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July 31, 2009

Friday, July 31st - Early Edition!

By Bonnie Black
First, I must apologize for not including a few assignments from yesterday! You see, the process is for me to copy down the assignment board before it is erased, but yesterday I was running a bit behind in this process because I went out on the Medical Outreach. So….my day was a bit discombobulated, at least as far as this 'note writing' process. About 15 names were not included, so here they are!

In the morning we had a team at Parajito Azul - the center for youth and adults with special needs. The group brought donations from individuals in the North Country as well as much needed supplies. Everyone's photos showed many smiling faces on all: Kelly Hale, Joan Riani, Bev Gogola, Brenda Flynn, Trish Giglio, Mary Fredette and Adrianne Longino.

And in the afternoon, an ECO group headed to Monte Verde with Mel Landers and a large group of local people from that zone preparing another raised garden: Joan Riani, Kelly Hale, Kasey Garrand, Mary Fredette, Emily Bean, Brad Willett and Rinsha Ballani.

I might as well update you on what has happened so far today. We began our morning meeting with greeting the last member of Mission #32 to arrive - Oscar Flores. We are so grateful for the Flores family's support and continuing inspiration for all of us. We heard from Yamilette that she is missing us all and wishes she were here, too.

Those who were at Parajito Azul yesterday came back informing us that they are in dire financial straits. The government funding they have had (they are the only center of its kind in the country) is being reduced due to the worldwide and national financial crises. The little they make from selling the hand-embroidered linens, pillows, doilies, pillowcases and sheets as well as their t-shirts and purses, is not bringing in enough to keep every fed. BUT…yesterday one of the women gave Bev Gogola an embroidered hanging for the Mission thanking us for all that we have done and our commitment to them and their facility. Bev tried to pay for it, but after two times of the woman refusing, she knew that culturally she need to accept it graciously. She also found out that the doctor is no longer on staff there due to the financial situation. Adrianne Longino noted that there are many residents without pants - of all ages - because they don't have the clothes. So, all of you reading this back in the North Country and elsewhere, if you have new or 'like new' pants for boys (of all ages up through young adult) please drop them off at MOHTown any Wednesday between 9:30am and 1pm. Thanks!

What is interesting is that so many people on this Mission have already spoken about wanting to be a part of that experience - many more than in the past 31 missions. Sister Debbie said that it is not be accident that the number of people wanting to be involved is growing - it is the Spirit moving us in a direction of need. She asked any who would want - and could - donate some money so that we could purchase 100 pounds of rice and 100 pounds of beans ($155) before this Mission leaves. At least it would supplement their paltry food supply for a short time.

On a light-hearted note, Liz Cofrancesco told us about a conversation she had with Joe Lewis yesterday. She was so impressed at his fluency that she asked where he learned Spanish. He responded, "In prison…," but before he could complete the sentence, she reacted with surprise. So, Joe went along with this and didn't finish the sentence at first - he is such a joker! Ultimately, he let her know he learned at work - he works in the prison system. A good laugh was had by all.

I am not sure noted that yesterday morning we ended our meeting musically with a selection made by Kayla Rabideau, "Take My Hand." It had a refrain which rings so true for us on mission: "I know that I need you, I can't do it on my own" and "Make me move from the inside out."

This morning it was Brad Willett that shared a song he has had on his iPod for a while, but listened to with greater meaning the other night after lights were out. It felt, to him, as an upbeat version of what we're doing here this week, "Upside Down" by Jack Johnson. It spoke about feeling a "change in everything as my mind begins to spread its wings" concluding, "I don't want this feeling to go away." As Sister Debbie said, "This is how it is supposed to be." And with that, the meeting concluded and we were on our way to the variety of tasks before the Community Health Fair this afternoon.

Please feel free to share the photos of the day and these notes with other friends and family by sending them to: That way, they will be able to see and read it all at any time of the day or night!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

By Bonnie Black
Guess what? Just like home, it has been raining here! We did have a nice start to the day, but the clouds foreshadowed what was to come multiple times during the day. And it's not just a slight rain, but torrential downpours along with rumbling thunder.

Let me tell you who was assigned to the morning crews, which were all in place and out-and-about before the rain effected the afternoon assignments. Our BBB crew was Phil Maynard, Brad Willett, Meagan Pelkey and Lou Ann Nielson.

Kitchen Crew was headed up by Sister Stephanie who worked with Heather Frenette, Kayla Hackett and Chris Fisher.

The morning Home Shelter crew really wielded those tools under the direction of Kasey Garrand: Phil Maynard, Meagan Pelkey and Jackie Bedore completing all three homes in Solano. The first was built from a donation by George Moore and the other two were from donations of people on the Mission #32.

A crew headed out early to the school in Nejapa again under the direction of Darcy Rabideau: Liz Cofrancesco, Hillary Miller, Rinsha Ballani, Alex Fredette, Kayla Rabideau, Emily Bean, Sarah Scardillo, Ashley Goyette and Ashley Thompson.

Our first Medical Outreach team of this mission headed out at 8am with Melida, one of the First Responders in the community. Anthony Garami, Connie Tyska, Lou Ann Nielson, Angie Neyer, myself and our phenomenal translator, Stephen Witkiewicz, drove and then walked to 6 homes where a person lived who cannot physically make it to the Nino Clinic to see Dr. Lopez. For those nearing the end of their lives, we could only supply comfort care; for the others, we believe we can increase the level of hearing, treat gastric issues, and provide nutritional supplements. I, personally, find this one of the most invigorating jobs on Mission - it truly reminds me why we are here.

Our 'tech man' - Sonesh Balchandani - has all but one of the donated computers up and running. The one that isn't has the problem which the manufacturer wound up paying consumers two years ago in a class action suit. So, it is quite understandable why it cannot be recovered.

The 'winner' of the "Thursday Mystery Tour" was Joe Lewis who accompanied Sister Debbie and Mauricio all about town today, including a meeting at MINSA. Actually, Joe was Sister's personal translator for much 'Mission business' which needed complete clarity on each party's part. Thank heavens for fluent translators such as Joe!

Carlo's Home, also known now down here as Nicarlos, had the rest of the walls completed in the main room and a majority of the electrical work done. Between the morning crew of Brad Willett, Tom Grue, Bill Calmbacher and Bill Murray along with the afternoon crew of Bill Murray, Bev Gogola, Tom Grue, Liz Cofrancesco, Adrienne Longino and Connie Tyska, we are now just waiting on a few electrical and plumbing supplies to complete this section of the project.

We wound up with a Rice & Beans contingent this afternoon rather than a Home Building crew due to the local crew leader, Inocencio, believing we didn't have more supplies for the shelters…or so he told Kasey. Of course, the materials were in the front yard, but Inocencio's mind was made up not to build this afternoon. Funny how, in this case, Inocencio didn't look for either Sister Debbie or myself! Oh, well, we just have to complete 5 home shelters tomorrow.

So, Bill Calmbacher was the leader for the trek to Monte Verde along with Rich DeGrijze, Peggy Giroux, Kayla Rabideau, Tricia Giglio, Alex Fredette, Ashley Goyette and Hillary Miller.

Medical Outreach continued with Anthony Garami, Lou Ann Nielson and Angie Neyer; they were to return to the 3 families we had promised supplies (one was an ear irrigation to be done to possibly assist an elderly man with his level of hearing), but the brother of the leader from this morning insisted they visit 3 other people. Oh, well, so much for completing this task! Guess we will need to do another Medical Outreach as soon as possible to provide what we had promised.

Upon returning, Lou and Angie went over to the Nino Clinic and shadowed Dr. Lopez with her patients; they said it was refreshing to the doctor to actually have nurses to assist her.

Our evening meal tonight was barbeque chicken, rice & beans, tortilla and salad…and Nora's 'famous' rice pudding! There wasn't anyone going away hungry after that. We are truly blessed with three wonderful cooks who assure that our tummies are full each night.

Many went into the courtyard to play afterward. While sitting at dinner, there was the last of the day's torrential downpours and a few of us reflected on the children who we knew were beginning their trek to the campus in order to play with us. And, sure enough, there were many who came to be among our youngest travelers.

At our evening meeting tonight, we began with Sister Debbie telling us that silence is a gift in our lives - she asked us to reflect on the day's experiences allowing them to pass through our minds as we began our communal time in silence.

Many different things happened today, but we began with a few reminders for our health as well as tips on staying safe and healthy doing the tasks. We also went over what will appear on the assignment board tomorrow morning.

Thanks went out from Sister Debbie to Joe Lewis for being her translator most of the day.

The great news of the day is that Hillary Miller got her carryon bag back! Joe said it was quite amazing how Hillary, on her first mission without clothes, money and glasses handled everything so maturely. We all applauded her. She then thanked everyone for helping her out by loaning her shorts and shirts.

Sister then passed around the option sheet for the Sunday choices of trips before we all head out to lunch and then to the market. She had a second signup, for pizza, in memory of Shawn Watson and in honor of Whirley Drinkworks and all they continue to do for the Mission both here in Nicaragua as well as supporting our annual Gold Tournament at home. Both signups were circulated during our sharing time.

Sister told us that Magaly and some of the local women do handicrafts such as sweaters, purses, bracelets and displayed some work she did for Sister on winter-weight tops. We will ask Magaly to bring samples of her work one afternoon for us to buy.

Ashley Goyette remarked on the daily board assignments: 'If you are assigned to do something, it is what you were truly meant to do.' That's a great reflection from a second-timer who has the experience to know what this is all about.

Sister Steph gave kudos to the Kitchen Crew for the past two days and said it will be very hard to match their diligence and culinary talents in the coming days. Kara Hackett then mentioned, as she worked in the kitchen today, that Sr. Steph never sits down! Kara was so impressed, she remarked, "She does everything!"

Sister Debbie began our time together with something she and Joe learned in the car today with Mauricio from the paper: 235,000 children are being used as human stoplights in Managua. They are in the middle of the streets selling various items during the day and, as a result, are not in school. The government is trying to pass an amendment in the National Assembly allowing criminal action to be taken against parents who don't have their children in school during school hours.

She and Joe met with Marielos, the assistant to the Minister of Health, today in an office just slightly larger than the size of Sister Debbie's in Plattsburgh - and two of them work in this space handling the entire national health system. Sister then told us about Marielos' own home in Managua that is a small two-room abode with many family members there - and she is a top official in the country.

We discussed the public and private school systems not only here, but in all of Central and South America, Asia, and Africa with the requirements of school uniforms which prevent some of the poor from attending as they can't afford more than one uniform, if that.

Sister then gave thanks to Sonesh Balchandani who has worked tirelessly on the computers readying them for donations to those with whom we work here.

Kudos also go out to Tom Grue, Rich DeGrijze, Phil Maynard and Jackie Bedore along with the 'Odd Job Crew' who took initiative yesterday and today accomplishing a variety of 'to do' items that needed to get done.

Ashley Goyette said that the paint crew at Nejapa was remarkable in getting their work done as the rains dictated and jumping right on the louver replacement project when the downpours occurred. Rinsha Ballani then thanked Darcy Rabideau for coordinating and caring for everyone there.

Joe complimented everyone for trying to speak Spanish - even with dictionary in hand. He said it is so hard to learn another language in immersion - just 2 days so far - but what a tip of the hat to the respect we have for the people whom we serve by trying to communicate in their tongue.

Lou Ann Nielson handed out thanks to Stephen Witkiewicz for his remarkable translation skills on the medical outreach this morning. He was totally fluent - even with the medical terminology.

Alex Fredette gave a personal warning after his experience in the yard tonight: if you bring bubbles to play with the kids, bring enough to share with EVERY child! Despite that, he found it fun to begin to say more than just 4 basic words in Spanish while playing with them.

Connie Tyska reflected on her medical outreach this morning which was a great experience, especially when arriving at one of the homes to reconnect with the older man who was helped to hear 4 years ago after years of being unable to with a simple ear irrigation she provided to him. I took a photo of Connie and the 95-year-old man next to each other today with wide grins!

"It is the simple gestures - doing what we are supposed to be doing," commented Sister Debbie.

Stephen told us that he felt it was really humbling to see how happy the people were and the great sense of humor such as that older man who has arthritis and when asked how he was getting around, he told us he isn't as spry as he was at 25 - with a big grin.

Kayla Rabideau told us she played tonight with a girl named Karen whom she had met on the last mission who is a very strong soccer player…in her bare feet. Kayla asked the 18-year-old if she would like a pair of cleats and presented her with Kayla's own cleats - a 'mission moment' for sure!

Sister urged everyone to seriously journal now as we are having these types of experiences. She warned that if we don't, in a few months many of our experiences will fade. By re-reading our journals, the crisp, vivid memories of our experiences will be able to be relived.

This afternoon when Hillary Miller went out on rice & beans, she gave a mute girl a toy. The young girl was so happy, but looked up to see that Bill Calmbacher was a bit slower going up the next steep hill. This young girl ran up to him and took him by the arm leading-or dragging- him along.

Brad Willett just barely walked out into the courtyard this evening and a little boy wrapped his arms around him - someone whom he had never met - and the young boy dragged him around the courtyard and then over to meet his mother.

Sister Debbie reminded us that the Mission is actually a microcosm of what the world could be.

Tricia Giglio went on Rice and Beans this afternoon and what has stayed in her mind is the moment they were getting into the truck. As they were finishing, Melida, who had been our guide throughout the afternoon, noted she her family is just as poor as the others they visited. As a group, they decided to give some rice & beans to her.

This afternoon while sorting sponsor gifts, Jackie Bedore came across a bag packed for Maurici: 2 men's and 2 women's bottles of shampoo. Mauricio had another friend in the car who has been helping us this week and according to Sister Debbie, Mauricio immediately turned to his friend and offered him one of the men's bottom.

Sarah Scardillo told us that in the courtyard today, Lester - who so many of us have gotten to know over the years - is now speaking English and singing, "Heads and Shoulders, Knees and Toes" so well!

Tom Grue was impressed by a woman who has all 5 of her children sponsored at the school interested in knowing whether he could sponsor someone else's child who needed an education.

Joe Lewis & Sister Debbie made a 'surprise' stop at Juan Pablo Baby Orphanage today in order to arrange the medical team's visit for Saturday at both of the orphanages - the phones had not been working most of the day. The found 18 sitting on the cement floor in a odious situation. The two sisters there looked absolutely exhausted but immediately jumped up and started chattering excitedly when they learned that we will be coming in a few days.

Lou Ann was up at the Nino Clinic today along with Angie and a young woman with a baby came in. She told Lou that they current living in a plastic bag. She had sent her to the gate at Nicasa and didn't know if anyone spoke with her. I said that I explained the application process to her and she seemed to understand.

While at Nejapa this morning, Kayla Rabideau was speaking with a 9-year-old boy and his toddler sister who are the children of the woman doing the cooking at the school there in Nejapa. She noticed how good he was at taking care of his young sibling everywhere they went on the school grounds. Kayla also shared her cheese crackers with the two of them…we have a great photo of that.
Peggy Giroux remarked about the loving care that family members give to their infirm that she witnessed today while on Medical Outreach.

Sister Debbie was reminded of the song, "We Hold A Treasure Not Made of Gold" while listening to all of the sharing. The treasure of coming closer and being grateful for the family we have at home is beginning to impact many of us. We take so much for granted; here we see a lot of witnessing to the value of family.

Kasey Garrand gave his account of the first home shelter of the day which was built with funds from George Moore for Maria del Carmen Garcia in Solano - a very poor barrio not too far from here. He said that Jackie Bedore had the idea to take the scraps left over - small remnants - and provide a toilet for the 3 families sharing a plastic bag covered hole. The entire crew of Phil Maynard , Kasey Garrand, Meagan Pelkey and Jackie created a little better situation for all of them out of what we consider 'garbage.'

Stephen Witkiewicz had seen some children running around with us on Medical Outreach this morning show up this afternoon to play in the yard. One young boy made Stephen a card that showed they were now friends.

Kara Hackett entered the courtyard tonight looking for the young girl who gave her a bracelet yesterday. Kara wanted to give her a bracelet she had made prior to coming down on Mission. The young girl herself had gone home yesterday to make another for Kara - what a wonderful exchange! The young girl was then saying, in English, "Thank you!" to Kara over and over.

Emily Bean closed our meeting tonight with a reflection that has been in her head most of the day - a poem that appeared in The New Yorker two years ago titled, "There Is No Time, She Writes."

Tomorrow, one of the key 'events' of our trip will occur: the annual Health Fair (Feria de Salud) here in Chiquilistgua. It will be fun and educational for everyone!

July 30, 2009

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

By Bonnie Black
Our first day of Mission 32 with all but one of us here (Oscar Flores will be joining us by Friday) started early for some. At 4:45 a.m. (6:45 a.m. your time), a few early birds were up – half the Kitchen Crew, which is good, but also a couple of others who are still on NY time and not Nica time. That usually changes after a day of hard work in the hot sun!

This morning, Sister Debbie filled me in on some of the wonderful things that occurred on the trip down yesterday. She noted that while on the ferry, she ran into someone who she had taught in grade school and he gave her a cash donation for all the work the Mission does. While in Newark, a complete stranger, after learning about the Mission, also gave a cash donation. She also noted that, for the first time in 32 trips, a carry-on was lost after being ‘gate checked’ with Continental in Burlington. In Newark they promised Hillary Miller that her lost carryon, which is everything of her own she had packed for this week, would show up in Houston. Needless to say, it still isn’t here, but they hope it will be on the plane landing at 8:15pm tonight.

We also learned that it was Will’s wife that broke her ankle, not Will. He was available to assist with driving the van everywhere we needed him today – thank heavens!

We officially began our day a bit later than usual with the morning meeting just before 7:30 a.m. due to the lateness of the group’s arrival last night. Usually we will begin the meeting at 7 a.m. Sister Debbie spoke of the openness everyone needs as we begin this mission in order to absorb everything and connect with everyone with whom we come into contact. She also noted the self-initiative necessary to make this mission function at its optimum – we will be carrying each other. The Mission is about relationships; the only way we can change the world is one person at a time. She asked us to make ourselves available and, through that, we will find the connection.

We learned what everything on the assignment board means and who is assigned to what tasks for the day which is split into two halves. Emily Bean and Kasey Garrand are in charge of the board each day trying to match up known skills to those needed for specific tasks and assuring that everyone rotates through all of the types of jobs available.

Everyone has a specific task or job to do everyday. Some are perceived as ‘glory’ jobs while others are focused on maintaining the health of everyone here. Two of the latter jobs are Kitchen Crew and what we call Bed, Bath & Beyond. Those are jobs that everyone will experience and they last all day. It IS possible, though, when assigned to BBB, you can also hop onto a shorter morning project as well as an afternoon assignment.

Our longer-than-normal morning meeting concluded with us listening to Joe Lewis’ original song composed as a result of his first Mission experience: Calling All of God’s Angels.

We held our group orientation right after the morning meeting by splitting into our ‘star’ groups which is the method we use whenever we have to organize all 40 people at once.

Today’s Kitchen Crew was comprised of Sister Stephanie and Bev Gogola who were the ‘leaders.’ They were assisted by veterans Emily Bean, Jackie Bedore and Ashley Goyette. BBB were Kasey Garrand, Rich DeGrijze, Heather Frenette and Elizabeth Cofrancesco.

Installing a new sink in our Clinic here at Nino Jesus de Praga were Tom Grue, Stephen Witkiewicz, Rich DeGrijze and Bill Murray. Preparing for this afternoon’s sojourn into the community to establish a raised garden in Solano were Mel Landers (our ‘professional’ partner here in Nica who is with us for two days), Kasey Garrand, Bill Murray, Hillary Miller and Chris Fisher.

Much sorting occurs our first day and doing so here at Nicasa (our home away from home) were Connie Tyska, the leader, along with Lou Ann Nielson, Peggy Giroux, Elizabeth Cofrancesco, Brenda Flynn and Kara Hackett. They were sorting all of the contents of the suitcases which were brought down last night. Over at what we now call Nicarlos (Carlos’ home) were Anthony Garami and Bill Calmbacher guiding Angie Neyer, Mary Fredette, Heather Frenette, Joan Riani, Sonesh Balchandani, Sarah Scardillo, Kelly Hayle and Ashley Thompson.

Our painting detail sojourned to the Mother of the Divine Son School in Nejapa to do the roof under the supervision of Darcy Rabideau, Joe Lewis and Kayla Rabideau. Their team was comprised of Phil Maynard, Rinsha Ballani, Tricia Giglio, Adrianne Longino, Alex Fredette, Meagan Pelkey and Bradly Willett. BUT…there was a glitch (so, what’s new?). It seems the type of paint we are using includes the anticorrosive so it isn’t a 2-step process for us. Chico and his assistant were on the roof yesterday and today using sandpaper to remove the rust, but we had to wait a bit, so decided to move toward putting in the 300 new glass louvers in the various classroom windows – to only find that each one has to cut down to size! So, the group had to wait until Mauricio could purchase glass cutters and return to Nejapa before doing that job. Once they were on the roof, they rotated through the task for a couple of hours – we even ran lunch out to them as they had gotten a late start.

This afternoon, our first home shelter was built in memory of a friend of Adrianne Longino. She was on the crew along with Bill Calmbacher (our shelter leader for today), Ashley Thompson and Angie Neyer. We are sometimes referring to these as ‘casitas’ rather than ‘homes’ as they are smaller than most of our garages. Today’s casita was built for Maria Luisa Sevilla Rosales in Chiquilistagua who is a mother of 12 adult children all living at home with her and their children. The shelter they currently have leaks so this will provide them a dry place to sleep. So, about 20 people will now have a dry home – about 12’ x 12’ in size.

The painting at Nicarlos’ began this afternoon under the supervision of Kayla Rabideau: Brenda Flynn, Tricia Giglio, Bradly Willett, Joan Riani, Phil Maynard, Meagan Pelkey and Lou Ann Nielson all wielded a wild paint brush!

Continuing at the Nejapa school this afternoon were Darcy Rabideau and Joe Lewis who had a new crew for the afternoon: Tom Grue, Stephen Witkiewicz, Sonesh Balchandani, Sarah Scardillo, Elizabeth Cofrancesco, Rich DeGrijze, Peggy Giroux, and Kelly Hayle. BUT (here we go again!)… the pouring rain made it impossible to continue with this job, so they returned to campus early. This allowed most to take off on one of Sister Debbie’s ‘mystery tours.’ It is a mystery to others although she and Mauricio know where they are going. This tour for 9 travelers included a tour around the neighborhood to see Nino Jesus de Praga in relation to its surrounding roads, the exchange of money, PriceSmart (like our Sam’s Club or Costco), Pali (like the IGA stores), and the fruit market where they also saw the live iguanas that people buy for meat as well as the fish sitting in buckets that the locals eat. They bought mangos and pineapple for our own consumption tomorrow! They also saw an oxen cart filled with beans being brought to their home to lay out to dry.

Will sorting never end?! Oh, yes, but we had a crew finishing that at Nicasa under the direction of Connie Tyska and Anthony Garami: Alex Fredette, Rinsha Balani and Mary Fredette. They took the sorted meds from this morning and transported what was designated for our two clinics up to our pharmacy.

After a meeting with Sister Debbie, Mauricio, Magaly and Professor Augusto about our ECO grants and projects, out and about in the community creating the first raised community garden bed in another zone of Chiquilistagua called Castillo/Vivas, were Mel Landers, Kasey Garrand, Bill Murray, Chris Fisher and Hillary Miller. There were about 15 women involved from the community which made everyone so happy! Our first community garden was set up last February in the Espinoza zone of Chiquilistagua and has been quite productive. Tomorrow we will proceed to another zone with more learning.

Our first evening meal was held in the dining room where our ‘Children Feeding Children’ program occurs during the school day feeding Pre-K through Grade 2 students. Local cooks, under the direction of Nora, made (my favorite) Valencia Rice – a type of Spanish rice with local flavor. Everyone seemed to enjoy it with not much left over for lunch tomorrow!

Before dinner, we have the opportunity to play with the local children in the yard but found that the children were not allowed back in when we were done with dinner around 5:15 p.m. Very different, so Sister Debbie spoke with Sister Cecilia tonight. Sister Rosa will be returning tomorrow, but Sister Cecilia agreed that children will be let back in the yard after our dinner up until our 6:30pm meeting.

We had much sharing from the day’s experiences, but not until we had a mass changing of seats so we could sit next to people we had just met on Mission – in the airport, here in Nica, whatever! We were certainly NOT the quiet group we were about 48 hours ago!

Tonight we agreed to have our subsequent evening meetings at 6:30pm in order to give us more time together in the evening. Joining us this evening was Jeremy Eppler, a former MOH traveler who joins us every time he can. He noted that he has a wonderful experience each time with the various teams which come during this sharing time.

Although Mel Landers was only to be with us for today and tomorrow, he volunteered to return on Friday after the Health Fair to have a meeting with Professor Augusto and assist at the Health Fair, as needed with Augusto and Magaly.

Sister Debbie reviewed tomorrow’s schedule and we noted some schedule changes which include a medical outreach opportunity in the morning which we haven’t had a chance to do in a few missions.

We assessed food of the day, dietary requests for tomorrow, personal hygiene reminders and other items which make our lives smoother.

Kudos went out to those who jumped in on seed packaging when they saw the need and the others who grabbed a brush and applied termite repellant to the lumber we will be using to build bunkbeds later in the week.

An explanation of who Juan and Chico are – the guards we pay to protect Mission materials in storage at Carlos’ house – and who Carlos was (Yamilette and Marta’s brother) helped the first-timers know the people they interfaced with or heard about today.

Darcy Rabideau began our ‘sharing’ time by giving kudos to the two crews she had at Nejapa who rolled with the punches.

Peggy Giroux commented on the exchange of money on the street which they experienced today. So many people do it because the banks only let in one person at a time and this is much quicker. They learned that the money exchangers earn about $100/month which is a decent salary down here, but it is a very dangerous profession as robbers can follow them home which happened to a few of them near the end of last year.

Liz Cofrancesco told about a woman who came near the gate today and told about the root canal she had here last week. People queued up all day, with numbers, and she was one of the last people to receive care – a root canal. Sister then explained how our clinics, on the first few missions, also went through the same experiences before we had regular clinic hours with a doctor like we have nowadays.

Hillary Miller thanked people for letting her borrow clothes today as it was her carry-on that did not make it all the way to Managua last night. We are still hopeful it will be found by Continental.

Sonesh Balandani was part of the ‘mystery tour’ which drive by what is to be the new site for the Mission around the corner. He noted that it will be so wonderful for all to see and allow the Mission to continue to grow in the community it serves where he has seen so much accomplished – even on the first day.

Kasey Garrand had his first experience with a machete today in the preparation for the raised bed ECO project and told us he has great respect for the men who use it making it look so simple and easy.

Kara Hackett enjoyed the time she spent with the little children who were at the raised bed community garden site. She had a young boy who is turning 13 tomorrow who enjoyed the hockey card she gave him and helped her to understand the other young ones around. It also helped to keep the adults focused on learning about the garden while building a unique experience for her on this trip. Sister noted that it is an experience like this that allows a true transformation and commitment to service well beyond what a ‘quick’ monetary fix could ever do.

As we continued sharing, we learned that Brenda Flynn and Connie Tyska have donated funds to make our evening ‘treats’ possible. Tonight, it was pineapple tarts from Karla who sells her wares across from the gates of the school each weekday.

Rinsha Ballani worked sorting meds in our clinic and was so impressed by a young girl who just came up to her as she walked out late today and gave her a hug. When Rinsha gave out markers to the children around, the young girl asked her if she had a journal and when Rinsha acknowledged she did, she asked if she could write in it, she let her. Inside, the girl wrote that she wanted to be sisters with Rinsha and, even though she knows she will have to leave, she wants to be her lifelong friend. Another great memory to reflect on in the future when she reviews her journal and thinks of this mission experience.

Ashley Thompson shared her experience when returning from home shelters with a gentleman named Roman who tried using his English and Kara Hackett told of her experience with a young child who was so proud to be able to count to 20 (with 47 added in there!) and then did some word quizzes, finally giving Kara her bracelet – what a treasure!

Darcy Rabideau led us in closing prayer tonight based on a song from the Broadway show, “Wicked”: For Good. She noted that while what we are doing is a change for good, as a person, here on mission, we are changed for good. We reflected on the various verses which include: “ I know I am who I am today, because I knew you,” “Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better, I do believe I have been changed for the better, because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” Great double meanings in those words.

Sister Debbie closed with the thought, “More important than anything you do, it is who you are becoming that is important.”

July 29, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

By Bonnie Black
Our advance team held down the fort, so to speak, and got the last minute tasks completed throughout the day. There is only one delivery expected tomorrow to round out the supplies needed for the next 8 days when everyone is here working.

Flights went well, according to Sister Debbie with most travelers getting to know each other better. This is so important as we begin a special time together. The bonding created in the airports during the layovers allow for the time we never truly had before leaving to ‘expand our horizons.’

Mauricio was running all around town today with the shopping lists we had for him of supplies for the coming week that weren’t being delivered; it was more of the ‘small stuff’ but the rest of what we needed to make sure everything was aligned for the beginning of Mission 32 on the ground tomorrow morning.

Bill Murray went to get the rental van with Rene who was our ‘backup’ driver due to the fact that Wilfredo had broken his leg this afternoon and was in the ER. We are thinking of him and hope that he heals quickly – although that will be long after we leave.

Bill Calmbacher and Bev Gogola did the food shopping this afternoon visiting the various stores necessary to procure everything on Sister Stephanie’s grocery list. They were picked up by the van while Mauricio completed the shopping for tomorrow’s dinner items then shooting over the airport to greet the group.

I had a quick call around 5:15pm when the main group was taking off – literally – from Houston. The flight was a little rough coming into Houston from Newark, but Sister said that everyone they spoke to in the airport had mentioned their flights coming into Houston were also quite bumpy.

The main group landed in Managua around 8:15pm (Nica time) right on schedule. It was just after 9pm when the first travelers exited from the second customs check to find their transportation waiting. Everyone got to Nicasa around 10:15 pm, ready to unload the bus and truck and find their bed.

Checking in the 60 suitcases tonight at Nicasa were the A Team members and Mel Landers who assured each traveler had their assigned suitcase with them and placed it in the designated area from which we will begin sorting in the morning.

Many were so tired, they were still running on nervous energy they didn’t know they had! They received their orientation to the process of the bathrooms and took their personal items out of the many suitcases now in the courtyard. But, after about a half hour, everyone settled in and are spending their first night in Nica. We’ll see how many acclimate to the rooster next door!

Tomorrow morning we will be having breakfast a little later than usual, from 6am - 7am, followed by our first morning meeting starting a half hour later than usual at 7:30am. More on tomorrow…tomorrow!

July 28, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009: A Team Back on Schedule!

By Bonnie Black
We may have gotten off to a rough start but, as of tonight, we are back on the schedule we had originally planned out. As most of you know, our original flight scheduled to connect between Logan in Boston and Ft. Lauderdale had been delayed long enough for us to miss the connection to Managua. Spirit only flies on alternate days, so we were ‘grounded’ in Ft. Lauderdale unexpectedly on Friday and Saturday.

We may have gotten off to a rough start but, as of tonight, we are back on the schedule we had originally planned out. As most of you know, our original flight scheduled to connect between Logan in Boston and Ft. Lauderdale had been delayed long enough for us to miss the connection to Managua. Spirit only flies on alternate days, so we were ‘grounded’ in Ft. Lauderdale unexpectedly on Friday and Saturday.

We worked for 8 hours on Friday doing what we would have done tomorrow, so it wasn’t a wasted day. But, Saturday we had to check out of the hotel by 11am and we didn’t have to be at the airport until 8pm. So, we spent the day as an A Team ‘day off’ before we had all of the work done!

Yesterday, our A Team of Emily Bean, Bill Calmbacher, Bev Gogola, Brenda Flynn and I were functioning on only 3 hours of sleep. We landed around midnight on Sunday morning – a bit of turbulence near the end – but didn’t get to Nicasa until almost 2:30am. Walking in we found all of the bunk beds there, but only 6 in the men’s room with the extra 4 crowded into the women’s large room. We managed to get our 5 bunks ready and hit the sack as soon as we could find some sheets.

After Mass, we returned to Nicasa and sorted all of the wood for the 9 casasitas and bagged the sand – do you know that it takes 25 shovelsful to fill a rice bag?!? It is always so interesting to meet and speak with the families receiving the materials. They are grateful and gracious. As a matter of fact, two of the young men receiving supplies came over after the meeting and assisted us in the sorting of the wood.

Around 9pm, as most of us were getting ready to turn in, Bill Murray joined us. We went from ‘Bonnie & the 4 Lefties’ to ‘Bonnie and the 5 Lefties’ – what are the odds of that kind of ratio?! He had had a long layover in Atlanta, so was quite ready for bed, too.

This morning, we were up at 5:30am in the kitchen having our breakfast. We are still on NY time and haven’t totally acclimated to Nica time yet (2 hours behind). Perhaps we will be so by tomorrow night ;-)

The bulk of the cleaning and disinfecting occurred this afternoon as we got the bedrooms totally completed along with the bathrooms and the kitchen. Bill M. and Emily Bean took care of getting the internet functioning by climbing onto the roof and aligning the equipment up with its source at the Flores’ home. I was so excited to get access so quickly!

We received the delivery of the tin for the homes late this afternoon, so all families will return sometime tomorrow to get theirs. We will have to sort it in the morning as the delivery people would only put them in two piles (long and short). Oh, well, another A Team task still to be done!

This afternoon we also received the wood which will be used to build the bunkbeds at Carlos’ house making the facility amenable to a short-term focused mission. One of the tasks in the next 2-3 days will be to treat the lumber with a sealant precluding termites from damaging the wood before cutting it into the specific lengths we need. Our hope is that we can have these focused missions at Carlos’ house once or twice a year to work on small projects determined by our Leadership Team. We already have a focused mission scheduled for January of 2010 working on expanding the ECO Community Garden project. Depending on the needs ascertained during this mission trip, the Leadership Team (guided by our mission statement) will approve other proposed short-term teams.

Perhaps you haven’t visited our website recently: You will see the Mission Statement that our Leadership Team developed last winter as we reflected on the first 10 years of MOH as well as photos of past missions.

Mel Landers arrived just before dinner tonight – he had gotten his days confused! Original plans were for him to come here tomorrow afternoon in preparation for work on Wednesday and Thursday with our group and locals from various barrios creating the community gardens. We had confirmed the 28th via email on Friday and had agreed I would call that morning to arrange the exact location for picking him up. He thought today was the 28th and wondered why I hadn’t called, but made it here via bus to the end of the road as he came from Managua tonight. We welcomed him in for dinner with us and as I type this, stories continue to be shared with all in the kitchen as they clean up after dinner, organize tomorrow’s food shopping list and I sit here at the computer.

In the morning we have a few tasks left as well as making sure the last three families (who come from Nejapa) pick up their ‘casasita’ supplies. The other six came yesterday afternoon after the meeting by oxen cart, truck and horse-drawn cart. A couple of the families had to make two trips for supplies and one returned this morning for the rest of theirs.

Arrangements for most of our week’s projects are also completed after meeting with Magaly Velasquez this afternoon. She told us that Sister Rosa is in El Salvador at a Carmelite conference and will be returning in a few days.

Many small tasks are left for tomorrow, but we will be totally prepared to welcome the other 35 tomorrow evening. More to come throughout the week!