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Mission of Hope

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February 23, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

By Bonnie Black
Blogger’s note: Although I had to return to Plattsburgh for work on Friday, thanks to Barbara for taking the notes of the final evening meeting on Friday, February 19th.

Tonight's meeting is the last meeting. Lots of details and logistics to take care of as Mission 35 winds down. Four have already left Nicaragua and have arrived home safely according to theier emails sent to Sister: Alexa, Alex, Alysia and Bonnie.

Sr. Debbie will not be going on the trip to the market tomorrow because Sr. Karla and Sr. Miriam of the Servium Sisters will be coming to Nicasa on Saturday afternoon.

Two groups will be taken to the airport on Saturday:
- Group 1 leaves at 5:30am with Molly, James, Eliza, Rebecca, Roger, Nancy Cronin
- Group 2 leaves at 10:30am with Bobby, Kendrick, Joan, Fr. Sturtz, Bobby, Tara

Bill Murray will pick up the four people traveling to Montreal on Monday.

Lots of details for packing, everyone asked to help and most will be asked to bring a suitcase or a hammock as a carryon. Everyone will wear the Mission 35 t-shirts on the way home.

People departing on Saturday were asked to strip their beds in the morning. All towels, sheets and pillow cases to be folded and left on the mattress.

Everyone wishing to donate clothes when leaving, needed to sort them into two boxes: dirty and clean. If clothes are dirty, it will cost 5 cordobas per item to clean. Sneakers will be donated as well.

Partially used sunscreen and bug repellant can be donated by placing them in the two boxes by kitchen. Also work gloves - in pairs only!

Sr. Debbie shared a story about her nephew, Zach, who left his sneakers for his friend Chico – the former guard here who now works for the Mission guarding our medical shipments. Chico always asks for Zach whenever MOH is here, as he remembers his friend.

Marty cautioned all that while visiting the market, everyone should travel in groups and be very careful. Pay attention, be alert, watch for pickpockets. Sr. Debbie has arranged for Jonan to visit the Huembes Market and watch over the groups.

Yamilette thanked everyone on the Mission #35 on behalf of herself, her family and all the people of Nicaragua, for all that this mission had done.

Sr. Debbie mentioned that Eve McGill is the third co-founder. She, Yami and Sr. Debbie have often commented that with the help of all of the volunteers and missioners, their dream of helping the Nicaraguan people has come true. She told all that the Missioners are the best advocates once they return home. She suggested that everyone tell their stories about Mission and try not to get angry at those who do not understand because they have not seen what we have seen on Mission. In particular, for the High School students, visiting the HS cafeteria for the first time after mission, will bring home just how much is wasted in our country and how what we throw out, could feed an entire Nicaraguan village.

Sr. Debbie said that there will never be another – Thank God! - Mission 35. A reunion will be held in a few weeks with an email sent out to schedule the most convenient date for all. Sr. Debbie will send out a survey after the Mission to ask everyone's opinion on improvements or to make general comments.

Sr. Debbie thanked “A” team for all of their hard work. And also a special thank you to Bev, Joan and Nancy Cronin for their hard work in the kitchen.

Sr. Debbie commented that when we visited La Chureca, and had stopped to interview and take pictures, it was the same boy who had helped Sr. Debbie when she had stumbled at the Dump earlier in the week.

The mural at La Chureca turned out beautifully and all were commended for their hard work.

Sr. Debbie visited the Juan Pablo II baby orphanage with Sue, Vanessa, Yami and Barbara. It was very, very difficult as the conditions have deteriorated since January. Three of the orphans there received sponsorships this trip. Nancy and Bernie will sponsor Angel, Vanessa and Barbara will sponsor Allison as well as Rosemare. There are still three orphans left to be sponsored. Pictures were taken to encourage others to sponsor them. Help is desparately needed to keep these children fed and nourished during their first 5 years of life.

Rachael Oberding shared that, as a translator, she was able to talk to many of the children being sponsored and those who are looking for sponsors. She told of a young boy who will not talk or smile because he saw his father choking his mother. She said that she loves all the people that she has met and that they are very generous.

Sr. Debbie said she was asked to try to help a young high school girl that had been raped by her father to provide a safe house for her and her mother. Unfortunately, there is no system in place here to help, unlike the US where there are agencies who can provide the much-needed emergency assistance.

Karen said that they passed a group of people demonstrating for violence against women. It was felt that this was a good sign.

Sue told of our trip to the Banana Camp as we visited the people to take a video. One man was getting his hair cut by another man using a bare razor blade. Other women were washing their clothes on the street.

Molly has gotten close to a little boy who asked when she was leaving. When she told him he started to cry. Another little girl sitting next to her hugged her and told her not to cry and that she had beautiful eyes. The girl’s mother gave her a picture of the family. While Molly was very moved at their affection and sorry to leave, she felt that she had made a difference by coming to Nicaragua.

Karen commented that on their visit to La Chureca Clinic, a mother who had been previously to the clinic brought her baby in to be tested for HIV as well. All were happy to hear that the baby tested negative.

Sue commented that another woman came to be re-tested at the HIV clinic as she didn't want to believe that she was HIV positive. She left the other day not wanting to get treatment advice from the Clinic doctor, but returned today to talk to the doctor further. Sue was relieved to see this as it appears that she will be returning for treatment.

Karen went on a Rice and Beans walk today and was gratified to meet a little girl name Linda whom she had met the other day. She had been surprised then that the little girl had only taken one hair bow from her bag rather than a handful.

Fr. Sturtz was happy to be able to participate in the anointing of an elderly lady on the Rice and Beans walk. Fr. Sturtz was very happy to find out she was the grandmother of Danya, the young girl being sponsored by Paul and Sue.

Sr. Debbie was happy to report that Yami’s LOST SUITCASE has been found with all items intact!

Rachel shared a note written by a little girl she met: Thank you for sharing your friendship with me. Thank you for teaching me to be better, I love you.

Nancy Jordan commented on how impressed she was with the Medical Team and Roger on this mission. She mentioned that Roger had sat for 3 hours straight doing lead testing on the children. She also commented that the women that came for Pap tests were very anxious. Nancy was honored to walk with them and assure them that they would be safe. Karen added that Nancy would relax the women so much that they would be laughing during their examination. A young pregnant woman also got the chance to listen to her baby's heartbeat for the first time.

Sr. Debbie advised that Women's issues, poverty, globalization, injustice are now our causes. Laughing and crying on Mission is normal and will continue when we return home. This support of the Mission team will continue also.

Kendrick thanked everyone who participated in taking a group to Mombacho today. Special thanks to James for getting up early and taking everyone on the trip.

Per Sr. Debbie, one of the nice aspects of Mission 35 was that all adults assumed the roles of chaperones or guides as needed.

Sr. Cathy told of 2 little boys at La Chureca throwing stones and sticks from under a mango tree to try to knock some fruit down for lunch. The boys did get enough fruit for lunch.

Marty said that the students on Mission 35 have been exceptional. All students were agreeable to helping and doing necessary chores and are to be commended. He enjoys seeing students that go on multiple missions and watching their growth. He believes that many of these students will be phenomenal as adults and is confident in putting our future in their hands. The success of this mission is not in big things. But instead, we can all talk about miracles that happened on an individual basis. He thanked the HS students for making this a very special mission.

Sr. Debbie said she can't imagine being able to handle what the students have handled on mission when she was their age. As a HS student she was selected to go on a trip to South America but her mother would not let her go. Ultimately, the plane she was supposed to take crashed in the Andes. She doesn't believe that she could have ever handled all things on a trip. She told the students that they are the cream of the crop.

Jeremy Eppler then joined the meeting for more than the few minutes he was able to spend on Monday night.

Rachel thanked all the adults for their help and support and for putting up with their loud noises.
Sr. Debbie officially closed the meeting with a song called, “The Tears of God”.

Blogger’s note: And so ends Mission #35. Unique in its own right with the word “reflex” as its mantra! For those of you who have been reading along, please know that your loved one(s) is special – and blessed to have been part of this mission. They may come home and tell tales of the daily events; they may not be comfortable talking much at all. Realize that in time, you will learn their stories – of the group, the people they met, the ‘happenings’ of the days they were in Nicaragua, and the hopes they have for themselves and for their new found friends in Nicaragua. They have left a part of themselves there – perhaps to return someday again. But, the memories will be theirs – and yours – for a lifetime. Enjoy their photos and the stories that go along with it. Hasta luego!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

We began this evening’s meeting a little late as we had so much going on so late in the day. Many of our projects ran over time and pushed everything later than expected. Tonight, Sister Debbie began with the Serenity Prayer which she asked us to say in unison.

We ‘lost’ our first team member this morning at 4:15am, when Alysia Privrat had to go to the airport.

Paul asked for appreciation of Samantha, Rachel Daly and Eliza for the work they do each night.

Looking at the schedule for transportation, everything is extremely tight with what we have left on our project list with only one day left and tomorrow being the only opportunity to go to the market for those leaving on Saturday.

We will forego the 7am meeting in the morning because more than half will be gone beginning at 6am…but, Joan, Nancy Cronin and Bev volunteered to open the kitchen early.

Blessing of spending the afternoon with Alexa and Alex with all of the attention Jonan gave in the market and stopped for tortillas she gave an oportunity to her to make the tortillas.

Alexa said it looks simple, but it starts as a circle that gets quickly smashed into the evenly flattened tortilla – it’s a skill she learned first-hand this afternoon.

Pleasure to be with them – the shortest time on Mission - as they have to be back for Sectionals this coming week.

This morning Yami and Sister has a meeting with our lawyer regarding the process of getting water and electricity to our new property. They learned he was an official Nicaraguan representative to the CAFTA meetings and that within the last year, the Obama administration has approved free trade between the US and the Nicaragua. Our lawyer is being trained for the health rights for those involved in CAFTA. He said he is not charging what he should be as he believes in the Mission and is proud to be a part of us, in his way.

Sister then shared what she and Megan discussed at the Houston airport when she asked a shop attendant to mail the Get Well card to Sister Stephanie. This morning, it was received back home! Always be burned in life and you are disillusion, but for all of those times it is always better to trust and be wounded than not trust at all. It says something about the goodness of most people.

Alexa told us that today, stopping at La Chureca, it was the first time she had seen it from ‘the rim.’ Seeing houses made of garbage bags and cardboard along side of the piles of garbage was hard to look at. Back in the US, we are so materialistic and replace ‘things’ immediately when they get a mark or whatever – we take it for granted. It was eye-opening.

Her other story was about the return trip when they stopped at the fruit market when Sister was practicing the new word for the day: ladrillo!

Frank donating 500 bricks for the rocket stoves we will be putting together from our new site.

Bobby also went to the rim of La Chureca noting that when they exited, there was a child who was running after them with the look of, “Take me with you.” He said he can still see him running in this mind with that look on his face.

Marty told us that Karla is his story for the day. She sits across the road from the gate and sells the treats we can buy – that’s how she takes care of her family. She is the sole provider. He learned that she wants to go to pastry/bakery school to expand her business to include birthday and wedding cakes. He agreed to pay her tuition through Mauricio. She got teary when he made the offer and told him that he is the only person who provides help. He reinforced that it is because she works hard everyday and is committed to providing for her family. He noted his respect for her – a woman with a 4th grade education.

Karen informed us that the clinic staff ( all women) said that James, who had come to pick them up and help put things back into the van, was ‘muy bonito!’

Rachel Oberding then piped in telling us how Alexa tried to say, “I’ll miss you” and she, too, had a verbal slip up.

Sister mentioned that everyone’s presence around the circle is critical, whether there has been verbal participation or not so far. It is every single person that makes the Mission. Everyone should feel important and valued, because without you, there is no Mission #35.

She reinforced the need to journal in order to process all that has happened this week and we need to be attentive. We can’t lose the opportunity to lose what has been happening. The journal is vital.

Alexa said that this has been her best mission ever – thanks to the kitchen people who volunteered to replace her today being that it was her last day.

Joan had our evening prayer which was a song by Celine Dion and Andre Bottcelli titled,“ We listened with eyes closed for contemplative reflection. It happens to be the song that was played before the very first Mission departed to Nicaragua and it had become the ‘theme’ song for the first 3 years. It’s a way for all things coming full circle as we begin our second 10 years.

Tonight’s treats were purchased from Karla as a gift to all from Barbara and Vanessa.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

By Bonnie Black
We began this morning’s meeting with prayer as today, for those of us who are Christian, know this day as Ash Wednesday – the beginning of the season of Lent. Sister told all that it comes from the Greek word for ‘springtime’ and asked us to reflect how we can awaken the spirit of the Creator in us – how we can touch the sacred within. She asked us all to think about ‘giving something up’ for Lent, but rather to let something be new – in our day, our hearts, our lives. We can think about ‘fasting’ from technology one day a week and reconnecting with others and ourselves. We can adopt a deeper attentiveness to the cosmos and to all of humanity.

She asked us to cradle our own hands and then she had Megan Harris and Nancy Brennan-Jordan come to the center of the circle each bearing a cup. “We have come to know the ashes of despair and poverty,” Sister said. “Through this symbolic act we are about to do, we will be joining our hearts with the human community.” She explained that in each cup there was a mixture of ashes from La Chureca, Chiquilistagua and palm ashes from the North Country. She asked us to receive the ashes on our hands as symbolic of commitment, walk gently on this earth and acting justly.

Father Sturtz then blessed the ashes and, while Megan and Nancy were going from person to person, we listened to Lori True’s song, “What Have We Done for the Poor Ones.”

We were fed amply by the team of Diane, Kendrick, Molly and Zach today and kept ‘clean’ by Nancy Ashley, Becca, Matt and Adam!

Heading off first thing was our medical team providing Women’s Health Clinics at Our Lady of Guadelupe (Karen, Janine, Sister Cathy), diabetes education in that location (Nancy Brennan-Jordan) and another clinic at La Chureca (Kathy along with Sue) and HIV and lead testing (Alysia, Amanda, Becca, Jayne, Siobhan and Roger).

Our last day of home shelter construction had a morning team of Marty, Alex, Barbara, Vanessa and Brian LaTulipe. The two homes created were donated by Barbara and Vanessa for Jose Omar Ferrufino and Rene Toruño, both of whom live in Nejapa. In the afternoon, a home was constructed through donation from La Sallette Shrine in Altamont with traveler, Bobby Ruggles, representing the group. The shelter is now the home of Olga and Maxima Solisalso of Nejapa. The last home of Mission #35 was paid for and constructed by Samantha & Brian Mulcahy for Rafeala Torrez of Chiquilistagua.

Our last Heights and Weights were with the pre-schoolers here at Niño ably handled by Bill, Paul, Sue, Father Sturtz, Megan, Michele and Matt, as their translator. It didn’t take too long, so when they returned, Paul organized the sporting equipment we had along with Matt and Megan. Others came in to help me with the sponsorship gifts: Michelle, Samantha, Bill and Father Sturtz.

Earlier a team traveled to Parajito Azul Disability Center bringing gifts of quilts and pillows and medical supplies: Bev, Tara, Joan and Rachel. Accompanying them in the van – with their supplies for the new ramp railing installation were James, Brian, Adam, Pat and Greg. The construction crew finished the project within the few hours of the morning when they were there!

Although many people may not understand, one of the main purposes of the Mission of Hope is to be a conduit of much-needed supplies from home to the people here. In that vein, all of missions, regardless of size, be very involved in sorting boxes and waiting for the beneficiaries to arrive with their vehicles. The sorting can seem tedious unless you think about that specific box, its contents and the benefits we are bringing.

During the early afternoon a few of our team were interviewed by Suzanne Moore of the Press Republican regarding a variety of specific projects in which we have been involved to give all of you a first-hand account of the many activities going on here and our personal reactions.

While Marty and I went to the Managua Rotary Club meeting to turn in the Final Report on the 204 latrines that were built through a Rotary International Matching Grant (Plattsburgh, Managua, Bergen-Highlands-Ramsey (NJ) along with District and RI funds), notes were taken by Barbara:

This evening our meeting was started with a definition of the word ‘gringo’ by Yami. The word developed as a result of the American Marines stationed in Nicaragua, who wore green uniforms, not being welcomed by the Nicaraguans who chanted, “Green Go Home” which became “Green Go” and finally, Gringo.

Sr. Debbie called Sr. Stephanie to say hello and let her know that everyone missed her. Sister told us that Sr. Stephanie wanted us to know that her family and Sean's company (Whirley Industries) will continue to cover Pizza Night despite the fact that she's not there. It’s a tradition that started when Sean was on mission and he continued while alive; the company has maintained the ‘tradition’ in his memory since that time.

Sister noted that part of every mission is to allow Missioners the opportunity to see the beauty of the country. Several options for those will be planned to accommodate those leaving on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Among the choices will be the City tour (provided from Bonnies notes as she will be gone) or Mombacho cloudforest as well as one of the markets (Huembes or Masaya).

Special thank you to Joan for taking Kitchen duty twice to help accommodate Sr. Steph's absence.

Matt and James will work on the video taken of the new complex. A script will need to be written to explain video details. Once completed, both will be given to Barbara to have voiceover added and compiled into a dvd for showing to potential investors.

James volunteered to take Alexa and Alex to the airport on Saturday AM.

Brenda and Bob Flynn provided the after dinner treat from Parajito Azul – delicious tarts!

Roger said that it has been a incredible advantage to have Alysia on the trip. Her understanding of the language has been much appreciated and gave her a special thank you.

Sr. Debbie said this is the only mission that she has not had to deal with the whining she often hears during the week. She appreciates the flexibility and respect shown by everyone.

Sr. Debbie traveled today on a road she had not taken before that was behind the lagoon. She said that it offered a different perspective of viewing the city of Managua. Fr. Sturtz commented that the contrast between poverty and wealth was some of the worst he has seen.

Bobby commented that he was on Home Shelter building the house his family and friends provided the funds for. Seeing the person that was receiving the house was very gracious and even though she was elderly and had trouble walking, she got up and did so to accommodate Bobby's request for a photo.

Kathy thanked everyone who went to Guadelupe today and stayed late so they could finish up with their last patients that had waited all day to be seen.

Bev thanked Molly, Zac, Kendrik, Diane and the kitchen crew for their help and for staying late.

Rachel visited the farm that is set up for the residents of the Parajito Azul Disability Center. She said the farm appeared to be running very well and was great to see. She said that it appeared to be a really healthy place for them to go and offered opportunities to people who would not have them otherwise. She said that it seemed a very peaceful place and full of love. MOH was asked to visit so they would be aware of recent problems with hoodlums who were threatening the residents with machetes to take the food they were raising.

Adam was impressed with how much is done for the people at this center with very little resources. The Parajito Azul was founded by the Director of the center and a grant from the Dorothea Hous Ross Grant helped in the past to set up the Physical Therapy program. The Dominican sisters have helped fund this and George Moore has also contributed by paying all the Physical Therapists salary for a year.

These people have been exploited in past years and have been placed in dangerous situations, both physically and sexually, by unscrupulous people. Fr. Sturtz has donated 100 pounds of rice and beans to the center and will deliver it tomorrow.

Nancy commented that the morning's Ash Wednesday blessing was the most beautiful that she has ever attended, and especially appreciated the ashes mixed in from La Chureca. She thanked Sr. Debbie.

Janine was impressed by a small girl today who, when given the option of taking a hair clip from a bag full of them, chose one and had to be encouraged to take another.

At a Pediatric Cancer Center visit a few years ago, Sr. Debbie met a girl who was dying of cancer – who could have been saved if she were in the US – who did a similar thing when given the option of taking stickers: she only chose 2.

Karen was very impressed with the quality of education of the First Responders trained by Bill. One of the First Responders thanked her for returning to help her community.

Nancy Ashley described the presentation given by Frank the Water Filter Man from Filtron and said it was fascinating. The water filters appear to be extremely effective and very economical. These water filters can be given as gifts to a sponsored child and their family. Frank stated there is a 70% reduction of diarrhea when visiting families one month after filters have been installed.

Frank has 100 concrete bricks that will be donated to the Mission and will be placed at the new compound. These are going to be used in the construction of what are called ‘rocket stoves.’
Rocket stoves burn more efficiently and effectively and were introduced in January during our focused mission as part of our ECO program.

Sr. Cathy said her blessing today was watching Nancy Jordan. She said her diabetes training at the local clinic was fantastic, very detailed and helpful.

The La Chureca mural will be started tomorrow and finished on Friday. Sr. Cathy and Vanessa will plan the design. Donations from other schools have been made to help with the painting. We hope that teenagers from the dump will assist.

Alysia thanked everyone for her warm welcome. Sr. Debbie thanked her for attending the mission despite turmoil in her personal life. Sr. Debbie said that the Mission is not just about the people of Chiliquistagua but about the people who have come on mission and continue to do so when they go home.

Pablo asked if the lights out could be extended to 10:00pm due to the late start of the meeting.

Sr. Cathy volunteered herself, Bernie and Jane to do morning prayer. And so closed the last (one of two) days where all 49 travelers were on the ground together.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

By Bonnie Black
Our morning meeting was one of the shortest on record – or so said many veterans afterward…less than a half hour! It was poignant with statements by Sister Debbie and a prayer by Rachel Daly which asked for the openness of our hearts so we can respond to everything that is impacting us.

Sister asked us to enter beyond the initial impact of what we are seeing and feeling. “If we stay on one level, we never change – nor does society. “ She asked us to search and ask the hard questions within us. ‘Why does this exist?’ ‘Why am I here – right now.’ She also asked us to interweave ourselves into the story.

The first crew out this morning was heading to La Chureca (one of the villages in the City of Managua Dump). They were Karen, Janine and Rachel Oberding doing the Women’s Health Clinic, Kathy doing the HIV screenings with assistance by Kendrick and a medical student of Dr. Gonzalez. The lead testing was done by Roger, Bill, Alysia, Nancy Brennan-Jordan with Megan and Barbara interacting with the other medical students who were a part of the screening.

Prior to the clinic, Alysia, Barbara, Megan, Kendrick, Bernie, Eliza and Michelle took a ride around ‘the rim’ with Sister Debbie. You will hear a bit later in the evening meeting portion of this note, but not a lot. I think it may take a few days for the full impact of the experience to begin to reverberate for some.

Our Home Crew went out this morning to build shelters in memory of loved ones. The team of Marty, Jayne Ryan, Paul & Sue O’Connell and Nancy Ashley built the first house for Marbelly Mairena of Cedro Galan in memory of Paul’s parents. The second was constructed in Cedro Galan for Maria Lourdes Sanchez Salazar in memory of Nancy’s husband, Doug Payne.

We made it to the Parajito Azul Disability Center for the first time this mission: Bev along with Sister Cathy and Molly McConnell went to be with the residents and bring special gifts from Sister Stephanie. And, yes, the boys and girls began to ask where she was. Bev explained and I think Sister Stephanie must have felt the warm wishes being sent from the hearts of those with whom she spends so much time when she is here.

James went there to assess projects for tomorrow – installation of a railing along with some minor electrical work. He then went to the store to procure the items before returning to pick up the team and bring them back for lunch.

Brian Mulcahy, Adam, Greg and Patrick went to Our Lady of Guadelupe to build the 4 sets of shelves for the pharmacy. They are so desperately needed – our last shipment of medicines are taken out of the boxes we delivered them in throughout the floor of the room. This will bring an organized and professional system to their small pharmacy.

Matt took a group over to our new site to begin some work on cleanup of the grounds. This has been a vacant lot for decades, so there is much natural accumulation throughout. He was joined by Rachel, Caitlin, Father Sturtz, Alex and Diane.

We did the first grade classes here at Niño with their heights and weights today under the leadership of Alexa. Amanda, Becca, Tara, Zach, Samantha and Vanessa rounded out the team.

Although Joy and Siobhan were to work on the boxing of notebooks, there were medical pickups throughout the morning including an unexpected delivery of 2 palettes from CMMB. We are so greatful for that connection as they have helped us deliver millions of dollars worth of medicines over the past few years.

The kitchen crew was Joan Riani, Bobby Ruggles, Brian LaTulipe and Nancy Cronin who prepared our breakfast and lunch quite well, given that our crews for lunch came in from ‘almost’ eleven through one or so. Once their afternoon duties were done, members of their team joined others ‘in progress.’

This afternoon Matt, Kendrick and Patrick went up to NiCarlos’ to do some work there on conduits.

Alysia was in the Niño Clinic with Dr. Lopez this afternoon while Karen, Janine, Kathy and Rachel O. went to Nejapa for a Women’s Health Clinic.

Diane, Sue and Molly worked on emptying and sorting the final suitcases so that in two days the preparations for returning suitcases can begin.

Rice and Beans took off for ‘far away’ locations with Magaly: Alexa was the leader of first timers Barbara, Vanessa, Zach, Nancy A., Caitlin and Megan. When they returned they prepared rice and beans along with toys for tomorrow’s crew.

Around 2pm, Nancy Brennan-Jordan spoke with a group of the First Responders we have throughout the local barrios about diabetes. These women have been asking for ways to advise their neighbors on handling this illness which is experienced by so many.

Meanwhile, the tedious task of preparing the suitcases alphabetically with the sponsor gifts continued under the guidance of Sister Cathy. Siobhan and Tara assisted and they were able to empty most of the suitcases. Just have to go through alphabetizing the gift cards and the final list can be created for Magaly!

A trip to the Monte Verde Chapel the mission built a number of years ago was taken late in the afternoon by James, Brian M. and Paul. Their assessment was that the electric job was more than our team should handle and we will ask a local electrician who has worked for us at our site before for a pro forma before we leave.

Our Health Fair kits were prepared by Amanda, Becca, Samantha, Jayne, Adam and Rachel as well as others who jumped in from time-to-time as their tasks waned. They got to the point of running out of supplies to put into the kits, so they inventoried what they had done and we are ready to put the boxes into storage on Wednesday or Thursday.

The repair of the women’s bathroom faucet was handled this afternoon by the team of Matt, James, Kendrick and Paul. They were quite inventive in their technique and we are sad to say that it is not non-functional for a bit. They left a ‘sorry’ note on it – and we hope to have it working soon!

The afternoon home building was an interesting one, to say the least. This morning I confirmed with Inocencio that is was required a certain home be built tomorrow morning. But, that was not to be the case, we found out. But, I get ahead of myself! The first home this afternoon was built for Yader Vallecillo of Cedro Galan – a very poor family – by Our Lady of Lords Parish in Schroon Lake. Father Dick Sturtz, Bill Calmbacher and Bev Gogola were part of the team along with Bobby Ruggles for whom, we thought, the second home was to be built. In the middle of building that second home, it was discovered that it was for the family of the sponsored student of Siobhan Norton! So, Marty quickly got in touch with us here at NiCasa, sent a truck to get her and she went to the site accompanied by Sue. She was so glad that we did!

At our evening meeting, we began with a ‘wave’ – something unique….especially when hot showers aren’t always available ;-) For tomorrow night we will meet at 7pm, due to the Ash Wednesday service at 6pm in the church here at Niño.

Today was a day filled with so much, that there was a lot of sharing. Bernie went down the list of what she, Eliza and Michelle did on their ‘mystery ride’ with Sister and Yamilette today: La Chureca, the airport to meet with Delta regarding the lost luggage, CARITAS for a meeting, the fruit market, Pali – a grocery store owned by Wal*Mart, Juan Pablo II infant orphanage, buying tortillas, a box of nails for home building….and they fit in a quick lunch, too!

Sister said they had an extraordinary meeting with Harry Van Belle and the Director of CARITAS. He will be coming out here in the morning and Sister will be taking him to La Chureca and give him a better feel for our organization. We hope that his group might be able to ship a container to this country for us in the future. One of the key of the areas his organization deals in is dehydrated foods which would be a tremendous boost to our feeding programs.

At La Chureca today, she noted that Kendrick helped to support her going up and coming down a sandy incline. A young boy – who many have seen in prior presentations on the dump which Sister presents – reached out to help her, as she began to lose her balance. “I think about the numbers of people we know on a daily basis, the people who suffer and want others to do so, too. But, this boy gave what he had – something very precious – himself.

Bernie found her sponsor child at the Juan Pablo II orphanage today, named Angel. His eyes are damaged from the sunlight he was exposed to when he lived out on the streets with his mother when he was first born. He is learning to walk and talk. Bernie’s cousin is blind, so it was a poignant moment when she met him. The sisters at the orphanage told Sister Debbie that they hoped someone would come to assist and that was Bernie!

We found out that the information Mauricio gave us last week wasn’t completely accurate. There are 13 children between infancy and 5 there while those older are at El Crucero. There are 6 orphans currently living there, while the other 7 are there because their families cannot take care of them.

Bev noted that at her visit to Parajito Azu she met new Jesuit missionary and asked her about Hector. Those of you who have friends and relatives who have traveled with the Mission know of him. He is the teenager who has osteogenesis imperfecta. Bev knew that Hector was losing his sponsorship but was surprised to hear he no longer has a need for the sponsorship nor the medicine. He left in January and this week will be flying to his new family in the US…good news!

Brian Mulcahy thanked the team that went to Guadelupe this morning and spent the day there: Greg, Adam and Patrick really stepped up. They had a tough day, worked hard and got all of the shelves completed; they just need to replace the door to the pharmacy and put in a deadbolt lock and they’ll be done…it should happen by Friday.

Siohban said today’s mission reminded her why she is here. She thanked Joy for all of the answers she provided to all of her questions while they worked together. Then, this afternoon, she was called out to the home site to see her sponsored child’s new shelter. She found the girl’s smile priceless when she saw Siohban arrive. A shy little girl of last year was all grins and hugs today.

Paul noted that they have had an emotional roller coaster ride with their dog of 15 years dying just before they left. Today they built a house in memory of his father and found it was emotional. He was a bit bummed this afternoon with the memories of the passing of his loved ones. Then, just before supper, a girl that Lindsey has been sponsoring for 9 years appeared at the gate. She had been hospitalized with anemia and they never thought they’d see her again. This afternoon, he saw Dania and felt elated –especially because it is Sue’s first mission and she got to meet her. She is 20 now, and has spent 7 months in the hospital not allowing her to complete school.

“I have never felt elation in my life like I did a couple of hours ago,” he said tearfully. He told her that they will do anything to get her back into school next year (medically, she is to remain out this year in order to recover).

Eliza then piped in stating she really enjoyed her day-long trip with Sister. She appreciates the amount of work Sister does to put everything together for the Mission and the various viewpoints of how the Mission started: Sister’s story and Yamilette’s.

Karen noted a remarkable day at La Chureca in the 3 clinics they held. There was amazing help from Dr. Gonzalez and her medical students who were phenomenal. “Not knowing what we were going to find, “ she noted there were 26 tested for HIV and 3 were positive. It was reassuring to know that those 3 will be taken to the next level of care by the medical students at the university with whom they worked today. And it is a bonus that the mentoring physician is an infectious disease doctor. Karen is pleased that the Mission has started something that will continue – and the clinic was as effective as we would have in the US.

Kathy noted the caliber of the students when describing an 18-year-old in medical school who is fantastically bright and motivated with whom they worked today. She found out there is a requirement of a year of community outreach for medical students before they can graduate – and this requirement may be ideal for our future collaboration - a wonderful resource to tap into.

Sister said that Harry was very impressed with the empowerment piece of our Mission –he noted we are different from other missions in that way. There are those who want to come down and make themselves feel better by doing all of the work themselves – and then leave. It was at that point, Sister said, that Johana (of CARITAS) turned to Harry and said, “THAT is what the Mission of Hope is known for here.”

Sister said there have been over a thousand people who have traveled with this mission. But, without a doubt, without Roger Patnode we would not be at the level we are in delivering quality medical care and a positive future perspective focusing on empowerment…and there was a spontaneous round of applause!

Barbara said that she had something to share again tonight. She has found most everything interesting and cool, but she got to put her Christmas present into use. Her daughter gave the Mission 200 pounds of rice and beans and that’s what they got to deliver this afternoon. She saw a pig that she never thought could grow so big! She then described the fantastic smile of an older woman that was so excited that she gave Barbara a big hug and kiss as they left. Barbara handed her a lollipop – and this woman thought it was the coolest thing in the world. It’s really a roller coaster,” she said, “and it’s only been 2 days.

Bobby then told us about his home shelter building experience today. He saw the skinniest pig that he thought was a dog, because it was so thin. He said that it shows that not only the families are suffering.

Nancy Ashley, a veterinarian, was also on the Rice & Beans. She saw a heart-breakingly thin dog who was trying to interact, but it was hard – very difficult.

Sister Cathy told us that she had felt broken-hearted yesterday when she thought that we wouldn’t have the kids in the courtyard in the late afternoon. So, when tonight she saw everyone allowed in, it thrilled her – including the giant slingshot game that Roger brought with him. “It made me felt great the we are able to continue,” she said.

Continued support of the community is continuous interaction with the community.

Marty then jumped in to build on a couple of things that were mentioned. He noted the work of the Local Junta. We have now built over 600 homes in this area of Nicaragua and he told us the Archbishop told him a while ago that we are the only people coming into Nicaragua who are building homes for the poor. Today, he saw that evident in Siobhan’s family which is one of the poorest families he has ever built for. Looking into their dwelling – where 5 children and 7 adults live – was beyond his comprehension. What struck him was the palpable love of the family members. It was a healthy place, emotionally; a devastating place, financially. “To be able to provide them with a new house was the most significant homebuilding project I have been involved with,” said Marty.

Sister told us that Siobhan gave up applying to last summer’s mission in order to work all summer to save the money to provide this shelter for her sponsored family. She was able to save the money and when she was told that she was accepted to the mission, she knew that there was a reason why.

Alexa had her ‘Mission Moment’ today out on Rice & Beans. As she looked back at one of the homes they had provided food to, she noted the mother reaching out and giving the volunteers a sign of the Cross. “They have so much faith that – I don’t know how to put it,” she said. “It is just incredible. It is something I look up to about them. They have so little, but they have great faith in God, that He will take care of them.”

Roger had to say that today was an incredible day. The people that came together in the Women’s Health Clinics are fantastically talented, very warm, very dedicated. “It was just phenomenal to watch,” he said. “The exciting thing is just how talent comes to us.” He noted that early on he knew we needed to do women’s health as part of the Mission. He wasn’t sure how it would be done, but he knew God would provide. “He has provided us with very talented people. They have great ideas of how we can expand this even further – like the HIV testing.” He had been told in the past by the La Chureca Clinic that they wanted HIV testing and this time we were able to do so.

Bill’s First Responders have said over and over that they need to understand more about diabetes. “And, so,” Roger said, “God provided us a very talented person in Nancy Brennan-Jordan, for the diabetes education . He concluded, “It is the prayers of all of us and our continued faith that will allow us to grow and provide. We are just conduits for God’s grace to the people of this community.”

Beyond words, he was thankful to the medical team for the job they are doing and all of the people who are supporting the medical team in getting their job done, including Joy and Diane who have been involved in medical shipments for their immediate reflexing to the delivery of 2 pallets of medicines today from CMMB.

In 2008, CMMB helped us with $15 million worth of medicines, and it was at $10 million in 2009. And that doesn’t count the shipments from MOHTown or anything else we bring here – that’s the value of the direct shipments. So many at home point donations our way – it is amazing…and we are very thankful.

Many missions ago, said Sister, a sophomore in high school came waiting to have her ‘Mission Moment.’ ‘She was beginning to wonder her purpose here, that sense of – isn’t there something better? At that time we were using thin plastic bags bought locally to carry the rice and beans. So, they were out delivering when they dropped a bag of rice. A woman rushed out of her home to pick up the grains of rice off of the ground because they were so precious – their treasure in the field.

It was in that moment, she understood how important it was for her to be here. It’s like the giant cogs in the wheel. We all have a unique role to play in this mission - together.

Marty closed us in prayer – before we had treats bought by Joy from the Niño bakery.

“The handwriting on the wall might be a forgery. Too often we interpret signs in negative and hostile ways…but life isn’t for or against us. If we are attentive, we will see many signs of promise in each day… when we are ready, we will know how to respond and know what to do. In this world of signs we are not alone…the world is good and I am finding my way in it by being patient and learning to read the signs.”

Please be patient with the lack of internet service – you will receive these notes probably 2 days together after this as I have a filled final day here on Thursday. Thanks for your understanding.

February 17, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

By Bonnie Black
All of Mission 35 has finally arrived! But, let me start at the beginning …

Last night, with a delay on the flight coming in from Atlanta, we wound up with all 21 scheduled for the evening getting on to a yellow school bus with all of their luggage. Sister Debbie rode home with Yamilette and Mauricio while Sister Cathy was my companion as I drove one of our rental vans from the airport to NiCasa. Our scheduled driver was ill, and if we hadn’t picked up the van by 9pm, we were not guaranteed to have it by mid-morning. So, I have now added ‘van driver through downtown Managua’ to my Mission resume!

Upon their arrival, Joy checked in their suitcase numbers, Marty guided them where to put the suitcases until morning, Bev had juice/iced tea/water along with bananas available for snack (some flights only had provided pretzels – which is more than the company that A Team flies!). Roger and Bill handled the men’s room orientation, Samantha and Rachel the women’s small room, Diane and Alysia for the larger room. And the neatest thing was the welcome sign that Samantha and Rachel had created between the time I left for the airport and got back! It said it all, “It’s about time, Mission 35!” And we worked with that concept the rest of the day.

Time….something that we have so little of, yet so much of, in many ways. Although it took 4 days for everyone to arrive, we set the tone today with much getting done.

The morning groupings were made up of the A Team and those who arrived last night – so that means 31 people had their assignments bright and early. The kitchen, under the guidance of Bev, was staffed by Rachel Daly, Megan Harris and Alex Fredette. A real treat for the early risers was warm pancakes and syrup – the leftovers of yesterday’s breakfast which Bev creatively made fresh.

Our morning meeting began at 7am with everyone getting an orientation to the process of the meetings and what lay ahead for the day. Roger opened with reflections from the book, “Letters from the Desert.” It focused on the power of love in our lives: “Love alone is not a problem for (s)he who lives it….It is love which must determine one’s actions…the meeting point between heaven and earth, between God and humanity.”

A Team – now part of the main group, did their last duties in explaining the Assignment Board and then taking everyone on an orientation to Niño Jesus de Praga. Anyone who has been here before saw the difference with the new access through the rear of the high school and the new roadway from the Leon Road to the new entrance – or what will soon be the new entrance to the school. It’s a long story! But leave it to be the Carmelites and the priest of the area are defining their territories. We are quite blessed to already have in place a new site for our Mission which will be able to avoid that ‘politics.’

The orientation of the Niño campus was held immediately after the meeting before everyone set out on their assignments. As always, there are changes and we reflexed to what was evolving during the day. For instance, when the flight from Houston was an hour late in arriving in Managua, that posed a problem for making it farther afar on Rice & Beans. But, we asked if it could be done within walking distance and proceeded to do that.

But, I am getting too far! You want to know what your family and friends have been doing….

Let’s start with the most essential jobs to keeping everything: Kitchen and what we call, ‘BBB’ for Bed, Bath and Beyond (our tool closet is also called ‘Home Depot’ and our office supply space is ‘Staples’).

In the kitchen, under the direction of Bev, was Rachel, Alex Fredette and Megan Harris. They have been responsible for feeding all of us our breakfast and lunch today along with 13 home crew builders from the community. They also assured that all of our supplies were brought over to the dining hall for the dinner that the local women make for us.

BBB for the first day was James Carlin and Zach St. Louis along with Alexa Cosgro and Michelle Oberding.

Although Parajito Azul Disability Center was on the day’s schedule, it didn’t occur due to a transportation issue. We needed both vans at the airport for the scheduled arrival of the rest of our team, so having to leave Chiquilistagua by 11am, it made no sense to only spend 1.5 to 2 hours at the site for our first day there. It’s back on the schedule for tomorrow when we will have the transportation needed. So, the 3 people scheduled for that site (Roger, Bev and Sister Cathy) fell right into doing assisting others in their tasks.

James & I met to review the Community Development plans for this mission. It’s great to have another person reviewing the information and helping to decide what is feasible and what will need to be postponed until the summer!

We began our Heights and Weights program here at Niño with the Pre-K through Grade 2 students. Bill along with Adam Oropallo, Michelle Oberding, Amanda Garami, Rebecca Belton and Molly McConnell accomplished it all this morning – great work team!

Not far from them was Sister Debbie with Magaly Velasquez taking the remaining photos of sponsored students here at Niño.

Joy and Diane were again up at NiCarlos’ working on specialized sorting for the medical distributions remaining.

The notebook/pencil project continued with Alexa Cosgro, Brian LaTulipe, Samantha Mulcahy and Zach St. Louis twisting their personal pencil sharpeners and strapping them to a new notebook for all of our sponsored students. Together, with what was done before the main team arrived, we had 400 done before lunch!

Our Home Crew this morning, under the guidance of Marty, was composed of Nancy Cronin who sponsored the first house built this morning for Claudia Jessenia Narvaez of the barrio Solano. Others on the team were Megan Harris, Caitlin Houle, Rachel Oberding and Greg LaTulipe. The second house was built in honor of Bishop Cunningham and the crew was representative of members of Roman Catholic churches in the Diocese of Ogdensburg. This second dwelling was built for Francesca & Manuel Berños also of Solano.

In the Niño Clinic this morning at our Women’s Health Clinic were Kathy Camelo, Karen Case, Janine Palermo and Alysia Privrat. Of the 19 scheduled, about half showed up, so they offered screenings to the kitchen staff at the Children Feeding Children program we run here and a couple of their friends.

This afternoon when no patients arrived within the first hour for our Women’s Health Clinic here at Niño, the assigned medical crew of Kathy Carmelo, Karen Case and Janine Palermo (along with translator Rachel Oberding) joined Joy Cayea in restocking shelves with medicines at the Niño Clinic.

At 2pm, Alysia Privrat drove over with Dr. Lopez and Marta to our Nejapa Clinic to observe the process in that location. With her fluent Spanish, Alysia was able to ascertain what occurs, in what order, at that location on Mondays and Fridays.

Over in the shade of the front yard this afternoon, Caitlin Houle, Rebecca Boulton and Molly McConnell were whipping along with the notebooks when they were joined by many who were either waiting to go out on Rice & Beans or were in a ‘holding pattern’ on other assignments. It was great to see such camaraderie on the very first day!

Sister Cathy was the point person for the sorting of student gifts this afternoon and was assisted for a while by Amanda Garami and Molly McConnell. It was great to see Nancy Cronin and Siohban Norton and Patrick Daly jump in later so that the first round of checking off and alphabetizing the gifts was completed. BUT – this is the first step of about three.

This afternoon, after the rest of had piled into the two vans to come ‘home,’ Sister Debbie and Yamilette took Barbara Dobilas on a ‘mystery ride!’ What that means is that she was taken in the truck with them and shadowed what they did the rest of the afternoon.

Our second Home Crew of the day had Marty along with Alexa, Eliza, Adam and Zach St. Louis returning to Solano building the first home of the afternoon for Maria Esther Rocha in memory of Zach’s mother, Julie St. Louis, donated by Mark Wahl, a long-term missioner and his uncle. The second was built in Chiquilistagua for Kenia Delgado by Seton Catholic students.
In the front yard were James and Greg who prepared the wood for the shelves which will be put up in the Our Lady of Guadelupe Clinic’s pharmacy within the next 2 days.
Suitcase sorting began in earnest this afternoon with Roger, Karen, Joy and Diane moving the medical supplies with the help of Nancy Cronin and Karen Case. Much of what we will be distributing in the Women’s Health Clinic visits and our painting projects at hospitals/clinics is now organized into suitcases to make it easier to carry.

Rice & Beans was a walking group today due to the delay in the arrival of the flight from Houston. Bill along with Diane, Brian LaTulipe, Karen Case and Samantha Mulcahy visited a number of locals with Magaly.

When the balance of the Mission #35 team came in, that presented 16 more suitcases to sort. They were ‘attacked’ right away and much of that work has been done.

At 4pm, there was an orientation of the school grounds for the new arrivals. Now, everyone should be starting out our second day of Mission #35 speaking the same language – at least regarding the grounds!

Our first evening meeting began at 6pm after a half hour of playtime with the neighborhood children. Of course, there were a number of soccer balls kicked around the courtyard!

Our COMPLETE Mission #35 met together, for the first time ever, including our pre- trip meetings, and we got to introduce ourselves to each other which was more meaningful than it had been in the past. An interesting comment by two was that the coverage of the Mission by the Press Republican is what motivated them to come. On this mission we have 13 different high schools represented and participants from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Oregon, Vermont, New York City, Albany as well as the North Country. We have 26 new participants and 23 veterans.

The ‘basics’ were covered again for the new arrivals before we got into the sharing time.

During our sharing, Sister Debbie began by telling us about an experience she had this afternoon at the fruit market. Barbara Dobilas, who was with Sister, said that she was happy to have the experience driving around including watching a woman make the tortillas that we had for dinner. Then, on to the fruit market, it looked just like the Farmers’ Markets at home. But, driving around the back, she saw the fish area with the flies all over the shrimp and fish and other moments that moved her. She got a great picture of a young boy although his sister was camera-shy. Knowing that these children actually live there as they don’t go school, moved her. Watching the young girl, around 8, lie down and pull a towel over her, she realized this was probably where she sleeps most of the time. Thinking that this is how she will spend most of her life, it was a sobering experience. “It will rock you to your core,” said Barbara, “and I am grateful to have seen it. It was obvious there is no beauty in her life.”

Sister mentioned that she chose Barbara today because she is our webmaster and this gave her a great first-hand experience of what the Mission is about.

Alysia Privat had spent the afternoon with Dr. Lopez at our Nejapa Clinic and realized that the people come to the clinic here know this is a unique experience, unlike going to the doctor which we take for granted.

When exchanging our money today, Sister had Yamilette ask the men what they get. He gets 5 to 7 cents on every hundred they exchange. Imagine that as your line of work to provide for your family. It is also a very unsafe job, too, with a few being killed each month. “James,” who exchanged the money, nodded his head at the end and said, “God bless you.”

Rachel Oberding spoke of one of the home shelters she was involved with this morning. The woman seemed so sad and requested shampoo for you young baby. Another woman told them that the other woman can’t work, as she has to watch her children because someone might steal them. Sister noted that human trafficking is becoming more of an issue. It is estimated that there are over 85,000 children out on the streets trying to sell wares or themselves.

A question was posed as to how people are selected for receiving home shelters. The criteria we have is that the local council select the most needy with the most significant issues. Applications are taken continuously and the list is constantly sorted by need as they reapply each year. One of the women who will be receiving has been on the list for 2 years. This mission is very unique with so many shelters being built in memory of a loved one.

Nancy Cronin mentioned that hers was the first shelter that was built today and the 2 little boys ran right inside once it was done and began playing. At the second home, the woman for whom the shelter was built seemed very shy – like her children, but…once Nancy took out her camera they became very involved and took a parakeet out of the tree and proudly showed it to her. She was impressed by one of the local workers who was pounding the nails continuously even though he had an old break in his forearm that was misshapen.

Eliza thanked all who came over to help with the notebook preparation even though they hadn’t been asked. We were reminded by Alexa that these are for the 600 or so students that are sponsored by the Mission.

Rachel thanked Bev for her efforts in the kitchen on behalf of all – and got a round of applause. Bev spoke to Sister Stephanie this afternoon and she sends her wishes. She read a note that Sister Stephanie sent which brought tears to many eyes.

“All of us have had people raising us up from the moment we began thinking of possibly doing a mission. Generally,” said Sister Debbie, “we do a prayer as the full Mission group departs – but this time was quite different. So here is our gathering prayer for Mission 35.” With heightened emotions, we listened to Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up” sung by Celtic Woman.

“”You raise me up to more than I can be” was the resounding refrain for all tonight as we thought of all of you who gave this opportunity for this experience.

Sister then asked Megan Harris to come to the center of the circle to be honored with her 17th birthday today. And we brought out a piñata that had been purchased by Yamilette while Bev cut the birthday cake which we all shared – it was a la mode…what a treat! Others tried to break the piñata and, finally, it came apart delivering Tootsie Rolls and Valentine pops to all.

Just about that time, we had a visit from Jeremy Eppler who could only spend a few minutes saying, “Hi,” to all. He hopes to be back for a longer time on Friday.

All were in bed before the ‘lights out’ at 9:30pm proving that Mission #35 has truly begun to make a difference – in the people we serve as well as ourselves.

February 15, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010 Early Edition

By Bonnie Black
This morning we began with Diane reading the Dahli Lahma’s ‘Good Karma’ – true instruction for life. A great tone to set for the day as we complete all tasks and await our companions.

Thanks goes to Marty for a delicious pancake breakfast – a Sunday ‘tradition’ on Mission and we just HAD to carry it on!

Roger went up to the Clinic this morning and identified our exam tables and other items with labels on all sides in preparation for moving these to the new clinic in late spring. He also worked on the Medical Team schedule for the upcoming week. He determined we are in need of some nebulizers for our work here, so if anyone has a nebulizer that their family no longer needs, it would be greatly appreciated as a donation to our work in Nicaragua.

Diane and Alysia went up to NiCarlos’ to complete the search for select items Roger requested for this Mission and to label for locations more supplies for pickup on Monday. They also sorted some of the ECO items in preparation for some work.

Bev worked on developing the complete ‘kits’ for the focus missions which will stay at NiCarlos and for the next A Team (again!) in hopes that they will be the supplies that will remain for those uses and not be integrated into the main supplies here at NiCasa. We are hopeful that it will allow the smaller groups (up to 8 people) to begin their missions without having to worry about the ‘basics’ for themselves.

Diane and Alysia then walked over to Victoria’s home with the laundry supplies for the upcoming week in preparation for keeping all 49 of us in clean clothes!

As a group, at our morning meeting, we discussed some enhancements to the packing process to make everything even more efficient and effective than it already is – and it’s really good already!

This morning we had a second priest celebrating Mass with Father Jalder. He studied under Father Jalder, then went to Oregon for a while and just returned last month. He is a native Nicaraguan and is happy to return to serve in this area.

This afternoon, Joy spoke with a gentleman named Frank regarding an ECO project with the Filtron water filters, but he will have to get back to us regarding a specific day as he wasn’t in the office with his calendar this morning. He hopes to make the meeting with the families and us around 3pm one day this week.

It was so good to see Yamilette – finally! She joined us at lunch time and we heard how long she stayed in line to be reticketed along with hundreds of others in the Atlanta airport. They organized people into 6 lines, but each fed into the same single reticketing window! Things got a little out of hand and they even had to call in airport dogs to help control. The airline lost her bag and she is going to the airport later today to, hopefully, get it back.

Want to get to a public internet to send a few days’ worth of notes along to you, so I will close. Remember, the Phone Tree will be initiated once the group is on the group tonight in Managua – the first 22 tonight – and initiated again tomorrow afternoon when the remaining travelers arrive.

Hasta luego!

Sunday, February 14, 2010 Early Edition

By Bonnie Black
This morning we began with Diane reading the Dahli Lahma’s ‘Good Karma’ – true instruction for life. A great tone to set for the day as we complete all tasks and await our companions.

Thanks goes to Marty for a delicious pancake breakfast – a Sunday ‘tradition’ on Mission and we just HAD to carry it on!

Roger went up to the Clinic this morning and identified our exam tables and other items with labels on all sides in preparation for moving these to the new clinic in late spring. He also worked on the Medical Team schedule for the upcoming week. He determined we are in need of some nebulizers for our work here, so if anyone has a nebulizer that their family no longer needs, it would be greatly appreciated as a donation to our work in Nicaragua.

Diane and Alysia went up to NiCarlos’ to complete the search for select items Roger requested for this Mission and to label for locations more supplies for pickup on Monday. They also sorted some of the ECO items in preparation for some work.

Bev worked on developing the complete ‘kits’ for the focus missions which will stay at NiCarlos and for the next A Team (again!) in hopes that they will be the supplies that will remain for those uses and not be integrated into the main supplies here at NiCasa. We are hopeful that it will allow the smaller groups (up to 8 people) to begin their missions without having to worry about the ‘basics’ for themselves.

Diane and Alysia then walked over to Victoria’s home with the laundry supplies for the upcoming week in preparation for keeping all 49 of us in clean clothes!

As a group, at our morning meeting, we discussed some enhancements to the packing process to make everything even more efficient and effective than it already is – and it’s really good already!

This morning we had a second priest celebrating Mass with Father Jalder. He studied under Father Jalder, then went to Oregon for a while and just returned last month. He is a native Nicaraguan and is happy to return to serve in this area.

This afternoon, Joy spoke with a gentleman named Frank regarding an ECO project with the Filtron water filters, but he will have to get back to us regarding a specific day as he wasn’t in the office with his calendar this morning. He hopes to make the meeting with the families and us around 3pm one day this week.

It was so good to see Yamilette – finally! She joined us at lunch time and we heard how long she stayed in line to be reticketed along with hundreds of others in the Atlanta airport. They organized people into 6 lines, but each fed into the same single reticketing window! Things got a little out of hand and they even had to call in airport dogs to help control. The airline lost her bag and she is going to the airport later today to, hopefully, get it back.

Want to get to a public internet to send a few days’ worth of notes along to you, so I will close. Remember, the Phone Tree will be initiated once the group is on the group tonight in Managua – the first 22 tonight – and initiated again tomorrow afternoon when the remaining travelers arrive.

Hasta luego!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

By Bonnie Black
We’re ready for tomorrow night! Everything is now back on schedule for Mission #35 with NiCasa all set to host our team beginning Sunday evening. Twenty-two more will be joining us around 10:30pm or so getting a good night’s rest for the intense 5 days ahead of them. Not that the past 3-4 days haven’t been emotionally intense! It will be good to welcome those we had hoped to see on Thursday.

This morning’s meeting began with a prayer by Bill who provided a short, but sweet, reflection that got our day off to a wonderful start. And, we had lots to do!

Marty Mannix, Alysia Privrat and Roger Patnode went out with the local home building crew to create the new shelter for Arlen Lopez of Chiquilistagua, donated by Daisy Baker. She had a young boy who, along with another woman relative and her child were going to be the new residents. “It was great to do and fun to watch,” said Roger of the first home shelter he had be a part of. Although he is a Mission ‘veteran,’ Roger had never had the opportunity to be a part of this project in the past and was pleased he got a taste of the willing and adept locals who work on these homes. The only glitch was that the foundation had been laid with too much concrete between the blocks which made it a ‘stretch’ for the wood and tin, but they made it. Roger had also brought rice and beans for the homeowner along with crayons and blank paper for her son. The young cousins who lived next door came over and he shared more crayons and paper with them. Everyone had an enjoyable time.

Joy and Diane spent much of the day up at our Clinic in the pharmacy area adding to the inventory with the new medicines that were shipped by CMMB in October. This afternoon they went back to NiCarlos’ going through more cartons and medical supplies in preparation for 4-5 hospitals to pick up over the next week.

Samantha and Rachel tackled many of the notebooks and pencils that will need to be prepared for the 600 students that are sponsored between the two schools: Mother of the Divine Son in Nejapa and Colegio Niño Jesus de Praga here in Chiquilistagua. Tedious as it is for us, it is a wonderful gift for the children who cannot afford their own notebooks or, in many cases, pencils. Sharpening pencils and attaching them to the notebooks took up most of their morning. And not to fear, there are many still to complete when the main group gets here! Later this afternoon, we created a workspace for all of the notebooks and pencils (even though we know there are 200 sharpened pencils in Alex Fredette’s suitcase!) so that the assigned group on Monday can hit the road running.

I had sat with Mauricio around 9:45am this morning to create the shopping list for the Community Development projects coming up this week, only to find that paint stores and lumber yards and hardware stores close at Noon on Saturday. Later I found out that others knew this, but guess I had never set out to make these purchases on a Saturday before! So, Mauricio and Rene took the van that was to take a few people to the food market out to procure much of what we will need beginning Monday. Based on who is arriving when, we have a shortened amount of time to accomplish all of the tasks the committee and Leadership had planned on, but we WILL have lots to do.

Once they returned, we offered them lunch and then Bev, Bill, Samantha, Rachel and Alysia went to the various markets to get the food for the main group. The only item not purchased yet are the bananas which we will get late tomorrow afternoon.

Around 2:30pm, the Solemn Mass for the Infirm began with the pinning of a yellow ribbon and medallion on all of those for whom the service was being held. Sister Cecilia came over to NiCasa and invited any of us who would like to attend to join them – and Joy and Diane chose to change and go. Although the Pope has declared this month as the time to conduct this type of service, we were told, this Solemn Mass was certainly not ‘solemn!’ Joy and Diane told us that the priest, Father Irvine, seemed to have a great sense of humor and had the congregation laughing through much of the service. Everyone in the sanctuary was anointed-regardless of their health condition. So, Joy and Diane each received and were intrigued by the aroma similar to cloves that the oil smelled like.

Meanwhile, Roger, Marty and I prepared the painting section for Paul O’Connell and Patrick Daly’s painting crews which also included the new paint we bought today for Guadelupe Clinic and Fernando Velez Paiz Children’s Hospital as well as Sister Cathy’s Mural Project in the clinic room at La Chureca.

Roger then organized the medicines which will be brought by either medical teams or painting crews to the various hospitals and clinics with whom we work. We will not be able to conduct the Health Fair in the time allotted to us (it was to have been tomorrow, on a Sunday) so we restocked some of the items in storage and will work on the rest during the week as time allows. Of course, everything has to be inventoried as it is put into storage, so that takes time.

The entire courtyard is now vacant, ready to accept the 25 suitcases coming in tomorrow tonight and the rest on Monday afternoon. It will also allow the beginning of sorting on Monday morning of the first set of suitcases in ample space.

After the Solemn Mass, we heard a lot of revelry in the dining hall next to our building, so Joy, Roger, Samantha, Rachel and I went over. At first we were timid about going in, but Sister Cecilia insisted we come in and ‘have a good time.’ There was a local 2-piece band (keyboard, guitar) which was playing music as people got settled. Then, the music came from both the musicians and CDs with the moving Nicaraguan music. The older students from Niño performed a few dances – all contemporary – and a couple of the older men got up to serenade the group – two from the barrio of Solano. If it were ‘Nicaraguan Idol’ we determined that the dancers would move on to the next round, although the singers received a warm applause from their neighbors. Sister Rosa mentioned to the group that the dinner they were receiving was provided by the Mission of Hope. It was all over by around 5pm with everyone leaving Colegio with broad smiles on their faces. Walking, in wheelchairs, on crutches – all had enjoyed a wonderful afternoon together.

After dinner, we held our evening meeting which began with prayer by Marty reading a selection from “Answers from the Heart.” It stressed that emotions are also a language – often more powerful than our thoughts. It urged us to trust in the language of our hearts.

We organized ourselves for receiving our 22 fellow travelers tomorrow night in our roles as hosts and hostesses of NiCasa. Joy will be the suitcase check-in person, Marty will guide them to the numbered locations for their suitcases, Diane and Alysia will orient those housed in the larger room, Rachel and Samantha will do the same in the smaller room, Bev will do the kitchen area (including some healthy snacks we will have out for the tired travelers), Roger and Bill will handle the men’s room and I will be floating around with the camera. Most likely, I will travel into the airport with the van in order to get some pictures of the first wave of Mission #35 arriving this week.

We later heard that Yamilette Flores’ plane from Atlanta, that was grounded last night due to freezing rain, took off almost two hours later than expected tonight so, as I write this, she has not yet arrived here. We are sure we will see her at Mass tomorrow morning, though.

Can’t wait until all who should be here have arrived – will keep you updated as I can get to a public internet café…

Friday, February 12th - Late Edition

By Bonnie Black
Since I last updated you, more has changed. Yamilette Flores will not make it in this evening as her plane was grounded in Atlanta due to freezing rain. Sister Debbie told me that Houston now has snow and it is being reported that there is now snow on the ground in all 50 states! One of the hardest parts about Yamilette not making it tonight is that she is carrying down the wedding ring that Jeremy Eppler is to use in his civil ceremony tomorrow in Leon. As many of you remember, Jeremy has been a part of the Mission since the beginning and continued his connection while he was in the Peace Corps here in Nicaragua. I spoke with him later in the afternoon and he said that there are only 15 people total at the civil ceremony which is truly for the purpose to assure that neither has been married before – a formal preface to the church wedding later this spring.

This afternoon, Mauricio and I began to make possible arrangements for transportation from the airport, but it seems there is not another 15-passenger van available in addition to the one we now have. The reservation company is promising to call me if one becomes available tomorrow or Sunday. I told him we wouldn’t need it until 9pm, when we are picking up 22 people, so he will see what he can do. Who knows?!?

We made sure that all medical locations are now prepared for the changes we have made to yesterday’s plan as well as the school in Nejapa for the heights and weights of the smallest students there.

He also informed me that the babies and toddlers at Juan Pablo II orphanage have been moved up to the Angels of Hope Orphanage in El Crucero. They are saying they have some needs for the children, so we will see what we can do once Yamilette arrives on Saturday or Sunday.

Bev continued to work with the menus and needs to now feed the full complement of travelers arriving over a series of days. She will be going into Managua to shop with Mauricio in the morning.

Marty Mannix, Joy Cayea and Diane Crosier were our first Home Building Crew of Mission #35 constructing the house donated by Joy and her husband, Ray Petrashune. We will be adjusting the number of houses to be built based on the (lack of) construction knowledge of the local people receiving the casitas. We will do a second house tomorrow – one donated by Daisy Baker.

Mauricio arranged for a visit to the Disability Center’s farm in Masaya for Wednesday afternoon. It most likely will be a small group of Leadership and ECO which will assess the situation and report back to the full Team at our next meeting.

Our evening meeting began with a prayer by Diane (Joy had done an interesting one this morning based on the 23rd Psalm). “A small prayer will move heaven” was her prayer that she had seen – a Japanese saying that she had been quite impressed. “That’s why the entire team is joining us,” said Joy. Bev responded that the Mission has seen evidence of that in how we responded to Alexa’s health issue in the past and here she is, ready to join us! Rachel and Samantha told us of how prayer had been such a positive experience at that time, too, for them as well as Alexa.

Marty shared his experience at the building site for our first house. It could have been a negative experience with what occurred before they began. Once it all began, the experience was satisfying including the mother’s 13-year-old son who attends school at Nino Jesus de Praga who was proving his position in the family by driving nails into the roof. He could see the other families in the neighborhood enjoying the experience. Diane and Joy thought at first there would only be the 2 women who were to receive homes would show up but there were many family members who pitched in.

Alysia was impressed by the empowerment of the First Responders at the meeting this afternoon. The pride that was exhibited on the outreach later was impressive to her. And it’s all thanks to Bill who conceived the idea originally. She and Roger, Bill, Samantha and Rachel went out and it also included rice and beans delivery to the families they saw. Bill said he got a lot of hugs!

Bill thought how interesting today was as the morning ‘fell apart’ but resulted in a great meeting with Dr. Gonzalez and the medical students. He also was so excited at the potential growth of our clinic with the medical students’ participation in the future. Roger thanked Alysia for her translating ability, even though they brought their own translator. Initially, it began with the followup to the parasite program that the Mission provides, but now will expand to assisting in the diabetic education and lead testing during this mission. All will be a part of published research in the near future. Roger feels the potential is great – and there was a reason for the scheduled Heights and Weights not happening. Dr. Gonzalez will be providing us with the ‘wish list’ for the university parasite research.

Rachel told us about an older man with one cane who came toward them this afternoon and then had his daughter get his second cane and really began to move! We have a walker that we can provide to him which will occur at some time during this mission through the First Responders.

Roger shared that Sister Ligia wanted 150 people tested beginning at 7am on Friday, but it unfolded that the medical students from the university wanted to help along with our Medical Team, so we can do it! Marty said that Sister Ligia was thrilled after filling a truck and sent 2 trucks back this afternoon. Dr. Gonzalez also offered a basic metabolic screening at the same time as the lead testing on Friday at San Jose Hospital.

Roger told us the background on how we connected with Dr. Gonzalez and the University a few years ago at a meeting at American-Nicaraguan Foundation which was to see if the various NGOs and schools working in La Chureca could coordinate their efforts. From there, he put her in touch with Sister Rosa at Nino to coordinate parasite education with the Pre-Schoolers and their families along with parasite testing of those students. The results from that experience were given to Judy Charland who coordinates our ECO Team and it is those families who eventually received the Filtron filters last January. We will be testing the new Pre-Schoolers this time and a followup on those who tested positive last year. It is a great evolving program!

And we resumed the Phase 10 friendly competition of Wednesday night……before curfew at 9:30pm

February 13, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010 - Early Edition

By Bonnie Black
After our first Mission #35 morning meeting ay 7am, everyone began working on the ‘second’ setup tasks to be done. Roger and I met regarding a revised medical team plan, changed from last night’s discussion (!).

At 8:45am, Marty, Diane, Joy went over to Carlos’ to meet Sr. Ligia of San Jose Hospital in Diriamba for her first pickup of medical supplies. She then came over to NiCasa to meet with Roger who showed her more medicines that were available to her. They then spoke about arrangements for the PAP and HIV testing of women next week as well as the lead testing of children and diabetic education for hospital staff. Guess what? It won’t be on the day pre-determined, but on Friday at 7am. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Mission #35 has been shifted from this week to next!

Samantha, Rachel , Bev and Alysia put back into place the bedroom setup for entire group with Bill and Roger assisting whenever possible…until Dr. Gonzalez and her 5 medical students showed up got a meeting from the UAN. Next Friday, these students will do metabolic screening to get general baseline information as well as use our information the lead testing. They will be coordinating with Sr. Ligia for those tests and get the results back to both the Mission and San Jose Hospital.

The students will test the pre-schoolers at Nino Jesus de Praga and use the positive results for the Filtron project of our ECO Team. And make recommendations so that Dr. Lopez can treat them in our clinic with medicines we can procure. Dr. Gonzalez will be sending information on a gravel system that she is using in rural areas that can reduce the price and be just as effective. It was designed by a North American for use in very rural areas. We will be speaking with Sr. Rosa in hopes that this will come to fruition. The students will be doing followup studies, for evidence-based results, on the families who receive the filters. If the students still are positive for parasites after the family has received a filter, we will examine the entire family and treat the entire family. The students would like us to provide the specimen containers that cost 3 cordobas each for about 300 people (900 cordobas is about $44). We also gave information on the moringa tree which they will study and see how to use that as well.

They also plan on coming to La Chureca next week with our medical team to assist with the PAP and HIV testing. Roger then spoke to them about the possibility of developing a program to supplement the hours in our new location and develop specialty areas for our clinic to offer in the future. This is something to working grooming with the University to provide them with internships and us with a greater medical presence at a reasonable cost to the Mission.

Roger also began a discussion for a visit of a small team of ours to the University over the next few days – so he is hopeful that he can change his return ticket in order to get this concept established!

Bev re-did the kitchen supply list for the expanded full group and she will be doing that shopping tomorrow as we learn more about how many are coming on which days (by 11am, she found out that we will have 33 here by Sunday evening and then the last 17 here by midday on Monday).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

By Bonnie Black
Well, another day and – guess what? More changes! All for the better as we heard this evening around 6:30pm Nica time that everyone will be able to make it here over the next 3-4 days. That also means that there will actually be only 2 days when everyone who is part of Mission #35 is here on the ground together. An extremely different kind of Mission to kick off our 11th year serving our friends here in Nicaragua!

This morning, A Team began our day reducing the size of what we had set up yesterday as the latest information received last night was that we were going to have a total of 10 people for sure and possibly 3-4 more near the beginning of the week. By 11am, we heard that 5 would be joining us between Sunday and Monday, so plans for dinners made by the local women were set for the varying numbers beginning Sunday through next Friday. Later we confirmed that we would only be constructing 8 homes with Inocencio Velasquez, our local construction crew chief, and the President of the local Junta, Magaly Velasquez (his niece) as 6 of those delayed due to the weather preferred to be on-site when the construction is done. Mauricio Flores, our administrator here in Chiquilistagua, assured Inocencio and the families that only 8 homes would done this week and the other 6 would have to wait until April or May.

Diane Crosier, Joy Cayea, Bev Gogola, Bill Calmbacher, Samantha Mulcahy, Rachel Daly and Roger Patnode went over to NiCarlos and began sorting through the many cartons left from the October container shipment. There is also some equipment for our new clinic that will remain there in a very protected area for the tentative focused mission in May to use in establishing the new location for our clinic here in Chiquilistagua.

Once informed of the 7 more people coming on Sunday and Monday, Roger Patnode reviewed the original Medical Team schedule and adapted it to the days the team would be in the country based on a phone call around 11am. Mauricio then confirmed with the various sites the adjusted days/times. So that was all set.

Meanwhile, I had gone to the airport to pick up one van and cancel the reservation on the second one, as we would not be needing it with a total of only 14 people during the next week.

When I returned, I joined the others at NiCarlos as we sorted and inventoried the cartons which would remain at NiCarlos’ in storage. Tomorrow morning at 9am, Sister Ligia from San Jose Hospital in Diriamba has arranged (through Mauricio) to bring two trucks for two round trips in order to obtain the donations from the October container that are occupying most of NiCarlos’ interior. Once she begins to move the first shipment, tomorrow a portion of A Team will move the balance to the lawn for Sister Ligia’s second pick up and begin the sorting of the rest of the cartons from the shipment to be disbursed among the other sites we serve. Once achieved, Mauricio will schedule deliveries – perhaps as early as Saturday!

Diane Crosier, Joy Cayea, Samantha Mulcahy and Rachel Daly then spent a good portion of the afternoon in the NiCasa interior courtyard sorting the 600 notebooks and pencils out of cartons which had come on the container shipment in October in preparation for creating a notebook with 2 pencils for each of the sponsored children at Niño Jesus de Praga and Mother of the Divine Son School in Nejapa. It was going to be a large task for only 4-6 people to accomplish over the next few days among all of the other projects planned for the small group (at that point!).

Marty Mannix joined Magaly in the afternoon to look at the 3 sites selected by Father Jalder in Nejapa for construction, we thought, in April or May. These were the remaining sites of the original 14 selected for this mission. As they toured the sites, they informed those families that they could come get their supplies any time during the next week or so here in Chiquilistagua. Well, that will now be changed in the morning making 6 more families here quite happy to know the homes they were originally promised this coming week will indeed happen.

Around 6:30pm, we received that call from Sister Debbie that, indeed, all of the Mission #35 team has procured tickets and will be arriving over the next 3-4 days – with varying departures Thursday through Monday. So, as soon as we receive the specific information on who is arriving and departing when, we will be able to adjust the original work schedules and see just how much of what was planned on can feasibly occur before the last person heads back home in 10 days.

‘Reflexing’ has been the word of the past two days both in Plattsburgh and here in Nicaragua. It will become the mantra of Mission #35!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

By Bonnie Black
As you now know, Mission 35 has changed – even before it got off the ground! With the severe weather on the East Coast, it was impossible to redirect 39 people from the Plattsburgh area to Managua within the next few days. So, in essence, the large group Mission #35 has turned into a mini-Mission. We aren’t actually a ‘focused’ mission as we will not have just one priority area. We will be trying to pick up as many of the tasks, as 9 of us can do, of all of those planned for the 50 to accomplish over the next week.

Today, we had almost the entire NiCasa set up for housing the full group and accommodating them for meals when we received word that the severe snowstorm had changed our plans. What we will need to do over the next few days is reduce the ‘size’ of what we had set up for the 9 of us who are here right now and the one person flying in from Washington State who will be able to make it tomorrow night. We still aren’t sure if one more person will accomplish the feat of making it here tomorrow night or not, as she was booked separately from the rest of the main group. Once we know that, we will ‘right-size’ Mission #35.

Roger Patnode, Bill Calmbacher and Joy Cayea spent some time this afternoon at the Nino Clinic segregating the almost expired meds and preparing them for distribution later this week to two other clinics we work with here. They then went, along with Marty Mannix, Samantha Mulcahy and Rachel Daly, up to NiCarlos and began to make a little headway into the recent shipment from CMMB. Much work is still to be done, so they came back so that Roger and Joy could look at the detail and plan a ‘mode of attack’ for distribution of those medicines over the next few days.

Diane Crosier and Bev Gogola went with Mauricio into town to procure some food so that the 9 – soon to be 10 – of us will have some sustenance beyond what is left here from last Mission. And, of course, it required a trip to the Fruit Market so that we can begin to enjoy the Nica pineapple!

Tonight we strategized the various tasks that were set to be accomplished. We think we have a plan to make a little headway into the vast number of medical and community development projects we had on our lists. Without the 45-50 suitcases of supplies coming, we reprioritized what, most likely, can be accomplished.

Tomorrow morning, Sister Debbie will be meeting with the medical people who had been part of Mission #35 to see if any are able to make arrangements to fly down early next week and leave with the balance of A Team early Sunday morning. We will know more later tomorrow.

I will keep you up-to-date as we rearrange this mission. We WILL be serving our friends here with the supplies we have on site, so stay tuned!