Friday, February 13, 2009

Team Two prepares to leave

Team 2 closed out a great week at Holy Cross with the Valentine's festival today. There were games, food, music and lots of children. After our final delicious lunch prepared by Ms. Rosalea and her crew, we said our farewells and headed back to Ruby's. Some folks shopped;others napped. We soaked in the last of the tropical sun. Dinner was at the Sunset Grill -- a lovely way to end a great week. We will catch the morning water taxi after breakfast to begin the journey back to Durham, to family and homes. We are so thankful to John and Jean for all the pre-trip organization, to Terrie and Debbie for the preparations that made our medical screenings smooth, to Peter for being the Team 2 leader, and to each member of this team for working together, playing together and praying together. Thank you too to everyone at St. Luke's and beyond who came with us in spirit. We are already talking about our next trip to San Pedro and Holy Cross.

Farewell from San Pedro ..... and Ruby's.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Another busy day....

Wednesday night found most of the team watching the Duke - UNC game. Barbara and Wilbur were the lone -- but very happy -- Carolina fans. It was a friendly rivalry with lots of cheers and laughing. Some of the group just went home happier than others did.

The final day of our medical screenings was a busy one. Dr. Peter, Dr. Jim and Nurse Joyce began the day at the Polyclinic seeing both well and sick babies. They joined the rest of the team at the school for more screening. Joanne took the height and weight of 3 more classes of children; Barbara and Clara did even more vision checks today with a few new referrals. Deacon Jan conducted 2 Chapel services and assisted the older students with their service. How wonderful to hear the children singing and praying together. As Sandra continued to videotape as many aspects of Holy Cross life as possible, she had a private tour of San Mateo. Wilbur worked with Jason on the shelves for the computer lab, and they are almost finished. There will be even more great storage when these shelves are finished.

We had more time with individual children today, meeting new friends, renewing old friendships in a day filled with hugs and bright smiles. Students worked today on preparations for their booths at the Valentine's Festival, including Standard VI's traditional cupcake sale. The festival will include health screenings for adults and will give us a new view of the school and community.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

More Screenings Today

     We did even more screenings today. We have seen all the children in 9 classes along with more sick or hurt children.  Then we saw children of teachers and the teachers themselves.  Jim has gone to San Mateo again today to make home visits for mothers and babies.  As we worked with the older children, we reconnected today with more who we have met on past trips. The smiles when they recognize our faces or remember our names are so wonderful.
     Our doctors will be at the Polyclinic tomorrow so our screenings will take on a different flavor. It promises to be another day of adventure at Holy Cross!
     At Clara's birthday dinner celebration last night at Wild Mangos, we were treated to a visit from Terrie and Van.  They are enjoying their vacation but wanted to get the scoop on the school.
     No pictues tonight and a short post since we'll have an early dinner so that we can watch the Duke/Carolina game.  We have a big screen TV reserved on the condition that we buy plenty of Belikin.  No problem, mon.  It will be interesting as we are a "mixed" group.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Medical Screenings

Team 2 has been very busy Monday and Tuesday with our medical screenings. We have seen all the children from Infant 1, Standard VI and are partially finished with Infant 2. There have also been numerous children with ear infections, cuts, asthma, fever, skin problems and a broken arm. They have been treated by Dr. Peter and Dr. Jim or sent to the Polyclinic. Joyce, Clara and Barbara staffed the vision screening stations, and Joanne was the registrar par excellence. After school today, the teachers were screened for blood pressure and diabetes as well as having an opportunity to ask Dr. Peter questions. Marie will be teaching the health class later in the week for the girls in Standard VI. And, many pairs of feet went home today in new shoes. Everyone who left the porch and the screening left with a smile. We will start again tomorrow right after breakfast. Team 1, we think you would be proud of us.

In addition to the medical work, new team members took a tour of San Mateo with Francis this morning before she left for a fundr raising tour of the US. Vernon, too, has gone stateside for a few days. We will miss them but are glad we could spend a little time with them and hearing the vision for Holy Cross. Sandra has been working of a new video for the school, and you can see her filming as Francis gave the background before the tour. Sandra has been in and out of the classrooms and documenting all phases of school life. We are hoping she'll invite us to sit at her table at the Emmies.

Clara celebrated her 80th birthday in true Belizen style today with much singing, cards made by the children and a special cake at lunch today. Tonight we will continue the team's celebration of this big day for her.

We love the messages and emails from NC and all around. Keep in touch while we are gone and know that we miss you and love you.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday in San Pedro

We began our day with Morning Prayer in the "chapel" on the deck at Ruby's. Pictured are the members of Team 2 during the coffee hour following our worship service. We moved on to a delicious breakfast, and then huddled to plan strategy and logisitics for our screenings at Holy Cross. After lunch most of the group walked or taxied to Holy Cross for a tour of the school and an orientation from Francis.
For those of us who last saw the computer lab/library building as pilings and a few floor joists, seeing the finished rooms was an exciting experience. There were gasps and a few tears as we walked in to this incredible facility built my many loving hands. There will be one of the regular dental clinic at the school, and the dentist we met today is from Cape Carteret, NC and the same church as the Larsons!
We know our week will be busy and filled with challenges -- some we have anticipated, others that will pop up each day -- but we think we are ready. We so appreciate all the work that Team 1 did to pave the way for us this week. We'll do our best to make you proud.
The weather is amazing -- there was a rain shower last night but yesterday and today have been lovely. It's cooler than some of us are used to in San Pedro, and that is a welcomed gift. Our day begins early tomorrow when Mr. Victor brings his taxi to collect our bags of shoes and supplies. We'll be thinking of everyone back home as we begin the adventure that God has planned for us tomorrow at Holy Cross.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Team One Winds Up Work; Team Next Arrives

Team One made its last trip to Holy Cross this morning, managing to stop at the bakery on the way to console ourselves with fresh-from-the-oven sweetness.

We finished with a burst of building, measuring, cataloging and preparing. Plus Rector Anne walked the narrow, over-the-lagoon boards of the San Mateo neighborhood to bless a house and visit with a family.

The library is well-along to accepting its first students able to check out a book. A new table has been constructed and painted on the porch next to Resurrection Hall. And numerous children have been measured and weighed (see picture of Nurse Terrie and Debbie. Terrie: "here's ANOTHER one who is shorter than me; hooray!). All accomplished while dodging rain showers that seemed to sweep through every 15 minutes, only to be replaced by sunshine, before the cycle repeated.

When Team Two arrived, all 22 of us sat down to a feast at Elvi's (note to Willard's: all within spending limits!)

And now the blog transfers from John to Jan. You will rapidly be able to tell which one was educated as an engineer and which one is an English teacher.

Team Two has arrived safely in San Pedro. We were surprised by rain in Belize City, but are already enjoying unusualy cool weather. Team One greeted and welcomed us; we had a great dinner together. Our very early morning -- most of us were up by 3:00 am -- is taking its toll. We will turn in early and then get our orientation from Team One tomorrow. We are anxious to get to work on all the tasks they have planned for us.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Things Coming Together

Today seemed much less hectic. Anne conducted 3 chapel services for the students; one of the pictures shows Anne presenting "treasure" to match our time and talents to Francis and Miss Grace after chapel for the older children. The children at chapel were receptive, the music wonderful and the "sermon" short and sweet. Its a tradition in Belize to recognize those with birthdays at services, so this week's included Terrie Blaylock and Vernon (of Francis-and-Vernon fame). We will be going out shortly for a nice dinner in honor of Terrie's 54th.

Much progress was made on the library; it will be quite an impressive resource for the students. Bob and Wayne made great headway on the school's computerized record keeping. The "hewers of wood" (a phrase from the Belizian national anthem) finished up the new railing on the walkway leading to the library that will be used by the kids lining up to visit the medical team next week and began work on a temporary shed to shelter a workspace to be used to construct new shelves and cabinets for the computer room.

After breakfast, Vernon took several of the team on a visit through San Mateo, the neighborhood where many of the students live; it is an eye-opening and heart-rending walk. Those who have managed to spend some time with the children, whether reading, tending to bumps and bruises, or just joking around before or after school are always warmed by the experience.

Looking forward to greeting Team 2 tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Top Priorities and Chicken Drops

Team One continued several activities at the school, from reading with individual students, to cataloging in the library, to hammers and nails and fetching of large, heavy wooden pallets from a nearby construction site (apparently in return for hauling bags of cement to the construction site), to varnishing chairs, to working feverishly to prepare for the medical team, to continuing to sort out several, unrelated databases of student information (see picture of Mr. Bob working with the school's computer teacher). Plus another career hour presentation. Plus ... well, you get the idea. This has led to some back and forth about what is the top-most of the top priorities. We are stressing prep for the medical team, but there are certainly a lot of things that need doing and we are trying to balance task-oriented stuff with some time with the students as well.

After a full day (but thankfully, another relatively cool one for Belize), we made the traditional Wednesday night foray to Caliente and its famous Chicken Drop (google it if you want; I'm not going into the details here). Suffice to say that, with the full consent of both her mom and rector, Maggie Young was one of the chicken handlers (see visual proof). Perhaps a future EYC fund-raiser?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Day 2 was another full day and, as is so often the case, not necessarily filled with the things you think it will be. Some of the day was relatively straightforward: the parts involving buildings and library books and school supplies and other inanimate objects. The outside crew continued to work on rebuilding railings, applied some magic stuff to the roof of the computer center to try to seal seams and moving mahogany plywood (they use mahogany for plywood in Belize!) in preparation for some cabinets to be built for the computer room. One picture attached shows Bob Atwell and Wayne doing some roofing work -- two cats on a hot tin roof. A second picture is Barb Harris and Holly Hodges in the library -- the two emissaries from St. Luke's feeder cities.

Ah, but the part involving people: how complex. Two very young students have both lost parents recently, to treatable illness on the one hand and violence on the other. Anne is set to do some counseling, not only with the students, but with their teachers who are so emotionally invested in seeing the children succeed. Others associated with the school have been victimized by fraud and extortion, with threats and police involvement and the perpetrator reportedly sited in town. Physical and sexual abuse is apparently all too frequent, and much effort is made to help the children understand it and feel comfortable going to a teacher to report it. And with over 500 students, the parade of bumps, bruises, and other ailments is constant, keeping Terrie and others busy fashioning treatments.

Our suitcases of supplies were picked up and delivered to Holy Cross this morning; Francis felt like it was Christmas. Work continues on setting up the library and setting up a way to track children who receive medical attention, dental services, or social interventions. Anne taught a religious class to Standard 6 and we all engaged Standard 5 in a career hour, hopefully improving in our delivery and relevance as we do this each day. We ended the day watching a video prepared on the drug trade in Belize City and a significantly happier video on the holiday boat parade, where the Holy Cross boat took home 3 trophies. Third picture is Debbie and friend in the computer room; more to come later ...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Work at the School Begins

After another relaxing day on Sunday, Team One began work today at Holy Cross. The new computer lab and library are fabulous; the computer lab, with about 30 machines and a projector that can display lessons at the front of the room, is said to be the best at any school in Belize, if not Central America. All those who worked hard to fund it, build it and equip it can know that there time, talents and treasure have reaped large rewards.

Team members engaged in many different tasks, including setting up the library so that books can be checked out and catalogued in a systematic way, working on computer databases for the school, sorting school uniforms by size, seeing children needing some nursing attention, rebuilding a railing and beginning to add a soffit to a roof (roosting pidgeons not pleased), and having a "career hour" with Standard Six students.

After another rainy night, the day turned out to steadily get warmer so that those working outside could savor some of that Belizian sun. After a good day of work, Wayne found a new restaurant (Warugamu) where one (well, actually, all 12 of us) could dine on lobster wrapped in fresh tortillas and still stay under the spending limit.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

2009 Belize Mission Trips Begin

Team One 2009 has arrived safely in San Pedro. Arrival went smoothly in a Belize sort of way. Only one bag left behind in Phil's bus, but it is due to arrive by water taxi this afternoon. Barb Harris and Holly Hodges were able to sync up seamlessly from the Team One feeder cities of Philadelphia and Dallas (Holly being clever enough to arrive on the plane that continued on to Belize, so she knew her luggage would make it). Unlike years past, we were able to catch the 1:30 water taxi so, although a smaller boat than usual, had the advantage of not having to fight 136 school children for seats (if they would just attend Holy Cross Anglican School, they wouldn't have to make this trip)!

We thus arrived in San Pedro in plenty of time to relax before heading out to our first team dinner at Jambel (jerk fish = very good!). Caution to Team Next: water taxi no longer docks at the Tackle Box, but farther up the beach, so you will need to use taxis to shuttle your luggage. We've all settled into Ruby's just fine. We had a short time of reflection before dinner, then topped the evening off with a little ice cream and an early bed time as all had been up since before 4 in the morning. Terrie and Van met with the school's social worker, Kim, and she is eager for help with the children on a variety of real-life issues and dilemmas they face every day. There will be plenty to do!

Awoke Saturday to rain and cool weather so people are reading, wandering the town and "resting up" for the work ahead. Provided I do this right, you will see a photo of some of our group reading and chatting on Ruby's covered deck. If you would like to contact a team member, you can send an email to as I will check this address each time I update the blog.

We will have a worship service and more relaxation time tomorrow before beginning work at the school on Monday. Include us and, more importantly, the children of Holy Cross in your prayers!