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Mission of Hope

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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.

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