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Mission of Hope

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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.

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