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Mission of Hope

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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!

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