nurturing of the Nejapa students who also observed, this will be quite successful.

This was the last day at the Parajito Azul Disability Center for Sister Stephanie, Beverly Gogola and Brenda Flynn. They brought with them a mission t-shirt to present to Adrianna, the Jesuit volunteer there, who is ending her tenure in January. We will not see her again so we thought it would be appropriate to thank her for all she has facilitated for us with this small token of our appreciation.

Our last home shelter for this mission was, as is tradition, constructed by an all female crew with Joe Lewis and Inocencio Velasquez as foremen. The hammers were wielded by Darcy Rabideau, Lauren Recny, Jenn Stitzinger, Kayla Rabideau, Nancy Scanlan, Karissa Monette and Diane Crosier (as were the saws, pole diggers, etc).

Off to the airport with the chairs to be wrapped for transit (again!) were Dennis Kaufman and Liz Chaskey. She noted that “Shrinkwrap Charlie” in the Continental Airlines entry remembered them from the other day and was very service oriented providing carts for them to unload and then reload all of the rockers. He also provided some manpower to assist them. They made a stop at the plumbing hardware store to pick up the remaining parts for making the passive solar hot water a reality at the Disability Center this mission.

An integral part to the future of this mission is gathering the data and preparing the outcomes for grant applications and reports. It has fallen mainly on the shoulders of Sara Fredette who, with nary a word, has daily spent hours at a table in the kitchen entering heights & weights, results of lead testing and also the clinic inventory. Beyond the call of duty!

This afternoon’s ECHO project was at Nino with Mel, Caesar, Magaly, the Charlands and Diane Crosier with Sue Black. Again, worm beds were established and Caesar completed a water irrigation system for the seed beds. A few of the Nino students were around to observe, but Caesar is a teacher here and will have follow through on this project continuously.

One of the most significant experiences of this mission was the visit to the agricultural workers who are living in protest near the National Assembly in downtown Managua. Nineteen of us (Joe, Bailey, Kayleigh, Jordan, Lauren, Jenn, Christina, Elle, Dennis, Liz, Karissa, Shawney, Kasey, Darcy, Danielle, Kayla, Oscar, Sister Debbie and I) were guided through the camp by one of the 12 leaders, Sergio Garcia, of which two are women. The 12 members of the council represent banana workers (25%), sugar cane workers (25%), electronic product workers (ie-batteries, etc.) and 25% represent other workers including coffee and fruit workers.

Only the healthy heads of the various families are living in the camp at this time (4-10 people live in each tent) while most of the families remain at home as the 100 mile trek to and from their homes in Chinendega can be handled only by those well enough to do so. He believes there are only 8-10 children in the downtown camp at this time. The death camp in Chinendega still exists, but most people are dying daily in their own homes. Sergio said that there is no better cooperation from MINSA – they feel MINSA is no help at all in their plight as people are worse off than before. They are trying to reach an agreement for free medications and land because all of the previous agreements were broken when Ortega was inaugurated. They decided to return to an encampment outside of the National Assembly, to be visible in their current attempt to meet with Ortega to solve the problems of the broken agreement. Sergio told us that Dole is taking leadership on this issue as they had a meeting on May 28th, but no agreement or payment came as a result. They are again being told by Dole that the pesticide used has no detrimental effect, yet it is the chemical which usage was band in the US in the 1970’s.

Sergio said the Nicaraguan political leaders are guilt because when the United States banned the pesticide, the Nicaraguan leaders did nothing about holding the chemical companies and the agricultural companies responsible in this country. Other Central American countries did hold the companies responsible for changing their processes and those farm workers are not suffering the prolonged exposure as are the Nicaraguan workers.

So what will this mean for the future generation? The leadership council has decided that if government does respond within 15 days to their appeal for discussions, they will go on a hunger strike as they did two years when we were here. They don’t want to create violence because it is not the common citizens’ problem; it is the fault of government and big business.

The rice and beans we delivered will feed the camp for one day – a small stone in the water, but hopefully it will help a bit allowing them to continue making ripples.

Sergio believes the same chemical is being use under different names such as chloropan. He noted one of the chemicals they use on the plantations is found in polyester shirts! There are different chemicals being used with the same side effects that nemagon had. He thinks the chemical companies are continually changing the names of the chemicals so no one can find the source of their illnesses.

Our last Rice & Beans crew of this mission trekked out this afternoon with Magaly into hilly regions: Beverly Gogola, Brenda Flynn, Sara Fredette, Abe Munn and Julie Fredette. Evidence of the recent harsh rainfall was throughout with gullies and potholes filled with water everywhere.

This afternoon, we conducted our semi-annual clinic at Nejapa and, again, the organization of the sisters was quite evident. They had people’s names with assigned numbers and the process was quite smooth for Roger Patnode, Cathy Hill, Connie Tyska, Nancy Scanlan, Dan Ladue, Bill Calmbacher and Joe Lewis. Sue Black and Julie Fredette joined in as they were at Nejapa to meet newly sponsored students. Prior to the clinic, Roger met with Sister Miriam providing her with three lice combs along with an educational tape on lice treatment and prevention. He also noted that we were lacking a variety of medications, especially antibiotics, which he will communicate to the medical group at their next meeting back home. The curtains used gave a sense of privacy which was lacking when we provided the clinic in February.

Dan Ladue informed us later that the security system was completely installed by this afternoon which is a relief to so many.

Jordan Donahue filled in for Sister Debbie, taking photos of the 15 newly sponsored children for whom the sisters had the names, grade and age noted on their paper for the photo. How organized!

Our last painting crew in the classrooms at Nejapa got their work done in record time: Jenn Stitzinger, Karissa Monette, Kayleigh Garrand and Danielle Damilton.

A not-so-lovely job was accomplished by Marilyn Knutson who removed labels from the recycled vitamin bottles which Magaly had saved for us. On Saturday, the labels will be attached for the supply of vitamins for December and January while the children are not at school between academic years.

This evening we had an option, instead of on Sunday, of attending a baseball game or a fundraiser held by the Managua Rotary Club to benefit an orphanage where they volunteer and provide donations. Those who went to the baseball game started out by having their tickets stolen right out of the hand of Luis, our driver. He had thought it was one of us who took them and we all watched in shock that this happened. But, then, it is a metropolitan city filled with poor people….much like what we could experience in the states. So, everyone forked out another $2 each (yes, you are reading that right) for their seats along the first base dugout side of the field. The “Boers” competed against another Nicaraguan team for a score of 7-1. There were only about 150 people in attendance, scattered throughout the stadium which holds thousands.

The other group which traveled into town while a few remained at Nicasa, attended the Pena Artistica Rotaria function with music, singers, poetry and a nice array of talent. We had to leave by 9pm in order to be “home” by curfew, but the 11 of us thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment (and air conditioning and running water with toilets you could flush).

We are in countdown mode now, as I am sure you are, too. Much of tomorrow will be in preparation for our Community Health Fair as well as the start of the breakdown of Nicasa readying for our departure. We all miss all of you very much even though our time here had been quite productive. We have recorded in our journals our impressions, our questions, our thoughts for future reflection – some with you, some to be processed individually at first. But, one more day of work before our last day of play!

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