By Bonnie Black
First, I am going to apologize the all of the spouses who read yesterday’s journal and then expected a phone call. Well, as things happen here, by the time that a few of us were ready to call after the meeting, the phone we could use had left Nicasa. So, just know that we were all thinking of you even if we couldn’t speak. It will be just a few days for most of you and then you will see us, but to my husband (the others on A Team who are closing up don’t have a spouse) I must say that Sunday morning is less than a week away!
We are now at the point in Mission #37 that we are winding down our projects with today and tomorrow our last full days of work.
This morning, around 4:15am, Connie left us to return home with Oscar taking her to the airport. That reminds me that when your traveler gets back, you will find that they are either chattering away about their experiences or not saying much. Each of us processes these experiences in a different way – and it’s different every time we return home. For some, we can begin to talk about details right away and share most everything; for others, it takes time to fully absorb what our senses are bombarded with here and then sift through those emotions experience by experience. So, if your family member isn’t as forthcoming as you would like (I know from being on your end, I wanted to hear ALL about it right away!) be patient. In time, stories will be told, experiences shared, for memories have been made that may fade over years but will never be forgotten.
At this morning’s meeting Sister shared the day’s expectations and we reviewed the board. Then, she asked who had morning prayer and she was reminded that it hadn’t been assigned! So, I suggested that I read the poem created by Michele Oberding who was with us in February. It goes with the thoughts I began this journal note with, so you will get a flavor of the impact of Mission on those of us who travel here (see attachment). As Sister said, the adage that still waters can run deep is true of various people who come on mission and it is not always noticeable, at first, the depth of the impact until there is time for reflection.
OK – to the day-to-day stuff! Our Kitchen Crew was Joan, Chris H., Ali and John in the morning with a switch off (due to our scheduling boo-boo) later in the day with Brenda and Rinsha stepping for Joan and Chris H. In our scheduling late last night, we didn’t remember the change that was made earlier in the Mission!
BBB was Ross, Dave, Adrianne and Colleen. Yes, for the men there is duplication, but that’s because there are 2 people assigned each day (it really is an all day job on top of other assignments) and there aren’t enough men travelers this time to have the luxury of doing it only once.
A team headed out to Parajito Azul to put together shelving from the remnants of the wood from the bed supports made a few days ago for Casa de Vida. They had been painted by a crew a couple of days ago, so Dave and Izzy with Megan, Adrianne, Betsy, Mary and Brenda took the van there bright and early this morning to work with the residents and build the shelves in the toy room. Brenda told us later that they had been able to make wheelchairs out of regular chairs that work very well.
Allen took Kyle and Sam up to our former clinic to assure that everything was cleaned out and that we had left it pristine (I went up later to take pictures, too).
Just after 8am, Sister, Joan, Mauricio, Oscar, Carmen Leiva (who used to teach at Nino) and I went to the Chiquilistagua Public School just up the road. We met with the principals and most of the teachers learning there are 831 students (Pre-K through 5th Secondary) and 15 teachers. This is a typical Nicaraguan student:teacher ratio – so much different than ours. They have a desire for a kitchen where they could cook some food, if they had it. In the beginning of the school year (February) the government provided some rice & beans & oil, but those supplies ran out in less than 2 months. Another desire is to establish a Library for the use of their students and teachers – we had done one for Colegio Nino Jesus de Praga by Seton Catholic students, this might be an educational project a school could adopt over the next year. Their hope is to eventually have a complete set of textbooks for every grade as a full reference for all. We reinforced that our goal is to serve the poorest of the poor, so it would be necessary to stay consistent with that philosophy as we move forward. They also have a large concrete area that could be repaired and lined with backstops put in for a basketball court. So many possibilities! Our Leadership Team will be discussing how we best serve this school where many poor children attend. We might be able to do a pilot project there with one of our focused groups in mid-winter. There are also many possibilities for ECO teaching, too!
As we were walking back from the high school area, Oscar repeated that this was on Oscar’s grandfather’s former farm property which extended for a large expanse from farther up on the hill down past the main Old Leon Road. It was ironic that the lawyer who manipulated the land from his grandfather later lost it all during the Revolution to the government.
Joan then had John working on finding 13 mattresses here that we can donate to Casa de Vida that are shorter than 6 feet long. THAT was a trial and error process! They came up with 2; so we just have to purchase 11 now.
This morning it was Allen and Sam over at the new site doing some of the painting and lock boring.
Bill M. along with Ross, Chris G., Kyle and Anne began the ECO project on our new property. They said it was unbearably hot with 3 of them ‘dropping’ out after a while. They planted 3 rows of 13 moringa seeds that should be used in the future for leaf production. We are assuming they will be topped in January or February when they reach 5 to 6 feet. They also planted 2 rows of 7 moringa seeds for full height trees which will produce more moringa seeds for future projects.
Heights and Weights were taken at Nejapa School this morning by Bill C., Dale, Demi, Colleen and Liz. They discovered that the school is now on split sessions, so the students who were on the list from last time were not all part of the morning session, so they in their place they added in others.
Sister Debbie had Sister Stephanie and Patty join her at El Crucero this morning to complete the photos for the Orphans’ Hope Project and to bring some much needed vitamins for the orphans along with a donated DVD player and a CD player. The morning El Crucero trip was mainly networking with the sisters and the Orphans’ Hope Project and picture taking.
The Medical Outreach scheduled for this morning was rescheduled for this afternoon as the First Responder who was to be here at 8am didn’t show, so at 2:30pm we went with Magaly: Cathy, Liz, Patty and myself.
Going to the El Crucero “Angels of Hope” orphanage this afternoon were: Stephen, Ross, Colleen, Joan, Demi, Chris G., Chris H., and Sam. It was a play day and delivery of 3 sewing machines from donors ‘up north’ and 5 gifts sent by sponsors.
Working at the new property were Allen, Betsy, Anne, Adrianne, Kyle and Bill M. Sorting the school supplies for the Chiquilistagua Public School we visited this morning were Megan and Mary who joined Allen’s crew when they were done.
At 2pm, a truck took Bill C., Dave, Dale and Izzy out on Rice & Beans delivery. We didn’t think of it until just before they left, but I believe this is the first all-men crew that we have sent out! They even stopped at the new facility to get some toys out of storage that Dave knew were there from his sorting day yesterday.
After dinner, Joan asked Chris H., Izzy, Adrianne, Megan and Colleen to help set up the dining room for tomorrow’s gift distribution.
Adrianne and Kyle washed the floor of our old clinic after dinner, I took pictures, and we handed the keys over to the nuns here at Nino who told us to give them to Marta. This was closure to a very successful growth in providing healthcare to residents of this barrio. The initial days of hundreds of people crushing against the doors for the once-a-year doctor visit has grown into a new clinic on our own property with scheduled appointments with a Nicaraguan doctor handled by Marta, Yamilette Flores’ sister, who lives up the road. Something of which everyone who has gone on the 37 missions should be proud.
Tonight’s evening meeting treats were from the Parajito Azul Center donated by Brenda. Thanks, Brenda!
The first item of ‘business’ we discussed was the suitcases, carryons and processes for traveling back home on Thursday and information on shopping the market on Wednesday. Lots of little details!
Sister told us that Connie called her twice today, once when she landed in Houston and another when in Newark (Note: As of this writing, she landed safely in Burlington and was on her way home with her husband – G’night. Con-con!).
Mary & Megan told us that in the sorting today for the Public School, they sorted supplies into teachers, young students and older students cartons – about 12 boxes to deliver on Wednesday morning. The schools will be quite pleased with this large donation, I am sure.
This afternoon Sister and Oscar and Mauricio spent a long time in a meeting at CARITAS. Contrary to what we had been told before, it may not be true that all shipments to CARITAS must stop by the end of the year. Sister said that is under negotiation – but in any case, our September container shipment will be fine.
Betsy shared that Helen, the embroideress at Parajito Azul, has improved immensely in her skill. She is rendering reindeer and integrated the threads so that the fur actually looks brown. Adrianne and Mary said how the small manipulatives that Sister Stephanie saves in the dining room at home were being used by the physical therapist for the residents. Sister said she admires the commitment and ingenuity of Brenda, Adrianne, and Sister Stephanie returning and finding such joy. Adrianne said that Maria is amazing in developing fantastic manipulatives out of bottle tops, toilet paper rolls, meat trays, etc.
Brenda reinforced the caring atmosphere that Sandra, the Director and Founder, has established.
Liz talked about the Medical Outreach team of the afternoon which visited a man with advanced Parkinson’s who gave her a better understanding of the disease and the sharpness of the mind of someone who might not be able to communicate readily or control his physical actions. Cathy said that he is an example of the poverty here in that they will stretch the medicines by reducing the amount per day so they don’t have to fill the prescription as much.
Adrianne had a similar thought about the Parajito Azul residents who truly understand and hear everything even though it may appear to us that they don’t. Mary then spoke about the smaller youth she interacted with and became emotional when she told us that she was the age as the young person.
This afternoon, Sam met her sponsored child at El Crucero, a 15-year-old young girl who she said was very sweet. Joan said she was shocked at the deterioration of the facility in just a year. Patty chimed in regarding her experience of almost staying for lunch there today!
Sister told us that Sister M&M told them about Kevin, a new child, who is her real nephew. Her sister abandoned him there leaving him in the care of the nuns. She then returned and, after a while, Sister M&M had to ask her to leave due to her behavior, choosing to leave her son there with her biological sister. Sister M&M is still struggling with that situation.
We closed this evening’s meeting with a selection Sarah chose because of the meaning it has for her relating to her first mission. It was the song that came on the radio the first night she was back home, returning from work which heightened her emotional memories of the previous week: “Weep Not For the Memories.” It was quite poignant for a number of us. Sister prayed that we all have sweet dreams and memories tonight as we near the end of our time here.
Nicaragua by Michele Oberding
Packs of children slam into my knees
They are as loving as lions are fierce.
Small hands slip into mine.
Their joy is contagious as they pull on my arms demanding, “Juega! Juega!”
I can’t help but smile and run around on the stone courtyard. Seven year old boys sprint faster than me.
We all fall down dying of laughter.
They run home to their parents after school. They return dragging their worn out mothers to meet me. I can see the age in their eyes. Everything they have been through. The struggles they endured to give their children a home.
Their home – a ten by ten foot place
Built out of hard wood and corrugated steel.
Children run around with the chickens and cows amidst barbed wire clotheslines But still…they have a roof over their heads.
A girl lives behind the fruit stands.
I see her standing by a stream of water on the pavement.
Water, by the smell of it, that is probably not water.
I see her drawl on her table.
I look into her eyes
I see them, dark and hollow like the night sky she sleeps under A blanket of sorrow that her mother’s love can’t remove as hard as she tries.
The flies of poverty remain buzzing over her life.
But like the flies over the fish her brother attempts to sell, they remain.
No matter how many times they are swatted.
But still…at least she has her table.
I enter La Chureca, translated ‘thing that is not right.’
I see mountains
Ten miles of garbage spread before me
I see the cattle,
Hear the caws of birds
Smell the pollution and burning garbage.
The smoke covers their lives.
Covers them in filth
Covers them in pain
Covers them in poverty
They can’t wash it off because the only water is the lake covered in green scum The lake has taken the lives of many children who were playing there because they can’t afford school.
The garbage is the families’ whole lives At 9am I see people, small children, walking through the garbage picking up whatever they can sell.
People come running as our garbage becomes their gold.
It’s worth everything to them
Worth even their daughters whose fathers sell into prostitution in order to get first dibs at a new load of garbage.
And what is this girl left with?...nothing
But then I think back to the small hands in mine The shining, hopeful eyes.
And I think what if someone helped the little girl in the market sleeping on her table?
What if there were people who would try to stop the selling of young girls?
And lastly I think to myself, why can’t that someone be me?