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Mission of Hope

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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.

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