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Mission of Hope

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August 7, 2009

Thursday, August 6, 2009

By Bonnie Black
Here we are, "A Team plus One" closing down the facility and assuring the rest of the donations are allocated as designed by our Leadership Te a.m. back home. Just before 3:30 a.m. (5:30 a.m. your time) the main group departed the yard with many hugs going around. I received an email from Sister when they got to the airport that told us, "There were villagers along the main road waving goodbye. At this hour. Unbelievable gesture."

Everyone made it through except for the 2 vanilla bottles in someone's carryon which will be brought back home as part of one the A Team suitcases that will be checked.

Our morning here began with closing down the women's small room and bathroom, getting all of the clothing and bedding sorted and counted to go to Victoria's, and kitchen dismantling. We gave the leftover bags of rice and beans to our "Children Feeding Children" programs here at Nino and also at Nejapa as well as the milk that was in the refrigerator this morning.

Oscar, Mauricio and I went over to the Mother of the Divine Son School in Nejapa for a meeting with Father Jalder. We discussed sponsorships tied to academic performance, delivered more of the vitamins for the students as well as this quarter's dose of antiparasite meds, future projects (for which we asked for a proforma to bring back to our Leadership Team for discussion) and the process of an application for home shelters beginning in February. We also emphasized the necessity of having the foundations completed within a day of receiving the materials so we do not run into the delay we had this past week. He is thinking of a guitar ensemble of young people who could play at school as well as for the church services; his thought is 15 guitars. So, we will ask people at home to consider donating those instruments and we will see what happens.

Then we stopped for lunch. Guess what - we had rice & beans for lunch! Right now, we are 'eating down' the refrigerator so there is no wasted food. We also had Nora's salad and the delicious cream sauce she prepared for last night's dinner with tortillas.

This afternoon, we continued on various tasks: more kitchen cleaning and storing, inventorying the office and storing all of the supplies, mattresses to NiCarlos for the bunkbeds, the storage of the fans and boxes as well as shutting down most of the men's room and bathroom. The men's room bathroom sink fell off of the wall this afternoon and we asked Chico - who happened to be with us loading tables to transfer to NiCarlos' - to install the new sink (we had one sitting on the lawn ready to go to storage, luckily!). And we 'paid' him in rice and beans!

We are receiving many letters for sponsors here at Nino, so Sister Debbie will have those to check over and get to the appropriate sponsor within the next month.

I just want to mention that when your loved one returns tonight, you may find him or her very talkative or, most likely, it will be a few days or even a week before he or she can begin to share their experience. Most of what we have spent the past week plus experiencing is emotional and physically draining. It takes a bit to begin to process it all as life here in Nicaragua is so very different than in the States. The division between the 'haves' and the 'have nots' is a chasm. We are so privileged to have so much available to us for convenience, health, recreation and work. It can take a while to process the re-entry into the US culture coming from an immersion here. Be patient. Use the photos they share with you as a way to gain a little insight into their week. Many are very playful while others show the stark reality of the poorest of the poor. They may not even be able to answer the question, "Will you go again?"

We are planning a get-together to which all family members and former travelers are invited. Sister Debbie will be sending out an email with the details within a few days after returning. Come, listen and observe the joy that is shared among everyone attending. Each person here has a new family - one that is special to its mission as well as part of the entire Mission Family - over 800 of us who have come over the past 10 years.

I will follow with an update, if there is anything of interest, but bleach, disinfectant, sweeping, mopping and boxing don't usually lend itself to interesting stories. It has been a pleasure to be your Nica correspondent over the past 10 days. Hasta pronto!.

August 6, 2009

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

By Bonnie Black
At 6:45 a.m. this morning, it was hitting many that tomorrow at this time, most of us will be sitting in our airplane seats awaiting takeoff. That knowledge affected many throughout the day in various ways.

Sister reviewed the various closing tasks and departure responsibilities at our morning meeting. We will be saying goodbye to Heather Frenette, Rinsha Ballani and Sonesh Balchandani in Houston tomorrow as well as Phil Maynard in Newark. All will be departing at 3:30 a.m. from here and, just before that, they will line up the suitcases on the walkway along with the large chairs and hockey bags filled with hammocks. Sister will initiate a Phone Tree call when all arrive in Houston and then again in Newark as they depart giving you a sense of their arrival in Burlington.

This morning we heard that Sonesh Balchandani had great success getting everything loaded on the computers last night and they are all set to go out as soon as we put instructions about scanning and updating in Spanish!

For our closing prayer this morning, we used Joe Lewis' song which a small group performed at the Despedida beginning at 7:30am. We had a new sense of this song that Joe created as a result of this first mission two years ago. Copies of his lyrics were printed out so that we would be able to sing it together.

Sister concluded the morning meeting noting, "Each of us was given gifts and talents to share; it is out of our gratitude and hope that we WILL make a difference. Blessings on each of us today - prepare to begin our new mission at home."

The Despedida was very enjoyable - an hour of cultural dances: theirs and ours. We experienced the littlest dancers to teens who performed a number of selections using Nicaraguense music and dances as well as two selections by Michael Jackson. When our group sang Joe's song, everyone applauded loudly. More than 30 local people immediately asked Joe for his song. He will translate his lyrics into Spanish and we will get that to nuns and Mauricio and Magaly to distribute! It will soon be available on our website, too.

There was much to still be accomplished today, our last full work day. Our BBB crew was Joe Lewis, Phil Maynard, Kayla Rabideau & Mary Fredette. The Kitchen Crew was Lou Ann Nielson along with Kasey Garrand, Kelly Hayle, Ashley Thompson and Stephen Witkiewicz.

Our first group out this morning missed the festivities as they had to be at the Children's Hospital by 8am: Anthony Garami, Tricia Giglio and Angie Neyer.

Right after the Despedida, a larger group went to Parajito Azul bringing another bag of rice and also of beans: Sister Stephanie, Bev Gogola, Phil Menard, Rinsha Ballani, Adrianne Longino, Peggy Giroux.

About the same time a van took people to the Huembes Market for a few hours of shopping: Darcy Rabideau, Joe Lewis, Connie Tyska, Hillary Miller, Joan Riani, Sarah Scardillo, Heather Frenette, Kayla Rabideau, Kara Hackett, Ashley Goyette, Lou Ann Nielson.

Sonesh Balchandani kept working to assure that by this evening Magaly, Mauricio and Carlos' house were all set up and understood their computers with another prepared for delivery to Sister Ligia in Diriamba.

We finally got to do the Height & Weights in Nejapa this morning - over 100 students! Bill Calmbacher took a crew of Liz Cofrancesco, Chris Fisher, Brad Willett, Meagan Pelkey and Jackie Bedore. The data, though, is still in raw form, on paper and index cards, and are coming back to Plattsburgh for Anthony to compile for the Medical Team.

Working at preparing the First Aid supplies for next mission were Connie Tyska, Joan Riani and Heather Frenette who have everything ready for February.

Wood for bunkbeds and ECO fences were cut by a diligent crew of Kasey Garrand, Tom Grue, Darcy Rabideau and some of the Closing Process was handled by Brenda Flynn, Emily Bean, Mary Fredette and Alex Fredette.

This afternoon, the trip to the market included: Tom Grue, Meagan Pelkey, Liz Cofrancesco, Tricia Giglio, Ashley Thomson and Brad Willett.

Going over to Nejapa to present sponsor gifts with Magaly were Jackie Bedore, Bill Calmbacher, Connie Tyska, Ashley Goyette, and Alex Fredette.

The mural team did it! It is completed, thanks to: Kayla Rabideau, Rinsha Ballani, Stephen Witkiewicz, Hillary Miller, Chris Fisher and the students from Colegio.

Our last sojourn with Rice & Beans, under the guidance of Magaly, went out around 3 p.m.: Sarah Scardillo, Emily Bean, Adrianne Longino, Joe Lewis, Darcy Rabideau and Phil Maynard.

At 4:15pm, there was one of those torrential downpours - and we hadn't seen rain in three+ days! Of course, it was just after we had lined up all of the returning suitcases in the courtyard with their new labels.

Our last meeting was back in the dining room, as the rains continued throughout the early evening. We began by Emily Bean reviewing who was carrying which numbered suitcases and/or chairs. Sister told us the bus will arrive by 3 a.m. and will depart by 3:30 a.m. with everyone.

Sister has heard that some Dominican sisters are in danger in Pakistan as 7 Christians were burned in the last few days while other Christian sites have been attacked. She brought it to us as she was asked to have us all lift all people in Pakistan in prayer.

We began listening to "Where Is the Love" - the more recent hip-hop version. It spoke about much of the environmental situations, inequality and not knowing the Truth and having the ability to 'turn the other cheek' and live together in harmony.

Sharing, for the last time, began with Kara Hackett told us that saying goodbyes had been hard as she hadn't seen Freddy this evening until she felt a tug on her and she hugged him. He said to her, in English, "Don't worry - come back."

Hillary Miller just wanted to thank everyone for a great week.

Tricia Giglio said she was on emotional overload, especially after today's visit to Velez Paiz Children's Hospital where they were brought into a back room where there were about 10 very ill children including cleft palates, a baby with no skull - just an exposed area in which there was no brain. It is a preventable condition by using folic acid during pregnancy. The mother who was holding a child that knew there was no hope for her child here - there would be in Costa Rica or the States, but not here.

Anthony Garami noted it was a tough visit - very cramped conditions like we had over a hundred years ago in the States before better understanding of hygiene and sanitation. The most difficult part was at the end inside the neonatal unit. The conditions they saw are exceedingly rare: heart surgery to correct the walls of his heart, and the child with no brain. He reinforced that our ECO project working to increase the healthy vegetables in the diet can work to increase the folic acid in the local people to prevent situations like this. He also thanked all for the help and support throughout the week. He has his faith in the human spirit increase and will move him to come back again.

Sister Debbie shared what happened while she and 2 others were waiting for the rest of the group. She had 2 drinks in her hand, one of hers and one for another person. She accidentally dropped one and immediately the people ran the can under the market water. Sister decided to give the drink to the little girl who had been following her around the market - which made her elated. As a market child, she isn't in school, and was back again this afternoon when she went. When one of our group dropped a cordoba, the 2 boys who were following the little girl and our group ran over, picked it up and gave it back to Liz. Sister said it is always good for us to keep our minds and hearts open.

Some have come up to Sister and mentioned that they don't want to 'reconnect' when they return, but they will have to. She said it is the same with this experience, some will go home forever bonded and others who will go back unchanged. We cannot control anyone else - just our own emotions and experiences. She referred to a Scripture message in Micah: "Act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God."

Joe Lewis said that we must remember that there always is hope. Almost everyone on mission had quite a bit of energy sucked out of them. He thinks it was summed up by Sister Rosa today and what started as a seed, with a few, right here, the Mission has grown and expanded. The Mission is growing and it is obvious in the interactions with the children in the courtyard and at the shelters we build. There is hope - go home knowing it.

Connie Tyska said that her first trip four years she began not sure of what her role would be. She came to understand a major part of our role is to help all stay healthy, to watch over you; on her second trip she understood it better. She is proud of this mission and all who listened because all are healthy tonight and going home healthy - the promise made to the families back home at the first meeting.

Rinsha Ballani spoke with someone about her experiences at home with being Hindu and her expectations of being with a 'Christian' mission - she was nervous. After a few days here, she found acceptance that she hadn't truly experienced before. Everyone on mission has impacted her in many positive ways.

Kayla Rabideau thanked Rinsha for being patient with so many who wanted to learn about her faith.

Peggy Giroux went to Parajito Azul this morning and found that Joe's song really began to sink to her. When she entered the area with the youngest children, the music was playing and the children were dancing and playing with balloons. She thought to herself, "These are God's Angels." She found joy and love there - it was an incredible experience.

Lou Ann Nielson said that Kitchen Duty was really nice, has now experienced a bucket shower, pouring water in the toilet to flush it, rice & beans nightly was new, living in a bunkhouse was quite different. She came here not a hugger, and will return to the 'Burgh not a hugger, but will continue to hug through Houston! Everyone is hard working with big hearts - she thanked all as her life is better…and she is going to brush up on her Spanish!

Alex Fredette shared his expectations - which were few - but he found it was easier to live in these conditions than expected. He realized just how happy it is here in Nica - he wasn't expecting that. Especially out on Rice & Beans he found many happy people and he knows he is leaving with a more positive attitude, even after visiting La Chureca.

Sister said a sweet moment occurred in the market this afternoon when all of a sudden a mariachi band came around the corner and people came with a cake and sang, "Happy Birthday." She had been negotiating a price with us and it was wonderful to see all the adjacent vendors enjoying the celebration - there are some great pictures I am told (haven't had time to review them, yet, as I write this).

Oscar Flores, on behalf of the people here in Chiquilistagua, he thanked us for all that has been done, especially the 'human touch' we bring when we come. Having people from a different country who want to come is special - the people here will always remember us as we are: friendly, open-hearted.

Sister noted while they were in the city, Oscar and Mauricio had to go to the phone company where she viewed a channel from the US which showed a video of people who have a need to be distasteful, break material things, with disregard for themselves and others in their actions and words. But what made her feel better is knowing what we were all doing back here. But, it reminded her that we must be about tolerance, lack of waste and being respectful for each other.

Stephen Witkiewicz thanked the Kitchen Crew for allowing him to finish his experience with the children tonight.

Sister Steph noted the Kitchen Crew was very fortunate to only have a few hours without electricity and keeping healthy. She encouraged everyone to get a full night's sleep and remember a plastic bag to have, if needed.

Liz Cofrancesco thanked all as she has decided to go into medicine after spending this week on Mission.

Sister thanked Mauricio Flores for being an incredible person with a great sense of humor who is THE man on the ground 365 days a year from early morning to late evening. Sister said, "We can't do this Mission without you - thank you from all of our hearts." A round of applause was given to him!

Rinsha Ballani closed us reflecting on her "Lead America" Conference experience where she heard that her generation is very important to the fate of the earth. She played a song that reflected this Mission, "The Time of Your Life." Certain words meant something to many tonight: "It's something unpredictable, I hope you had the time of your life."

Rinsha then explained that today is an Indian festival where a sister, or female relative, is to honor a brother, or male relative. She had brought with her a special bracelet from home and gave it to her Uncle Sonesh. We appreciated being a part of this ritual.

After our last meeting, the guys put all of the rocking chairs on the 3 beds in the center against the back wall as the final step in today's closing process.

Magaly had wanted to be with us, but sent her best and her thanks as she went home before the rain got very heavy.

The rest spent their last night here packing the suitcases they were assigned or sharing with another person who is carrying a suitcase rather than a chair. Lights were out at the regular 9:30 p.m., but there was about a half hour of talking and sharing still going on - then all was quiet for the few hours of sleep they would be getting.

August 5, 2009

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

By Bonnie Black
Today began just like yesterday - bright sun and no clouds. Although we had high winds from time-to-time, it was a gorgeous day. Our hope was that it would be the same today as we sent a painting team out to Mother of the Divine School in Nejapa at 6:30 a.m. to complete the roof painting and louver installation. That team was hand-picked by Joe Lewis: Emily Bean, Darcy Rabideau, Rich DeGrijze, Hillary Miller, Ashley Thompson, Phil Maynard, Kayla Rabideau and Brad Willett.

The rest of us had our regular morning meeting - our next-to-last for this mission. We wished Kelly Hayle a very Happy Birthday today! We are working very hard at making any last minute accommodations at accomplishing everything in our last two days. Sister is hoping to grant 'wishes' - especially to our first-timers - in these last two days, so some people were pulled off of their assignments for a short period of time. Sister reminded us of the 14th century Dominican prayer of 'where one is, all are' as we began our morning prayer together. Stephen Witkiewicz played a Spanish song about poverty, "A Better World" which talks about singing in a better world, smiling in a better world and such. Sister then reinforced those thoughts by reading from a portion of a poem on our cocina wall by Archbishop Oscar Romero who was martyred while celebrating mass with the poor:

"It helps now and then to step back and take the long view. The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, but beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us. ..That is what we are all about; we plant seeds that one day will grow; we water seed already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest."

And with that, we headed out to work today.

BBB today was handled by Alex Fredette, Tom Grue, Kelly Hayle and Rinsha Ballani. Kitchen Crew under Brenda Flynn included Sarah Scardillo, Tricia Giglio and Adrianne Longino.

Off to Parajito Azul this morning were Sister Stephanie, Heather Frenette and Ashlery Goyette.

This morning's Rice & Beans donations were headed by Kasey Garrand: Liz Cofrancesco, Meagan Pelkey, Tom Grue, Jackie Bedore, Connie Tyska, Sonesh Balchandani and Angie Neyer. They were able to give some medical attention at one of the homes and returned for some supplies to go back to another.

Today began the inventory of the various supplies we have: medical, wood, tin, and our Home Depot closet. This morning sorting through the medical supplies and creating lists for future missions were Anthony Garami, Peggy Giroux, Bill Calmbacher and Lou Ann Nielson with a little assistance from Kitchen Crew member, Adrianne Longino. Assigned to cleaning up the yard while doing material inventory were Bev Gogola, Joan Riani, Chris Fisher, Kelly Hayle, Alex Fredette, Kara Hackett, Mary Fredette, Rinsha Ballani and Stephen Witkiewicz. BUT, Sister Debbie pulled Joan Riani and Kara Hackett for a 'mystery ride' - one of their wishes!

After the medical inventory for the First Responders' needs was completed, Anthony Garami went to do a medical outreach along with Peggy Giroux, Meagan Pelkey, Connie Tyska, Rinsha Ballani, Stephen Witkiewicz, Angie Neyer, Lou Ann Nielson and Tricia Giglio. It got them out and about to see the mother of one of the guards who cannot make it to the clinic.

Finishing the electric, mid-morning, at NiCarlos were Tom Grue and Adrianne Longino who got everything in shape so that a licensed electrician can do the final connection to the exterior source.

Late this morning, jobs were broken into segments as a van took off with Sister Debbie for the last drive to La Chureca: Chris Fisher, Phil Maynard, Joe Lewis, Brad Willett, Sonesh Balchandani, Stephen Witkiewicz, Angie Neyer, Rinsha Ballani, and Peggy Giroux.

Joe Lewis and Brad Willett then split from the group and picked up all of the hammocks and chairs from the market and had shrinkwrapping done on the larger ones to ready them for transport on Thursday.

The painting of the mural did NOT occur as we had hoped because the parents of the students had not signed permission slips to allow the students to stay after school. It is arranged, formally, for that to happen tomorrow afternoon at 1pm…we WILL get it done!

So, Emily Bean, Hillary Miller, Rinsha Ballani and Stephen Witkiewicz were reassigned to suitcase prep - getting them all ready for filling tomorrow night.

The clinic at Our Lady of Guadelupe was handled by Anthony Garami, Liz Cofrancesco, Peggy Giroux and Kara Hackett.

Partnering with Dr. Lopez at our Nino Clinic were Connie Tyska, Angie Neyer and Ashley Thompson and they made some interesting observations they will give the medical team when they next meet in Plattsburgh.

Working on the laptops installing the Spanish version of XP was Sonesh Balchandani who is almost complete with this project, so we will be able to give the four we brought down to the key people who need them to sustain the Mission's work when we are gone. Stephen Witkiewicz assisted with the translation - he has been so valuable with this fluent skills all of this week wherever he has been needed!

The afternoon Rice & Beans team were Kayla Rabideau, Lou Ann Nielson, Sonesh Balchandani, Darcy Rabideau, Kelley Hayle, Bev Gogola and Alex Fredette. There will be only one more trip tomorrow for this mission.

Handling the Home Depot Inventory was Kasey Garrand who came across a small black snake that we had the guard come in and remove. Took a while to find it as it had crawled into a corner, but we thought it was in the painting tarps.

The highlight of the afternoon, though, for many here was the distribution of sponsor gift at Nino. Jackie Bedore headed a team of Ashley Goyette, Joan Riani and Bill Calmbacher setting up for the 'event.'

While we were involved with the families, Sister Karla and others from Mateguas arrived! We had many supplies to give them for their school and added some personal items, too, to the cartons that we loaded on their truck.

Our evening meeting started at 6:30 p.m. as we had much to cover. Sadly, we heard the news that Kasey Garrand's grandmother passed away and the funeral will be this Friday, after our return. Sister asked that we keep the family in prayer.

We will start tomorrow with a 6:45 a.m. meeting as the Despedida begins at 7:30 a.m. and will be about an hour. The medical team going to Fernando Velez Paiz Children's Hospital will miss it as they have to be there at 8am.

We centered before our sharing time using the song, "The Tears of God" and Sister Debbie asked us to recall the images of the past week as we listened. Poignant phrases were: "I saw a mother with her children standing near the shelter door hoping there would be a room for one night more. Then I saw a million people poor and homeless round the world and I thought I saw a tear fall upon each one. I thought I saw the tears of God, falling like the rain. Shall we dry the tears of God and come to heal the pain."

Sister followed that by saying we have all been trying to dry the tears of God throughout this week. Today was especially hard as Kara, Joan and she went to the Velez Paiz Children's Hospital - a painful yet poignant moment. They had been through some of the worst part of the hospital in arranging for the medical team tomorrow and they passed a young boy, about 6 or 7, who was screaming as their medical people turned him over on his belly; he was burned from the middle of his back to mid-thigh - all third degree burns. In the hallway, Oscar asked the mother what happened and she said the boy was playing in their neighbor's home and when he ran backwards to catch a ball, he fell into the fire in the cooking area. Kara 'dried the tears of God' by reaching into her backpack and taking out the sports cards she carries and leaned down to him - he stopped crying. She laid them next to his face on the cot and he actually smiled! Someone had reached out to him and gave him hope. That was Sister's 'mission moment' from this trip.

When Sister Karla and Sister Miriam arrived this afternoon, we learned that Sister Karla got out of the bed she has been in for 8 days, traveling 4 hours to be here with us and would be traveling back the 4 hours tonight. She has had dengue and only had a slight fever still (it is not contagious - some of us have had it before).

After that experience, Joan mentioned they saw the seminary on the hill above the poor people's shelters and then the US Embassy and felt injustice in the juxtapositions. Joan gave a little girl a granola bar while they were out and it brought a broad grin to the young girl's face.

There were a lot of tears today, but many of us were drying each other's as they experience the extremes of waste and abuse.

Rinsha Ballani spoke of visiting La Chureca. She saw and understood, but because she has been in such a different world, it didn't sink in right away that it was real. " It is, to this moment, still sinking in," she said. The image she held in her mind of the people around the garbage truck. When our group pulled out of La Churaca, she looked back at the graffiti-written entrance sign that says, "Welcome to Hell."

We take so much for granted and suddenly, after an experience like that and much of what we have done all week, you don't want luxuries.

Anthony asked her if the situations in "Slumdog Millionaire" were real and she said, sadly enough, that those living conditions happen everywhere in India. But to witness for herself La Chureca this morning, it is still sinking in.

Sister Debbie noted that Sonesh Balchandani was also on today's trip and he knew, on some level, what to expect due to his travels in India. He shared stories of Bombay's 'sewer hole' where the train must travel through to get people to work each day and other similar conditions of the poorest of the poor.

Sister noted, "We think we comprehend such conditions until we step into the pictures of what the National Geographic gets award for."

Brad Willett also went to La Chureca and, as a standup comic, he usually tries to find a silver lining in all of his experiences. But, today, this was the first time in his life he couldn't find it. He felt hopeless and saw the experience not just black or white - it was a sea of grey. As they left La Chureca, they saw the campaign sign of Ortega's that says, "Working for what the people want and what God wants." Personal opinions were exchanged on the juxtaposition of the sign and the situation they had just experienced.

Today, this group saw the government's sand mines we had heard about now happening there.

Peggy Giroux said she found a silver lining, though, in the experience of the wind blowing his hat off into a lower section of the dump where he couldn't get it; a little girl who was below passed the cap right back to Brad. Here was a perfect opportunity for the girl to keep the cap and get some money from it, but she was very happy to please Brad.

Alex Fredette remarked that he took a 20-minute video on Saturday when went and he reviewed it today. Although he has read fictitious novels of post-Apocalyptic visions, he was greatly impacted by the personal experience. He reabsorbed what he saw the other day and thought about it as this afternoon he listened to all that the Mateguas sisters have gone through, and heard amazing stories about the Flores family's experiences here. He realizes that the Mission is more than about seeing the negatives and working to combat them, but it is also about the positives and being encouraged by stories of people helping others in need. It is about seeing the negatives, about putting energy and effort into tasks, and having hope - you must have it. He can't put his finger on a specific 'mission moment' but he has found that over the week, it has been amazing. He won't go back home the same person. There has been so much to encourage him. It feels, to him, more like a challenge to get part of it done and then plant the seeds of hope. It can be tackled, given enough time.

Sister reinforced that we will not go back the same as when we came - even the veterans - and we may need time alone to process what we have shared down here.

Chris Fisher had a life-changing experience at La Chureca. He has been planning on joining the military for the past three years and he has decided there is enough pain in this world that he needs to do something for people moving in that direction.

Kara Hackett shared that when they stopped at the bank to make a deposit, Sister explained the Flores' story while Oscar and Mauricio were inside. Afterward, she has now come to view Oscar and his family as an inspiration by coming back here to help their people even though they have been through so much. It has inspired her to continue to return and keep working here.

Joe Lewis said he felt La Chureca looked worse today, from the outside, than it did from the inside the other day. Riding around the city to get the chairs shrinkwrapped, he found Brad quite wise in his observations of the chain convenience stores that are rampant here. Brad views those enterprises as pushing the country backward rather than bringing it forward. Joe said it is throughout other countries, not just Nicaragua, as he hears of it at his work in the prison system. He has heard so many people, from so many places, agree with his thought of a United America even though the various politicians can't seem to work together. Reinforcing that thought, Sister Debbie told us of a third grader who once told her that God didn't make boundaries, people did.

Peggy Giroux said their time at Our Lady of Guadelupe Clinic this afternoon allowed her to notice how great the rooms looked that were painted earlier this week by our team. She felt it was a simple way to bring dignity to the clinic and its patients.

Connie Tyska noted it was a tough day. She thought it was good going out on Rice & Beans and seeing a young man with neurological problems realizing how that compounds problems of poverty. They returned to that family's home with vitamins and nutritional supplements.

Today was Connie's 'mission moment' - she never knew four years ago when she met Sister Karla that they were so close in age. Today, as she was leaving and got in the car, Connie reflected that 4 hours traveling here, to sit for 2 hours talking, followed by another 4 hour trip back home was a lot. When the nuns were driving out, Sister Karla rolled down the window handed Connie the tortillas they likely had planned for their own meal. They are so giving and have so little in tangible things. When we go home and look around our houses - it will sicken us how much we have. That's what the Mission is about - gaining perspective.

Alex jumped in with a short, light story about going to get Phil just outside the gates. Phil went in and Peggy handed Alex the stickers that Phil had been trying to give to the students and immediately it tuned into a tug of war. Chico (the youngest) then came up and grabbed Alex's hand taking the sticker and putting it on his t-shirt then engulfing Alex in a bear hug.

Tricia was on kitchen duty today and wanted to put out there that Brenda is a cool kitchen lady - she is awesome and got a lot done. Sister Debbie affirmed that as she made grilled cheese sandwiches for Sister Karla and Miriam as well as those sitting with them and then a special dinner for the nuns to take back home.

Ashley Goyette shared that she went to Parajito Azul today prepared to be sad, but wound up being really happy. She saw Sr. Steph glowing while she was there - it is so obvious that the children love her and are so excited to be around her. She saw all the stuff that Heather Frenette brought today for the autistic children and how excited the psychologist was to see what she was given.

Connie Tyska chimed in noting that she found out today, in a roundabout way, that today is the anniversary of when Sister Debbie took her vows - 35 years ago today.

Kayla Rabideau gave a shout out to the Nejapa crew for getting the roof done!

Anthony visited his sponsored family today to bring them what he had brought down for them and he was so pleased to see their 15-day old boy - and then discovered they had named the child, "Anthony."

Three young adults were here from NICAYUDA were here at 4 p.m. and met with many of us in the dining room for a presentation about the 2 different pre-schools that Mission began assisting last February with school items. They also brought handmade cards from a few of the pre-schoolers that we will bring back to our Leadership Team which thank us for all we have done for them. They have had what we would call "Teacher Conference Days" with the teachers at the two pre-schools to help them learn about various behavioral and developmental issues among the young students. The teachers get paid, by the government, $25 per month - and one of the preschools is in the teacher's home because the space that was made available is totally unsafe.

Hillary Miller was amazed at how dedicated Norman Espinoza (Magaly's brother) and the other 2 young people are to their own young. It would be easy to let others - older people - do it, but they are taking the future of their country in their hands by working at trying to provide a good start to education. Chris was very interested in the age group they were assisting - helping Pre-K rather than their peers or others close in age. The remarkable thing is NICAYUDA is all volunteer - each of these young adults also has their own job. For instance, Norman is the pre-K teacher at the school in La Chureca.

Tonight Nora's rice pudding was decorated in honor of the Mission with cinnamon and raisins…and we now have the recipe! Someone wanted to know if we would have it made for the reunion (possibly on the 20th-21st) and Sister assured that Nora most likely got the recipe from Oscar's mother, so we could have it. Sister will email us all later in the week with optional dates.

Our meeting was closed with, "I Hear the Baby Crying" which spoke of drying all the tears. "We are all part of one world - I am just like you - so let your hearts be open and reach out with all your love…we are a part of one world, we all can share the same dream - if you just reach out to me, you'll find I'm just like you."

And with that, we closed our meeting on our next-to-last night in Nica.

Monday, August 3, 2009

By Bonnie Black
The reality of a waning mission is upon us as this morning Bill Murray left at 5:15 a.m. to return home on his 8 a.m. flight. We are down to 40 now and we only have three full days left before almost everyone else is gone, so we are quite diligent about getting the necessary tasks completed - or as completed as we can with the weather and the supplies.

Sister Debbie mentioned that it seems that all this mission is doing is painting…and that's correct! This is the construction/paint mission with February's being the carton sorting and distribution mission. We send a container here in late fall that is being compiled right now by our fantastic volunteer MOHTown team who work every Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. - and sometimes even later for pre-arranged deliveries.

Many times in August, we give the group a second experience in addition to the 'day off' such as the theatre, bullfights, baseball games or cultural events. IF we have any spare time tomorrow or Wednesday, our team might get a chance to head back to the Huembes market for 2 hours, take a ride to La Chureca (if they haven't yet) or, as opportunity allows, go on a mystery tour with Sister Debbie. She passed around signup sheets for all this morning. BUT, we will be extending our work day by a half hour and moving dinner to 5 p.m. in order to accommodate this.

She also thanked the A Team for continuing to do the 'extra tasks' as they arise and asked that everyone remembers these 5 people will be doing a lot for the next mission as they shut down Nicasa for us.

This morning's reflection time was guided by Hillary Miller who played John Mayer's "Waiting on the World to Change." After the trip to La Chureca the other day and hearing about the government's decision to take away the hope of moving elsewhere for the people, she felt the lyrics were poignant:

"Now we see everything that's going wrong with the world and those who lead it. We just feel like we don't have the means to rise above and beat it…. It's not that we don't care, we just know that the fight ain't fair."

Sister closed the meeting noting that it is hard to be persistent when obstacles are continuously put in front of us, as human beings trying to serve others. So she urged us each to get out there today and be the change we want to see in the world.

Right after our morning meeting, Sister Debbie took the photos of the remaining students here at Nino who now have sponsors. There are a few real cuties!

Our BBB crew of Anthony Garami, Brad Willett, Peggy Giroux and Adrianne Longino whisked through some of the tasks this morning before leaving and will complete the rest as they return from their morning assignments - before getting into the day-long maintenance of that task to keep us all healthy.

Today's Home Crew went out to complete the last two homes and found one did not have the foundation completed, so a few of the locals did that while the rest tackled the next to last home being built for Margarita Molina Collada in Nejapa paid for by the Plattsburgh Sunrise Rotary. By the time they were finished with the first one, the second's foundation was ready and they completed it for Lidia Arguirre Potosul of Nejapa. Again, the donation for this shelter was provided by the Plattsburgh Sunrise Rotary Club. Kasey Garrand headed up the crew of Tom Grue, Phil Maynard and Chris Fisher.

The paint crew at Velez Paiz Children's Hospital did breezeway between the two ERs making some of the doctors very happy as they said it hadn't been painted in over 20 years. That crew was led by Emily Bean: Brad Willett, Joan Riani, Ashley Goyette, Kelly Hayle, Adrianne Longino and Tricia Giglio.

Rice & Beans for the day was coordinated by Sarah Scardillo who had, as a morning crew, Jackie Bedore, Heather Frenette, Stephen Witkiewicz and Rich DeGrijze. Their guide was Maritsa and they came back pretty quickly. So, Sarah, Heather and Stephen organized the supplies left for this afternoon and tomorrow so the teams heading out are prepared with the gifts we have left. We are now out of the Beanie Baby sized toys for infants, so we will need more to be shipped down on the container at the end of this month. If anyone knows people who have small stuffed toys that are safe for infants and toddlers that they don't need any more - and are in new or 'like new' condition, please think of dropping them off during the regular MOHTown hours.

As part of Odd Jobs after rice and beans, Jackie Bedore and Rich DeGrijze continued sorting the vitamins we brought down for our "Children Feeding Children" program from suitcases to cartons for storage by Magaly.

Completing the paint jobs of the four rooms we tackled at Our Lady of Guadelupe Clinic were Joe Lewis, Hillary Miller, Darcy Rabideau and Kara Hackett. A great feeling that we are done with one of the painting jobs!

Delivery the first 100 pounds of rice and beans this morning to Parajito Azul Center were Sister Stephanie, Brenda Flynn and Mary Fredette…and, of course, they spent most of the morning with the residents.

A large contingent went to the San Jose Hospital in Diriamba today for some hands-on medical experience with their Nicaraguan counterparts: Anthony Garami, Bill Calmbacher, Angele Neyer, Peggy Giroux, Meagan Pelkey, Liz Cofrancesco, Connie Tyska, Lou Ann Nielson and Ashley Thompson.

Our computer guru, Sonesh Balchandani, was between the table in the kitchen and the Oficina working on the various laptops which we brought down, installing the various programs still needed. The speed - or lack thereof - of the internet here takes more than a day for something that could be completed at home in just over an hour on networked computers.

This afternoon at 12:45pm, our student team of Stephen Witkiewicz, Tricio GIglio, Chris Fisher, Kayla Rabideau and Hillary Miller went over to the high school and began working on the portion of the mural they started on Saturday (we have the right colors now) only to find - after about an hour - that the students weren't able to join them. So, they finished their portion and will do the rest on Wednesday. Magaly said she will assure the students are here for Wednesday after school.

Magaly was our leader for this afternoon's Rice & Beans which was comprised of Sarah Scardillo, Kara Hackett, Joan Riani and Mary Fredette. They traveled by truck to get out and about.

Finishing the trim at Fernando Velez Paiz Children's Hospital this afternoon were Darcy Rabideau, Ashley Goyette, Heather Frenette, Jackie Bedore and Kelly Hayle. The rest of the non-Kitchen Crew were at NiCarlos working on various aspects of the tasks still left: Electric was Tom Grue and Adrianne Longino; building the ¾ wall were Joe Lewis, Rich DeGrijze and Phil Maynard; and painting the trim was Brad Willett, Brenda Flynn and Rinsha Ballani.

Kasey Garrand and Emily Bean took the 'mystery tour' ride with Sister Debbie to the meeting at CARITAS this afternoon as well as delivering donations to Casa de Vida - the women's safe house that we support, when we can.

There are always those Odd Jobs to do and this afternoon, for instance, when the team returned from Diriamba, it was discovered that the water barrels needed to be emptied (into the toilets and mop buckets) as disinfectant had been added instead of bleach this morning.

Sonesh also was working on the hemoglobinometer to get it working for us to assess the third graders here at Nino before we leave. Later tonight, after the meeting, Phil Maynard also tried, but to no avail.

We began our nightly meeting with clarification on sponsorships and gifts brought down on this trip.

Sister Debbie then announced that people here have given $359 toward food at Parajito Azul! On top of that, we received an email from the Fredette family who were very moved by the food situation. The 'grandmother' has written a check for $150 as have the family itself - it is Alex Fredette's parents and grandmother who will have their donations split evenly between Parajito Azul and Juan Pablo II.

We also learned that a person on mission has donated 1 bag of rice & 1 of beans to the Juan Pablo II baby orphanage- thanks for being so generous. Plus, during the day, we heard from a donor back home who is donating $500 to go toward milk for the Juan Pablo II baby orphanage which will be allocated at $100/month for the next 5 months - we are so blessed!

We have had different pastries as our 'treats' at our evening meeting which come from different sources around here…a 'sweet' way to assure we spread our money around in equitable fashion.

Brenda Flynn and Sister Stephanie were able to present the rice & beans today at Parajito Azul which absolutely filled them with joy as they knew they would be able to feed the children over the next day or two.

Sister Debbie informed us that Sister Karla and her fellow nuns may be visiting us from Mateguas tomorrow. So, Emily Bean said we need to work at 110% with 10% more for fun!

Sister then acknowledged that we are about the time in Mission that sadness rises up within us, with so much still to do in so very little time.

Tomorrow we will be meeting the Nino sponsored children in the afternoon, but it really all starts bright and early with the paint crew leaving here at 6:30 a.m. in order to be at Nejapa before 7am.

Sister Stephanie reminded us that beginning tomorrow, although we have enough to eat, it will be a little of this and a little of that in order to 'eat our way' down to nothing in the refrigerator when we leave.

Tricia learned something today - how to say Adrianne's name correctly!

Today, Sisters Stephanie and Debbie along with Oscar met with Sister Ligia at what is considered the best ICU in this area to meet with the dying sister from Diriamba. Patients were being brought out of surgery with people carrying IVs, a patient was on cardboard,

Not sure which

Sister danced with a fooled around with in February.

Through colonoscopy found a perforation in the intestine and she also developed pneumonia

8 ICU patients - no curtains, no division, few machines, and reuse the 'sterile' gowns time after time by people entering ICU - professional staff and visitors. Incredible lesson on what the healthcare system could be like if we didn't live in the US. People were being wheeled in with no limbs and bandages stuck on the end of the appendage. The floors weren't clean and neither were the walls. The next time we have to wait a little bit in the hospital or in the ER, we need to rethink.

It is a referral hospital - a public hospital - most complicated cases in Nicaragua.

Sr. Steph had to see patienets whelled without any privacy - men and women next tot each other. She observed a man so thin with whom a PT was working and she was afraid the bones were going to broken.

Came back and picked up Emily Bean and Kasey Garrand on a 'mystery ride.' Kasey told us that they ran into construction so they took an alternate route, around the lagoon, in order to get to CARITAS in time. It was a thin, dirt road that gave them a fantastic view of Managua - even though there was trash on the road.

They met with the new director of CARITAS who speaks English quite well. They also

Gave Johanna a few personal items for her new baby

Doctor removes tattoos as they 'brand' the men as members of gangs and it makes it hard to get a job. The doctor was performing surgery at the time they were there and she allowed them to watch the removal which is done by burning the tattoo off the skin and then removing the dead derma. People with tattoos need 1-3 sessions to remove the artwork. Some are having them removed for their own safety as they have left a gang and are at risk of being killed if they are 'found' by their identifying marks. The doctor is supported by MOH in coordination of a grant

Casa de Vida donations and quick tour - very small - and only safe house for raped and abuse women in the city. It houses only 12 women and their young children. Emily felt it was great to finally go there after having sorted donations for a number of missions now. There were 4 babies there today and one bed was cardboard - no mattress.

Then they did the grocery run and returned here in time for dinner.

Ashley Goyette shared what she experienced the second time she went to Fernando Velez Paiz Hospital they observed black bags being put over a drain and brought toward the incinerator. The contents were placentas being placed in and burned - while they were painting. Kelly Hayle told us the hospital told them they don't have enough sheets; Tricia Giglio was there in the morning when an older woman brought them into what is the kitchen/laundry room. It was dingy and moldy and she wanted them to paint it. They decided to brighten it, even for a day.

Joe Lewis stopped by to pick up the workers and was stopped by the Administrator who wanted to thank us for what we had done today and was so grateful. Of course, there is still so much to do. He noticed the conditions in this hospital, too, without any privacy for any patients. The second floor was damaged in the 1972 earthquake and has been unstable since that time. Kelly said that so many people walked by as they were painting and thanked them so much for what they were doing. It is the center for cleft palate surgeries and children's burns.

Lou Ann Nielson told of a different experience at San Jose Hospital in Diriamba. Clean, segregated patients, etc. They went into the ER and met the doctor and the nurse; after the doctor left, the nurse told them to please keep speaking English so she could practice it as she has to learn it in order to keep her job.

They ran into some Ontario students and then saw some beds with CVPH Medical Center sheets on them! Thanks to Tom Defayette of CVPH who has arranged for those donations that gave a feeling of 'home' to Lou Ann and Angie.

Kasey Garrand and his team at their home shelter this morning were approached by a man with a severe gash in his hand that was infected. He was drunk, spoke a bit of English, and Kasey called Nicasa to get instructions and was told he could come see Dr. Lopez tomorrow at 2pm. Tom Grue told us that they were told that because he was a drunk, he is treated like a dog by the family. They tried to tell him not to use the hand, and then observed him getting another cut as he grabbed some barbed wire there.

Sister told us that there is a great network among the nuns here, our clinic, Magaly and the First Responders that truly know people's ability to pay the nominal fee - if they can get here. Our medicines are given away for free, but our pharmacy here doesn't have all of the meds needed by all people at all times. If someone can't pay, the nuns assure that they are seen by the doctor.

Peggy Giroux noted that San Jose is extremely clean and very organized, but they had hardly any patients. The reason they don't have many patients any more is because the government is trying to take control of the Catholic hospitals by putting them out of business. The reason Sr. Ligia is still here is because her order knows if she

Paint

Generatos

Equipment

See effects of MOH work

Anthony Garami said the doctor told them there is pessimism in the community, but he saw improvements from what he saw last year

2 out of 3 of the children suffering from malnutrition

Systemic problems out there

A lot of political fear and unrest

We have much more to do here and urge you to become involved - not just one trip here and move on in your life. It is very important to continue

Represented our youth very well

Because the Catholic Church has spoken out against Ortega, Sister Ligia told Joe last night that they lost power for 5 months and then an additional 3 after she personally spoke out. Risking their lives for their efforts among the poor as has been the way in Central America for decades. Sister Ligia and the others live in fear, but also hope as witnessed by the joy we saw on them last night.

Encourage the young among us to learn the history of this country.

Hillary Miller noted the strength Kara Hackett is developing in her left arm painting the walls at the hospital today.

Adrianne Longino shared her experience in the courtyard which touched her tonight. She has been spending her time with her sponsored boy and his sister who tonight told her that they were her son and daughter. She has felt connected, but hadn't realized the impact of sponsoring a child; the family views the sponsor as a parent and believes in the strength of that connection.

Others shared quick insights into their day: Liz Cofrancesco lauded the medical team which she observed today in Diriamba - and inspiration to her; Sister Debbie found out from Magaly that the 3 children who live alone we interacted with a few days ago on rice & beans all go to school and sleep in the house alone, there are relatives nearby.

Sister Stephanie appealed to the group for a volunteer and accepted Lou Ann Nielson as a new member of the Wednesday Kitchen Crew; Darcy Rabideau reminded all that she will be compiling a CD of the songs we have shared this week during our meetings.

Ashley Thompson closed us with James Taylor's "Shed a Little Light." What stood out to me in the lyrics were: "There are ties between us, all men and women living on the earth, Ties of hope and love, sister and brotherhood, That we are bound together in our desire to see the world become a place in which our children can grow free and strong."

Sister then mentioned that this month is Sister Stephanie's 50th Jubilee as a nun and all applauded. We closed wishing Mary Fredette a real Happy Birthday and Kayla Rabideau gave a shout out to Mary and Joan Riani who not only hung in but actually led the hiking from time to time today during Rice & Beans - you go, girls!

Sister reminded us that we are creating the bonds we will take home with us. And she said that Sonesh introduced her to new food: she loved the loli but not the koki.

And with that, we put our chairs away and moved toward calling it a night - only two more nights here in Nica and the majority of us will be back home.

August 3, 2009

Sunday, August 2, 2009

By Bonnie Black
Our 'day off' began with a phenomenal French toast breakfast cooked up for us by the day's Kitchen Crew: Phil Maynard, Darcy Rabideau, Brad Willett, Adrianne Longino and Joe Lewis. We had choices of the Papa Bear Special (PB and Banana), French Toast Cheese Blintz and the Papa Bear Special for banana intolerance (PB and Honey). In other words, they prepared the delicious French toast and had many options for us to add toppings in addition to the traditional syrup.

Before heading out for the day, our BBB crew were the Bills for the men and Connie and Angie for the women. It is so nice how others pitched in knowing that everyone was leaving between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. for the entire day. Thanks to all who did!

The first bus with 8 all together, headed to Mombacho, the cloudforest over an hour away from here. As I write this, I haven't had time to speak to anyone who went on that trip as when we got back just after 5 p.m. we had our guests arriving immediately after taking our Mission #32 photo. They had lunch at Pollo Narcy, near El Coyotepe before heading into downtown Managua's Roberto Huembes Market.

The second bus left at 7:30 a.m. driving through San Marco past the town plaza, Masatepe (founded in 1825) and then stopping at Catarina. Everyone disembarked to view the lagoon - and what a refreshing breeze! Although overcast, the 30 of us enjoyed the cool air and wind. Some of the markets began to open (they usually do so at 9am) with most of us getting a head start on making purchased from our lists of family and friends.

We then drove to Granada past the town plaza and the horsedrawn carriages and vendors to Lake Nicaragua for the boat tour through the isletas. We boarded 3 boats and spent just over an hour navigating the waterway near the coast and around a variety of small islands. It was interesting to those of us who had been here before, that many are now for sale. We saw the price on one was $150,000 - but weren't sure if it had running water and electricity access. Others with homes built on them - where we have seen people tending to their gardens, eating, etc. in the past - assuredly do, but those prices were posted. We joked about taking a collection and letting A Team have some respite there ('what time for respite?' A Team members said!).

We then headed back toward the downtown area as people voted to spend 10-15 minutes there, even though they were informed it would come off of their shopping time at Masaya Market. A few climbed the many stairs to the highest point in Granada while others went into the back of the church that was holding Mass. Of course, most spend a brief moment at the vendors' tables picking up items again.

We had lunch in the open air under a thatched roof at Mi Viejo Ranchito on the Masaya Road. Of course, 30 people arriving unannounced put a bit of stress on the kitchen which was already serving a packed restaurant - we actually couldn't see any other empty tables besides the 3 next to ours which filled up quite fast. Although it was 12:50pm, it seemed to never let up. The one waiter assigned to our table and the others in the section seemed to do his best, but it was at Nica speed. We must have patience when visiting other cultures, that most do not move at the hectic pace we set for ourselves in the US. From my observation, it probably is much healthier NOT to consistently push, push, push.

The four tables of us were all served at various times (although it was a complete table at once) so we staggered in frustration leaving some quite hungry while others had completed their meals. In all, the lunch took almost 2 hours. We then headed to Masaya Market for an hour-and-a-quarter of shopping (on top of the morning's ventures). We got back to Nicasa at 5:05 p.m. - almost on time.

Sister Ligia and another nun from Diriamba had been with Oscar Flores and Sister Debbie in the afternoon, loading their truck with equipment and supplies from NiCarlos' to Diriamba. That leaves only a small amount to still go there tomorrow when the medical team plus a couple of others have a hands-on day in San Jose Hospital and deliver medicines.

Tonight was our perennial pizza night in memory of Shawn Watson, a longtime supporter of the Mission and nephew of Sister Steph and cousin to Heather Frenette. His former employer, Whirley Industries, has continued in this wonderful 'thank you' to those in the immediate community as well as farther afield with whom we work. And, of course, it is always good to see the smiles on our own faces as we enjoy a taste of home!

As our guests, in addition to the sisters from Diriamba, were the nuns from Nino Jesus de Praga along with Sister Rosa's mother and sister who are visiting from El Salvador. Magaly Velasquez with her husband Hernando, Inocencio Velasquez, Nora and her two daughters, Marta Leiva (Yami's sister and coordinator of our clinics) all were present. Profesor Augusto had told us he couldn't make it because he lives 40 kilometers away and Sister Karla has dengue and still had her fever, so she didn't come with Padre Raul and the other nuns from Matugalpa. We had also invited the point people with whom we work at CARITAS as well as MINSA, but they live in the city and, most likely, found it hard to get out to us on a Sunday night during Santo Domingo.

Mid-evening, we celebrated two birthdays among us: Mary Fredette and Kelly Hayle. We had a birthday cake each along with a personal piñata which was quite hard to break. After the birthday girls had taken many whacks at them, we invited others to help: the 'award-winning' Bill Calmbacher, Sister Debbie and then Inocencio who was once a professional baseball player in Nicaragua. Both piñatas gave forth of their sweets and all were pleased!

As the evening came to a close, most still had a lot of nervous energy from the day and we allowed 'lights out' to be a half hour later. Back to the grindstone tomorrow, though!

August 2, 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009

By Bonnie Black
We began with sun this morning - so much so that it was quite glaring while I was trying to take notes at the morning meeting…but, as you well know, that is a pleasing difference from the rain!

This morning's meeting started with Our BBB crew of Rich DeGrijze, Joan Riani, Hillary Miller and Stephen Witkiewicz had to be quite focused on accomplishing their tasks as all were also assigned to other projects this morning in order to get one of their 'wishes'' granted. Kitchen Crew of Rich DeGrijze (yes, his name appears here again), Meagan Pelkey and Mary Fredette, under the direction of Bev Gogola, also needed to be just as focused, as they also were doing double duty this morning and afternoon.

Transportation was very creative for today in trying to get a variety of tasks done while also 'granting wishes' to travelers. One of those 'wishes' was two tours to La Chureca for those who had never been before. On the first drive through, Sister Debbie took Kasey Garrand, Tricia Giglio, Kelly Hale, Alex Fredette, Kayla Rabideau, Bill Murray, Tom Grue and the two Ashleys; on her second was Emily Bean, Sarah Scardillo, Heather Frenette, Jackie Bedore, Brenda Flynn, Lou Ann Nielson, Joan Riani, Liz Cofrancesco, Adrianne Longino, Darcy Rabideau, Richard DeGrijio, Hillary Miller and Meagan Pelkey.

A paint and sink installation crew went to Guadelupe Clinic this morning under the guidance of Phil Maynard: Sonesh Bochandani, Rinsha Ballani, Brad Willett, Chris Fisher and Kara Hackett. What they found was that the current sink is working quite well and does not need to be repaired not replaced. We certainly can use the sink we bought in many other places, so it won't be for naught.

Rice and beans today were led by Magaly and her brother, Norman: JoeLewis, Joan Riani, Hillary Miller, Stephen Witkiewicz and Jackie Bedore.

A team went to the baby orphanage in Managua: Anthony Garami, ConnieTyska, Angie Neyer, Peggy Giroux, Bill Calmbacher, Adrianne Longino, Lou Ann Nielson, Sarah Scardillo, Darcy Rabideau, Liz Cofrancesco, Heather Frenette, Brenda Flynn and Emily Bean.

Mid-morning, we were able to get a crew out to put up the fence at the community garden in Chiquilistagua we created a day or two ago: Kasey Garrand, Bill Murray, Kelly Hale, Ashley Thompson, Tricia Giglio, Ashley Goyette, Alex Fredette and Kayla Rabideau. It was a quick job that got them out and about the countryside.

Another mid-morning trip was to have three of our team head to Parajito Azul to do electrical work: Tom Grue, Joe Lewis and Stephen Witkiewitz. The connected - safely - some wiring that had been observed by previous mission trips. They were able to get power to their dining room so that all 4 outlets work and also in the reception area where they watch tv.

Afternoon assignments included sending a paint crew back to Our Lady of Guadelupe Clinic to get as much of the four rooms done as possible. They also had asked the morning crew to repaint their sign; the background was painted and this crew brought back some partially opened can of black paint for them to complete their sign on their own. Our painters were: Bill Calmbacher, Brenda Flynn, Tricia Gigio, Alex Fredette and Kelly Hale.

Rice & beans went out again with Magaly and Norman for a walking tour and got caught in the afternoon rains: Kayla Rabideau, Brad Willett, Darcy Rabideau, Emily Bean and Chris Fisher.

The other garden fence up in Monte Verde community garden plot was completed by Kasey Garrand, Adrianne Longino, Phil Maynard, Jackie Bedore and Ashley Goyette.

A visit to the Angels of Hope Orphanage in El Crucero this afternoon saw a vanful of travelers there: Connie Tyska, Angie Neyer, Rinsha Ballani, Heather Frenette, Ashley Thompson, Joan Riani, Kara Hackett, Anthony Garami, Lou Ann Nielson, Peggy Giroux, Sarah Scardillo, Hillary Miller and Sonesh Balchandani.

After other jobs were done, there were 'odd jobs' to do which seem to always appear whenever someone would have some 'down' time!

Tom Grue headed up to the Nino Clinic to see if he could begin the sink installation job that had to be postponed due to (1) lack of specific materials and then (2) the clinic being open the next day. Kasey Garrand joined him and they found the clinic door they didn't a key to was the one to which they needed access. Oh, well, another day! They then returned to begin an assessment of one of the women's toilets.

Bev Gogola did a mattress count to assure we have enough to cover the new bunkbeds yet leave every bunk here covered. We have three thin ones to go over, so that let's us know how many we will have to buy soon.

A few people were able to shower (so to speak) before dinner and Mass that was held at 6pm. Just before it began, we lost all electricity in the area. It was interesting to see solar lights on poles, the same lights many of us use as walkway lights, as the processional lights carried by the acolytes.

Our evening meeting began right after Mass in our regular location again by flashlight beams. We covered the basics for tomorrow's 'day off' such as who the group leaders will be, etc. For the Mombacho (cloudforest) trip as well as the Granada trip the departure time is 7am - the usual time for our morning meeting, so it will be nothing different for breakfast time. Each group will be having lunch out and then on to one of the markets we usually go.

We will then host many of the locals with whom we work for our annual pizza party in memory of Shawn Watson - more on that tomorrow. We will not have Sr. Ligia and the nuns from Diriamba as they are on retreat this weekend. And Sr. Karla along with the other three sisters from Matugalpa won't be able to make, either. We will miss their presence, but will have many others with us.

Kara Hackett began our sharing time with a song that helped her process her visit to La Chureca, "In the Arms of the Angels." With vultures at your back - make up for all that you lack - glorious sadness that brings me to my knees - were all phrases that certainly brought to mind what was seen for the first time by many.

It was an emotional day with many people having their 'mission moments' today. "The reality of La Chureca, Sister Debbie said, "is that it is a dump" and even though many had seen last year's mission DVD, they were still emotionally impacted by their first-hand experience.

She then shared a thought that she and Joe Lewis had spoken about before - that someday there will be only one America, not the three that currently exist.

Another powerful moment for her was the simple gesture of the young people among us who got up and used their flashlights to light the way for the congregation to pass through the aisles during communion at Mass tonight. Sister Rosa, who we know as a woman of few words, approached Sister Debbie afterward and said, "Thank you for the light." Sister Debbie then thanked the young among us for being the light figuratively, too.

Joe Lewis told us of the experience doing electrical work at Parajito Azul. He had his 'mission moment' working with Tom Grue today who was willing to do anything to accomplish the work, even though they were working on live wires in two rooms. They then passed into another room which had a breathing machine in a tenuous outlet and, again, Tom tried. This time, though, they were not able to fix it. Although Tom got shocked many times today, he kept working knowing that he could possibly make a difference for the residents.

Brenda Flynn thanked Rinsha Ballani for getting her to eat even though she didn't feel like it after the visit to La Chureca paint and the entire afternoon paint crew at Guadelupe Clinic for the fun experience - it lifted her up.

Adrianne Longino spoke of her experience at the Juan Pablo II Orphanage where the infants and toddlers have a bottle of milk in the morning and in the evening - no fruits or vegetables and not much else to eat. It seems that food is a problem in many of the places we visit this mission to a greater degree than in the past.

Tricia GIglio had a 'clumsy' day including her best fall of the day at Our Lady of Guadelupe Clinic as she tumbled off the ladder, grabbed a curtain and had her fall broken by Alex! And, to top that, the van began rolling along the road when they were loading it because the driver had not put on the hand brake.

Connie Tyska and Bev Gogola then brought Bill Calmbacher into the center of the circle and told him that the women have been listening and, as representatives of all of the women, presented him with the "BBB Good Housekeeping Award." They said they would like to see it hung on the men's room door. He accepted it humbly on behalf 'of all mankind.'

Brad Willett gave kudos to Phil Maynard who was able to 'get it done' with an amazing approach to it all during the morning painting at Guadelupe Clinic.

Rinsha Ballani was emotional tonight in reaction to hearing of Tom's actions at Parajito Azul - "he is so amazing," she said. Her trip to the Orphanage in El Crucero today was the center of her emotions. She connected with a girl named Sara who said she was not happy there. She said she had no friends and has only one person who comes to visit her from time to time. What she understood is that the girl saw her mother die in front of her and now must live at the orphanage. The young girl is going through so much as are most of the people Rinsha has encountered here.

She also mentioned that, as most of us know, she is Hindu which is a polytheistic religion. Initially, she was nervous that she wouldn't fit in but is so pleased with the curiosity of everyone on Mission and how open everyone is to accepting her and her religion. She is used to being segregated and separated because of her religion and appreciates this experience, especially tonight to Peggy Giroux for taking her into Mass and explaining it all to her so she could learn more about Christianity.

Alex Fredette noted that we have been hearing about the hardest aspects of mission that we have to deal with, but what invigorates him - through our combined efforts - is that we have the ability to make significant changes and though it may take a long time, and maybe we may not see all of the results, as quickly as we'd like, we can make the necessary changes if we are willing to make certain sacrifices - such as getting shocked 8 times and catching a person falling off the ladder. We will be amazed at what we can accomplish, the positive changes, the hope to keep going - that's what gives him the energy in the darkest moments.

Sister Debbie reminded us of the line, "Be the change you want to see in the world." The Mission has failed if we go home and nothing is different. She said she really believes that the Mission only truly begins when we leave.

Liz Cofrancesco told of her 'mission moment' at the Juan Pablo baby orphanage. She has never been in a situation where she felt so hopeless. She said it was like a picture from National Geographic when she walked in. When holding a baby in her arms, it broke her heart that this child would grow to 5 and then go to older kid orphanage and then probably end on the street. For the first time in her life, she couldn't see the brightness.

Sister agreed the odor was obvious when walking in this time, the ceiling was moldy, the fan half off - much worse shape than we've seen before. But, she said each person has the power to make a difference - a hope that most of us carry.

Anthony Garami said that Juan Pablo II is overwhelming for him, too, personally feeling inadequate at moment like the hemoglobinometer not functioning today. But, what pulls him through is thinking, "What would Jesus do?" He expressed his belief that Gof has a plan and is leading him (and us) in a specific path. He spoke of an incredible power of the Lord's direction comes upon him at times such as when we were without vitamins to bring and, after a call, the Keeseville Pharmacy came through with the 100,000 vitamins we needed - all donated. And then when a grant we have had a shortfall a month or so ago, Maggy's Pharmcay came through with $5,000 worth of medicine to restock our pharmacy here as well as the Guadelupe and San Jose pharmacies. It is remembering that it is not by our own power these things are accomplished.

Sister told us about the significant donations from CVPH staff members which allowed this mission to bring down so many pharmaceuticals and of the continuous support from Condo's Pharmacy through the 10 years which has made so much happen in our clinic. We also must remember the blessings of having a strong connection with CMMB which has donated over $40million in pharmaceuticals over the years. It is all working together to keep the Mission going.

Hillary Miller also had her 'mission moment' today. She only had a few moments to stop at the baby orphanage on the way to the dump as we needed to coordinate a supply transfer with one of our other vehicles. A girl asked her to pick her up and even though she was there only 5-10 minutes, she made a big impression. When Hillary went to leave, the girl kept clinging to her. She was very upset she had to leave ,yet happy the girl enjoyed her company for a short time.

Kara Hackett watched an experience at the orphanage in El Crucero: a young girl really took to Sonesh Balchandani, chasing him around with a puppet and having so much fun. She turned to him after a while and called him, 'padre.' It brightened her afternoon after a not-so-good morning to see their interaction.

Sister closed our time together tonight by noting that this is the most incredible group of sharing individuals compared to many others. The mission is what you make it - you can have a dream, but if others do not help the dream come true, it stays only a dream.

Peggy Giroux closed the meeting with acknowledging that today is a special day for our Sisters (the Feast of St. Domenic) and even though we have nothing tangible to give like we would at home, but we can share what those in Nicaragua have - the power of sharing words. We heard terms like passion, caring, tolerance, leadership and personal guidance, inspiration, selflessness, opportunity for young people to find who they are, caring, friendship, a sister in social justice, personal caring, hugs, inspiration, strength, right up there with our own parents, giving, devoted, teaching, wisdom, energetic, acceptance, support, awesome, life-changing, people respond to you, strength for self and others, insightful, dedication, hard working, confidante, dedicated. Oscar then closed by saying that the people who are not present here tonight - those whom the Mission has educated - the friendship that the Sisters have shown his family since moving to New York, the gratitude to all who have come from around the world to serve on Mission. Every member of his family is so grateful for the connections made through the Sisters.

Peggy then played a closing song by Josh Grobin, "You Raise Me Up" focusing on how those we have been serving are raising us up. Phrases that stood out to me tonight, even though I have heard this song many times, were "Come and sit a while with me" and the refrain of "Raise me up to more than I can be." Exactly what the Mission is to those of us here in Mission #32.

Just before we all stood to end our evening, Kara Hackett said she had to tell us about her 'Lou moment' at the orphanage this afternoon. The had been interacting with a little girl who wanted to show them where she slept. When they were in the room, there was a noise that came from under the bed. The little girl went over and when Kara asked her what it was, she said it was a "nina." She said 'it' was under the bed and started shaking the bed. When Lou saw this she said, "No hurto" which made everyone in the room stop what they were doing and turn to look. Lou had been told that you can just add an 'o' to the end of words and you could make yourself understood. Well, in this case, it wasn't understood, but had the same effect: the girl stopped shaking the bed and the little one wasn't hurt!

That story made us all laugh as we put away our chairs and headed inside. The electricity never came back on by 10pm, when it was the extended 'lights out' curfew for the night. Things quieted down quite quickly and everyone got their rest for tomorrow - our 'day off' - as we cannot sleep in with the buses leaving at 7am.

August 1, 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009


By Bonnie Black
I'll catch you up on all that has transpired since this morning's edition. Of course, in the middle of our Community Health Fair, we had the 'big' rain of the day. It lasted almost 2 ½ hours - a constant downpour - longer than usual. But, for the people inside the auditorium, they were basically dry.

Today on BBB were Joe Lewis, Chris Fisher, Jackie Bedore and Kayla Rabideau and on Kitchen with Brenda Flynn were Joan Riani, Liz Cofrancesco and Hillary Miller.

Off to Parajito Azul special needs center were Sister Stephanie, Kara Hackett and Heather Frenette with many donations which pleased the staff so much. Unbeknown to them, the envelope here in the Oficina is slowly growing with donations toward their food. It looks very good that we can provide them, at least this week, with something to enhance their meager stock of food.

Sponsor gifts were completed this morning under the guidance of Jackie Bedore with Meagan Pelkey and Ashley Goyette helping; I was able to print out the complete list of students who will be receiving a letter or small gift from their sponsor and give the lists to Magaly so she can contact the families over the weekend. We will be going to the Mother of the Divine Son School in Nejapa on Monday at 2pm and then we will see the families here at Nino at 2pm on Tuesday. It is so important to remember, as sponsors, that the gifts fit into a standard 9 x 12 manila envelope at the largest. It is more equitable to all receiving gifts and a whole lot easier to fit into the suitcases we must organize it all in (alphabetically) and bring to each school.

Bunkbed building this morning began with our crew of Bill Murray, Tom Grue, Joe Lewis, Emily Bean and Rich DeGrijze experimenting on creating a 'template' bed from which the other 5 can be built on another day. These beds will be for the small focused mission trips beginning in 2010 that only need to be here 3-5 days to complete a specific Mission of Hope project.

Our student-to-student hands-on experience happened in what was the basketball court area here at Nino. We have noticed that those two areas - one in the primary and another in the secondary - now have portable soccer goal nets there. Anyhow, the mural began with Stephen Witkiewicz, Tricia Giglio, Kayla Rabideau, Rinsha Ballani, Chris Fisher and Alex Fredette working with the 9 students. The design was created by both sets of students and drawn, first, by Chris Fisher, which was then transformed to the wall by the Nino students. Our students then began painting the first section while the Nino students began drawing on the second area. I am tracking photos of its progress and hope to have a sequence of stages as they go along. It was planned as a half-day project due to the Health Fair this afternoon, so they will resume after school on Monday.

Health Fair prep this morning was conducted by Anthony Garami, Lou Ann Nielson, Bill Calmbacher, Angie Neyer, Connie Tyska, Peggy Giroux and Bev Gogola. They brought everything over to the roofed space at the school snack store and set up some of their tables there. The clouds portended the coming rain, so they were just being cautious. They were able to complete the health kits which didn't have all the supplies they needed to be complete (we had run out in February) and supplemented the already complete kits with other new ones they could pack. We had about 300 or so - a small amount, actually, but all they could pack on the ½ day allotted. They certainly will have to pack more for February in their open times (before or after dinner or while waiting for transportation) as that group has hundreds of cartons to sort and no time to create the kits needed at the Nejapa Health Fair during that mission.

Phil Maynard, Ashley Thompson, Adrianne Longino, and Kelly Hale were the Rice & Beans delivery crew for this morning. They had a wonderful experience and got to see some colorful birds which one of the families has in their home as pets (most of them have great photos to share with you later).

Our Home Shelter crew headed by project leader Kasey Garrand, was comprised of Sonesh Balchandani, Darcy Rabideau and Brad Willett. Two of the three homes to be built this morning were funded by Franklin Academy in Malone where Darcy teaches and Brad goes to school. The first was for the family of Roberto Espinoza Sequeira with the second for the family of Norlan Antonio Sanchez Urtecho - both in Chiquilistagua. The third home they constructed was donated by George Moore, built for the family of Casta Alicia Flores Gaitan in Nejapa. They were to have completed the final two homes in Nejapa but, when they arrived at them, neither had their foundation complete. So, that construction will now be postponed until Monday morning. Inocencio was asked to assure that he visits the sites to see that they are done before Monday.

This afternoon, the call was, All hands on deck, for the Community Health Fair here at Colegio Nino Jesus de Praga. Everyone was involved in one way or the other as the hundreds who come need to be greeted, danced with (young children) and participate in soccer (the other youth) in addition to circulating the information tables. Profesor Augusto and Magaly Velasquez had the Moringa information and the ECO projects on computer and he had the new projector that the Mission acquired through a grant which projected information for all to see. Magaly had taken pictures of the Community Garden installed in February in its different phases. It was great to see that and how production the garden was. Now, due to the season, all of the plants are just beginning to come up in its second phase of production. We were told later at our ECO meeting, that the vegetables provided the families with food and additional income when they sold the produce. Exactly our goal!

Due to the weather, our evening meeting wasn't held in the yard, but rather in the Dining Room where the "Children Feeding Children" project is held each school day and we have our dinner at night. Sister Debbie began noting that she honestly believes that there are images placed in our sights when we most need them. From listening to the discussions of various members of our mission team today and thinking about what Oscar, Mauricio and she experienced today, she is sure of that.

We reviewed the changes in the schedule for tomorrow and found out the painting of the ER at the Velez Paiz Children's Hospital scheduled for tomorrow will be switched to another day because there are increasing numbers of mothers and children coming in with respiratory issues. They know that there will be a decrease in the volume by early in the week, so it was rescheduled for Monday. That then necessitated a rescheduling of the painting and installation of the sink at Our Lady of Guadelupe Clinic to tomorrow.

While driving to their various appointments in Managua today, they witnessed the preparations unfolding for the Feast of St Dominic tomorrow. He is the patron saint of the City of Managua and a 10-day festival begins tonight when the statue of St. Domenic is brought from where it usually is stationed all the way down the Masaya Road to downtown Managua.

Their first meeting was to be with Father Jalder at 9am, but there was no school today and they waited until it was time to go to their 10am meeting but he didn't show. They did learn that there will be Mass at 6pm tomorrow night, though, so we will hold our evening meeting at 7pm. Sister strongly encouraged everyone, regardless of faith, to attend as it is the Feast of St Domenic giving us a first-hand impression of Managuans witnessing their faith. As a point of information, Sister Steph and she are Dominican Sisters and, for the past 7 years, have been here for their order's 'special' day.

Reminders for this evening were also shared such as no paper in the compost, etc. Sister Debbie explained why this is important - on one of our first trips here, they had returned from the orphanage, a long ride, and they had a Cool Whip container full of their garbage which they thought they should give it to the pig across the street. When they approached the pig, the man of the house rushed out to stop them and took the container to make sure that his family was fed first from the scraps, not the pig.

Today they went to 4 stores to find enough milk for ourselves - only 2 half gallons of 2% milk (can't get any 1%, skim or fat-free here). As Sister Debbie said, "We are doing really well in comparison to those around us whom we serve."

She then asked us to remember the very first meeting we had after being selected, where we talked about the challenge of living with 40+ people for the week. It was easy to think about that then, but here we are 4 days into the Mission and the challenge is really here. She continued, "Reality is setting in and what you are experiencing, what you are feeling tonight, it happens every trip about this stage in the Mission because you start with idealism and get deep into the throes of reality. But," she said, "the hope is that by the time you leave you adjust your expectations in life and carry home a worth for those with whom you live regardless of where you are." It certainly was affirmation that we are normal!

Our sense of frustration today is beyond the Mission. Sister explained that they started with 6 things on the list to do today when they left just after 8am and experienced 16 during the day. For instance, our Leadership Team back home had heard that Spain was going to spend $16 million to relocated the families from the city's dump, including the area we serve, "La Chureca." The headlines of today's paper stated that the government has now claimed the land as 'utility land' and snubbed the Spanish donation for $16million because nearby the City dump has been discovered minerals that can be mined for profit, potentially providing the government more money in the long term. And so, agin, the hope of the families in the dump are dashed.

While traveling the city streets today, they saw a little boy, about a year old, in a diaper alongside his mother waving an item for sale. Then they went to visit a project that Jeremy Eppler asked our Leadership Team to consider. It is in the heart of the 'bad' section of Managua - where the seamy casinos are, child trafficking occurs and many are addicted to drugs. This location is also adjacent to a community of people from South America that asks the people to come up with 20 cents in order to make a difference in their lives - and then does nothing.

The church was destroyed during the 1972 earthquake and has never been rebuilt. They observed unsafe structures, asbestos and heard the pleas of the people of community asking us to give them hope. Pre-earthquake, the church had the strongest reputation for promoting justice and working for the poor. The desired facility will be ecumenical opening it to all Christian faiths to use for services. While speaking with the priest, Oscar realized he studied with him in high school - after all these years they finally have reunited! All left quite frustrated because there is no way we can do this alone.

Oscar believes that the government is going to announce that people will only be working in the morning in order to save money. Air-conditioning in the government offices is currently only 9am-Noon and then it is shut off. People still have to work, but from home. So now they have to take on the cost of the utilities themselves in order to complete their work and keep their jobs.

Then they went to the Children's Hospital to hear the news of the switching of days for painting.

Then on to the lawyer to find we have all of the documentation but are waiting for the signature of the person in California from whom we are purchasing the land. We have planned that a gentleman named Carlos, who rides with Mauricio in the truck as his guard, will begin using a machete to reduce the growth on the property once it is ours.

Afterwards, they went to CARITAS to conclude some of the business on this trip for the upcoming medical shipments on the container we will be sending.

Sister then said, "If we're frustrated, can you imagine what the frustration must be for those who live in this country that is so unstable."

Kayla Rabideau reported the mural painting with 8-9 teenage boys and their team went well. Chris Fisher shared that apparently the supplies had been left out in the rain and Rinsha and Alex helped clean it up after dinner.

Darcy Rabideau went on home shelter building this morning and had a great time as the lone female. She had her Press Republican with her and they took a picture on the roof of one of the homes. She said that Kasey is absolutely amazing - fast, meticulous - almost like Tarzan swinging from beam to beam! He is a huge asset to this mission. Sonesh jumped in saying that Darcy carried her own weight - just like one of the guys.

Even though she is a veteran of the early missions, Adrianne's first time on rice & beans was today and she really loved it. In the neighborhood they visited, they went to a house where there was a 12-year-old who was the 'parent' of his siblings; there are no parents living in the house. It seemed, though, that the other families were very connected and cared for them.

Kara Hackett said that Parajito Azul was rough for her today. There was a little girl that struck her very emotionally, actually bringing her to tears. The girl couldn't walk or play, just sit in a chair, but she was giggling and laughing all the time. Sister then comforted Kara by noting that the Mission plants the seeds of gratitude, not guilt. Kara had her 'mission moment' of which many of us speak. Heather Frenette remarked that the staff didn't think we were coming today, so what they saw when they were at the center was as it is everyday. The cleanliness and loving care that we see when they know we are coming was still the same today. A real affirmation of what the staff does with the residents every day.

Sister Stephanie told us about a young woman there who does hand embroidery and approached her to try to sell one of her hand-embroidered items for 2 cordobas. She was probably practicing her sales skills as the residents will soon be going to the local fair to sell their wares.

A surprising, yet rewarding moment, occurred when Sister Debbie was approached in the last grocery store they went to by a woman behind her in line who spoke English. When the woman confirmed we were the Mission of Hope in Chiquilistagua, she told her that her family prays for the Mission of Hope! One of their family members had been to one of our clinics many years ago and had been helped by our medical team. A true affirmation that we ARE making a difference here.

While building the bunkbed this morning, Joe said he renamed Bill Murray, the "Rabbit," as he runs all over the place! They developed a new design which includes a safety rail, thanks to Alex who fell off his bed the other night - maybe we'll call it the 'Alex rail.'

Angie Neyer thanked to all who jumped in and helped with preparations for the Health Fair. Some people were frustrated with what appeared to be people taking more than their 'fair share.' Sister asked us to trust that it will all work out and what we might perceive as unfair, is not. Oscar reminded us of a different cultural perspective of 'family' outside of the United States.

Kara Hackett told us that Freddy had two of the kits in his hand and she questioned him and, in English, Freddy said, "For my little brother." How great that those of us who know him hear that he is understanding and learning a second language so well.

Hillary Health Fair toothbrush

Ashley Goyette was amazed at a little girl who was giving out stickers and shared equally with all the kids around her before taking one for herself. That's equality.

Adrianne Longino wanted to talk about the sharing, she has noticed that the adults usually take only what they need and give back what they don't so we need to think

Tricia Giglio reminded us that kids come from parents and represent so much of what goes on. When the kids come running toward us and smiling and hugging, we need to remember they are representatives of how the parents feel about the Mission, too.

Ashley Thompson then put a different slant on the feelings and experiences. Our leader today for rice and beans was Maritsa whom we have seen grow in many ways from a quiet woman receiving a home shelter, to a full-fledged construction crew member for a number of missions and, for the past few, our guide on rice and beans many days. At the end of the morning, Ashley mentioned something about seeing her later at the Health Fair, but Maritsa said she had to go home to make tortillas in order to sell them. She said, "If I don't make the tortillas, my family doesn't have the money to eat." Being that they had been bringing rice and beans to many others, under her guidance, the team decided to give Maritsa a portion of rice and beans - the same as if she were a recipient on their tour.

Sister Stephanie brought a message from a mother she met today

Lou Ann told us that every day here, "I wake up and I am taking a mystery ride." She is also surprised at some of her own reactions and interactions. Mission certainly has developed a side of her she has not shown before.

Bill Murray said he feels so blessed to be learning from so many on Mission. The variety of talents has allowed him to learn a lot- watch out, family, he is returning with new talents to use around the house!

Sister Debbie then asked that we keep her own sister in our prayers tonight as she is recuperating from successful surgery today.

We closed with a song, "Some Day," performed by Celtic Woman. The lyrics included a phrase that "I pray that someday we may yet, live to live and let live," and "Someday, life will be fairer, need will be rarer, and greed will not pay." With that we closed our formal part of the day and had time to spend with each other before lights out at 9:30pm.