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Mission of Hope

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

By Bonnie Black
Each morning and evening we begin and end our day with a prayer or reflection to focus us on the true purpose of our mission projects and time with the Nicaraguan people. This trip has had many people bring favorite poems, prayers or songs that are aligned with everything we do here and at home. This morning we began with a song by Shawn McDonald, “Take My Hand” which seemed to hit home with many…courtesy of Kayla Rabideau and her iPod!

Our capable kitchen crew of Dan Ladue, Dennis Kaufman, Lauren Recny and Danielle Hamilton pleased all and nourished us with papaya along with the ‘regular’ watermelon and oranges. We lack nothing in the food area based on the planning of Sister Stephanie coordinating with Mauricio Flores each day. And in the evenings, Nora and Rose (two local women) prepare our dinners which have been night-after-night of delicious main dishes. Yes, for those of you who have traveled with us in the past, we have had Nora’s rice pudding! Tonight, though we had an added treat: Carla’s empanadas with pineapple filling.

“Bed, Bath & Beyond” is beginning a second rotation for the men as there are only 9 who reside here, so Marty Mannix had Roger Patnode pitch in to help him along with Sara Fredette. Nancy Scanlan and Liz Chaskey handled it for the women.

Due to the much needed upgrades to the infrastructure of the electrical grid here in Nicaragua to meet the current demand, the rolling outages were instituted. For the most part, the hours are consistent with what is announced each week, but today we lost it 10a-2p as well as 5p-10:30pm. When thinking about the economic impact of fuel, whether it be for keeping the electric generators going or cars, here it is about $5 per gallon….so much more than the ‘average’ Nicaraguan can budget. Imagine, as we gripe about $3.20 a gallon, that we were making about $300 per month; would you even bother to have a car? And we can count on our electricity even though there are rising gas prices at home.

This morning began with what became an encouraging trip to the Orphanage Farm up in Diriamba. Judy & Marcel Charland, Oscar Flores, Sister Debbie and Mauricio Flores saw what a seed can do: grow to three feet tall in a matter of months! Their time spent at the farm was exhilarating for all. Even Mauricio is ready to plant this week where all of the seeds had not taken at all on his property. At tonight’s meeting Judy said that in January she had said, “It will be a very happy day in my life when I stand in Nicaragua and see a moringa tree growing.” Today was her happy day! Most of us have heard this project called ECHO and Judy explained that it is an acronym for Environmental Concerns for Hunger Organization. It was begun about 20 years ago by Dr. Martin Price who brought moringa seeds from India to Haiti. She and Marcel have met Dr. Price in Florida and were inspired to carry the “seed of life” through the Mission of Hope to Nicaragua. Three of the nuns and a few of the local men along with the older orphans on the weekends work the farm. They have 12 different crops growing including corn, many local fruit (which, thanks to Oscar, they were able to identify), vegetables, banana, pineapple and more. They were also impressed with how clearly they could see the other side of Mombacho from the farm.

The water situation is that water is almost non-existent except for drinking water. Although, we found out today that we are having to go farther in toward Managaua for the bottled water as we have purchased too much locally and the store needs to save some for the locals. So, this afternoon the kitchen crew ran a bucket brigade attaching our hose to the sink in the CFC dining room and siphoning water off bucket-by-bucket to our large water barrels. Sister mentioned that there has never been a mission trip not only the length of time of this one, but one which has encountered as many hurdles in the lack of electricity and water in addition to the torrential rain.

We continued with our Heights & Weights this morning: Nancy Scanlan (who keeps those children loving those parasitic med tablets!!), Bill Calmbacher, Sara Fredette, Kayleigh Garrand, Liz Chaskey and Bailey Rabideau. In addition, this morning we added in the lead and anemia testing: Roger Patnode, Kayla Rabideau and Elle Rathbun. Most of the afternoon, Sara Fredette spent entering the data from the morning’s classes.

Getting near the end of the Nino Clinic inventory were Cathy Hill and Connie Tyska; still one more half day is needed and it should be done.

Our morning Home Shelter crew was comprised of Darcy Rabideau, Joe Lewis, Julie Fredette, Christina Gehrig and Mary Fredette building one for Beekmantown Central School and another for Franklin Academy High School staff and students.

Rice & Beans had an enjoyable trek through the countryside bringing food and toys to residents: Marilyn Knutson, Jenn Stitzinger, Abe Munn, Diane Crosier, Shawney Bushey, Elle Rathbun and Kasey Garrand.

A large contingent went to the Angels of Hope Orphanage this afternoon – in the pouring rain! That resulted in the children and us playing along the side of the main building under the roof and also inside the main room and entryway. The noise level of the joy shared between us was higher than usual when we can be out on the playground and throughout the grounds. The clinic side was taken care of by Roger Patnode, Cathy Hill, Bill Calmbacher, Nancy Scanlan and Connie Tyska aided by translators Joe Lewis and Dan Ladue. Danielle Hamilton was ecstatic to see the dresses made by her mother, delivered on past missions, being worn by so many young girls! We were not only greeted with a song, but just before we left they sang “Father Abraham” which, when we recognized it, allowed us to join in – in English! And, as customary, a version of “Auld Lang Syne” was sung as we departed. Bailey Rabideau was the best hand-clap-gamer we had and she learned a few new iterations to add to her repertoire. Shawney Bushey was passing out barrettes keeping many of the little girls enthralled. Later, she tore a page out of her journal and made it into a paper boat watching the kids float it down a gutter of rushing water. Bill Calmbacher and Nancy Scanlan were triaging everyone with Nancy processing Madre Teresita first. When she asked her to stand on the scale, Madre removed a rosary from her pocket. Then Madre looked down and found more to take out of her pockets! As Nancy said later, women in many cultures react to a scale in the same way. Cathy was seeing the nuns and Connie was dispensing meds with Dan’s able assistance. Later this evening, Joe shared that Roger tried very hard to speak Spanish directly to the young children and was amazed at how he, himself, could easily become a doctor: show some concern and say, “Take 2 Motrin every 4-6 hours and some Tylenol cough medicine once every 12.” Seriously, much of what was seen was respiratory distress due to the ‘rainy season’ conditions, so most everyone did indeed need the same recommendations. We also brought many of the CMMB over-the-counter medications to leave there along with 6 or 7 boxes of toys for the children. Nicky Lundy had donated two light blue denim hats from Essex Pediatrics, hoping to have us give them to sisters at some time during this mission. The hats were brought today and two sisters were readily found. One was in a darling red dress and another in a royal blue dress. The youngest was 2 and a half and her older sister was 4. They are new residents at the orphanage and were totally inseparable, even when the youngest needed to go in to see Roger for her cough, her sister was with her, holding her hand. I have many photos of them for Essex Pediatrics, but the youngest is so forlorn and almost disheartened – and not even three. These were definitely the two girls who needed to be found to wear the hats.

Our afternoon Rice & Beans crew sustained pouring rain while they were out and came back quite soaked: Abe Munn, Jenn Stitzinger, Kayleigh Garrand, Mary Fredette and Kasey Garrand.

This afternoon’s Home Shelter crew tried to dodge the rain, unsuccessfully, too, as they built another dwelling donated by George and Shirley Moore’s children: Jordan Donahue, Diane Crosier, Marilyn Knutson and Karissa Monette.

Before the meeting tonight, a Wonder Team of Plumbers went to work to free up one of the women’s toilets which had stopped working midday. Marty, Diane and Cathy created a plumbing snake and the ladies took it in to the bathroom. Their yield? Toilet paper (which is a no-no down here due to clogging drains) and….a fork!!

At this evening’s meeting, Sr. Debbie said that when they visited Our Lady of Guadelupe today they were told that the Mission of Hope “has saved the clinic” there in Managua. We were thanked for all of the assistance we have given to the small clinic which receives no governmental support nor any from Caritas as they are “too small.” Sister also told us that, in theory, the generator should arrive by midday tomorrow. Well, we’ve heard “manana” almost every day for over a week now…we will see if Customs and Caritas can get it released tomorrow.

Judy mentioned that she was impressed with Oscar’s knowledge of the various trees and plants they encountered while at the farm today. She believes we are now filled with possibilities of projects such as school and community gardens both in Chiquilistagua and Nejapa which all are part of our objectives of introducing self-sustaining ways of life. She saw possibilities of solar power for the farm in addition to the old boat engine they currently use to power the irrigation system.

Tonight we heard that due to the lack of refrigeration, the Monday ‘meal’ at CFC is milk, a roll and the vitamin. If the women were to prepare it over the weekend, it would spoil, so the warm meal is only Tuesday through Friday at this time. We decided we will give one of our refrigerators to them, on loan, when we leave so Monday will also be the nutritious warm meal as we have intended.

Sister also told us that it should cost about $588 to install the security system and 3 sensors at Nejapa. Leadership Team on-site met after the evening meeting and decided we could, on faith, go forward with this safety concern hoping that between those here on Mission and those reading these notes at home we could come up with donations to cover this expense.

At the meeting today with Madre Teresita at the Angels of Hope orphanage, Sr. Debbie discovered that they have established a second facility in Managua for the infants. Due to the temperatures in El Crucero and the respiratory illnesses the youngest get at most times of the year, they made this decision a short time ago. So, residents in El Crucero are usually over 2 years of age.

Connie shared that she had been reflecting on her initial moment with Sr. Karla on Friday and her entry to the Orphanage today. In each case, she recognized the nuns and they her; Connie noted that we are more than a fleeting moment in their lives – we are making an impression and are welcomed upon our return every time.

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