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Mission of Hope

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Daily Journal: Tuesday, February 22, 2011

By Bonnie Black
Today is it - the last day of Mission #41 and we still have lots of work to be done! At this morning's meeting we reviewed the many tasks to be accomplished. With that in mind, we moved right to prayer that will both begin the day and will end our time here.

Nancy put together a centering prayer acknowledging the indigenous cultures of this hemisphere and our place within and among all life on earth - present, past and future. Kevin then asked us to join him in singing John Lennon's "Imagine."

This morning we were doing a lot of 'finals'…except for Kitchen Crew and BBB!

We had two Rice & Beans deliveries in the barrios: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Ilona again acted as the translator as did her fiancé, Justin; she has been such a God-send for us enhancing the abilities of what could do and provide to others. The morning crew was Gwen, Chris and Liam with Ilona; the afternoon was Tom, Josh, Sara L., Emily with Justin.

We had two Women's Clinics - one in the morning at a different clinic at La Chureca than we have been before - it was not as deep into the dump as the other, nearer the entrance. Alysia, Allie, Bev V. were joined by Roger Patnode who was providing an approved consultation. He had asked to expand the medical team for that purpose so along with the medical group went Ben, Hillary, Abi, Sister Claire, Ben, Lauren and Sara. L.

This afternoon they went to CARITAS again, but didn't have anyone come L

Sister and Nancy headed over to Nino to complete student photos early this morning, but didn't get to Nejapa; they will be doing that, there.

Our Heights & Weights crew of Bill, Adam, Paul, Ann headed over to Nejapa school by 8am and our Parajito Azul team was made up of Sister Stephanie, Sister Cathy and Josh also out the door by 8am.

I left NiCasa this morning bright and early with Paul R. and Tom to visit the Paul Harris Public School in Managua as well as two pre-schools there which our two clubs are currently providing assistance to. We went to inspect the new sidewalks and steps that were just completed before school began 3 weeks ago and found that they had placed a special school assembly to thank us for the recent work as well as the completion of the third pavilion holding 2 classrooms a year ago. We then went to two pre-schools we are just beginning to support - a joint project. We delivered some supplies to the coordinator of the pre-school project here near Chiquilistagua and also went to both places. The children in the first numbered about 40 and the school is the front part of the prinicipal's home. The second is named after a young child who was killed on the way to school during the War. It has two distinct large rooms plus a schoolyard with the larger room divided into 3 sections; this school has over 100 pre-schoolers!

Meanwhile, back on campus at NiCasa, the closet-building was bring completed by Norm, Kevin, Caitlin, Amanda and James. By around 11 or so, they then headed up to El Crucero to install the large pieces. They needed to also have the truck for the unit along with the van for their tools and themselves.

Henry took the second coat of the NiCasa by storm! He had some assistance by Megan Hall and Adam, but it got to a point where he was able to do it himself so expediently that they were in charge of moving his scaffolding. It is done - great job Henry!!

Preparing clothing and toys as well as rice & beans for delivery to the two clinics in La Chureca were Emily, Megan Hall, Maggie, Sarah R., Eva, Aislyn, Joy L., Bev G., Joy C., and Marlee. Thanks to Ann finishing most of the sorting and labeling in the storage room last night, their work was made light. They then became the first trip to La Chureca (except for Joy C. and Bev G.). Sister took a second group an hour later which was comprised of those who accompanied the medical team to the clinic. Most people were overwhelmed and have been processing in their journals tonight.

This afternoon, Paul R. spent a few hours in our 'Home Depot' beginning an inventory and trying to organize that side of the room that I spend most of my waking hours in; the other 1/3 of the room is the Oficina.

Working on the Shutdown Checklist of items was Bev G., Joy C., Chris, Nancy, Sister Claire, Aislyn and Gwen…before the 2pm gathering for gift-giving. Megan Harris, Amanda, Ben, Sarah R., Caitlin and Bill got the tables together and arranged the seating for the community.

After the gifts, there was a farewell prepared for us by the two school communities. We saw a few folk dances and then Inocencio stood up and began to talk about all that Mission has done for the surrounding communities. To make a long story short, they presented us with a plaque (it's really heavy - like a bronze plaque). We were ever taken aback. The parents of the sponsored students combines resources for it. What an honor!

Of course, there was playing in the yard and then…yard cleanup by all before dinner. I have to say that the dinners prepared right here by Nora, Rosa and Marta have been so delicious…the aromas some days have made our mouths water. Tonight's dessert was Nora's rum cake - you either love it or decide it's not for you. I am in the 'love it' camp and look forward to it each mission.

Tonight was a summary of the events which, for many of us, were a roller coaster of emotions.

Sister told us that there is still a great deal of closure to do while we also fit in our 2 field trips and host guests at our perennial pizza party tomorrow night.

Bev, Sister Steph and Bill will stay behind tomorrow working on kitchen closure while Roger goes into CARITAS to go on a site visit with Ilona and Justin as translator and driver, respectively, to a couple of the remote villages to continue the exploration to increasing our service to the poorest of the poor.

Sister went over the general rules of the market: never go alone, negotiate a cheaper price without demeaning the vendor - they like the game! Tomorrow is the day we transition from missioner to tourist for the day. She also gave guidelines regarding street/market vendors as well as what is acceptable to transport back to the US. Unless someone is desperately ill, we were warned not use the restrooms as they are not sanitary and are unsafe. We also discussed choices we will have for lunch and other criteria for our 'day out' tomorrow.

Sister began our sharing time by asking us to pray that the Archbishop will be able to allow a Loyola Grant application to be submitted for replacing our stolen truck. While in the City today, they also met with SELAIS as well as the lawyer, too, in addition to the Archbishop.

A couple of people on this mission have approached her about sponsoring 2 of the HIV-positive orphans and another is interested in donating $50 per month to their care. Anyone interested, just email Sister once we're back in the States.

Tom recounted the morning events as he, Paul and I traveled as Rotarians to three of our project sites. We were surprised by the reception I noted above.

The other presentation here at the Farewell was a surprise to everyone here from the parents of the children sponsored at Nino Jesus de Praga and Mother of the Divine Son at Nejapa. I meant to include above that one of the dancers (the last one with the red sash) is now a teacher at the Nejapa school but was one of our sponsored children at Nino Jesus de Praga when she was young. Now that's a testimonial to the educational support we provide.

Liam and Chris told us that the Mission now has a soccer team! When they were out on Rice & Beans they were approached by some young kids to play soccer. A couple of the boys asked if they could use our name as a team name this season. Sister explained that we have been supporting soccer and baseball teams for years with donated athletic equipment from up north. Leadership will take the idea and discuss it at our March meeting

Amanda at Parajito Azul made a toilet paper holder and gave it to Sister Cathy who presented it to Sister so she will always have toilet paper when she needs it!

Sister had spoken today with Abi about 're-entry' in a couple of days - a very insightful discussion after visiting La Chureca. Abi worked in the clinic there this morning but spoke about the entrance to a world that instantly hit her emotionally. The first image she recalls was people and wild cows and dogs and children rummaging through the trash. When she got to the clinic, she realized that each of them were struggling to breathed because of the lack of air quality. She thought that the trip Sister then took them on reinforced their choice to make: be a tourist or begin to do something. Perhaps never saying you have nothing to eat. Maybe planning a fundraiser to help the families there.

Sister said that they brought the rice & beans as well as the clothing to each of the clinics in La Chureca on each of the two trips. The sign of hope at the entrance is that there appears more of a mountain of dirt than trash. Perhaps soon we will see the actual building of new homes.

Nancy said her impression was that of plastic. We can become more aware of theuse of plastic and consider only recyclables. Last year she had entered through a different entrance than today. What was particularly hard was her realization that she is limited in her number of years to make a difference; her hope is looking at each of the young people with us as the future of change.

Sister said we also ran into some young people from the Manna Project which was a delight.

Lauren said she also worked in the Clinic this morning - the pictures don't even come close to what you see when you're there. She thought she would be able to help people, but she was so overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people needing help that she couldn't do what she thought she might. "Their feet were calloused and cut - I just felt helpless. It's not so easy to just go and help."

Sister Claire was talking to Sister while riding that in spite of the devastating and poverty, they have such dignity.

Gwen was grateful for being out on Rice & Beans and meeting a lot of people. She was most touched by a mentally and physically handicapped woman who doesn't have a wheelchair. She sat and held the woman's hand for a while.

Another striking visit was to a home of a woman who had just given birth a couple of days ago and was nursing her infant.

Chris felt blessed to be with Gwen this morning. He spoke about two women who had 2 small children with them. He got down on his knees and gave the little girl a stuffed elephant. He told us of her reaction

He designed and created a playground for the children of his local community in Schroon Lake, too.

Congrats to me

Another student shared an experience on Rice & Beans where the father had taken the toys immediately away from the child who had just received it - and that is evidence of what poverty and, in some cases addiction,

"This doesn't diminish the gift you gave and pray that it is received in the right way. We must remember never to be discouraged if our gift disappears or given to others. If we stop giving, we stop living."

Sister also said that shouldn't stop learning. Continue your journals when you get back. You will be taking a deep breath when returning to your schools.

Emily mentioned the huge rainbow they saw going up the hill to El Crucero. What a beautiful encirclement - like a halo - of Managua.

Sara L. also went to La Chureca today and hopelessness overwhelmed her. "It was so weird. Everything about this place is like hell, but the people, especially the children, are so beautiful and happy and optimistic."

Sister said it is important to acknowledge that when we strip ourselves of our technology, we open ourselves to faith, family, friendship.

Hillary went for the clinic at La Chureca this morning, too, and assisted by giving out small soap bars to people. She was highly impressed by the doctor who came out of the exam room and got a bucket of water and showed the people how to wash their hands. Hillary had not thought about the fact that many adults need to be taught what we take for granted.

Paul R. reminded us about The Starfish story which many of us have heard. THAT's the attitude we need to return with and think about when we fall into the thought that we can't do anything about all that we have experienced here.

Caitlin said she and Amanda got to polyurethane the closet pieces along with some places in the Chapel that the sisters requested. She said upon arriving, though, she was so amazed at the reaction of one of the orphans who ran up to Kevin - with the hat he had given him yesterday - and how excited he was (as was Kevin).

Sister told us that at a meeting at the facility where there are rescued street children. We had thought we could help, but it appears they are exploiting the women and children in another way. Sister had the experience of being yelled at by the Administrator when Sister asked some justice questions. She asked us to pray for the residents as they need

Kevin told about his experience with a young girl today when using his pocket Spanish-English dictionary "I'm changing, I'm growing."

Nancy then led us in the centering prayer we began this morning. We concluded with "Some Day When We Are Wiser." She said we could keep the prayer for our journals, if we like.

A small treat awaited us in the Kitchen before many headed to bed a bit earlier because the first bus out leaves at 6:30am!

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