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.