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Mission of Hope

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

By Bonnie Black
Our last day of solid mission work as a large group began with roof painting at 6:30am this morning - it was nice to see the water trickling out of the faucets along with electricity, too, all day long!

The painters spent over 4 hours until they ran out of paint. It was told later that Darcy Rabideau “motivated” the team of Jordan Donahue, Jenn Stitzinger, Liz Chaskey, Kayla Rabideau, Lauren Recny, Karissa Monette, Danielle Hamilton, Joe Lewis, Shawney Bushey and Bailey Rabideau. Not quite sure what that meant, but they got the job done!

Our kitchen crew of Mary Fredette along with Judy and Marcel Charland got everything rolling early providing those painters with sustenance before painting and then made sure the rest were ready for the day ahead. Our lunch was well-prepared leftovers and the perennial peanut butter and jelly as we are now “eating down” the refrigerator.

BBB was handled by Marilyn Knutson, Connie Tyska, Bill Calmbacher and Abe Munn. The guys, especially, have it down to a science as the 9 have had multiple ‘opportunities’ this mission to do this task. Make note of this mothers and wives!

At this morning’s meeting (there were two held consecutively in different locations due to the 12 on the roofs) Diane Crosier had us each select a word from a bowl. Whatever word we chose is the one we are to focus on for the rest of this mission and when we return home. Another journaling opportunity!

Our final task at Nejapa today was painting the exam room used by Dr. Lopez each Friday for our clinic. Christine Gehrig, Elle Rathbun, Abe Munn, Dan Ladue and Sue Black had a bigger job in front of them than we estimated, yet got the job done painting the room a green and mango combination which is actually quite nice – and Nicaraguan.

Beverly Gogola and Brenda Flynn finished up the preparation of the vitamin containers. We wound up with only 196 of the 525 needed, plus we do not have enough vitamins that will not expire before November to put into the containers, so this year we will not be able to provide the vitamins for each child at the end of the school year in early December.

Today was the time to allocate suitcases and assign chairs and hammocks for transit on Monday. Diane Crosier, Julie Fredette and Nancy Scanlan handle all of that as well as getting the remaining donations in the inside courtyard sorted for pickup by the various organizations early in the week.

Out at the Disability Center today was Marty Mannix and Dennis Kaufman who, with a few trips to the hardware/plumbing store, have almost completed the passive solar hot water project so desperately needed for the therapy.

Sister Debbie spent much of this morning with Oscar and Mauricio Flores at the lawyer’s office and then off to the Women’s Aid Center to deliver the two children’s rockers and the last box of donations. She said the children stared at the little rockers and waited until they were invited to sit on them. She didn’t have her camera with her, so we must imagine the pleasure evident on their faces. The director expressed to Sister that the Mission has given her and the young women hope – and for that, they are grateful.

Then, they went to look for a replacement vehicle for Mauricio so that he will be able to appropriately handle the Children Feeding Children deliveries and the rice & beans deliveries to La Chureca (plus all kinds of other tasks he does continuously for us). Much wear-and-tear has occurred on his taxi over the years and our Leadership Team voted to take fund from the sale of a donated vehicle and put them toward a portion of the cost of a new “used” vehicle down here. It will most likely be diesel, 4-wheel drive, double cab with a liner in the pickup bed. We are close to making a decision.

Sister Miriam told Sister Debbie today that last night was the first time they had slept peacefully since the break-in. They are so thankful and grateful for what was facilitated by the mission.

Sara Fredette finished her work on the databases – and she is quite happy about that!

All other hands were on deck to prepare for the first communitywide health fair scheduled for 2pm this afternoon. The creativity of many shown, but Kasey Garrand’s invention to illustrate lice was amazing! This is one for which you will need to see the picture – it will be worth a thousand words.

When Sister Debbie walked into the Health Fair this afternoon, she was overwhelmed with emotion. When the mission first came to Chiquilistagua, hundreds would press against the gates of the clinic door to be seen for they had not received basic medical care in years – if ever. Now, we have the clinic operating Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2pm-4pm here at Nino, Fridays from 2p-4p at Nejapa and on Saturday mornings at Mateara from 8am to 10am. The people know they can count on medical care as they need it. So now this prevention, the next step in medical care, was a success. Almost 200 people attended with adults getting their blood pressure taken, everyone receiving information on lice, one and two-year-olds and pregnant women receiving lead testing, a table demonstration with models for breast self-exam, distribution of water containers to the families whose water was tested on previous missions, a handwashing station, a dental hygiene station with giveaways and brushing/flossing demonstration courtesy of Dr. Michaud’s office, giveaways of cough syrup and acetaminophen, a moringa information table with the “experiment” results to show what a seed can do, along with the giveaway of personal hygiene kits. As Sister said as she observed the goings on, “The adage says it all: If you build it, they will come.”

Sister Rosa spent almost the entire time there, getting her blood pressure checked, learning about moringa (where she spent a LOT of time), checking out the breast self-exam information and learning about the water container project. Through Jeremy Eppler, who came with his girlfriend (Indira) who is a medical student, Sister Rosa expressed that today’s Health Fair was one of the best things that has happened to this village. And, this afternoon, in the middle of the fair, came high winds with the torrential downpour. This children ran inside the dining room from playing outside where they had been enjoying the various games and activities.

Tonight we each had a treat made by Carla for dinner: nacatamales. Nacatamales are a meal usually made for Sunday brunch after Mass comprised of rice and beans, sometimes with chicken, in a corn paste wrapped in a plantain leaf and boiled. There were both ‘regular’ as well as the vegetarian variations available.

This evening’s meeting was moved to the seating area in front of the clinic as there was an evangelical preacher and band who had begun just before our normal meeting time and we truly could not hear each other speak (they lasted until 10:30pm!!). Once seated, Sister Debbie began by telling us she views Oscar as a model for his village on all levels. He is true to his people even in incredibly stressful situation. She reminded us all that if it weren’t for the Flores family, we would not be here – there would be no Mission of Hope for us to experience.

Oscar told us that when they moved to United States, they wondered how they would do without family around as in Nicaragua everyone is so close. The first encounter he had with snow was on December 5th, in Syracuse. They initially felt lonely as there was a language barrier and they did not have the same traditions. Pat and Eve McGill were their neighbors and began to open up the community of Plattsburgh to them. Their first December was sad but wound up happy as they felt the support of the community and the wide arms it has. On Christmas there were 54 gifts for their family – in Nicaragua the tradition is just two, so they were quite overwhelmed. Even though, at first, they didn’t have family in the North Country, they now feel that everyone is as much of their family as those here in Chiquilistagua.

Sister Debbie then thanked all of the ‘point’ people for this mission as well as the A Team which still has days of work ahead of them. She noted the Leadership Team representatives on the ground (Sr. Stephanie, Oscar, Marty Mannix and I) are fewer than usual for a mission trip yet, we try to never lose focus of what the Mission of Hope is all about in the various daily decisions which must be made.

As we shared our last few experiences with each other, Sister Stephanie told us that Adrianna (Parajito Azul) will be returning to San Diego as she is winding down her two years here at the Disability Center. She told Sister that when a group of Canadian acupuncturists came they spoke of the young boy without a brain stem who many of our current and former mission people remember. They told Adrianna that he needs lot of physical contact, especially being held, so what we do when we come is so important to him and other children.

Marty shared that what he and Dennis accomplished today ranks in the “Top 3” of his mission experiences. He noted the 3 moments on mission which have impacted him the most were (1) the time we voted to establish Children Feeding Children initially for all pre-school through Grade 3 children (it now serves through Grade 6); (2) when we received word from Rotary International that the Matching Grant had been approved for the 150 latrines in this barrio; and (3) today’s passive solar hot water system functioning. He said it was exceedingly rewarding when he and Dennis ran tap water up the hosing and when it came out it was 15 degrees warmer – and it isn’t even all completed yet! Marty will return Monday morning to finalize the system.

Jenn Stitzinger took pleasure in telling us that the all-women’s crew yesterday literally built the home from the foundation up. When they arrived, there was the trough, but none of the cement blocks had been cemented in place. So, they started from scratch and built the entire structure. She gave kudos for all of the hard work the “Adirondack women” did.

Shawney Bushey took great pleasure in telling us about two little boys who really got into the dental hygiene today. They came back to the table to learn about flossing hands on. They were eager to show the adults who stopped at the table how it was done – quite the up-and-coming dentists!

Sister Debbie thanked Roger Patnode for making this Health Fair become a reality and all of the youth who coordinated games for the young children who came out to play once they had visited the hand washing station and the dental hygiene table. She felt that this was a giant step forward – a dream come true – to see the level of trust the community has in the Mission of Hope by attending this fair. After all, this is truly a different kind of experience for most of the residents and it was a trust in us that made it comfortable for them to attend.

Marty Mannix thanked the Nejapa paint crew of this morning for the perseverance even when it seemed the task was a bit more than what they had bargained for.

Bailey Rabideau noted that the visit to the banana camp workers had her thinking about the fact that the two large bags of rice and beans which we donated would only feed the residents for a day. But, she then came to the realization it DID feed them for a day. It was intense and rather disturbing to hear what the leader had to say. Then, many at the meeting joined in the discussion and clarified for those who didn’t go, just what we learned. Oscar noted that in a village north of Managua there are sugar cane workers who are dying before the age of 35 – all of kidney failure. Many questions are left unanswered and it is up to each of us to educate ourselves more and spread the word to others.

Sister Debbie concluded with asking each of us to think about our successes this mission and our challenges which may lead us to doing some things differently. Before Dan Ladue closed with a reflection, she told us the background of Oscar Romero – a martyr and priest in El Salvador in the 1980’s. She strongly recommends that we view the movie, “Romero” which will speak to us now that we have experienced the mission (PSUNY has two copies in their library for viewing there or for loan if you are a PSUNY student or staff member).

Dan told us of his first impressions of the Mission of Hope when he arrived which included a Rice & Beans experience; and then of his Nejapa Clinic experience yesterday. Tonight he had taken a walk to a home dwelling with a couple of people (he had not gotten an opportunity to be on a crew and wanted to see what many others were talking about). He spoke with the woman for whom it was built and, although he was almost aghast at living in that situation, she expressed how happy she was with the structure and what a difference it had made in her life, in just a few days. These experiences have resonated with him and he has drawn the conclusion that doing something is better than doing nothing for, at least, something brings hope. He then read to us the poem which we have hanging on the kitchen wall – something that many had not taken an opportunity to read and process; it was written by Oscar Romero a short while before he was killed.

Liz Chaskey and Danielle Hamilton closed the meeting with a song, “Come Into My Heart, Lord” which we all decided should be what we offer up as part of the farewell for the students on Monday morning.

Tonight, as suitcases were assigned and a small amount of straightening up occurred, we looked forward to enjoying tomorrow and to returning home on Monday.

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