Saturday, February 28, 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

The ladies team went to Ascension village today to take part in the feeding program started by Bill and Donna from British Columbia.  The program has become almost completely turned over to a local team that Bill and Donna have trained over the years.  A group of young people from the village, who came through the program themselves, assist in the control and feeding of the children.  Canadian Christian Gleaners, based in Cambridge Ontario, supplies most of the food which is dried soup mix and dried fruit.  It arrives in a shipping container every 3 or 4 months.  For many of the ladies it was there first trip to Ascension and they were disturbed at the conditions in the village.  This village is kind of off the beaten track and it is difficult for the men to find enough work to support their families.  I have written about this before if you wish to check earlier posts about Ascension. 

The men's team worked most of the day at the Pregnancy Resource Centre, installing and painting all the shelving built in previous days.  I won't have any pictures available until I return to Canada, but I saw one in which Harry is inside one of the cupboards lying flat on a shelve in order to paint into the recessed area.  Only his feet and lower back are visible. 

I don't recall what the ladies did in the afternoon so I will have to add it later.

The good news is that each day I feel a little better and was able to eat small regular meals today.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Most of  the team went to paint at Sosua Abejo, where we attended church on Sunday.  Half the team was assigned to the school and half to Pastor Olmedo's house.  A few men continued working on the shelving project.

The Pastor’s House 

The Sosua Abejo School
The team had finished up all the paint by lunchtime.  Following their box lunches they boarded the bus for a quick tour of the Brugal Rum Factory where Phil Williams apparently amused them with his own humerous commentary along the way.  The bus then took them to Agua Negra (or now called Nuevo Renacimiento) to visit the area where WestJet teams have been working over the last few years building houses and a playground.  Check the 2014 Blog more information on this.  They got to see part of the rest of the town as well as the garbage dump on the beach, which the Municipality was supposed to start cleaning up.  We were told this in 2007 when I took my first Journey to the DR.  The slow drive home in rush hour caused some nauseous moments for a few but they survived and appreciated the resort all the more. 

In the evening we held a surprise 60th Wedding Anniversary Party for the Hope's,  Bea started to plan this several months ago and was able find a willing co-conspirator, their daughter Cathy, who provided her with information and a collection of digitized pictures from their wedding and subsequent family life.  Bea bought paper wedding bells, cake decorations, ribbon, balloons, napkins and so forth.  We got in touch with the chef at the resort, through Rebecca Harnum and agreed to make a wedding cake for free.  We gave him a can of maple syrup and a jar of peanut butter which he gratefully accepted.  Harry and Helen were truly stunned when they entered the dining deck to find the whole team already seated, singing "Happy Anniversary to You".  Pastor Jim opened the celebrations with a blessing.  Following the meal, the Harry and Helen were shocked again when the 2-tiered wedding cake was paraded out by the head chef and the pastry chef.  The cake was ceremoniously cut and distributed to everyone in the dining area who wanted a piece.  Several of the other guests, who seemed to enjoying our party, came over to wish Harry and Helen congratulations.  PJ then performed a ceremony of reaffirming the wedding vows and Bea read 2 'telegrams', one from the minister of the Hope's church in Georgetown on behalf of the congregation, and the second from their daughter Cathy.  The evening ended with a slide show I put together called 'Helen and Harry a 60 Year Journey',  from the pictures Bea received from Cathy plus a collection of pictures covering several of their DR trips plus a trip to Africa.  The 'theatre' was set up on the patio overlooking the ocean using a PC, projector and portable screen.  By the time the evening was over more than a few tears had been shed and a sense of joy filled the air.  Following the slide show Harry and Helen went for more cake!
The Anniversary Cake

The Venue
Pastor Jim Renews the Vows

The Theatre
Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

This morning, most of the men went to Ascension village to work with Bill And Donna in their feeding program. The river crossing just before entering the village tested the driving skills of Chico (brother of Manuel our driver from many, past trips), as the water was high recent rains in the surrounding hills. Seven of our men assisted several young people distribute of soup and juice to 150 kids. I was told that our youngest man, Jordan, got right into the swing of things, perhaps not wishing to leave the impression than Canadian young men were afraid of work. Jordan has spent years working in lumber mills so he knows about hard work.

(Pictures coming later)

Most of the ladies spent the morning delivered, sorting and shelving supplies at the Pregnancy  Resource Centre. Some of the supplies will have to wait until new shelves being made by the guys are installed and painted.  In the afternoon, the men got busy cutting boards and screwing them together with measurements which were obtained by a couple of the guys in the morning.

Cathy with the Hockey Bags of Supplies

The Ladies Team Unpack, Sort and Stock Shelves

The Medical Team Sorting Drugs

Jim and Evan Assemble a Walker

Nana Bea Gives the Walker a Test Walk

The ladies spent part of the afternoon at an orphanage, which turned out to actually be more of a foster home.  It turned out not to be what was expected.  It was founded and funded by a humanitarian group from Europe (don't have any more details just now). Some of the approximately 25 children are indeed orphans, but many have been removed from homes by Dominican Authorities for various reasons.  The children ranging in age from 4 to 12, mainly girls, are cared for by a staff of 8 or 9 people.  Parents of the foster kids can visit and have a place to stay overnight. The kids attend school in the mornings and appear to be healthy and happy.  They enjoyed some crafting with the visitors.

The 'Orphanage' (Casa Ninos Felices)

Some of the Happy Children
Helen Uses Her Years of Primary Teaching

I should mention that our medical people on the trip have spent a couple of half days at the Pregnancy Resource Centre to assessments and teaching.  They have also been kept busy tending to sick members of our team, for which we are truly grateful.

The Outside Crew

The Inside Crew


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

I have lost 2 days of the Journey due to illness. Three others have been sick but not as bad as I was. This morning, the team went to the Senior's Centre in Puerto Plata. I will try to report what the team accomplished. They were met with news that the mother superior had died just recently.  If you scroll down to 2013 and 2014 you will see pictures of this diminutive fireplug, who reminded us of Mother Theresa with her energy and dedication to the people in her care.  Bill the Bagpiper, back with us following a one year hiatus,  led the team through several songs, to the delight of the residents and nuns who clapped and swayed to the rhythms.  Some of our ladies gave the women leg and foot rubs and applied nail polish which they always enjoy.  The team also did some cleaning of windows, shutters and walls and raked out all the dead matter from the many lovely gardens on the property.

Bill the Bagpiper Brings Squeals of Delight to the Residents

Helen Paints Some Nails
Cleaning the Gardens

It is now Thursday and 3 more team members have been ill in the past 2 days.  I have recovered enough to move about and to continue the blog.  I have stayed back for the third day now and I am missing the enjoyment of working at the various tasks through the day.

The team ate lunch under a big tree on the grounds of the Senior's Centre and then headed off for 'Hugs for Kids' school at Cangrejo.  On the way, they made a quick stop at an artist's studio specializing in parrot carvings.

The Parrot Shop

Singing Songs at 'Hugs for Kids' School

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday, February 23rd, 2015
Our first real work day started with a short Meditation at 7:15 led by Pastor Jim (PJ).  He read a ‘retirement letter’ composed by a fellow contemplating retirement and what it meant for him. The fellow prior to making morning tea went to the fridge for a lemon and found two: one new and bright and smooth and another old and dried and rough, each with different internal characteristics as well, much as his younger self and his now older self, to which he made many thoughtful observations about how he had changed over the years.  Anyways, you can probably find the full story on the internet.  And then we had breakfast before boarding the bus for Loma de Los Chivos.
Our assignment was to paint 2 houses, inside and out - a house of bricks and a house of sticks.  A small crew for bricks and a large crew for sticks.  Rollers for bricks and brushes for sticks.   One coat for bricks and 2 (or 3) coats for sticks.  An OK toilet in the brick house and an unimaginable toilet in the stick house (see photo below).
Another job was to move a pile of 'gravel' into a new house to level the ground prior to pouring a concrete floor.  The gravel is disgusting stuff - yellow lava rock broken up into pieces of varying sizes.  It packs tightly and has to be broken up with a mattock before it can be shoveled.  Our younger, stronger members, especially Jordan, did most of the work, but several of the ladies were up to the task of filling a wheel barrow or two, including, Cath, Margaret and Charlotte.  Hooray ladies!!
We were able to finish early and went to a grocery store in the afternoon to buy some vanilla, coffee, etc. to take home.  We even had a bit of 'pool time' before supper.
Chuck Monkeying Around at the House of Brick

A Big Crew in the House of Sticks
The Gravel Detail

Charlotte & Margaret Show the Guys Up

In Case You Were Wondering
Evan Paints the Exterior of the Stick House

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

We bussed to church for 9 a.m. at Templo Biblico in Sosua Abejo. Paster Olmedo was very happy to see many of the 'regulars' back for another year. The 2 hour service went by quickly enough and featured several hymns in Spanish and 2 in 'Spanglish, with Bovine accompaniment from the adjacent pasture.  Communion was preceded and followed by several impromptu prayers from the Dominican congregants and a couple from Pastor Olmedo and were highlighted with a sermon on Zacheus searching for Jesus. He was hampered by his diminutive stature (I can relate) and the pressing crowd but solves the problem by shinnying up a tree, only to be confronted by Jesus who wants to go to his house for some hospitality, and so on; you know the story (or you can look it up). Back to the resort for lunch and a briefing on our itinerary for the week from Rebecca Harnum, Team Coordinator for Servant's Heart.  Then off to visit the 'Hugs for Kids' school, where the new addition is taking shape, and then to the Pregnancy Resource facility called GEMA (an acronym for the Spanish 'Earn While You Learn') where some work will be done by our team this week. We then went to Loma de los Chivos to visit Maria and family and Victoria for whom we have sponsored houses the past 2 years. We will be painting 2 new houses in this village. Past 5 o'clock by now, so back to the resort for some relaxation before supper.

Story Within a Story
GEMA presently has 55 women in classes.  Education is the priority since many of the women are ignorant of pregnancy, child birth and caring for a baby.  Or worse, they come with the baggage of mythology from parents, grandparents and others from 2 different cultures (Haitian and Dominican).
In addition they often walk, bus and taxi (motorbikes) long distances to get there each day, then return home at night. One girl would start out at 9 a.m. for a 1 p.m. class but completed the course, delivered her baby and is doing well. The women may be malnourished and the food they earn by going to class may be taken home as the only meal of the day for their family.
they receive daily vitamins at the centre. Most babies are delivered at the Public Hospital (read: second or third rate) where they mostly have caesareans since the doctors can't be bothered with waiting for them to deliver when 'there is a lineup at the door'. In spite of all these adversities, the pregnancy clinic will continue to run at full capacity for the foreseeable future. Sadly, the Dominican government provides free birth control for any woman who wants it.

Morning 'Choir' Practice by the Pool
Pastor Olmedo Commits a Faux Pas
(Our 2 Team Members from Pennsylvania didn't seem to notice.)

And the Quick Thinking AV Guy Gets it Right
The Morning Milk Run
Rebecca Harnum, Keeper of the Keys
A Wall of Supplies at the Pregnancy Resource Centre

Rebecca Nolasco Explains the Operation and Challenges of the
Pregnancy Resource Centre

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Saturday, February 21st, 2015
Today was all about getting 25 people and about a tonne of supplies from Ontario to Puerto Plata.  The magic school bus carrying the Journey 2015 team arrived at Toronto in light snow. WestJet personnel processed our team efficiently and we were in the boarding area by 11 a.m.  A smaller humanitarian team, going to work for The Samaritan Foundation, was on the same flight. Boarding at 1:45 was followed by a trip to the de-icing area and our plane was up and away only 20 minutes late.  Getting through customs in the DR went Ok except for the medical packs were examined thoroughly, but eventually were allowed through following a contribution of a few bottles of vitamins and Advil. We were met in the DR by Donna Williams, cofounder of Servant’s Heart Ministries and 2 capable assistants.  Our mountain of hockey bags was piled onto a waiting truck and the team boarded the bus of our friendly driver of many years, Manuel, who was happy to see so many of the regular Journey folk back for another week of work and visiting. Check in at Sosua by the Sea Resort took a while, but we made it to the BBQ supper, some passable Karaoke improved by a few drinks, before bedtime.
Dale  & Donna are Ready to Go

Most of the Journey 2015 Team (Like trying to herd cats.)
De-icing Prior to Takeoff