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Posts tagged ‘mission programs’

Lessons Learned in the DR

By Kim Cavallero
With my flight back to the United States tomorrow, my week here in the Dominican Republic is winding to a close. It’s been quite an adventure and I am thankful to Holy Child Sisters Kathleen King, Mary Alice Minogue, and Ann-Joyce Peters, for warmly welcoming me into their community, along with the three Holy Child Volunteers, Brooke, Kristen, and Elle, who are living here for a year and teaching in the school at the Society’s mission site. I’m come a long way since arriving last week—and I’ve learned a few lessons along the way. Here’s a quick rundown of a few—some more humorous than others.

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Lesson #1 – Mosquito netting is important.
Make sure your mosquito netting is tucked in fully all around your bed and/or that you don’t trap any mosquitoes inside the net with you. Fail to do it right and you will wake up with at least 7-10 mosquito bites. Pack some hydrocortisone. (I could have used it.)

Lesson #2 – Hot water and water pressure are overrated. Compassion and humor are not.
When I first arrived last Saturday, Sister Ann-Joyce was showing me the “shower,” which essentially is a single stream of cold water running from a faucet. I’m sure she could see the horrified look on my face, but quite calmly and humorously, she just looked at me and said, “Well, it’s not going to win a prize or anything, but you know….”

A few days later, she showed me how to heat up some water so you could have some warm water with which to take a shower. She then showed me different pitchers you can use to pour the warm water over your head and said, “Everyone establishes her own system.” I took her word for it. After heating the water, I hopped in the shower. A few moments later, she yelled in, “How are you doing in there, Kim? You think you might stay a few more days?” I still wonder what she would have done if I had said, “No!” The point is I adapted and got used to it thanks to Sister Ann-Joyce’s humor and compassion! (I will say that hand sanitizer, cleansing face wipes, and dry shampoo are helpful to have here.)

Lesson #3 – Bring earplugs or a desire to dance the night (and day) away.
Roosters don’t just crow in the early morning hours. They like to crow at all times of the day and night. In addition, the people here love to play music—all the time. There is a constant, steady stream of noise: roosters, chickens, dogs, music, and people yelling. Silence is not important here. If it is to you, bring some earplugs!

Lesson #4 – Living without electricity isn’t so bad.
Where I am staying, the electricity is usually on from about 6:00-7:00 p.m. in the evening until 9:00 a.m. the next morning. In the U.S., when the electricity goes out—even for a few hours—it is a huge inconvenience for many of us. Here, it is a way of life and people just go about their day. They’re flexible and they adapt. Nonetheless, be sure to use a surge protector or risk blowing out electronic items such as your computer’s AC power source. (I’ll be buying a new one next week.)

Lesson #5 – Don’t jump to the worst conclusion. There are good people everywhere.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a very organized person (some might say in a neurotic way!), but this trip has thrown me for a loop and my organizational skills have disappeared into thin air! For example, yesterday, after doing some sight seeing in the city, we arrived home and I soon realized that my wallet was missing. I tore apart suitcases and bags—anywhere I thought it might be, but it didn’t turn up.

Within a few hours, I had canceled my credit and bank cards, assuming I had been pick-pocketed. The last place I remembered having it was in a shop where I had made a purchase. I had the receipt and asked Sister Ann-Joyce if she would be willing to call the store and ask them in Spanish if I had left my wallet there. It was a long shot, but it was my only shot.

Sister Ann-Joyce called the store this morning and sure enough they had it and were holding it for me. They explained that they didn’t have any way to contact me, which is why they hadn’t called. There are good people all over the world who do the right thing.

Homeward Bound
This week has been an adventure. It has challenged and stretched me to grow in ways I never imagined. I have seen people living in extreme poverty in Batey Lecheria and yet, they are full of gratitude for the simple gift of your presence. I arrived in fear last week, but am departing in peace tomorrow—and full of gratitude. Read Kim’s first and second blog posts.

Kim Cavallero is the Director of Communications for the Society of the Holy Child Jesus – American Province.

Between Heaven and Hell

By Kim Cavallero

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There is a stark contrast here in the Dominican Republic’s Batey Lecheria, where the Sisters of the Holy Child began a mission site in 1995. I heard one person describe it as “being between heaven and hell.” You look up and see a brilliant blue sky, lush green palm trees, and fluffy white clouds. You look down and see dirt roads, barely habitable shacks, and half-clothed children, many who have been abused and/or abandoned. They run through the streets and cling to anyone who they think will give them attention. Today, I was almost knocked over as four children, whom I had never met, grabbed onto me at the same time and wouldn’t let go.

But this week, the children of Batey Lecheria have been getting some extra attention, as have many of the residents here. Twelve parishioners from St. Luke’s in Charlotte, NC arrived on Monday morning to give a week of their time and energy to this community. This is the seventh year St. Luke’s has embarked on a mission trip here. The parishioners each paid $400 to come, with the remaining cost of the trip ($450 per person) raised through fund-raisers held throughout the year at St. Luke’s. Click here to hear from parishioner Jamar McKoy, who is making his first trip to Batey Lecheria this week.

Inspiring Experiences

Here in Batey Lecheria, the parishioners have undertaken a hodgepodge of activities this week: painting the shacks; playing baseball with the children; teaching the children how to paint and tie-dye t-shirts; and organizing and leading classes for the women in how to make sock dolls, jewelry, and other items that are then sold in the U.S. for a fair profit, which is returned to the women.

“You get a whole new sense of poverty here,” says parishioner Amber Ockerbloom. “There is a constant need. You can’t come once and not come again. You have to be open to what you are going to do because there’s always a place to do something here.” Along with Ockerbloom, parishioners Debby and Jim Lawrence share that you get as much as you give in Batey Lecheria, noting that the love they receive from the residents is so much more than they give to them.

A “Self-Sustaining” Trip

In addition to giving their time, the St. Luke’s parishioners bring suitcases full of donated medical supplies for the medical clinic the Sisters of the Holy Child began and run at the mission site, as well as all the supplies for the different projects they undertake such as painting the houses and making sock dolls. At the end of the trip, they leave the clothes they wore during the week for the residents of Batey Lecheria, who later sell them and make a small profit. “We clean out our closets or we go to Good Will before we leave the U.S. and buy the clothes we will need for the trip,” explains parishioner Cindy Platko. The parishioners also buy the suitcases that they bring the medical supplies in at Good Will and then leave the suitcases behind.

Platko, who is a school nurse, and her husband, Greg, lived with the Sisters of the Holy Child for a year, while serving the residents of Batey Lecheria. The couple had done mission trips to Batey Lecheria and felt they could do so much more by serving for a longer period of time alongside the Sisters of the Holy Child. They now return to Batey Lecheria twice a year. “Coming here is like coming home and seeing family for me,” shares Platko. During return trips, Platko spends her afternoons making house calls to residents. For example, she brings aspirin to a woman whose hip was broken and never repaired four years ago.

Platko and her husband are akin to celebrities in Batey Lecheria, though they certainly are too humble and focused on the work at hand to consider their “celebrity status.” Since the moment they arrived, shouts for “Cindy” and “Gregorio” (as the residents call Greg) never end. The residents are thrilled to see them and they bring joy wherever they go in Batey Lecheria, just as all the St. Luke’s parishioners who are here this week have. “We’re a parish of action,” says Ockerbloom. How exciting it is for the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus to see so many people committed to the motto of their congregation: “Actions Not Words.” Read Kim’s first and last blog post from her journey.

Kim Cavallero is the Director of Communications for the Society of the Holy Child Jesus – American Province.

What’s the point?

By Kim Cavallero

A typical home in Batey Lecheria.

When I landed in the Dominican Republic last Saturday to visit the mission site that the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus founded in 1995, I thought I knew what to expect. It would be hot, there would not always be running water (and when there was it would be cold), and the electricity would go on and off in the convent where I’m staying. (To say I was a little apprehensive about this trip would simply be a gross understatement.) What I didn’t expect was the joy, meaning, and deep inspiration I would find in people living in the worst kind of poverty I have ever experienced.

First Glimpse
Yesterday began early, as I awoke to the clucking and crowing of the chickens and roosters who wander freely through the streets—what an alarm clock they are. They wake early and like to make sure you do too! By 7:30, I was walking with Sister Kathleen King and Sister Ann-Joyce Peters to meet Tony, who drove us to Batey Lecheria, where the mission site is located. Riding in the back of an old pick-up truck and driving just under three miles to Batey Lecheria, paved roads became dirt roads and houses made of concrete turned to houses made of rotted wood and rusted siding.

Students at the school the Sisters of the Holy Child founded in the Dominican Republic recite prayers and songs as they begin their day.

Jumping out of the back of the pick-up truck, I had my first glimpse of the medical clinic and school the Sisters of the Holy Child have begun. The area is enclosed with a fence and it stands strong among a community of worn-down shacks where the people live. Upon first glance, the community appears dismal. But then you begin to see more than 100 children who go to the school, reciting songs and prayers. Like children anywhere, they are smiling and laughing—and some are even causing trouble! When they see my camera, they quickly begin posing and asking to have their “foto” taken. They seem oblivious to the environment in which they live—of course it is all they have ever known.

In talking with Sister Mary Alice Minogue, who is the director of the school, I learn that many of the children do not go to school beyond the age of 12 or 13 and many will regress at that point. I begin to struggle to make sense of all the work the Sisters do here and the fact that they are not likely to see the kind of results for which we Americans strive.

Tapping Wisdom

Residents of the batey stand outside their house and talk with the volunteers from St. Luke

There is a group of parishioners from St. Luke’s parish in Charlotte, NC visiting this week to do a mission project (more about them later this week). They have come for several years and talking with them is reassuring. They share that the work the Sisters do is “shelter from the storm” for the people of Batey Lecheria. And they also begin to share the progress they have seen. For example, when they first started coming to Batey Lecheria, the women would not work together, but rather, they competed with one another. Now the women can sit at a table and work together as they make dolls and jewelry that are sold in the United States (the profits are returned to the women—more about that also later this week.).

Another of the missioners says that every time he comes here, he feels there is so much that needs to be done and that he always has to remind himself that everything that God wants done will be done by the time he leaves Batey Lecheria at the end of the week. One of the lay volunteers from the United States who is doing a year of service teaching in the school as a Holy Child Volunteer says that she had to become comfortable with knowing that she probably will not see the results of her work here within her lifetime. Another volunteer shares what Sister Ann-Joyce says, “Something is something.”

I soon realize that I am trying to impose my American ideals on Batey Lecheria. My American ideal of progress is not accurate. The work the Sisters are doing here is slow and often painstaking, but it’s essential. The Sisters and the lay partners who work with them are building a community among the people. That’s the first step. It will not happen overnight, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth building. In fact, that makes it even more essential. It will happen in God’s time. Faith is essential here. The Sisters are ensuring that the people of Batey Lecheria—who seem to have been forgotten by the rest of society and the world—know that they matter.

I knew I would be challenged by this journey, but I was naïve in thinking I knew how. I will admit that not having a hot shower and constant electricity is challenging, but trying to reconcile the reality of life in Batey Lecheria is even more so. Read Kim’s second and third blog posts.

Kim Cavallero is the Director of Communications for the Society of the Holy Child Jesus – American Province.

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