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Mission of Hope

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Monday, August 11th, 2008

By Bonnie Black
The last day for Mission #29 began with a morning meeting for which three were absent due to their first assignment of the day: getting the chairs from the market where they were purchased and taking them to the airport for shrinkwrapping in preparation for tonight’s departure. Judy Charland opened our meeting with a reflection on the Third World which resonated with most of us. Sister said that it seems like a lifetime ago that we arrived here – as far as emotions and experiences. We thanked Heather and Sister Stephanie Frenette for the pizza party last night. Today still has a lot to unfold as it will be a full day.

By Bonnie Black
The last day for Mission #29 began with a morning meeting for which three were absent due to their first assignment of the day: getting the chairs from the market where they were purchased and taking them to the airport for shrinkwrapping in preparation for tonight’s departure. Judy Charland opened our meeting with a reflection on the Third World which resonated with most of us. Sister said that it seems like a lifetime ago that we arrived here – as far as emotions and experiences. We thanked Heather and Sister Stephanie Frenette for the pizza party last night. Today still has a lot to unfold as it will be a full day.

Our kitchen crew for today were Marty Mannix, Darcie Black, Bill Calmbacher and Kasey Garrand (2/3 of A Team) who prepared a delicious pancake breakfast – even peanut butter pancakes!

At 8am we headed to the auditorium in the primary school area for the Desperdida. With no school scheduled for today, only a small portion of the students came for this event. It began with the singing of our two national anthems followed by Magaly’s brother, Norman, singing two songs as he accompanied himself on guitar. Then Magaly entertained us with a traditional folk dance followed by the Carmelite postulate dancing another titled the “black dance.” Diana, who is sponsored by the LeFlochs who have been on February missions with us, sang us a song in English: “God of Jacob.” Then, a woman who had just received a home shelter during this mission, thanked all of us on behalf of the community for what we do: the homes, the educational sponsorship, and other aspects of bolstering the barrio.

We then had our turn on the stage where all but 9 of us sang, “Amazing Grace.” Afterward, 13 of our youngest brought a few of the younger students on stage and they all entertained everyone doing the Hokey Pokey. Sister Rosa then presented Sister Debbie with a special card for each of us on mission. Inocencio took the microphone next asking all of those in the audience to raise their hand if they have received a shelter from the Mission of Hope; many raised their hands and Inocencio noted, “Your hearts have raised us up.” He thanked God for the Carmelites and what they do and Mission for all we have done and will do expanding to the poorer people near here. He also thanked all who have come on previous missions who are not with us this time around. He proudly noted that with the equipment that the Mission has provided, there was a championship baseball tournament recently with 6 teams.

Sister, with Oscar’s assistance, thanked all for coming here on their day off from school. She also thanked Oscar and Yamilette for introducing her to this community. “We have learned many lessons from you on our trips here,” she said. “We consider you part of our Mission family and thank you for your prayers. Although most of us are leaving this evening, we will take you with us in our hearts.” The event was then closed with a recorded song, “Adios a Madre Dios” and at the end, Sister Rosa presented the CD to Sister Debbie.

Afterward, those of us who sponsor students at Nino met with them and presented gifts from their sponsors at home. Another group headed to Nejapa to do the same with those students.

Then, after a short time with the kids in the yard, our day continued. A group went to the Banana Camp for their first time and were struck by the situation these people are in. MINSA holds a clinic once every 15 days now, treating those who need it for acute situations. As before, the sickly and dying are still up in Chinendaga. As we passed a woman with an axe who was chopping an old stump, the man next to her stated that they grow strong women in the North – little does he know about our Adirondack women! This group brought a bag of rice and the second group went about an hour later with a bag of beans. Again, all first-timers to tour the area. The people loved having their pictures taken and we thrilled when we showed them what they looked like.

Meanwhile, Dan Riggins with the assistance of Bill Murray took on the suitcase project and the beginning of Nicasa shutdown. They had various helpers throughout the day as people transitioned from place to place. Our BBB crew of Andrea Maynard, Abby Fordham and Bill Calmbacher kept us clean and healthy while beginning the process of shutdown.

Beverly Gogola, Brenda Flynn and Sister Stephanie spent most of the morning at the Parajito Azul Disability Center.

This afternoon, our all-female home crew headed to Monte Verde to construct a shelter for Juana Castro, the 97-year-old woman who donated the land we built the chapel on a number of years ago. She has been living on her daughter’s land across the way in a small, leaky wooden structure. She was thrilled as were all of those on the team: Laura DiGrigoli, Nancy LaTulipe, Andrea Maynard, Betsy Sullivan, Gabrielle Springer, Abby Fordham, Heather Frenette, Lynn-Marie Veverka, Meg Ryan, Liz Dukette and Ashley Goyette.

Meanwhile, Brenda Flynn and Beverly Gogola counted the vitamins we unboxed during this trip; there are over 67,000 now ‘in stock’ for our Children Feeding Children program. This will allow enough for the December/January break, too. Magaly will fill that need by creating the 600+ vials with vitamins for the students at the end of the school year.

Late this afternoon, Bill Calmbacher met with the community women trained in first aid to review their CPR skills and teach them blood pressure and glucose readings. They all enjoyed it with intense interest! They practiced on each other, being guided by Bill, Monica Smith, Gerald Marks, Judy Charland and Beverly Gogola. He left them 7 glucose monitors and distributed their personal CPR masks which have a nifty clip for your pants or belt. It was evident that they had studied as they approached the manikins appropriately and knew exactly what to do with their hands or fingers. After 2+ hours, they are now ready to teach others in the surrounding barrios and expand this first aid program to 60 more – as soon as we can provide the training manuals. The 6 point persons for Chiquilistagua will continue to triage information brought to them from the others trained personnel who are deeper into the barrio. Quite a successful program!

Our last meeting as Mission #20 began at 7:10pm after an hour of last minute organizing of suitcases. Sister asked us to express our gratitude to Mauricio when we see him tonight as he works very long days with us while continuing to coordinate our many projects. For instance, recently we received a shipment from CMMB (Catholic Medical Mission Board) here in Nicaragua that was conservatively valued at $26,800 – this did not include large equipment! Mauricio is responsible for taking all of that delivery, and others like it, and distributing it to the many partners we have in the country.

She then reviewed the departure procedures for later today and added that if the layover in Fort Lauderdale goes smoothly, there will be time for everyone there to view the raw footage of La Chureca that he shot the other day. We tried to settle on a date for a reunion in Plattsburgh, but the exact date for a potluck get-together will be communicated via email. All family members and former mission travelers are also welcomed to attend and share the reflection of Mission #29.

Anthony Garami reminded us how important the next 4 weeks of anti-malaria medication will be and asked that everyone stick to the regimen as prescribed in order to stay healthy.

Sister then reminded us that our presence in Nicaragua is more important than exactly what we do – it’s about becoming the change you want to see in the world and it truly begins when we get home.

The meeting was concluded with a reading on “Helping, Fixing or Serving” read by our A Team: Marty Mannix, Beverly Gogola, Kasey Garrand, Darcie Black, Bill Calmbacher and Bonnie Black. Afterward we all sang, “Song of Hope.”

By that time it was 7:45pm and everyone was ready for departure. Suitcases were loaded as were chairs and hammocks and the memories of Mission #29 began as the bus pulled out of the gate just after 8pm. A long night and day ahead of most of our group as A Team was left to close up Nicasa over the next two days.

When you see your loved one, remember that they have been through a lot in a very short time. Many will be quite talkative, while others will be processing so much, that they aren’t ready to talk about it yet. They will, but in their own time. Be patient and allow each to return to ‘our world’ at whatever pace is good for them. Ask if they would like to share something from their journal. Many on mission took time for self-reflection on this trip, so soon you should be hearing more about everything I have tried to communicate to you in their own words. Enjoy – for everyone on mission has been changed.

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