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February 25, 2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009

By Bonnie Black
Two large buses headed out this morning for the Granada boat tour at 7:30am. Only one person had signed up for the volcano, and they were ok with going on the boat tour. Eight others had chosen not to take the tour and most of them attended Mass at 9am.

After Mass, the van brought those 5 people to lunch and then to the market. Two stayed behind and visited their sponsor families.

Sister had mentioned that each June there is a Bazaar at St. Peter’s where we auction off artifacts, art, etc. She suggested that if anyone saw something that they wanted to buy at the market on Sunday to donate to the auction, they were encouraged to do so – but, to be careful about breakable items.

The boat tour group also went to the market at the end of the day with everyone being back at Nino in time for our last ‘native’ dinner at 4:30pm. Then it was a “scramble” to get packed and ready, try to sleep and then get up, and leave the compound at 4:15am on the big yellow bus heading to the airport.

And, so, Mission 31 comes to an end here in Nicaragua. But, as we have been told since our first group meeting last Fall, our mission begins when we set foot on terra firma back in Plattsburgh. The group should be back at Seton around midnight Monday, if all connections go well. See you all soon!

February 24, 2009

Saturday, February 21, 2009

By Bonnie Black
Our last full day of work (as tomorrow is our "day off") had much activity. Of course, we had a great kitchen crew: Connie Miller, Ashley Lamberton, Jena Finnegan, Amanda Knauf. And our BBB needs were taken care of by Rachel Daly, Gabby Flores, Bill Murray and Phil Lamour.

The Health Fair at Nejapa was at 9am to 11am and had many of us participating: Jeremy Dumont, Bill Calmbacher, Kristin Gagnier, Roger Patnode, Kate Patnode, Bev Gogola, Joy Cayea, Bill Murray, Mary Gleason, Kathy Eppler, Sarah Clancy, Sr. Cathy, Demi Pellerin, Phil Lamour, Siobhan Norton, Carole Becker, Samantha Mulcahy, Betsy Sullivan, Mary Garcia, Rachel Daly, Sarah Scardillo, Adam Peryer, Gabby Flores, Alex Munn, Catherine Hill, Sarah Deeb, Matt Kennedy, Pat Daly, Alice Robinson and Meg Ryan. They staffed several information stations: blood pressure, diabetes, alcohol, parasites, oral hygiene, and ECO- our Moringa project. There were also coloring and exercise stations for the children and some dancing with the kids! After a slow start, we ended up with several hundred Nicaraguans in attendance. In addition to information and education, they all also received the hundreds of health kits we had been preparing in the yard all week long. Each kit was identified bilingually with its contents: soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, wash cloth, conditioner and body lotion.

Holding another Women’s Health Clinic were Tracy Orkin, Cathy Hill, Diane Rolfs and Nicky Lundy – but they weren’t too busy this time!

We also had a work crew at Nejapa finishing up the projects we had started earlier in the week: Sr. Steph, Jimmy Dumonth, James Carlin, Allen Pellerin, Brian Mulcahy, Marty Mannix and Matt Daly.

There was a trip to La Chureca, one of the cities in the Managuan dump. Yes, it is an actual city and you would think, as you look at the homes, that it is a very poor section of Nicaragua. There are schools, churches, a clinic and community meeting areas where the Manna Project, among others, provide a noontime meal each weekday. But to get there, you drive through what is easily recognizable as a landfill. Garbage trucks are entering and leaving, people are milling around near the trucks, animals from cats and dogs to large bovines are roaming throughout. And traveling to what we have called the ‘rim,’ our group got to see the ‘hole’ where it fills with rainwater during the rainy season and people bathe, drink and use this water which includes runoff from the rest of the dump. Because this water catchment area is near the sector of the dump where the paint and batteries are discarded, we have found higher lead levels in the children who live in this section. There was a boat on the polluted lake in the dump – Sr. Debbie said that it was the first time she has ever seen a boat on the lake that is within the dump. A few people who went on the trip gave the impression that it seemed to be “as bad as life can get.”

Large groups went to both the El Crucero orphanage and Juan Pablo orphanage this afternoon. Two truckloads of supplies were brought to the orphanage for those ages 5 and older, which included toys, sports equipment, mattresses, and bedding by Adam Peryer, Phil Lamour, Siobhan Norton, Carole Becker, Kathy Eppler, Cathy Hill, Mary Garcia, Nicky Lundy, Jena Finnegan, Meghan Ryan, Brian Mulcahy, Catherine Hill, and Rachel Daly. The children who live there were particularly thrilled with the sports equipment! Missioners played with the orphans using their new balls, hockey sticks, roller blades, etc, and everyone had a great time.

Those who went to the Juan Pable baby orphanage (birth to age 5) were: Pat Daly, Joy Cayea, Sam Mulcahy, Connie Miller, Matt Kennedy, Ashley Lamberton, Amanda Knauf, Sarah Scardillo, Roger Patnode, Sarah Deeb, Demi Pellerin, Kate Patnode, Diane Rolfs and Sarah Clancy.

Matt Kennedy and Pat Daly said they were given a small tour of the facility by the nuns, and then they played with the orphans. They held the younger children, and gave the older children piggyback rides and colored with them. Matt Kennedy met a child that wouldn’t talk, and he is fairly sure that he didn’t know how to talk at all. However, Matt was able to bond with him by holding him and giving him piggyback rides. Eventually, the child was following Matt around, and at the end he gave him a kiss goodbye.

After the return from the orphanages, most attended Mass. This mass included the celebration of a Quinceanera. The mass was all in Spanish, but everyone was able to understand the message of community, cooperation, and that we are all one in the eyes of God.

Electric work continued at Carlos’ house today: James Carlin, Jimmy Dumont, Allen Pellerin, Jeremy Dumont, Bill Murray and Matt Daly. Finishing the painting were Mary Gleason, Alice Robinson, Tracy Orkin and Betsy Sullivan.

And a few helped with the preparation to close Nicasa as Mission 31 comes to an end: Alex Munn, Bill Calmbacher, Bev Gogola and Sr. Cathy.

In the Kitchen this evening were Kristin Gagnier, Sr. Steph, Sarah Scradillo, Gabby Flores, and Pat Daly. After Mass was our perennial pizza party courtesy of Whirly Industries and Shawn Watson’s family. Shawn is Sr. Stephanie’s nephew who has been on mission but died unexpectedly a year or so ago. His father and employer (Whirly) are staying committed to the Mission and provide this night of ‘a taste of home’ just before we leave each mission. Whirley Industries also continues to supply the plastic containers in which we put all of the health fair supplies. These kits become usable to the families long after the supplies are expended, so it is an on-going ‘gift’ to the people served by the Mission.
Guests at tonight’s Pizza Party included: Magaly and her husband, Inocencio, Nora and her family, and Sister Rosa. Also attending were Father Jalder, and the director of Caritas, Johanna. Johanna is expecting her third child in May. Our other guests of honor were four nuns from Diriamba, including Ingrid, who is sick and needs to be brought to the United States.

The nuns brought their guitar and sang songs for us, then we sang songs for them! Siobhan Norton and Betsy Sullivan also showcased their Irish dancing talent!! This was a great sharing experience for all.

When reflecting on all that has occurred over the week, to judge its success we need to look at the newly revised Mission Statement of the Mission of Hope:

As a spiritually-based humanitarian organization, the North Country Mission of Hope is committed to fostering hope and empowering relationships with the people of Nicaragua through sustainable programs in education, healthcare, community and ecological development.

Have we done it? Ask anyone on Mission 31 and I think you will find the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

Friday, February 20th, 2009

By Bonnie Black
Time is getting short here in Nicaragua and much is to be done between today and tomorrow.

Kitchen crew was Diane Rolfs, Ashley Lamberton, Alex Munn and Carole Becker while Bed Bath and Beyond was handled by Meg Ryan, Jena Finnegan, Matt Daly and Matt Kennedy.

Painting at Carlos’ house were Jena Finnegan, Matt Kennedy, Bill Calmbacher, Mary Garcia, Bill Murray and Matt Daly. Electrical work there was continued by Brian Mulcahy and Jeremy Dumont. It’s beginning to take shape as a bright and cheery haven – and storage space!

The last day for Mission 31 at the Parajito Azul Disability Center had our ‘regulars’ Sr. Steph and Bev Gogola joined by Sam Mulcahy and Ashley Lamberton. The Disability Center also had electrical projects to finish which were started yesterday. Allen Pellerin, Jimmy Dumont, Rachel Daly and Phil Lamour worked on those projects all morning and left with it all completed!

Painting at the Paul Harris School was completed by Marty Mannix, Mike Carrier, Karen Amy, Connie Miller, Sarah Deeb, Pat Daly and Kathy Eppler.

Stakes were cut and created for the ECO projects by a local with a machete, so we weren’t involved in that.

Final preparations on our end for the Farewell Ceremony were handled by Meg Ryan, Sarah Scardillo, Demi Pellerin and Gabby Flores.

Joy Cayea, James Carlin, Betsy Sullivan and Adam Peryer went out into the community to work on the community gardens as part of our ECO project.

A Women’s Health Clinic was held at CARITAS both in the morning and the afternoon. The morning staff were Sarah Clancy, Kristin Gagnier, Cathy Hill, Tracy Orkin, Kate Patnode and Nicky Lundy. In the afternoon, Tracy Orkin, Cathy Hill, Connie Miller, Catherine Hill, Kate Patnode and Mary Gleason staffed the clinic. The remaining medical staff worked on preparing the Health Fair in the morning along with others: Roger Patnode, Mary Gleason, Amanda Knauf, Siobhan Norton, Catherine Hill and Sr. Cathy.

The Farewell by the students for us was held at 11am in the school auditorium.

A special trip to the Franciscan sisters who we encountered looking for us Wednesday walking the road looking were Pat Daly, Jena Finnegan, James Carlin, Joy Cayea and Ashley Lamberton. James donated rice and beans to their feeding project and Jena contributed the balance of her fundraiser monies to them, too. Patrick had a Beanie Baby project which also included a Starburst and stickers bags for the 50 children which were accepted with glee. The delivery to the Franciscans was a couple of trips due to the amount of materials that we were able to donate from the container contents.

The trip to the Dermatology Center took off early afternoon with Oscar Flores, Roger Patnode, Allen Pellerin, Bill Calmbacher, James Carlin, Rachel Daly, Jimmy Dumont, Bill Murray, Matt Kennedy, Sam Mulcahy, Brian Mulcahy, Matt Daly and Rachel Daly going for a tour and to assess the work to be done with the donations from the Diocese of Ogdensburg. All returned to their preassigned tasks when they got back.

There was an educational meeting in the afternoon at Nejapa similar to the one that was held yesterday at Nino Jesus de Praga. Attending a meeting at the Mother of the Divine School in Nejapa on future Education collaboration were Kristin Gagnier, Sarah Clancy and Sarah Deeb.

Our all around “Men at Work” this afternoon were Allen Pellerin, Jimmy Dumont, Matt Daly and Brian Mulcahy. This crew was able to complete the rest of the ‘odds and ends’ that needed to be done including one of the women’s showers.

Designations were set for tomorrow’s Health Fair in Nejapa: King = Roger Patnode, Health Fair Leaders – Bill Calmbacher, Jeremy Dumont, Bev Gogola, Nicky Lundy, Health Fair Helpers – Adam Peryer, Siobhan Norton, Kathy Eppler, Sarah Scardillo, Bill Murray, Sr. Steph, Meg Ryan, Mary Garcia, Phil Lamour, Rachel Daly, Betsy Sullivan, Sr. Cathy, Demi Pellerin, Gabby Flores and Amanda Knauf.

At this evening’s meeting, it was noted that four adults (Nicky Lundy, Bev Gogola, Bill Murray and Roger Patnode) will be needed to do tomorrow morning’s schedule for Matt and Sam. Nicky spoke about the Nun from Diriamba who is ill. Jim, her husband and past President of NCMOH, is studying to be a Deacon. When they were at a chapel praying, God told Jim to follow Nicky in her heart because something was going to happen in Nicaragua. Jim said that he knew what that something was, but that Nicky would have to find out for herself. Nicky decided that the sign she was to take the Nun into her home along with another nun as an escort (she has a church in her backyard and she is a nurse).

This is an invitation for us to assist, visit, drive, help, etc when we are back in the Plattsburgh area. Thank you, Nicky and Jim! Now, Sr. Debbie needs to work on the medical visa; we don’t know how we are going to pay for this (will there be grants, good Samaritan, etc?) Roger Patnode and Tracy Orkin have already volunteered to network to find medical services.

While in town today, Sister Debbie ordered the baby chairs and picked up the hammocks at the market – she bought two extra hammocks ‘just in case.’

Sister Debbie’s usual market assistant, Jonan, is still in Costa Rica where he left to seek work and therefore will not be at the market on Sunday. The good news is, though, he is bringing his family back to Nica in a few weeks.

Joy suggested that the remaining rosaries can be given away at Mass tomorrow.

Karen and Mike, Rotarians from New Jersey, are leaving tomorrow morning - thank you! Karen said they are very impressed with our work and thank us for our hospitality.

Health Fair table assignments were designated among all of those who will be part of the event.

Sister Debbie shared that she escorted the educational trip to the dump. They saw a wildfire in the lagoon. Mauricio said that it was the wind’s fault, like in Australia. They went to the back rim of La Chureca. Adam Peryer took a picture of a boy standing on a high cement wall above the “cesspool,” with the garbage bags on the other side. In the bus, they talked about broken dreams and excesses in their own lives. Mauricio said that it never gets easy to see the dump no matter how many times he goes there. Sister Debbie is sorry that the students had to see such a horrible thing, but she also knows that we have to be educated.

Betsy also went to the dump. She told us that one of the mothers on the compound showed her a permission slip – Nino Jesus de Praga is starting a program where they take a bus over to the dump and pick up some kids and then go play soccer with them.

Sister Debbie mentioned that we have helped out the dump medical clinic, and have worked with a Methodist group that is working there. She then noted that if we walk away from the dump with emotions unchanged, we are tourists. If we take away an emotional experience and the want to help others and change the world, then we are not tourists.

Bill shared that it is a good feeling to be with this group. He passed out his verbal judos: Bed bath and beyond – everyone chips in and gets it done. When he came back from painting, Kathy Eppler and Connie Miller had already done most of the work with luggage, Ashley Lamberton is a great engineer, Mary Garcia painted Carlos’s house even though birds and bats were flying around her – thank you to everyone.

Sarah Deeb, Sarah Scardillo and Kristin Gagnier went to one of the classrooms in Nejapa to observe an English teacher teach a class using the immersion technique. She wanted to know if any of us would ever want to talk to her students so that they could practice English. Sarah Clancy noted the English teacher in Nejapa is doing an excellent job despite the fact that she has few resources and huge class sizes.

Sister Debbie expressed her happiness that we finally have success in Nejapa, even though they were feeling discouraged back in January when she and 4 others made a pre-trip.
Meg Ryan mentioned how hard the cooks have been cooking dinner for us in the school kitchen. They love getting compliments and like to give away their recipes.

Sr. Debbie mentioned that Jairo is Nora’s husband, and they are the parents to Alyson. Jairo has diabetes and Nora works 3 jobs to take care of their family.

Roger Patnode shared that he joined others at the Dermatology Center this afternoon. Leprosy is truly known as “Hansen’s Disease.” They were walking through the part of the center where the lepers live, and they saw students sitting on wooden chairs with buckets near them where their wounds were debrided. They said that they needed chairs, and Roger asked them why they wouldn’t rather have an exam table. They said that they never even thought it would be possible to have an exam table. And to think, we have six or eight exam tables sitting at MOHTown in Plattsburgh! It’s overwhelming to see how much help they need at the Dermatology center, but we can at least make a drop in the bucket.

Bev Gogola told us that we brought a big white blanket/pad down to Nica for the Disability Center. When we were packing it, nobody knew what it could possibly be used for. When they went to the Center today, 12 little children were receiving their physical therapy on that blanket.

Allen Pellerin told us the disability center electric projects are now completed. He considers the whole place to be an electrical hazard and is glad that we were able to contribute to the safety of the residents.

Marty Mannix shared that he and Mike and Karen went to the Tiscapa Rotary meeting last night. It felt a little awkward because the members of this Rotary club were so incredibly appreciative. One member of the club said that he had been at a governmental meeting where the Mayor of Chiquilistagua raved about MOH and how much we have done for his community. As soon as this person stopped talking, another woman stood and talked about how she is on the Board of the children’s hospital, and told about the lab that we set up for them. We did this project using materials from the air base that were otherwise going to be thrown away. This is an example of how the Mission is truly growing and spreading and effecting so many people.

Connie Miller went to Caritas today. We donated five machines, but nobody knew what they were or what they were used for, and it was very funny. Dr. Yamilette was impressed with our plastic speculums, and wished that she had some. Dr. Orkin has a case of them sitting in Plattsburgh that could be donated.

Diane Rolfs thanked everyone who helped out in the kitchen today including those who were not on the actual crew.

Closing prayer was offered by Siobhan Norton and Demi Pellerin…and so, the next to last evening meeting of Mission 31 came to conclusion. We all are looking forward, with mixed emotions, to our last day of work tomorrow.

February 20, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

By Bonnie Black
Today was the last day that all of Mission 31 was together. Beginning tonight, I am heading back home for a requirement at work and Andrea Maynard will leave around 4am as she has a sports event on Saturday. So, in a way, it became obvious that we are nearing the end of our time here as Mission 31.

Our first group at the Parajito Azul Disability Center was Sr. Stephanie, Matt Kennedy and Betsy Sullivan. A second group headed out after shopping for materials to do some repairs and improvements there with Allen Pellerin as their leader. They have three major projects on their ‘To Do’ list and aspire to get at least one completely done today. Others in this group were: Brian Mulcahy, Andrea Maynard, Ashley Lamberton, Beverly Gogola, Adam Peryer, Patrick Daly, Demi Pellerin and Matt Daly.

Painting began this morning at the Paul Harris School in Managua, so we had many more people heading out in addition to our regulars of Karen Amy, Mike Carrier,and Marty Mannix. Rollers were in the hands of Gabby Flores, Kristin Gagnier and Mary Garcia. Jeremy Dumont began working on the electrical system for the classroom using assistance by the others in the group as needed.

Our morning home shelter crew led by Jimmy Dumont consisted of Connie Miller, Kathy Eppler, Alex Munn and Carole Becker. The first home was constructed in Chiquilistagua for Eduaro Luquez with a donation from the Hebert family who also gave money for a second home provided to Jose Antonio Gonzalez in Monte Verde. On a roll, they built a third one for Jairo Enrique Rosales Velasquez in Nejapa donated by the Downs family.

Kitchen for the day was handled by Sr. Cathy, Phil Lamour, Sarah Deeb and Samantha Mulcahy. The crew became creative with their fruit presentation at lunch – a creature with antennae-like eyes and other interesting features!

Our only Rice & Beans trek for the day went out this morning with Alice Robinson, Tracy Orkin, Kate Patnode, Joy Cayea and Catherine Hill meeting and greeting many locals.

BBB was handled by Amanda Knauf, Meg Ryan, Bill Murray and Patrick Daly all day and into the evening, making up for a slow start on the women’s side of the house!

Today our medical team went to the Mother of the Divine Son School in Nejapa where Father Jalder is based. They hosted a women’s clinic similar to what we did here at Nino earlier in the week. Cathy Hill, Mary Gleason, Diane Rolfs and Jena Finnegan adeptly handled it all. While they were there, a team of Roger Patnode, Nicky Lundy, Bill Calmbacher, Siobhan Norton, Sarah Scardillo, Meg Ryan and Rachel Daly not only did the Heights & Weights measurements, but also the hemoglobin and lead testing on the youngest.

Whenever I couldn’t find Joy Cayea this morning, she was handling either the Nino Clinic inventory or giving away the medicines at Carlos’ House to Caritas and Diriamba Hospital. She is definitely is the Carton Queen!! She works weekly at MOHTown with a core of other faithful and has spent each day here amidst the boxes she knows so well.

Our final ECO project on this mission here at Nino Jesus de Praga was completed this morning by Bill Murray, Sarah Cardillo and Amanda Knauf. Much has been accomplished to create a rainwater gathering system which will collect the water in a catchment tank to be used during the dry season on the gardens which Professor Augusto’s students have planted here on the grounds of the high school.

Two members of our Education Committee Connie Miller and Kristin Gagnier, were joined by Sarah Clancy at a noontime meeting with three of the English teachers here at Nino Jesus de Praga. They came out with mostly a positive feeling and ways that future missions can coordinate with the academic programs here. A final meeting just after dinner finalized how both groups will proceed in preparation for future missions.

This afternoon our Home Crew led by Jimmy Dumont was Bev Gogola, Joy Cayea, Ashley Lamberton, Mary Gleason, Mary Garcia and Jena Finnegan. See the pattern? Yes, it is our ‘all women’s crew’ dwelling which was for Joy’s sponsored family donated by her family back home. And these wonder women completed the shelter in less than an hour!! The second home built this afternoon – and the last for Mission 31 – was donated by Kiwanis for Raquel Nohemi Portobanca in Cedro Galan. The final roof was completed by 3 of our women’s crew by themselves! You will notice that many of our homes are outside the immediate barrio of Chiquilistagua this time. That is a result of a drive taken last February around Solano and Cedro Galan with Sister Rosa and Sister Cecilia. Sister Debbie, Alison Gratto and I were taken to these impoverished areas surrounding Chiquilistagua which the Carmelites also serve. Now, you may think, “Aren’t you already building shelters for the poor?” That has been true throughout our ten years here on the ground. BUT, our philosophy is to serve the poorest of the poor and it was quite evident that the conditions in Chiquilistagua, while still stark in comparisons to our blessed lives in the North Country, were superior to those we visited. After that ride, we advised the local Council that we would like to expand the geographical reach of our Home Shelter project and would like them to solicit applications farther out than Chiquilistagua and Monte Verde.

Going back out to join Mike, Karen and Marty this afternoon at the Paul Harris School in downtown Managua were Kate Patnode, Catherine Hill and Carole Becker. They brought along some school supplies as well as the drop cloths that the morning crew left back at Nicasa. From the pictures I was privileged to view later, the school is almost completely the required white and blue – as all public schools are – representing the colors of the Nicaraguan flag.

The Nejapa Women’s Clinic continued this afternoon with Tracy Orkin, Diane Rolfs, Nicky Lundy and Alice Robinson attending to more pap smears.

Preparing what our youth will do tomorrow at 11am for the “Farewell” or “Desperdida” were Alex Munn, Gabby Flores, Rachel Daly, Meg Ryan, Matt Kennedy and Demi Pellerin. They were almost ready before the meeting tonight.

Getting to meet their sponsored children at the Nejapa school were Alex Munn, Sarah Deeb, Diane Rolfs, Sr. Cathy, Sr. Steph, Nicky Lundy, James Carlin, Bill Calmbacher and Connie Miller.

Beginning the electrical and painting work this afternoon at Carlos’ House were Jeremy Dumont, Bill Murray, Amanda Knauf, Allen Pellerin and Siobhan Norton. A group will continue over the next few days to ready it for storage of items from this mission for future missions.

This afternoon around 3:45pm, there was a meeting with the local group of First Responders and Connie Miller, Roger Patnode and their ‘leader’ Bill Calmbacher. Boy, do the locals love our Bill! There were many good questions from the responders including those on diabetes; Roger noted that Dr. Lopez could be asked to do some education on the disease and symptoms they should be specifically looking for. Connie added that the most important aspects are change in diet and exercise – and everyone in the gathering nodded their heads.

Just before 5pm, most of our Leadership Team here on the ground took a walk around the corner to see the plot of land we are hoping to acquire with a generous donation from a local foundation. We have come away totally excited about the concept of being immediately behind Colegio and having access to the campus from our potential site. It may still be a while before the actual transfer can occur as Nicaraguan processes are quite different from ours.

At the beginning of our evening meeting, Father Jalder stopped by to thank us all for what we are doing for Nejapa and Nino and all of the surrounding communities. Nicky Lundy presented him with a calendar from a parish at home.

We discussed the potential ‘day out’ choices for Sunday excursions and possible special evening meal of Nacatamales for our last dinner. Yami explained what it is made of and how it is cooked. After a vote, it seems 40+ will be enjoying this treat – I will miss not being able to have my semi-annual Nica dinner!

We also learned that Saturday night’s Mass will include a procession beginning with a little girl carrying a star followed by 14 girls and 14 boys and ending with a father and his daughter dressed in pink – a quincanera. This is a typical celebration of the transition of a girl at 15 into young adulthood - a wonderful cultural experience! We are also asking Father Jalder to say the Mass in memory of Jim Cayea – Joy’s dad who recently passed away.

Oscar, Yami, Sister and James Carlin brought donations to Casa de Vida and they all got to hold a 2-day-old as well as a 3-day-old baby. Yami also ran into one of the administrators who, 30 years ago, was part of her wedding party – what a Mission moment!

James noted that they then went to MINSA’s Optical Center in Managua – a free clinic for the poor which was packed with people. They brought 4 boxes of eyeglasses collected by Roger Patnode’s sister who is affiliated with the Saranac Lake Lions Club…and were received with open arms.

James then told us of his experience at the American-Nicaraguan Foundation (ANF) where he got to see some of the behind-the-scenes work that gets our supplies into this country. We are a good candidate to receive some of their food for upcoming missions. They went by a number of the sweatshops and saw many of the workers, young women and young children, who are hired due to their dexterity. Processes include giving the workers birth control pills and telling them it is for malaria in order to keep them working all of the time. Oscar has a video back in Plattsburgh that explains the entire sweatshop situation – it is eye opening. I saw it a number of years ago and will tell you it will raise your consciousness and perhaps change your buying habits.

Mary Gleason, Joy Cayea, Bev Gogola, Kristin Gagnier, Siobhan Norton and Kathy Eppler traveled into the city with Sister later in the afternoon. Siobhan recounted they first went to the market then went to the Pali grocery store which is owned by Wal*Mart. They then saw prisoners being transported in a pickup truck who raised their handcuffs acknowledging the photos we were taking. Mary told us they saw a beautiful rainbow over the old Cathedral before heading to La Union grocery store. They went on to the lagoon and then to view the seminary where only 13 seminarians live next to an extremely poor section of the city. They also ran into the Nica version of the ATM – an armed man exchanging money on the street.

While building their first house this morning, Jimmy had a man walk up to speak with them who worked in Texas. When Jimmy asked if he would ever go back, the man said he wouldn’t. “Why?” asked Jimmy. He replied with one word, “Felony.”

Sister Stephanie told us of a couple who visit the Disability Center each week whom she ran into this morning. He is an architect and they are planning on building a nursery which will cost $70,000 of which they have already raised $17,000. These are very dedicated people who take some of the residents to the movie theatre and on other outings each week. Sister then showed us the embroidered pillowcases made by Helen which is only 60c ($3) for a pair. The detail is phenomenal – especially because she is continuously walking around to do it!

Allen Pellerin, a first-timer and a first-time leader of a group, told us he felt very fortunate to have the crew he did. He felt relieved and that he finally completed something: the passive solar for the whirlpool tub and the ramp for the wheelchairs to enter the sewing room. Tomorrow he will be returning with a crew to complete the electrical work which will secure outlets currently hanging off the wall. He noted that the children are disabled but you wouldn’t know it – they interact and react just as normal as anyone else. His ‘mission moment’ was when the boy who had been watching them build the ramp waited until all was cleaned up and he eagerly took his opportunity to be the first to use it. Alice showed us the t-shirts they are now silk-screening at the center for just 80c. Kate Patnode, who works in a neo-natal unit in San Diego, had solicited scrubs from her coworkers to be given away during this mission. She brought a few of them with her today to the Center and the garments were gratefully received by the nurses and the doctor.

Roger Patnode handed out a couple of thank yous to Cathy Hill and Tracy Orkin who were practically sitting on the floor at Nejapa today in order to keep everything comfortable for the women. He also thanked Pat Daly and Cathy Hill for stepping in and assisting with the lead testing results this afternoon.

Andrea let us know that she has really appreciated this mission trip where she can let go of the world and find that the little things here can make a big difference. Going to college and sports and working may not allow her to return in the immediate future, but she will keep the Mission in her heart.

Kate Patnode thanked everyone for a fabulous 24th birthday celebration last night. And Kathy Eppler said a few people had a treat today viewing last night’s video of Roger shaking his booty!

This morning, Allen and Demi Pellerin had come up to Sister and said that they were interested in sponsoring a child. Later this afternoon, a woman approached Sister, crying, because she has been on the list for sponsorships for two years and her son still could not attend school. Magaly was around and verified the woman had been on the list, but the Mission had no more resources with which to sponsor this, or any other, child. So, Sister knowing that the Pellerins had just approached her a few hours before, let the woman know that the sponsorship would be forthcoming. She looked up to the sky and thanked the Lord for providing this opportunity to her family.

Sr. Cathy thanked her kitchen crew for stepping up today while she left for a while to go to Nejapa to meet her sponsored student. They also did a great job with the variety of situations/shifts for dinner tonight, too.

Siobhan talked about the balance that is needed when on mission: looking at the beauty and wonderful things about Nica and not focus solely on the extreme poverty. Sister affirmed that.

Cathy Hill told us she could not make the mission trip last year due to a health problem and when she saw two of the 4 mothers of the sponsored children at the beginning of this week, they each expressed how they had been praying for her ‘night and day’ for her recovery and return.

Diane Rolfs’ told us of her first trip in 2003 and she remembered their experience in developing Rooster Recipes – what to do with the natural alarm clocks which never stops! She then told the tale of how the stuffed rooster now sits in MOHTown.

Sister Stephanie expressed her appreciation for everyone who has worked in the kitchen, including the extra hands who pitched in whenever needed.

Sister Debbie spent time with her little Alyson who is now 3, Nora and Jairo’s youngest daughter, and the godchild of Sister and Yami and Oscar. She is our Mission baby and pranced her little feet around having a great time with a new ball.

Yami did a little ‘show and tell’ about the cashew which grows on trees right here. A large fruit grows below the one see she had that grows like an upside down pear. You toast the cashew and wait until the center is ready to pop. She showed us Gocoyte fruit – two types. The one with the little dimples is sweet, the other is cooked during Holy Week and mixed with mangoes and papayas and mix with brown sugar to make into a sweet dessert. It only grows during this season and is a food that can be eaten during the week when no meat is allowed.

One of the other things the city ‘mystery tour’ saw were the original homes that were destroyed in the big earthquake of 1972; they lived under a tree for a few months until they were invited to come out to the Chiquilistagua area to live near Oscar’s family. Sister then thanked both of them for never forgetting their roots and inviting us to become part of their lives in Nica.

Sister Debbie thanked Andrea Maynard and me for our involvement in this mission as by the time that everyone wakes in the morning, we will be gone. We received a ‘safe travel’ blessing from all.

The evening ended with a special cookie treat baked at the Disability Center donated by Brenda Flynn of Schroon Lake. THEN…all teens gathered to prepare for the Farewell in the morning.

February 19, 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

By Bonnie Black
Hump Day for Mission 31!! It is hard to believe that we are now halfway through this mission - with so much more still to do.

Our tummies are kept quite content by our Kitchen crew headed by Bev Gogola with Demi Pellerin, Meg Ryan and Siobhan Norton assuring that from breakfast to late snack we wanted for nothing. I don't think I have mentioned it yet, but our dinners are cooked for us by 2-3 local women each night and we each over in the large dining room at the school. They have provided meals for our vegetarians as well as for the others. It is always so tasty and we even have treats - like Nora's rice pudding last night!

'BBB' was kept going by Ashley Lamberton, Carole Becker, Allen Pellerin and Matt Kennedy throughout the day.

The Parajito Azul Disability Center was the destination for Sr Stephanie, Sr Cathy and Alice Robinson this morning.

Heights & weights, as well as hemoglobin and lead testing on the pre-schoolers, were on the board for this morning. Bill Calmbacher, Nicky Lundy, Roger Patnode, Matt Kennedy, Matt Daly, Phil Lamour and Mary Garcia had the opportunity to interact with these precious students.

Rice & Beans were taken farther out today and were distributed by Jimmy Dumont, Diane Rolfs, Alex Munn and Amanda Knauf.

Two home shelters were constructed this morning, the first for the Carlin family and the second for St. Joseph's Parish in West Chazy. Joining the local building team were Marty Mannix, James Carlin, Gabby Flores, Rachel and Pat Daly.

Out at the Rotary school project today were Mike Carrier, Jeremy Dumont (scoping out the electrics), Kathy Eppler, Karen Amy and Adam Peryer. Things are coming along nicely with the ceramic floor, so tomorrow we will be sending in a paint crew to begin that process while the contractor puts in the windows and doors.

Joy Cayea was on Medical Inventory sorting as we are getting near the end of the pickups of the medicines by San Jose Hospital and Caritas. There will be one more tomorrow morning and all should be distributed from Carlos' house. That's good because we begin our painting and electrical work in the afternoon!

Teacher's Kits were prepared under the guidance of Bill Murray and Sarah Clancy. Not only did they accomplish that portion of the project, but they also made a big dent in creating supplies for Nino, Nejapa, Angels of Hope Orphanage in El Crucero, the Paul Harris School in Managua and a group of young men who are coordinating pre-schools in Managua under the guidance of Magaly's brother, Norman.

Conversation with the Nino Administrators/Principals regarding what to do together in the future, and finding our what types of supplies they could truly use was held among Kristin Gagnier and Connie Miller with the principals of Nino this morning. They continued the conversation after our evening meeting tonight - around 7:30pm - with the sisters setting up a meeting for tomorrow among themselves and the English teachers of school. The goal will be to discuss what can be done here and also on our end to allow for greater communication among our teens with the students. Can't wait to hear the results tomorrow night!

Health Kit Supplies were categorized and boxed for use on future mission as they are missing elements, specifically toothpaste. We will be looking for donations of tubes of toothpaste to complete these kits on this summer's trip. But, Andrea Maynard, Jena Finnegan, Sarah Scardillo and Brian Mulcahy really did well on this project today.

An interesting opportunity presented itself regarding Parasite Education for preschoolers when Dr. Carole Gonzalez and two medical students from UNAN in Managua came to campus this morning. They had visuals including preserved tapeworms and other intestinal worms for the students to see. The impact of not washing hands, going barefoot in the dirt (many homes have dirt floors) and not washing fruits and vegetables were more than obvious to the young students as well as Matt Kennedy and Jenna Finnegan who had the opportunity to observe.

Around 11am or so, we were invited to a Teen-to-Teen discussion on values, the economy, serving our community, and poverty. The translator was Diane Rolfs for Matt Kennedy and Betsy Sullivan who responded to questions from the ~150 high schoolers.

Our Lady of Guadelupe medical clinic this morning flowed well - much of an improvement over the other afternoon. We brought a table and basins as well as other supplies so that we were able to create two exam areas making the process more efficient. Our team was comprised of Catherine Hill, Tracy Orkin, Cathy Hill, Kate Patnode, Mary Gleason and Kristin Gagnier.

Sponsor Gifts were brought over to the CFC dining room and 'super organized!' The team of Betsy Sullivan, Connie Miller, Ashley Lamberton, Diane Rolfs and Carole Becker had suitcases on tables - alphabetized by student last name - and added a Bienvenidos sign along with a NYS map to show where most of us live, plus a US map noting California, New Jersey and Florida for our other 7 members on this trip.

"Super Sorters" attacking the materials in cartons outside in the yard were Sarah Deeb, Sam Mulcahy, Allen Pellerin, Connie Miller and Betsy Sullivan. When Jimmy Dumont returned from rice & beans, he and Allen went to work outfitting our utility closet with shelves for the cleaning products and then created a way to hang our assignment boards (one for AM, one for PM) in the courtyard for all to easily read.

And speaking of our assignment boards, many thanks go out to Matt Kennedy and Samantha Mulcahy (our two student representatives on our Leadership Council) who have diligently balanced the needs of the Mission with the wishes of the missioners this week. They are done around 11:30 at night and up again bright and early each morning by around 5:30pm. Muchas gracias, Matt y Sam!

This afternoon the staff who went to Our Lady of Guadelupe continued at that clinic.

Everyone with students whom they sponsor here at Nino Jesus de Praga were excited that at 1:30pm we were able to meet with our families. Those of us who directly sponsor a student got to see him/her; many also were 'delegates' for the sponsors back home who were not able to travel on this mission. For instance, Demi and Allen Pellerin got to meet Ali's student for the first time. Diane Rolfs and Sister Stephanie saw many students on behalf of family and friends. Jimmy Dumont was so please to be able to present gifts on behalf of the Seymours and when the mother of one of their students received the special gift, she was so tearful and appreciative that both Jimmy and I were brought to tears. Later on, Brian Mulcahy told us that he had a tweak of jealousy watching many of us involved with our families while he stood 'on the sidelines.'

Rice & Beans were delivered by Adam Peryer, Ashley Lamberton, Jeremy Dumont, Sr. Cathy, Nicky Lundy and Sarah Scardillo.

Homes were not built this afternoon as we were going to hold that team until after the opportunity with our sponsored families at 1:30pm. The locals didn't want to wait, so their leader, Inocencio, decided that was it for today! We will build 4 more tomorrow and the final two on Friday morning.

In preparing for our upcoming visit to the Dermatological Center, we found out from Kathy Eppler that Indira (her son's girlfriend) is a resident doctor there! We will be taking a tour on Friday at 9:30am and many hope to be able to 'get on board!

Our "Super Sorters" for this afternoon included Alex Munn, Gabby Flores, Alice Robinson, Connie Miller, Sarah Cardillo, Pat Daly, Phil Lamour, Andrea Maynard,
Amanda Knauf.

Patrick Daly, Jena Finnegan and Amanda Knauf traveled the roads of Managua with Sister Debbie this afternoon. By tomorrow, each of the new students will have had that experience which is a wonderful way to get to see more of the capital of this country. Patrick commented at tonight's meeting that he wasn't too pleased to see the cockroach in among the fish and clams at the market!

Our evening meeting began with a rundown of the (changing) schedule for tomorrow. That is one thing we get very used to here. There is a saying, "Make a plan and God laughs." We certainly keep Him in a jolly mood whenever we are here, that's for sure!

There was also a formal thank you to our A Team members who had everything ready for us and will have the entire facility put away and closed in less than a week. Thanks for the extra effort by these dedicated people: Bev Gogola, Bill Calmbacher, James Carlin, Jimmy Dumont, Marty Mannix, Matt Kennedy, Betsy Sullivan, Joy Cayea, Roger Patnode and Jeremy Dumont. I was only part of the opening team as I head back to work and won't be here to assist in closing.

The 'Super Sorters' reported on all that they accomplished today with school supplies boxed and ready for delivery to the various schools and items prepared for distribution at Casa de Vida, a home for abused and raped young women and their children.

Sister Debbie informed the group that the Mission of Hope has received a very generous donation with which to purchase the plot of land which sits behind Colegio and tomorrow afternoon Leadership Team will be walking the land to visualize the potential use. In a meeting with Sister Rosa earlier tonight, she was informed of the potential and we discussed the use of the Flores' land next to it for potential use by the school's ECO students to raise corn and other crops. The rest of the group will have an opportunity before they leave - pictures will come!

Rachel Daly shared that on the return from Home Shelter today, as they were passing out toys to children passing by, she learned that ladybugs are not the best stuffed animal gift to have. One of the locals informed her the black and red colors of the ladybug would be understood as a Sandanista combination of colors and that we should think about not giving out anything with a political imagery like that. Cultural differences we need to keep in mind as we collect donations!

Because the Banana Camp may be politically divided right now, we are not planning a visit due to potential safety concerns. There is also a growing divide between the current administration and the Catholic Church we need to keep an eye on.

Alice Robinson was at the Disability Center this morning and found out from Helen that the money she gets from selling her embroidery was enough to through a party recently. Sr. Stephanie noted that the Center needs balloons to use with their music therapy, so that is something we will think of bringing next time.

Sarah Deeb's reflection was a growing awareness of how much we waste at home and the amount of time we appear busy in activities that are petty. Here, we seem to accomplish a lot in very little time.

Sister Debbie told of a serendipitous experience today. As they were driving along the road they saw a small group of Franciscan nuns walking on the Leon Road. Later they saw the same group as they passed the other way. The third encounter resulted in them stopping and it was discovered that the nuns had been walking the Leon Road trying to find Oscar and Sister Debbie! The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception from El Salvador told them they are currently feeding 50 hungry children and were looking for the Mission of Hope they had heard so much about! After some discussion, some of our missioners offered assistance which will be finalized tomorrow.

Sister then spoke of a nun we work with who needs medical help which could be provided at Dartmouth Medical Center periodically over a 3-4 month period. She could get a medical visa, but only speaks Spanish and, due to her order, needs privacy in a dwelling (private room). We are all now beginning to pray that there will be someone with whom she could live while undergoing treatment and medication for her condition. Join with us, please.

Matt Kennedy let everyone know about the presentation in the pre-school this morning by the UNAN medical students on parasites. He reflected that the medical community is doing great outreach here to inform people and teach good sanitary techniques and health education.

Rachel Daly spoke again about a very rough situation she encountered where one of the homes they visited had no running water, but woman still provided cookies and Coke to them. The generosity is, at times, overwhelming.

When the meeting and closing prayer were done, a surprise birthday piñata, cake and ice cream were brought out for all to enjoy in honor of Kate Patnode's birthday - a good time was had by all (you should ask to see the videos of piñata-whacking, etc)>

Rotarians Kathy Eppler, Marty Mannix, Mike Carrier, Karen Amy and I attended a Managua Club meeting this evening to discover that the Chief Justice of the International Central American Court was the guest speaker; after an hour of his presentation (of course, all in Spanish) we had to excuse ourselves to return to Chiquilistagua in time for curfew. It was a blessing we needed to return!

As they say here, many kisses and hugs - until we see you again.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

By Bonnie Black
Much was accomplished today, but we get the feeling every time we turn around that the cartons have multiplied over night! We have so much to give to so many, but getting it all sorted and distributed within a 5-day window can be stressful - unless you look at it from the point of view that each pile, unto itself, will bring many smiles and better physical and mental health to our brothers and sisters here in our second home of Nicaragua.

As of today, Chico and Juan are no longer part of the guards here on the campus as there is a new security guard firm in place. But, Chico and Juan will now be working for us, guarding Carlos' Home which we use as a staging point from which we distribute all of the medicines and supplies that are delivered through CMMB (Catholic Medical Missions Board) and ANF (American-Nicaragua Foundation).

Our highly competent BBB crew today was comprised of Siobhan Norton, Samanatha and Brian Mulcahy and Jimmy Dumont.

Kitchen crew keeping us all happy and content was Kathy Eppler, Catherine Hill, Rachel Daly and Adam Peryer.

A small group went into Managua this morning to visit the Juan Pablo baby orphanage: Roger Patnode, Jena Finnegan, Nicky Lundy and Mary Garcia,

Health Kits for our Health Fair this Saturday in Nejapa were completely prepared by the morning sorting crew of Matt Kennedy, Alice Recore, Amanda Knauf and Kristin Gagnier.

Hitting the roads in the nearby barrios to share our Rice & Beans were Allen and Demi Pellerin, Connie Miller, Brian and Samantha Mulcahy with Carole Becker. They learned the name of a small parrot-like bird which fits right into your two palms…as well as a woman-hating monkey! They can personally explain to you exactly what the monkey's behavior was which drove them to that conclusion ;~)

Visiting the Parajito Azul Disability Center were the trio of Bev Gogola, Sr. Stephanie and Sarah Deeb.

Home Shelters constructed this morning were built by the local crew and Jimmy Dumont,
Sr Cathy, Kate Patnode, Phil Lamour and Andrea Maynard. The first home was built in memory of Sister Cathy's aunt who served many years in Central America, including here in Nicaragua from 1972 through the war. This past year, she died unexpectedly and Cathy believes this was the way of bringing her back to Central America for rest with Arielka Lopez who lives in Solano.

The second home this morning was built by the same crew over in Chiquilistagua for Harold Antonio Areas Sevilla in honor of Melissa Golden.

At the Paul Harris School in Managua, we had Jeremy Dumont joining Marty Mannix, Mike Carrier, and Karen Amy. He assessed the electrical situation which he will actually do tomorrow with a little help.

We had a painting crew at the Fernando Velez Paiz Women's and Children's Hospital adding new life into their children's emergency room area: Bill Murray, Alex Munn, Ashley Lamberton, Patrick and Matt Daly, Meg Ryan and James Carlin.

Heights & Weights in the elementary school again were Bill Calmbacher, Sarah Cardillo, Siobhan Norton, Gabby Flores and Sarah Scardillo.

Our second morning of the Pap Smear Clinic had the full female team of Tracy Orkin, Mary Gleason, Diane Rolfs, Betsy Sullivan and Cathy Hill. The not only saw most of the women who were scheduled for the day, but a few others not on the list who showed up.

Today, Sister Debbie and Yami and Oscar met with Marielos, the Assistant Director of the Ministry of Health. It was a completely different scenario as they walked in seeing the strong visuals of the Sandanistas who are in power: every post INSIDE the building was painted in the FSLN colors and letters and every window had the Sandanista flag. When they went into the office shared by Javier and Marielos, the size of Sister's at Seton, she said that she is grateful that the Mission of Hope comes to Nicaragua because of the people and not because of the political government.

Sister had pulled two students, again, to travel with her in the afternoon so they could get a wider glimpse of life in Nicaragua. Demi Pellerin's impression of the market - its squished fish and all - was one that bothered her. She then added that "In contrast, our huge embassy seems wrong." Carole Becker thought the money exchange was scary! She also was confounded by our new US Embassy which cost $ 400 million of the 600 million 'donated' to stimulate this countries economy under the previous administration.

Other sharing at our evening meeting included Phil Lamour observing that on home shelters today, while walking to the site, a man came out of his home and cleaned the pathway for them. Then Kate Patnode shared that when she offered to help, in translation the people thought she needed help and started walking her to the outhouse!

At the meeting at Caritas today with Archbishop Brenes, Sister Debbie found out that he lives in a 2-room house with his elderly mother just down the road from the office. He is in the process of taking the former Cardinal's home in Managua and converting it into 20 offices to coordinate all aspects of ministry from all over country (offices of catechism, matrimony, etc). What a refreshing difference! But, he told her there are no furniture nor fixtures, so we will be contemplating how to help outfit the new complex.

Betsy Sullivan noted that on rice and beans today, she noted the moringa trees planted at the 97-year-old woman's home we built in August are thriving! Then a man approached them and said, "I've heard of the Mission of Hope!" He was so pleased to actually meet
a few of us in person.

Andrea Maynard recounted her experience today also doing rice and beans and the children who followed them throughout the area who ran and laughed and they all had so much fun - great joy among all involved!

Connie Miller told us that on rice & beans today they began asking for recipes for the possible cookbook project one of our former missioners, Matt Jennings, is contemplating. Others from the group asked Sister Debbie about the cost of rice and beans over the 10 years. Off the top of her head recent information includes last February's 100 lb rice and 100 lbs beans at $86; $136 in August; and $156 now. She said, "It is easy to understand why people are hungry. We will research that when I return."

Sarah Deeb went to the Disability Center for her first time today meeting Maria, the occupational therapist on site. She was amazed at the manipulatives used with the young people - all things that we would just throw away: rings off the top of soda bottles, margarine containers. They could use everything that Sister Stephanie had saved for months at home and brought along in her suitcases.

Meg Ryan told us that today at the orphanage she felt the worst that she has in her three trips here. "There was a 3-year-old boy who can't walk or talk which is one of the saddest things I have ever seen." She held a 9-month-old baby who cried whenever he was put down, but he calmed down after she sang a simple song that other children also knew and he looked contented. She left with a good feeling that she was able to soothe him

Sister learned that one of the orphans who was sponsored by a donor in the North Country was reclaimed by her mother over the holidays. She has 3 new sponsors who, for very special reasons, have begun sponsoring the children at Juan Pablo - a total now of 5 sponsored. Roger Patnode mentioned that last year he visited Casa de Vida which supports young women during their pregnancy who have been abused or raped. They provide health care and arranged for pediatric care. He had seen a young woman with a blowout fracture about ready to deliver. She had been raped by a family member and beaten when it was discovered she was pregnant. When he saw her today, he asked if she remembered him and she said that she did. Her son was a normally developing one-year-old who was very active and joyful. It is gratifying to see the support being offered by the nuns and MOH provide the protection and basic needs of not only this family but other young children.

Mary Garcia shared that she also went to the baby orphanage and felt she could have spent the entire day there. She told us about the little boy who offered his new toy (brought by the group) to Roger to have a checkup. The boy then used his stethoscope and gave the little stuffed animal the checkup himself! She noted there is no place for these children to do activities nor any open space to get fresh air.

A 'then and now' story is of the infants of the orphanage. When we first started our relationship with the Angels of Hope Orphanage in El Crucero, children from birth to 16 - both boys and girls - were housed there. Due to the cold and the position of the building downwind from volcano, the sulfuric acid and weather always took a negative toll on the youngest. They began sending the babies into Managua during the cold months for their better health. The infants to age 5 now live in the city year-round at Juan Pable orphanage.

In January, the Mother Superior of both locations told us that the Mayor of Managua had offered land near the Archbishop's former residence. With the new elections, there is now a new mayor and we need to see if he will honor the written agreement for the land made by the prior mayor. If it still works out, we have donors at home ready to assist with the new building.

After painting the emergency room at the Children's Hospital, the crew joined Roger and Kate Patnode with Samantha Mulcahy on a tour of the large burn unit, the unit for children with respiratory problems, and the Maternity ward. Diane Rolfs added that this hospital had its 2 upper floors destroyed in the 1972 quake and can only use the ground floor to this day. But what she found amazing was that all of their services are absolutely free as they are there to serve the poorest of the poor. They have a 5-day-a-week clinic and emergency rooms in addition to the other units.

Brian Mulcahy told us that he couldn't believe the poverty and he was still stunned by what he sees. He noted, "We are distracted by our many possessions." Sister followed saying we need to have these experiences to become 'other' oriented.

Matt Kennedy was on one of our home crews today and he was reminded of why he comes each year. "Getting out there, you truly understand what it means to be on mission." How grateful the people are who receive their structures.

Marty Mannix chimed in reflecting on all that had been said this evening. He likened all of us to a mosaic of which we are all a part of. "We are the representatives of many other people. There are some 20 or so people in our lives who got us here and we are thankful." He concluded, "The Mission of Hope has become an absolutely phenomenal instrument of good."

Sister noted the she is occasionally asked by people, "Can you have any real impact?" Being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the situation is so different than when we are here and do what we can with what we have while connecting to individuals, making a difference and having an impact.

Marty noted that the Paul Harris School being completed this week is in a very poor section of Managua and it's very easy for many of us to minimize the poor. There is no way for this small school to provide food for the students but, the parents have created a system whereby 8-10 parents bring food each day so that the 400 students have something to eat. Marty told us he is seeing a lot of love this week. The real miracle will be later this week or early next when those first and second graders have an opportunity to move from the confines of the tin warehouse into new classrooms. "It is all about what can each of us do each day," he said.
Sister noted that as we look at the scripture stories, we are in many situations where the words come alive here in Nicaragua.

Tonight we closed with the song by Lori True, "What Have We Done for the Poor Ones?" which brought tears to many an eye.

Treat tonight was paid for by missioner Connie Tyska of Schroon Lake who chose to provide to each of us a pineapple pastel baked by Carla, the baker who sits outside of the school gate.

February 18, 2009

Monday, February 16th, 2009

By Bonnie Black
Our first day began with our morning meeting at 7 (or so!!) and much was covered before going in our various directions. We heard that the students receiving the CVPH Foundation honoraria are Matt Kennedy, Rachel Daly, Samantha Mulcahy and Jena Finnegan. During this week they will be spending time with the medical team, not only observing, but also participating to the extent they can. Thanks, CVPH Foundation!

Sr. Cathy presented this morning’s closing prayer asking us to call to mind God’s presence as we become the bridges of love and understanding this week.

Breakfast, and throughout the day, our Kitchen crew was guided by Sister Stephanie: Matt Kennedy, Andrea Maynard, Mary Garcia and Betsy Sullivan.

Our illustrious “Bed, Bath & Beyond” staff today maintained our bathrooms and all floors during the entire day: Sarah Deeb, Alice Robinson, Alex Munn and Adam Peryer before being assigned to further duties.

Marty Mannix was again running solo on the Paul Harris School in downtown Managua with the construction crew, but tomorrow one of our electricians will head in with him to assess the needs and prepare for the job ahead. Two Rotarians from Bergen (NJ) will also be arriving tonight and will be at that site throughout the week.

Our first Rice and Beans group of this mission led by Kristin Gagnier was Phil Lamour, Patrick Daly, Jena Finnegan and Sarah Scardillo.

The Parajito Azul Disability Center missioners interacting with the residents were Bev Gogola and Catherine Hill while Allen Pellerin scoped out some projects we are planning to do this week at the site.

Two home shelters were constructed this morning in Solano by a team of 13 locals and our crew headed by Jimmy Dumont: Matt Daly, Siobhan Norton and Demi Pellerin. The first home was built for Inda Rodriguez with a donation by Lynn Dumont who teaches at Franklin Academy in Malone. The second home was for Lisseth Flores donated by the Rosembaum family.

The Nejapa school’s basketball backboard repair and replacements of rims and nets was accomplished by Bill Murray, Alex Munn, Amanda Knauf, Adam Peryer and Brian Mulcahy. We will complete putting the second rim up later this week when returning to replace a ceramic tile floor in one of the rooms our doctor uses for the clinic.

Health kits were prepared for the Fair in Nejapa on Saturday this morning by James Carlin, Alice Robinson and Sarah Clancy while this afternoon’s kits were prepared by Matt Daly, Jena Finnegan, Phil Lamour, Siobhan Norton and Demi Pellerin.


Heights and weights had a later start (it’s that ‘Nica time’ thing) but Roger Patnode sent out a crew led by Bill Calmbacher: Carole Becker, Ashley Lamberton, Mary Gleason and Sister Cathy to begin with the upper elementary grades doing 4th and 6th grades today. This afternoon, Carole Becker spent the afternoon entering data from our heights and weights measurement this morning as we maintain the information every six months.

Pap smears were held in our medical clinic at Nino this morning by the team of Tracy Orkin, Cathy Hill, Diane Rolfs, Samantha Mulcahy, Rachel Daly, Kate Patnode, and Nicky Lundy. Although some women didn’t come at the right time, we will try to fit them in tomorrow when others have their appointments in the morning. The medical equipment needed to do the smears were able to be purchased as a result of the Christmas tree sale at the Patnode farm this winter along with another tree farm’s sales.

Medical Inventory was handled by Joy Cayea who kept things flowing out of the suitcases and into the right designated boxes for distribution. This was good as we had the arrival of the Serviam Sisters today – rather than Saturday – and we distributed to Our Lady of Guadalupe and San Jose Hospital in Diriamba who came back today to get 2 pickup loads of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals.

Container sorting continued – on and off as situations changed – with Connie Miller, Gabby Flores, Kathy Eppler, Meg Ryan and Sarah Deeb as our morning crew and thids afternoon under the leadership of Nicky Lundy: Joy Cayea, Pat Daly, Samantha Mulcahy, Sarah Scardillo, Adam Peryer, Alex Munn, Amanda Knauf, Rachel Daly, Brian Mulcahy and Allen Pellerin.

Sr. Debbie and Yami Flores began the day taking the last few student photos for sponsors. While outside, Sheyla Guadelupe Osario Montoya showed up to see Yami. Sheyla is the very first student who was sponsored by the Mission of Hope benefactors – in her case it was our first sponsor, Moldrite Plastics. Sheyla is now in her 4th year of secondary school with one more to go, but she has left Nino Jesus de Praga and is attending San Luis School which allows her to attend high school on Saturdays while going to technical school on weekdays for computers and accounting. She was very proud of what she is doing – as was Yami!

This afternoon we ‘reflexed’ in everything we did!

Sorting medicines brought over to our Nino clinic were Nicky Lundy, Ashley Lamberton, Joy Cayea and Jenna Finnegan. We are understocked, especially in over-the-counter cough medicine. Hopefully, we will be able to collect enough donations to go on the next container to resupply. With the amount of respiratory illnesses here, it is a necessity.

Rice and beans was led by James Carlin: Sr. Cathy, Bill Calmbacher, Bev Gogola, Sarah Deeb and Kathy Eppler.

Home Shelter construction was again led by Jimmy Dumont: Meg Ryan, Alice Robinson, Sarah Cardillo and Catherine Hill. This afternoon’s home was built in honor of Monsignor Aubin, donated by the Bashaws.

This afternoon we had a contingent going to Our Lady of Guadelupe in Managua to provide a medical clinic seeing 30 patients: Roger Patnode and Tracy Orkin with Mary Gleason, Cathy Hill, Kate Patnode and Kristin Gagnier.

Putting up the rain gutters in preparation for moving in the catchment tank were Brian Mulcahy and Jena Finnegan, Demi Pellerin, Ashley Lamberton and Adam Peryer and Alex Munn.

Gathering all of the many (generous) sponsor gifts together were Connie Miller and Diane Rolfs – who were SO organized – assisted by Sarah Clancy, Demi Pellerin and Gabby Flores.

BUT…people were then pulled into different areas of their own specialty or into areas sensitive to time as the plan for our week enfolds. The many changes are just part of being on Mission!

At the evening meeting tonight at 6:30pm, we shared the events of the day and began processing the impact of it all. But first, we were (re)introduced to Jeremy Eppler who will probably be around this mission more than usual as his mother, Kathy, is with us this time.

We began with a review of the known projects for tomorrow and the possible transportation we will have. Then, we progressed into sharing the experiences of the day which began with the story about purchased supplies in Managua by Matt Daly, Allen Pellerin and Bill Murray. Matt was most impressed by the open air market where we get our fruit but don’t buy other things. He thought the bartering for the water catchment tank was intriguing at another store.

Bill Murray thanked the Nejapa team as well as the prep team who had everything ready for the basketball backboard project. Amanda liked the opportunity to take photos and play with the kids there – one even wanted to take Amanda home! Brian Mulcahy agreed that seeing poverty first hand was an impression that will live with him for a while when he was traveling back and forth to the Nejapa school.

Rice & Beans experiences included Jena Finnegan’s reflection that she is surprised that people don’t get lost as the homes are in just an array that is not logical. Sarah Cardillo shared that it is really different to see where people live first-hand. Kathy Eppler noted that even though she had seen the countryside before, she was amazed at the contentment and friendliness of the people who are very grateful for our company as well as the food we bring. Sarah Deeb related a moment where the Nicaraguan women who were guides reached out when one of us slipped on the road and got a little dusty and dirty. They jumped right in to assure no one was hurt. Phil Lamour observed that the people who don’t have a lot seem to be so grateful for what they do have. And what struck Patrick Daly were the dogs which are alive but in such poor conditions that they live in.

Siobhan Norton was on home building and, although she has given money to various missions and has seen the pictures, noted that the conditions she encountered were worse than she expected (her mother and sister just returned from mission in Africa). “Their home is smaller than my own room in America.” She also noted how vocal the roosters were – all over! Meg Ryan and two other girls had a sawing contest - which entertained the men on the crew and was a fun experience.

Jimmy Dumont told us that on home building this afternoon, Matt Daly jumped right in when one of the workers cut his foot with a machete – we think we might be adding him to the medical team!

Roger noted the process functioned well in the Pap smear clinic – the first time this project has been done here. Rachel Daly was struck by how limited the number of patients were today especially compared to the first mission trips with hundreds in line. She also was impressed how the practitioners were able to achieve the same end as in the States, but were doing it in a different way – for instance, there was no sink or running water, so bowls were used. Roger noted we need to respect the differences and know the joy in that. Sister Debbie then shared the experiences of the first few missions when our medical teams saw hundreds of people a day, many of whom had queued up beginning at 5am. She remembered an elderly woman consoling one of our team members who was crying at the end of the day when the line had to be cut off with so many still waiting to be seen. She told our medical person that it was OK as she and others would return the next day. The days of the 2,000 people in long lines are now over as we employ a doctor who consistently sees people twice a week.

Yami shared that in the beginning years the volume of litter and trash we used to see on the road is now kept in excellent condition by the locals.

Listening to the stories of the medical clinics and the environmental changes, we have definitely moved from helping and fixing to sharing with the locals.

Sr. Cathy shared her experience on Rice & Beans at the home of Magaly’s mother – they share beauty both inside and outside. She asked for a photo of herself by her banana tree. Sr. Cathy also delivered food to the home of her sponsor family which was a blessing as she had wanted, some day, to see where they live.

Yami has completely sorted and donated all of the clothing which was sent via container which filled her front porch a few days ago when A Team brought it all over. She is relieved!

The most phenomenal change that has occurred – at least for me – is the placement of an antenna to receive the signal from the source at the end of the road in the Flores’ home into the Office here at Nino! It will be finished in a day or two – I can’t wait!

February 16, 2009

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

By Bonnie Black
Mission 31 is underway. As I write this, the bulk of the group is in the air, making their way to Managua – or, should I say, Chiquilistagua. The first segment of A Team arrived at Nicasa around 2:30am on Tuesday, but the others came at various times Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There were weather issues with two of the 3 A Team groups traveling later in the week which resulted in delays – including sleeping overnight in the Houston airport!

The general preparation for Mission #31 was completed on Saturday while many other ‘projects’ were accomplished. The early group of Marty Mannix, Bill Calmbacher, Beverly Gogola and I had walked – literally – into a wall of boxes which had been brought to Nicasa from the container delivery last month. Slowly whittling away at the boxes, every one was moved to a distinct space in the yard ready for complete sorting/delivery beginning on Monday.

On Thursday afternoon (2/12) at 4pm, a meeting was held with the 13 families for whom we will build home shelters this week. Between that evening and Saturday morning, all had come for the 21 foundation blocks, cement, sand and 26 pieces of tin along with 27 pieces of wood. We had everything from oxen carts to a sixteen-wheeler show up to procure their supplies. We will be building 3 shelters on Monday and 4 each day – 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon – until the 13 are complete. Thanks to everyone who donated $600, we are proud to be able to construct this large number of dwellings. Home sites are scattered throughout the barrios of Monte Verde, Chiquilistagua, Solano and Cedro Galan.

By Friday, when all of A Team had arrived, the sorting was completed, work on the sorting of the recent generous CMMB donation in storage began and all of the small jobs around Nicasa were completed. Even the group of Joy Cayea, Jimmy Dumont, Betsy Sullivan and Matt Kennedy who had slept in the Houston terminal were ‘on the job’ all day once they arrived. We treated ourselves to a dinner at Restaurante Ola which capped a day of hard work.

On Saturday, more supplies were purchased for our upcoming projects and everything was prepared to welcome our first non-A Team members: Sarah Clancy, Philippe Lamore, Amanda Knauf and Carole Becker – all from Sante Fe Catholic School in Lakeland, Florida. By the afternoon, a special crew of Roger Patnode, James Carlin, Jimmy and Jeremy Dumont, Joy Cayea, Bev Gogola and Bill Calmbacher ‘attacked’ our doctor’s exam room space in the clinic here as well as the pharmacy ante room, painting the entire space a wonderful Nica blue/green! They washed the curtains and rehung the equipment, moving in new storage units and ‘gifts’ from the North Country for Dr. Lopez, our physician who holds hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays here in the afternoon. She will be surprised and, we hope, very pleased when she comes in on Tuesday.

A separate project now underway is the completion of the Paul Harris Elementary School in Managua. Marty Mannix has been on site with the work crew since Thursday at 7am. Each day he has gone in with the crew and the pleasure he is getting as a part of this project is quite evident! He hasn’t stopped grinning yet. This is a project that the Plattsburgh Rotary Club and the Bergen-Highland-Ramsey (NJ) Rotary Club are completing. When Marty and I traveled here in June as Rotarians to assess the progress on the Rotary Letrinas Project, we were brought to this school where there are hundreds of Pre-K through Grade 6 students attending in double sessions every day; the first and second graders are still sardined into a ramshackle warehouse where pigeons sit in the rafters above the students’ heads and the light that filters in only brightens the space for part of their school day. The single fluorescent fixture doesn’t add much to the hot, sweaty environment. The physical education class was held while we were there on Thursday and I observed three lines of students each taking their turn to do 10 situps on the piece of cardboard their teacher had placed on the cement. The constant in all of the observations I have over the years is that the students are working hard and showing great interest in their class work. Education is definitely their way out of poverty.

This morning we woke to the special aroma of Marty’s homemade pancakes – from scratch! He headed off to the school building project while most of the rest of us attended Mass here on the grounds of the school. Afterward, we began our final tasks which included a lot of sorting of school supplies and preparation of the notebook/pencilo gifts we present to the sponsored children. We await the rest of Mission #31 headed our way. We will be excited to see them around 11pm tonight as they make their way to their bunks and enjoy their first night’s rest here in Nica.