Today was our last full day at
Liberty. With the majority of projects wrapped up, Ryan and I still had our
work cut out for us with the trench. Not only did we have to dig out another
twenty-five or so feet of earth, but also we had to redistribute the dug up
mixture of concrete-esque dirt and clay so that it would fall back into the
trench during they rainy season. In order to get this task done, Luke, Tessa,
Nicole, and Cat put on the gloves and picked up their shovels, and took to the
mound of dirt. We all earned our keep (and our tans) today by digging,
shoveling, and raking the dirt. We got it done, and hopefully the trench helps
to keep the water level at bay during the rainy season. Beaten, battered,
bruised, and bitten by ants and mosquitoes, we made our way home to freshen up
and headed to dinner to enjoy our final night in Belize. Today was a good day.
After enjoying our last breakfast
in Belize, we made our way to Liberty to spend a couple of hours with the kids
before we left for the airport. Luke, Cal, and I played a few pick up games of
basketball with some of the older kids. Even though Team Liberty beat us all
three games, we had a phenomenal time playing with the kids. After a couple of
hours, we unfortunately had to say our goodbyes and make our way to the
airport. The smiles on the kids’ faces will forever be engrained in our
Our trip to Belize has come to a close,
and it’s crazy to think about how quickly the time has passed. A week ago
today, we had all truly met for the first time at the airport, unsure of what
exactly was in store for all of us in Belize. We were all asked at the
beginning of the trip to think about the question, “What is the point?” Why
spend the money to travel over 2,800 miles and increase our carbon footprint
when the money can be used to pay locals to do the same work we did? I came up
with an answer that I feel helps to justify the trip and answer the question we
were asked nine days ago:
Expand our perspective – We can read about what’s going on in other places around
the world, but what sort of insight does that truly give us? How can we begin
to understand the world for what truly is without having experienced the world
for ourselves? Words, after all, are only one person’s perspective, which
inherently implies bias towards an experience. Participating in humanitarian
trips, such as our trip to Belize, helps to expand our limited perspective.
Trips like this help to broaden our outlook on the world by allowing us to
venture outside of our safety bubbles and experience a small glimpse of what is
truly going on in the world. These trips provide us with a different lens in
which to view the world, to see the world through a different perspective, even
though it’s only for a moment out of the scheme of our entire lives. All it
takes is a moment—the right moment—to change our perspective.
Italian poet Cesare Pavese
eloquently said, “We do not remember days, we remember moments.” Although our
time in Belize was brief and only but a moment in the entirety of our
existence, each of our relative perspectives was altered. With an altered—and
improved—perspective, one can begin to open the door to understanding their
position in the world. And, with a better understanding of one’s position in
the world, they can begin to inflict change on the world, one moment at a time.
That is the point.
In search for more ancient Mayan ruins, the PWOB team set
off today to the Mesoamerican archeological site called Lamanai. We woke a few
hours later than the previous morning at around 7am and enjoyed breakfast made
by Ms. Virginia. Speaking mostly for myself, I think everyone was exhausted
from the adventurous day we had yesterday on Starfish Island but, we managed to
get ourselves into the van and onto our next adventure. Our destination
included a one hour boat ride by an experienced tour guide. When we decided to
go on the trips to Starfish Island and Lamanai, I was overly excited that we
would be able to spend time on a boat and get ourselves on the water.
We stopped at Liberty to switch vans and met our guide,
Calissa, who took us to the boats along the New River in Orange Walk Town. Once
we arrived, we met our second tour guide, Carlos, who was also our captain for
the boat ride. We gathered our stuff and grabbed the prepared coolers of food
and drinks for lunch and climbed aboard the vessel. Carlos first headed north
to show us the Spider Monkey that lived near by. By using monkey calls and 20
years of guide experience, he led us to the monkey hidden in the trees. Some of
us were given bananas to feed him as he climbed down the trees and swung over
the boat holding on just by his tail. After we fed the monkey and explored a
little bit of the surrounding area we headed south down the river to Lamanai.
When we arrived at the site, we hiked along the trails to
six different archeological ruins. Carlos explained how Lamanai is one of the
largest sites archeologists have uncovered in northern Belize. It was really a
treat to explore more than one site of ancient Mayan ruins in Belize, including
"Altun Ha". As the Howler monkeys howled to one another, we were
guided to each of the temples and climbed to the peaks to grab stunning photos.
On top of the "High Temple" overlooked what seemed to be the whole
country of Belize. A full 360 degree view above the trees. It makes sense to
build a temple with the country being so flat! The sights were spectacular and
well worth the hike to the top. After touring the temples, we had buffet style
lunch of rice, chicken, coleslaw, salad, fried plantains, and watermelon. This
was the time we also had to check out the small museum on the site and shop in
the various gift shops.
After lunch, we headed back north on the New River,
spotting baby crocodiles and turtles along the way. The boat ride couldn't have
gone any smoother and the breeze cooled us off after the heat of the hikes up
and down the temples. Once we returned to our original departure location we
headed back to the guest house to relax for the day.
we returned to the house, everyone settled down and we had a tasty dinner made
yet again by Ms. Virginia. For the rest of the evening we hung out, played
games, and prepared for another full day at Liberty. I'm pleased to say the
trips we have taken allows us to catch our breath from the volunteer work, and
explore what Belize has in store for us. You betta Belize it!
This morning I awoke to my cell phone
alarm. Within 15 seconds I heard two more alarms. It was 4:00 AM. We left the
house at 4:45 and headed for Amir’s boat. Today, we were in for quite a
trip. The boat left Amir’s house shortly after 5AM. Watching the
sun come up is a rare occasion, but today it felt good to be there for it. Amir
had recently bought a small island, and after picking up his staff, he allowed
me to drive the boat about half way there. This 60 ft. boat was certainly the
largest I’ve ever steered! We spent an hour on the island before we had to
leave to pick up 120 people on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. Amir invested a
lot in his new piece of land, but bringing people to it was how he made his
money back. Next, all (about) 160 of us were brought to the Belizean Barrier Reef
for an hour of snorkeling. We saw a school of squid, starfish, conch, stingray,
and numerous species of coral and fish! Hopefully the underwater pictures we
took will reflect what we really saw, but those are yet to be uploaded… The
rest of the day was spent eating delicious food, snorkeling, and exploring
Amir’s island. We were also able to collect some beautiful shells, which
the crew said we shouldn’t feel bad about collecting, as they washed up
plentifully each day. We had the privilege to interact with Amir’s crew
of 30 Belizean men and women, and learned about their jobs and lives.
Throughout the day I saw so many amazing species plants and animals, especially
when we kayaked into the mangroves around the island. On our way back to Ladyville,
the sun was far across the sky from where we saw it come up, and I think every
single one of us began to feel a bit of a sunburn in some places.
We did not spend the day digging
ditches, or sorting clothes and books, but we did immerse ourselves among the
Belizean people and were able to experience some amazing biodiversity. Today we
first handedly learned about this beautiful country we have chosen to come to,
and we feel gratitude for that.
full day at the Liberty Children's Home. We woke this morning to yet another
spectacular breakfast from Ms. Virginia. Eggs, refried beans, sausage, homemade
tortillas, and freshly squeezed orange juice. So dangerous! I haven't decided
whether I like sleeping in the hammock outside with the cool breeze or in one
of several beds inside. Either way, I'm excited to wake up every morning in
Belize. This morning, the old director of Liberty, Delfina, joined us for
breakfast and conversation. We introduced ourselves and it was nice to catch up
on where to find the local blackberry wine, I must admit, I had to know.
arrived at Liberty at 9am as usual. However, the plan today was to
work a little bit more than typical to gain way on our projects. The past few
days I have been jumping around from project to project to help the other
students out but I really enjoy working with Michael on all the mechanical
repairs. Since our first full day at Liberty, Michael and I have been working
together in the rec room, ripping open arcade games and coin rides to modify
them as simply as possible. The kids enjoyed hanging out with us and learning a
thing or two about electrical; it was nice to interact one-on-one with
we tested and made sure we knew which machines worked and which did not. Then
we modified each machine so no coins had to be used by the kids to allow them to
function. The goal of the machines was to allow them to play by a simple plug
in and a flick of a switch. Today, I assisted Michael by assembling outlets for
220V power, the needed voltage for the machines to run. By the middle of the
day, we had one arcade game and an arcade ride up and running (The rec room
turned into chaos)! The kids were so excited to take a turn on the Ninja Turtle
car ride and play a game or two on the Street Fighter arcade game. As a
mechanical engineering major, I loved getting the hands on experience working
out of the classroom and in the real world, helping the kids at Liberty.
and Ryan continued their hard work in the trench while Cat helped shovel away
the excess clay into the uneven spots of land. The clay is so tough and heavy,
that if you threw a piece at a tree, the clay would stick! Tessa and Nicole
finished their project in the library and moved onto staining the porch and
stairs of the old library-turned-guesthouse. After completing that project,
they headed to the upstairs of the rec room to sort and organize the clothes
for the kids, stumbling upon geico eggs and cockroaches. At the end of the day,
we all gathered together at the trench to shovel clay into the wheelbarrow and
haul it off to wherever needed.
My favorite part of the day was seeing all the kids
jump on the machines after they returned from school. Although hard at first,
they quickly learned how to take turns and wait to make sure everybody had an
equal opportunity. I have grown a stronger relationship with these kids each
and every day, and I'm glad to know that the work I do here at Liberty really
makes a difference. The time spent in Belize has exceeded my expectations
personally, allowing me to do work in the engineering field, while improving
the lives of others.
Day 4: In Search For
Today started out similar to the last two. Each of us
typically wakes up a little early to have a little time to ourselves. Whether
it’s reading a few pages in a good book, skimming through the latest Facebook
posts, or enjoying the already warm and humid morning on the porch with a cup
of coffee listening to the sounds of Belize, we seamlessly go about our morning
business until Ms. Virginia calls us to the table for breakfast. I must admit,
I was a bit sore after spending the better half of the day digging trenches,
but when you wake up in the morning and watch the sunrise and you realize that
you’re in Belize, the soreness is merely an added bonus. Even if it’s only for
a short while, I feel blessed that I have the opportunity to wake up in Belize.
Upon arriving at Liberty, each of us made haste to pick up
where we left off from yesterday. Ryan and I were especially eager to make up
ground from yesterday’s mild letdown with the progress we made on the trenches.
After a strong start yesterday morning, our momentum was all but depleted when
we ended up digging into some dense clay and a thick patch of roots. We resumed
our mission today with a more conservative goal and better game plan as to how
we would attack this mess we found ourselves in. We dug for a good three hours
before we broke for lunch, at which point I was reassigned to help Cal while
Luke replaced me to work with Ryan in the trenches.
For our first task, Cal and I set out to take a handful of
measurements in the dining and kitchen facility. The measurements were to be
used to create something that would help reduce the echoing in the dome
structure. If you’ve ever been to George Bush Airport in Houston, when you
stand in the middle of the dome, it’s a lot like being in the “echo chamber” in
Terminal C. Cal had a brilliant vision of having an acoustic engineer and one
of Seattle University’s distinguished art faculty to collaborate on the
project. This project won’t be done this time around, but I’m eager to see what
comes of it when I come back next year!
Our second task had us taking more measurement, this time in
the old library-turned-guesthouse near the entrance to Liberty. Ms. Agatha
wants to create a place where the volunteers can escape to and have a bit of
privacy away from the hustle and bustle of the home (44 kids running around can
exhaust even the best of volunteers). After taking our measurements and looking
around the building, it was evident that it was in need of some dire TLC and
elbow grease. Cal was particularly enthused about this project, partly because
this guesthouse has the potential to be something truly amazing. The hope (and
plan) is to create a practical and comfortable place where volunteers can come
and stay onsite, which would allow them to truly experience the essence of
Liberty Children’s Home.
I feel comfortable speaking on behalf of this year’s group
when I say that we all share Cal’s and Agatha’s enthusiasm and vision for this
project (and for all the projects).
As the day drew to a close, I made my way to the library to
check in on Nicole and Tessa to see how their project was coming along. I
noticed several children running in and out and laughing as I approached the
library. When we first walked into the library on Sunday, it was like walking
into an unfrequented basement at your grandparents’ house. The library was
dark, stuffy, and it smelled of old and, quite possibly, moldy books. Hundreds
of books were scattered throughout the library, unorganized and poorly taken
care of, as if the library was a cemetery where used books went to rest. I had
no idea how Nicole and Tessa were going to turn this dungeon into an inviting
place where children want to hang out and read. However, when I walked into the
library this afternoon, I was completely taken aback by the complete
transformation that Nicole and Tessa had accomplished. Dawn was in the corner
reading to two children, and Nicole and Tessa were helping a few children with
their homework assignments. It’s hard to describe the joy that I felt seeing
Dawn, Nicole, and Tessa spend time with the children and seeing their excitement
after all of the hard work they put into the library. This was undoubtedly my
favorite moment thus far at Liberty.
There truly are amazing things going on here at Liberty
Children’s Home, and each of us is excited to have the opportunity to share and
be a part of PWOB and Liberty’s vision. Little-by-little, project-by-project,
PWOB and is making a difference here at Liberty. Even if the children may not
remember our names at the end of the day, what matters is that we are helping
to provide a better home for them so they can do what they do best: be kids.
One of the questions that we were asked at an orientation before we left for
Belize was, “What’s the point?” What’s the point of us being here? What’s the
point of raising all of this money to come down here to work at Liberty when
that same money can be used to fund local workers? Truth be told, I don’t know
yet. I’m still searching for the answer. We’re all in search for the answer.
Waking shorty after our cook, Virginia, arrived to prepare
breakfast—and well in advance of the rest of the group—Chris and I went for a
quick run around the neighborhood. Thoroughly warned about the possibility of
encountering stray dogs that would then (potentially) proceed to viciously
pursue us, we armed ourselves with sticks and went on our way. Thankfully, no
encounters occurred, and Chris and I made it back to the compound unscathed and
just in time to enjoy a well-deserved meal with the remainder of the group.
In our haste to get to Liberty by 9am, we nearly forgot to
prepare our afternoon meal of chips and sandwiches, so the entire group pitched
in to get it done as soon as possible. For the record, assembly lines are
efficient for a reason. Lunch was secured in no time, and we were well on our
way, anxious for what lay ahead.
Arriving at Liberty shorty before 9am, we found ourselves
with time on our hands as Cal, Dawn, and Cat worked out how to best employ us.
In the meantime, the rest of us—Nicole, Tessa, Luke, Chris, and myself—occupied
our few minutes of down time by either shooting hoops or indulging our inner
child on the courtside swings. Soon enough, a lone boy recruited us to play a
pickup game of “Rush”—a variation of world football—which he was clearly adept
at, for he proceeded to shame all of us by scoring goal after goal. Though
still early, the intensity of the sun was already in full force, and some of us
(myself included) were soon soaked in sweat; a trend that was to go unchanged
for the remainder of the day.
After their short meeting, Cat returned to brief us on what
they had in mind. We started out by walking through the recreational room and
conducting a quick survey of what we thought we could do to improve the space.
Once we had collected each member’s input, we moved on to the library. Deciding
that the most progress could be made there, we decided to get started. However,
Cal and Michael (another Liberty volunteer veteran from Seattle) showed up
before we could even get started and informed us of their slight change of
plans. Cat, Tessa, and Nicole would remain at the library to continue the
planned refurbishment, while Luke (an aspiring electrical engineer) was chosen
to join Michael on electrical related projects elsewhere. Deciding that Chris
and I were little more useful as cheap manual, outdoor labor, Cal assigned us
to ditch digging detail… Yay us!
After our initial walkthrough, it was clear that the
library was in serious need of reorganizing (not to mention, a thorough
cleaning), so Cat, Tessa, and Nicole went to work. After first conducting a
thorough cleaning, they then turned to reorganizing furniture by moving tables
in order to allow them to be used as desks. Once that was done, they then began
the arduous task of sorting books by genre and grouping them into their own
sections in the hopes of improving the organization and appeal of the library’s
layout. During this time they also realized that there were numerous books that
were either irrelevant for children (including a gem detailing the DOS
operating system) or infested with mold from the humidity. The task has yet to
be finished and will be continued tomorrow…
Guided by Michael, Luke worked on getting the old arcade
games and mechanical rides working so the children would have more
entertainment opportunities. They started out testing to see if any of the
systems worked and determined that the mechanical ride worked, it just needed
to be modified so that it would work without coins. Due to Michael’s skill,
they were able to accomplish this. Regarding the arcade consoles, they
determined that only one functioned properly, but the other has no video feed
and needs to be investigated further. In addition to these tasks, they realized
that the dryers on the compound were inoperable due to the lack of a 220v. They
then set out to convert the nearest electrical source from the standard 110v to
220v source. Without these dryers, the staff is forced to line dry all the
laundry. Although this process is is certainly more sustainable, it is nearly
an impossibility during the rainy season.
Meanwhile, Chris and I got started on the ditch. Picking up
where the groundskeeper had left off, and using his work as a gauge for our own
efforts, we worked to get as much of the task accomplished. Initially making
quick progress, we were confident in our initial assessment of how far we would
make it before the day was done. As it turns out, we were a bit overconfident.
After making it some 50 feet, the soil ceased to be relatively dry and
gradually began to become what can only be described as sticky. Apparently,
Belizean soil is mostly clay, and moist clay at that. At about this time, we
both realized that we had jumped on the opportunity to get our “He-man” on by
digging the ditch without actually knowing why we were doing it. Given the
exponentially increasing difficulty of the task, this question began to weigh
ever more heavily on our minds. As we speculated the necessity of such a
project between ourselves, Michael showed up to see how we were fairing. Hoping
he could shed some light on the true purpose of our task, we decided to consult
him. Luckily, given Michael’s history with Liberty, he was just the man to ask.
As he explained, the amount of rain that the area receives during the rainy
season, if not properly drained, can result in standing water in excess of 10
inches. We were digging a ditch that would drain that water off the compound
and thereby prevent the breeding of mosquitos as well as a whole host of other
negative health hazards. Our curiosity satisfied, and fortified by seeing the
grander picture and significance of our efforts, Chris and I pressed on.
None of the tasks that we began today were completed. But
our trip is not over, and tomorrow is a new day. One book, one electrical
panel, and one swing of the pickaxe at a time, we will finish what we all came
here to accomplish: making the lives of these children, and the adults charged
with their care, just a little less challenging.
We arrived at the airport in Belize City at approximately 10:30 am Belizean time. Due to a miscommunication in arrival time our ride had been at the airport since 9:00 am, we were so thankful she waited for us.
After settling in at Breadfruit Garden, we began our first adventure. We decided that we were going to head to Altun Ha, the Mayan archaeological site in Belize City. On the way to Altun Ha, we ran into a sign advertising the Snake Man. He had all different types of snakes native to Belize, including the Fer De Lance, green viper, and a coral snake.
Then, we arrived at Altun Ha, which consists of 13 Mayan temples and mounds. This is the site where the famous Jade Head—a priceless Mayan artifact—was found in the temple of the high priest.
This is not a typical zoo; it is more of an injured wild life refuge. All of the animals are indigenous to Belize and were either pets that people could not care for, or injured animals that were unable to be released into the wild. While there, several of us were able to have a jaguar encounter where we were locked in a small metal cage inside of the jaguar exhibit, were able to pet him and feed him. We also saw animals such as the tapir, which is Belize’s national animal, along with macaw parrots, howler monkeys, crocodiles, and more.
Dear friends of PWOB,
We leave for Belize
tonight on the redeye! The students (and staff) are very excited for our
trip and looking forward to working with Liberty Children’s Home.
Thank you for your
support! Your continued confidence in PWOB is greatly appreciated.
been back from Nicaragua for more than two weeks. Is it too late to
contribute to the blog? I hope not. It was such a special
experience on so many levels. Thanks to the SU facilities department for
having the vision to see what a powerful thing happens when you send a group of
SU students and assorted staff to another
country! Professionals Without Borders has a winning combination.
The group that assembled at 4:30 am on the SU campus on Dec. 12 was very
different from the group that returned ten days later. We became a little
family in the very big-hearted, welcoming embrace of the Neustros Pequenos
Hermanos big family of the Casa Padre Wasson in Jinotepe.
of the special memories are reflected in the photos included in this
blog. Others are recorded in my heart. I’ll hit the highlights
special experience of watching each SU student and team member engage with the
children with love, laughter and genuine interest. Robert, Mark, Meech
and Sara played soccer, volleyball and basketball for hours. Wayne
was everywhere – on the soccer court, the basketball court, the volleyball
court – and this after a full day of being our jefe
(boss of the retaining wall project!) Bianca dazzled all of us with her
jump roping skills and Hilary with her project management ability. Sara
brought children’s books in Spanish that were a hit. Meech helped an
older girl write a letter in English. Robert, Mark and Wayne became human
gymnasiums which the children loved. We got to meet one of Wayne’s goddaughters,
a beautiful young woman who is going to school at the University of
Managua. Our two Olivias had a steady following. We heard “Donde
esta Olivia?” all day when both of them rested from stomach upset. Our
folks can dance! And they showed it at every opportunity.
wasn’t all fun – we worked every day except for the two days we explored.
And it was HOT. Hours of shoveling, sifting sand, moving heavy concrete
blocks, digging and moving dirt, building steel structures to support the
retaining wall and spreading concrete all the while practicing our
Spanish. I’ll never look at a retaining wall the same way again!
there is NPH, our host organization. The campus about the size of Seattle
University is home to 250 children ages 4 through college. Children live
in sixteen large, family style homes, complete with porches, courtyards
and cement pathways throughout. The homes are simply furnished and food
is basic. What there is plenty of is love, respect for each child, and a calm quiet way of creating a loving
community. The heart and soul is set by the staff and volunteers who are
the tias and tios of each home. The staff and residents create family and
being part of it gave us a new way to think about just what family means.
Nicaragua has an onsite school for children and youth through the eleventh
grade. Students working towards a technical career, attend school in the local
community. A vocational program includes welding, carpentry, painting,
maintenance repair, sewing, shoemaking and handicrafts. Any student who
is able and interested is supported through college. NPH continues to be
home base while they study at various colleges in Managua.
impressions – when an old yellow school bus traveled for three days to the NPH
International soccer tournament in Mexico, they spent the nights on the
bus. When a group of 10 young teen girls made lanterns for the Posada
they quietly waited their turn to use the two pair of scissors and two bottles
of glue. We survived just fine with instant coffee and rice at almost
every meal. We each carried a spoon and bowl when we went to lunch and
dinner in the homes. Beads, puzzles, balls, frisbees, Uno, the card game spoons were great activities for
all ages. We could have used more English and Spanish children’s
books. The “goodbye party” they had for us on our last night was
incredibly moving – dancers in costumes, a great musical performance, and
wonderful expressions of appreciation for visiting and working followed by ice
cream for all. And the great conversations and laughter. OK, boogie
boarding on the beach where a recent season of Survivor was filmed was pretty
best lesson I brought back is a reminder of what it important in life.
It’s not about the stuff, it’s about people sharing our humanity across
cultures, geography, and language. What a wonderful way to be reminded at
a wonderful time of year.
Jane Spalding, staff
How can this be our last full day in Nicaragua? We are
off early for a day of discovery in our host country. We start in the city of
Masaya, an old city in the Pueblo Blancos at the base of the Volcan Masaya. It
is famous for its craft marketplace. Our NPH guide Rina, son Jonathan and our
driver drop us off in the midst of the ancient market for one hour of shopping.
It's a scramble to get Christmas gifts in such a short time, but our day has
been cut a bit short we must scurry to keep on track. The market is framed by
an old stone structure giving it the appearance of an abandoned fortress, even
while the fabrics inside fill the interior with tropical effusions. Quite a
From Masaya we drive in a climb up the side of the volcano,
then down the interior to Laguna de Aboya. Our destination is the Casa de la
Abuela, "grandma's house", a picturesque getaway on the shore of the
caldera lake where we will have lunch. As we dine "al fresco", a
small squall blows over the swimmers in the fresh-water lake. Of course, being
used to Pacific Northwest weather, we are not intimidated by the weather and
our group jumps into the water, heading for the raft. It was an idyllic setting
and a fascinating glimpse of the origins of the breathtaking environment in
this volcanic land. And we can't get enough of the totones, plaintain chips and
We drive back up to the rim of the volcano and slip down
to the road, heading east for Granada on Lake Nicaragua aka Lago Cochibalca.
Granada has a varied past as the "sometimes capital" of Nicaragua,
alternating with Leon when the opposing parties seized control of the country.
It is filled with bright yellow colonial buildings, complete with Spanish style
iron work in the windows, a stunning cathedral and a very active central plaza.
From the plaza we head to boats on the shore of the enormous freshwater lake
and an exploration of the isletas, small single-home islands for the wealthiest
Nicaraguans. The scattering of properties is beautiful and the profusion of
egrets, gallino del agua, monkeys, etc. is stunning. The tropical foliage and
astounding size of the lake leave us all speechless. We talk with our guides
about concerns regarding the transnational canal that the Chinese are building
which will cross this, the largest freshwater lake in Central America. It is a
lively and informative discussion, particularly with our civil engineering
students in the mix!
We have little time left as we return to the shore. We
had hoped to have dinner in Granada but have been invited to a farewell dinner
by the pequenos back in Jinotepe. On the way we plan to buy many gallons of ice
cream for the festivities. We do a bit more sightseeing in town before hitting
the grocery store for "helado" or as the pequenos call it,
"Eskimo". When we arrive at our NPH home, we drop the ice cream in
the freezer, run home to grab our bowls and spoons, and zip to the girls' casas
for a belated dinner, two by two, as always. They are patiently waiting for us,
even though we are nearly 1 hour late. After dinner we walk together with our
new families to the ranchon where we are nudged into front row seats for a
special presentation in our honor. The pequenos present local folklorico
dances. When 3 7-year old boys, dressed as campesinos riding broomstick horses,
approach our group, Meech, Olivia and Sara are pulled to their feet and join in
the dance. We are now officially part of this family! Colin announces that we
have brought "Eskimo" and we begin to spoon out the icy treat. It is
the end of another amazingly rich day. As we walk back to the visitor's house
under the vast, starry sky, all is indeed good with the world. We retire to our
rooms to continue our packing, but drift back in fits and starts to the kitchen
tables to talk quietly and enjoy each other's company.
In the morning we rise to the sound of firework
explosions and a band marking the beginning of the celebration of Padre
Wasson's birthday. 60 years ago this priest founded the first of the 9 NPH
homes, offering a safe, family environment for children. We are here to
celebrate his life. The Mass includes baptisms for 2 babies of NPH graduates -
a fitting testimony to the man whose vision created these family homes. As we
say goodbye to our new friends, I think we all become aware of how much this
experience has shaped us. We brought many presents and we built a much needed
wall, but leave with so much more than we brought. We have become a part of
these lives in this remarkable land. So blessed!
Written by: Pat Whitney, staff
Today we woke up as usual and ate breakfast. Breakfast was a
little late (By Wayne's standard, that is. But honestly Wayne wakes up at 5:30
am for no reason!).
After breakfast we went to work on the wall. I am pretty sure Sara
was already there working before anyone else; what a trooper!
the top row of the right wall and with great precision the workers slanted the
top of the right wall at a constant slope. It was rather impressive. The things
these guys could do when it came to construction techniques was outstanding.
At eleven o'clock there was a confirmation but the people working on the
wall did not end up going. It was rumored that Collin might get in trouble for
having us work through the confirmation, but we ended up doing it anyway.
For Lunch today we ate carne asada with rice, pico de gallo, and
banana chips. Mark, Bianca, Wayne, and I ate with all the other workers. While
we were eating it became increasingly difficult to imagine going back to work,
but we eventually mustered up the energy.
While working I stressed my back and I came back to the house
while Wayne and Mark continued working. Mark had to make sure to move all the
dirt five feet over and then back over five feet again.
After Mark and Wayne came back, Mark and I went and played a
little bit of soccer with the German volunteer, Ben. After
a little bit of soccer we went back to the visitors house to grab our bowls and
utensils and then we headed to dinner.We showed up for dinner a little bit late
today, but they were nice enough to still feed us. So caring.
Then after dinner we went back to the cancha. I was exhausted and
I didn't think I was going to play anymore soccer, but Mark and I ended up playing a good bit. I guess we had to make sure we were
completely worn out. Mark especially.
-Robert Long, student
This week we have had a series of interactions with Nicaraguan
wildlife. It started off with an encounter of the painful kind when Jane
unintentionally petted a scorpion. Thankfully it was a small one and didn’t
send her into the land of pink elephants, which we were told that a sting can
often do. The next day brought an unexpected visit to the house by a coral
snake, no one was bit, but there was pain involved. Let’s just say it won’t be
back to visit. The two foot lizard that tried to take a shower was shown better
hospitality, and seemed to enjoy the ride out the door on the push broom,
especially since I held back Larson, the cat, who wanted to eat it.
Wednesday took us on an excursion to see the Nicaragua
outside the boundaries of NPH. A visit to San Juan Del Sur supplied our first
real coffee for the week (until now there has been only instant), and we used
that energy to surf and play in the water at Playa Hermosa. Que Tuany!
(Nicaraguan slang for “It’s cool”).
Posted by Sara
Dío 3 at NPH Nicaragua!
This morning we got back to work on the wall. Large cement bricks were laid
down in the trench. Some of us shoveled large piles of dirt and gravel to be
used as filler for the cement.
The work was grueling but very satisfying. We are starting to see height and
the trenches filled.
This evening we had dinner an hour early because the niñas had to prepare
for tonight's Posada. There was a procession from each girl's house to the
Ranchon. They danced and sang to several songs with homemade Christmas
decorations all over their bodies. It was a sight to see!
After the dances they brought out piñatas for each age group to attack with
a bat. Once a kid was able to break the piñata the rest dove to the ground to
pick up candy. It verged on chaos. Wayne got to hit a piñata and it broke
completely, the kids were very impressed.
There were lollipops and hard candies of different fruit flavors, chocolates
and bags of juice. We are hyped up on sugar - hopefully we can fall asleep! Big
- Olivia (con Pelo Rubio)
Greetings from Nicaragua!
Today was the first full day that
we worked on the retaining wall for the slope behind the little boys’ house. We
had a late start since breakfast showed up late, but no one minded except for
El Jefe (Wayne). Along with our group there were several volunteers who
worked with us, like a student who lives at NPH Nicaragua and goes to college
in Jinotepe. The first task of the day was to move concrete bricks.
They were too heavy for most of us to lift, so others moved the soil that will
be used for backfill of the wall. Then, some of us started digging the
trench for the foundation of the retaining wall. We used different tools to break
up the soil such as a macana which is a really heavy long stick with a
pointed end. Using the macana was one of the most challenging tasks of the day.
While we were working, a group of boys started to gather around us.
At first they were just watching, but as time passed the boys picked up the
shovels and wheel barrows and started working with us. They were so
excited to help us and they responded very well to how appreciative we were for
While some of us continued to work on
the wall, others helped the girls with making Christmas decorations for the las
posadas this week. Las Posadas is a nine day celebration, with each
day representing each month the Virgin Mary was pregnant with Jesus. The
celebration lasts from December 16th to December 24th,
and the children have parades that re-enact the nativity scene and also perform
Since the older boys left to go on
a retreat, we ate our meals with the girls today. Two or three people
went in to each of the houses and we all enjoyed some beef soup with the
girls. A member of our group, Mark, has his birthday today and the group
of girls he was eating with found out. They started singing him birthday
songs and cracked an egg on his head, which is a birthday tradition.
After lunch, we worked on the
retaining wall some more. We finished digging out the trench and made
reinforcements for columns that will be part of the wall. After some
rest, we had dinner at the same houses we had lunch at. The girls were a lot
more comfortable with us and opened up to us some more. Some presented
their dances that they will be performing tomorrow and others braided the hair
of our group members.
Bianca and Hillary
Wow we are on second
day at NPH Home for Children in Nicaragua. In that time we’ve enjoyed playing with the
children. We also assessed our project.
Started work this
morning before Sunday mass managing to accomplish a hours. We moved concrete
blocks and removed barbed wire fence. Everyone got together for service
and then we all ate lunch together. After service some of the group made
necklaces and bracelets with 12 year old girls. The rest of us, gluttons for
punishment myself included, played soccer with the kids.
There is so much laughter and joy in the air.
Their school year
works on the calendar year, meaning this is their summer. The students are done
thinking for the year, wink wink.
During this experience
of coming back to NPH I have been able to make new friends with our PWOB group.
We may only be together for 10 days but I will remember this forever. I was
able to see/talk to my god daughters. They both go to Managua University
and are doing great. I have been able to see the rest of my family here
grow. They all appear to be happy and doing great.
I would encourage
anyone that has the opportunity to visit NPH Nicaragua to do it. They have
shown me a new meaning of family.
Lessons of Love
The author of today’s post is by two staff members at
Seattle University. Kristen Kirst is the Director of Advancement Communication
and Marketing and Brianne Vanderlinden is the Assistant Director of Special
Events and also a 2007 SU graduate. Each day is written by a different member
of the Seattle University community making the PWOB trip to Nicaragua.
When we arrived in Nicaragua we were assigned three
missions: pour concrete to build a sidewalk connecting the homes to the school,
painting the school with new paint to improve student pride, and spending time
with the pequeños. Today was the finale
of each mission. Sitting with the group this morning adding final touches of
blue, we were serenaded with Christmas Mass rehearsals of “Gloria” accompanied by the djembe. We will never look at a sidewalk the same. 10
days has gone so quickly and tonight was an example of the family we have seen
here at NPH and the family that we have now become a part of.
One of the special traditions of NPH is presentations by the
pequeños as they say goodbye and thank you to their new family members…us. Returning to Casa Madre Teresa (our home
during our visit) from the presentations is a happy yet somber walk. There is
the tug of being ready to return to Seattle, but there is also the tug of a
newly found home and the formation of special friendships that have just begun.
There is something about putting your hands in the soil, sitting with pequeños
of all ages, walking amongst their fields, using their tools, and listening to
their music that continues to pull you in ways we will continue to unravel as
we begin to face the reality of heading home to the US.
This morning I [Bri] woke up with such comfort; I felt as if
I was home, that I belonged here. The
long days of hard work and intense heat has broken down any barriers that keep
me from feeling like an outsider. For most of us clothing choice is determined
by the “smell test” and every meal we share is the most delicious food we’ve
ever tasted on a simple plastic orange plate. We’ve learned it is much easier
to simply eat with our hands. This trip has been so much more than a service trip.
It feels like global engagement has taken such a powerful role in the education
of our students and it has been meaningful to contribute while also gaining a
better perspective of what is going on in the lives of current Seattle
Today at lunch we sat with the littlest penqueñas. Before every meal the little girls take turns
leading us in prayer. You can imagine what it would be like to hear a 7 year
old decide what she’d like to pray for… what she would like to pray for today
is her sister to pay better attention during the blessing.
Love is found everywhere here. You see it witnessed by the
boys walking with their arms around one another whether they are heading to the
soccer field or to go work. You see it
as everyone gathers to say a blessing for every meal. You see it in the loving expressions of the tias
and tios (aunts and uncles) as they gently nudge the pequeños.
For us it is holding a pequeño on our laps as we watch the
presentations each night in the Ranchon, playing soccer endlessly, pressing
their hands into the sidewalk that will be a new path to school for them. Love
is found in the shouts of “Hola Hola”, “Buenos Dias”, and “Como Estas” wherever
you go. When language challenges
dissolve and a pequeño grabs your hand and laughs out of sheer joy when you
mess up a word. Love can be expressed without words and we have truly
experienced that at NPH.
Now to learn how to actually speak Spanish and plan a return
trip next year.
A Day of Light:
Saturday, Teamwork, Awe, Relaxation and Stars
The author of today’s post is Nick Elam, a senior majoring
in Strategic Communication. Each day is written by a different member of the SU
community making the PWOB trip to Nicaragua.
Today was our second and last tourist day. It was a great
way to begin to exit our journey and spend some time seeing more of this
Our day started out at 8 in the morning, driving through
Rivas and San Juan del Sur, to arrive at our final destination, Playa Hermosa.
Before arriving at the beach, we got to see a few parts of Rivas and San Juan
del Sur, two of the larger cities in Nicaragua. The market in Rivas was chaotic
and full of life. Our van, Vincent VANgo, was bumper to bumper with taxis and
other cars, as we tiptoed through the market. After leaving Rivas, we drove to
San Juan del Sur, a tourist town for Nica that sported a presence of Gringos.
It was beautiful all the same, and the bay was a spectacular site. After
winding through a few more streets and neighborhoods, we approached the gate to
the private beach area, paid our fees and entered the jungle-engulfed rode
until we found our day’s paradise, Playa Hermosa.
This past week has been full of teamwork. It amazes me how
quickly our group has developed into a team. We all supported each other, as
each person has gone through their ups and downs. Today was in honor of our
team and the effort we have committed to; a well-deserved gift.
Playa Hermosa is beautiful. It is tucked away in Nicaragua’s
western coastline and separated from the busy, public beaches in San Juan del
Sur. The secluded beach has a small inn, restaurant, massage area, hammocks,
bar, surf equipment and few people. It was a day in paradise for us PWOBers.
The water was warm enough to stay in for as long as you like, and the waves
were large and perfect for surfing. The coast was lined with Nicaragua’s
beautiful jungle; you could see every color of green in the tall canopies. I
felt like I was in a beautiful landscape portrait.
Everyone got to do themselves today; we were all together
and alone at some point. It was a great time to begin the process of reflection
and meaning making for these past few days. Naps in the hammocks, body surfing,
and eating some delicious food were a few of the treats we spoiled ourselves with.
Before dinner, we made time for a reflection and sharing. For me, it was great
to see how 13 people, few of which had known each other before, came together
to give ourselves to another community, and ultimately form our own. This group
is truly a gift.
After dinner our night ended with some light, both above us
and below us. It was a clear night, one of the few that we have seen in our
time in Nica. The stars here are impeccable, nothing dilutes their brilliance. To
bring more light to our day, the ocean had another treat, marine
phosphorescence. As you waded through the water at night, looking at the stars,
you could see little particles of light shining in the water. The world has a
funky way of illuminating beautiful adventures such as this.
The light in this day (the sun, stars, and phosphorescence)
speaks to how brilliant and bold this journey and place truly are! …So grateful
to be a part of it!
The author of today’s post is Maria Hernandez, a graduate
student with the College of Education’s Psychology program. Each day is written
by a different member of the Seattle University community making the PWOB trip to Nicaragua.
Today has definitely been a day of ups and downs for the
group. After the amazing and relaxing day we had sightseeing yesterday,
everyone woke up feeling really tired. On top of that it seemed that today was
the hottest day we’ve had here so far. Still, we dragged ourselves to the
worksite and continued our work knowing that after today there is only one more
work day before we leave.
However, the day was made complete when we went to dinner
with the girls today and played a great game of cards. Afterwards, we were able
to watch them practice for the night’s holiday presentations. It never ceases
to amaze me how the pequeños at NPH come together to do performances that
showcase the variety of talents they have including dancing, singing, and
playing instruments. It is great to see how the older and younger kids unite on
these performances to bring happiness and smiles to the huge family they are a
part of, a family of which I feel more and more a part of every day I spend
The authors of today’s post is Helen Packer, a Junior
Humanities for Leadership and Creative Writing major, and Lindsay Mannion, a Senior
Humanities for Teaching and Spanish major. Each day is written by a different member of the SU
community making the PWOB trip to Nicaragua.
Today was our first tourist day and a chance to explore some
of the cities close to NPH. On our list: el Volcan Masaya, el Mercado Masaya,
la Laguna de Apoyo, and Granada. At 8:30 fourteen of us piled into a little
Laguna de Apoyo provided the chance to check off a bucket
list item we didn’t even realize was on our bucket list. Apparently, after
thousands of years volcanos collapse and form lagoons. That meant that we were
all swimming in an old volcano.
By the time we
reached Laguna de Apoyo the van had started to feel like a real Nicaraguan bus.
We were now holding sixteen people, after we picked up
Audrey’s friend Fatima and her brother Freddie. Our van (nicknamed Vincent
Van-Go) teetered down the steep incline to La Abuela, where we stopped for
lunch and swimming. La Abuela
looked out right over the water and our sixteen person table sat right up
against the dock, precariously close to the edge. After being packed tight into
the van, everyone was excited to jump into the water.
The water was cool and refreshing in comparison to our
sweaty days of work. We cooled off and laughed about the fact that we were
swimming in an old volcano.
In the second part of the day we drove down to Granada and
took a boat tour around Lake Nicaragua. The lake contains a lot of tiny
islands, mostly filled with private houses. On one tiny island, which was about
the length of our small tour boat, we met a family of monkeys and became better
friends than we were intending to! The mama monkey, Lucy, hopped aboard our
boat, prancing up and down the aisle in search of food. She jumped up on to
Fatima’s lap and climbed from seat to seat, jumping on people’s shoulders. Our
guide gave Lucy some crackers to snack on and she wiped her hands on Helen’s
shoulder. Helen wasn’t too happy about that. Lucy posed for some selfies with
Sam. When it was finally time to
go, she seemed hesitant to leave the boat.
We finished the day with a several-hour dinner in Granada.
After all the days of hard work, it was nice to have a day off, even if it was
packed with activities.
The author of today’s post is Kyla Terashima, a Sophomore
Nursing Major and Spanish Minor at Seattle University. Each day is written by a
different member of the SU community making the PWOB trip to Nicaragua.
Waking up today was a struggle to say the least, with all
the work we have done our muscles ache with every movement and our skin is
burnt red from the scorching Nicaraguan sun. Yet the beauty of NPH is the pequeños
keep our spirits high and make the back breaking work well worth it.
Despite the aching of our bodies, anticipation for tonight’s
posada was in the air and it did not disappoint. We joined the pequeños in a
night of singing, dancing, and piñatas. Piñatas in the states may seem like a
time for candy and some harmless fun. Here at NPH though, piñatas are serious
business. The boys have no problems diving onto each other for a small dulce or
fighting over whom next gets to take a swing at the life-size paper tinker
bell. However, in this simple moment of whacking a paper-filled box,
relationships are formed. We share smiles and broken conversations with the pequeños,
learning more about them each day and them learning about us. Screams of joy
and laughter continue to fill the ranchon until the last piñata has been torn
to shreds. I don’t think a single person left without their hearts filled, even
the often shy tias, who oversee the girl’s houses, couldn’t help but crack a
smile and join in on the fun.
As the stars and moon shine bright in the clear sky it’s
obvious to me the pequeños of NPH have become our family. They barged their way
into our hearts and have made no plans to leave. While our skin tones and
cultures are different, we have all found a place to call home here at NPH. Con
mucho querido, buenas noches from our family to yours.
author of today's post is Sam Asher, a Junior Theatre Major at Seattle
University. Each day is written by a different member of the SU
community making the PWOB trip to Nicaragua.
I can’t promise this to be the most fluid blog anyone’s ever
read; today we poured concrete and my arms feel like they may fall off any
minute. Be patient with my mind as it bounces from place to place in describing
the experience of this wonderfully sunny day at the NPH Campus, Nicaragua.
Our team woke up before 7AM today so we could
hit the worksite by 8AM. We had the biggest concrete pour of our project today
and successfully completed it. This left our whole team ready for a siesta by
the time 4PM rolled around. Granted, the peqeunos we were working with were a
little bit annoyed we couldn’t finish the entire sidewalk that evening.
However, after about twenty minutes of “No podemos trabajar mas,” they got the
idea that we could not and would not continue. Sometimes you have to know when
Regardless of how tired our bodies were, we had a visitor
for dinner this evening. At 6PM we all checked in with each other over a cup of
coffee. At 6:30, Marlon Velasquez – the national director of NPH – came to
share a meal with us. During our time together, he explained that NPH was built
on the foundation of being a family, not an orphanage. Respect to this
property, land, and community was built through hard work by the pequeños for
the pequeños. He told us how visitors come and go, but the ones who have the
best time are the people who interact most with the kids. If you talk to the pequeños
about the right things you’re “in,” but if you give them the tiniest ounce of
pity… well, you’re probably “out.”
Even though my Spanish is broken, useless, and sometimes
flat out wrong, I feel like I’m a part of this family. After three days of
mentally exhausting myself to get words out, I think the peak of speaking a
foreign language has started. They call me “Harry Potter,” and tell me I know
Spanish well, I’m just too afraid to use it. Que bonita, Nicaragua.
The author of
today's post is Audrey Farber, a Senior Philosophy major at Seattle
University. Each day is written by a different member of the SU
community making the PWOB trip to Nicaragua.
Today began with our daily discussion on the word of the
day. It was determined that our new word would be “devotion”, and with this
word in mind we were to go about the day devoted to the present moment and in
full participation with the work at hand. In the midst of discussing this word
we were interrupted by the sight of cows walking past our door to the pasture
that PWOB fenced using Neam trees during last year’s trip.
After breakfast we headed out to our worksite. The group
divided into two so that we could continue working on the sidewalk and begin
work painting the school house. The school house is being painted a beautiful
blue color that resembles the blue portion on the flag of Nicaragua.
However, the highlight of the day came after dinner. Today
was the first day of La Posada, which is a Christmas tradition that NPH
practices where the children and staff reenact the night Mary and Joseph were
seeking shelter and were denied many times before being accepted into an Inn.
We were honored to experience a night of this very special tradition which
included dancing and piñatas. The children presented choreographed dances in
costumes to Christmas themed music, and afterwards they all enthusiastically
tried to get the most candy from newly hit open piñatas. The night ended with
yummy candies and cheerful smiles all around.
The author of
today's post is Wayne Holscher who is Facilities Resident Hall Maintenance
for the Bellarmine and the Douglas residence halls. Each day is written by a
different member of the SU community making the PWOB trip to Nicaragua.
We started the project today after breakfast. We are
building a sidewalk to replace a trail which is often like a slip-n-slide in the
rainy season. We picked up our tools to start building the forms; Antonio,
Vladimir, Victor, and Ricky, a group of kids completing their Nuestros Pequeños
Hermanos year-in-service kids jumped in and worked alongside us. I think the
main reason they were helping us was to get the project done quicker so they could play and
win soccer and volleyball sooner.
As we suspected, they did want to play soccer and volleyball, and they did win…at
everything. We have noticed with volleyball they just wanted to keep the ball in
the air, even if that means kicking or head butting. No rules, just fun. The
kids of NPH just want to have fun and we are reminded that this is easy to
Later in the evening we shared our thoughts on the Ronald
Rolheiser reading from his book, The Holy
Longing. We split up into small groups and took games and toys with us to dinner
at the girls’ houses. It was a lot of fun. I got to know Abigail and helped her
with her English. She read to me to practice before she starts at the
university this fall.
The author of
today's post is Matthew Pyrc, SJ who works at
Seattle University in Campus Ministry and is the Jesuit in residence in
Bellarmine, 6th floor. Each day is written by a different member of
the SU community making the PWOB trip to Nicaragua.
After almost 17 hours of traveling, we arrived at Jinotepe,
Nicaragua, the home of Nuestro Pequeños Hermanos, NPH. Professionals Without Borders,
PWOB, is a group of staff, faculty, and students from Seattle University. We
currently have 13 people in Nicaragua working at NPH, a community of about 200
youths who have been orphaned, abandoned, or were at risk. Today was our first
full day and we eased into it after a tiring 18 hour journey. Breakfast
consisted of eggs and cheese and the wonderful flavor of fresh bananas, the
taste of which you can only get from Latin America. We all agree they just
are not as good back home!
The morning was spent taking a tour of the campus. We toured
the dorms, the clinic and school and saw a pig being slaughtered. That will
probably be tomorrow’s dinner. We were impressed with the growth of the fence
built by PWOB during last years’ service trip. The fence was constructed to
corral the cattle using posts of wood that sprouts into trees…and they were
beginning to sprout! We think it’s funny
that the project was called ‘pasteurization.’
After lunch we joined some of the girls in making piñatas
for the Christmas Posada festivities that begin this week. Many of us are
discovering how exhausting it is to try and communicate in another language,
whether we can speak a lot or a little. However, soccer, or futbol, is a
universal language and our game with the girls taught us a great deal about
ball handling skills, true grit, and how to have fun playing in the pouring
rain. The day concluded with Mass, dinner, and a friendly game of volleyball
with the boys from NPH.
The people here are wonderful and very welcoming. Some of
the students have been learning English and they are enjoying the opportunity
to practice speaking with native English speakers. The journey is just
beginning and we are expecting the arrival of the last three members of our
group tonight. We will take turns posting here this week sharing a highlight or
two from each day. Here’s a photo of Seattle University Senior Audrey Farber and the piñata making.
PWOB’s first ever trip to Zambia was inspired by the work
being done there by Fr. Bert Otten, SJ, who is never at a shortage of worthy
projects. Professionals Without Borders worked with Fr. Otten and several other
organizations to establish a network of priests and administrators in Zambia to
carry out Seattle University mission-related projects.
Four staff members and three students traveled to Lusaka,
Zambia to begin the primary project of the trip, the renovation of restrooms,
showers, and waterworks at the Munali School Special Unit for the Deaf and
Blind. The group also assisted the Engineers without Borders group of students
in Chirundu, on the Zimbabwe border. Steve Szablya led a project to build a
human-powered electrical generator at this location, and the rest of the team
helped to construct a waterwheel that is now used for lifting water off the
banks of the Zambezi River for washing and bathing.
In 2010, the PWOB team devised an open-source wind turbine
design that could be easily built and operated on location in a developing
country using solely components, materials, and tools found locally. The wind
turbine would be used to bring electricity to users that are disconnected from
the power grid.
After a combination of lucky breaks and clever improvised
engineering, one hurdle after another was cleared. After six days of intense
woodworking, measuring wind speeds, and putting together the generator parts,
the wind turbine was complete. The eight-foot diameter wind turbine was
spinning proudly in a strong African breeze atop an 18-foot borehole pipe
located on an earthen dam.
PWOB’s third trip to Zambia included 12 members who worked
on two main projects during their two weeks in and around Chikuni. Working with
the Jesuits at the Mukanzubo Cultural Center, the team spent the first half of
their trip building a storage unit for Mukanzubo’s artifacts and the second
half building a medical clinic in Chipembele. These new projects allowed the
group to work side by side with Zambians learning new skills and having
The Seattle U PWOB volunteers were on the ground for two
full weeks on our third service trip to Zambia; half of them left for Zambia in
mid-June and returned at the end of the month, the same day the second group
left, resulting in one month of total work in Zambia from PWOB volunteers.
Joyce Allen led the first group of students to install shelving in the
Mukanzubo Cultural Center; they also documented and stored the center’s
collection in order to preserve the heritage of the Tonga people.
Steve Szablya and his team recomissioned two large water
towers in Chikuni to provide water to the local hospital. This will allow the
hospital to open their new natal clinic and surgical theater. Steve and his
team also continued to work on the brick wall in the Chipembele community that
the first group started constructing, as well as removing the cross connect
between the reservoir and the well at Mukanzubo.
This year will mark our fifth trip to Zambia, and PWOB
couldn’t be more excited to celebrate this anniversary. We have built amazing
connections with communities in Zambia, and hope to continue to build a better
future there and everywhere PWOB has service trips for years to come.
Dec 14, 2012
Liberty Children’s Home continues to face financial challenges, which have been compounded recently by a series of burglaries. It has created additional expenses for the charity foundation to replace the stolen items as well as to implement and maintain new security measures. Fortunately, they received assistance from the Seattle based organization, Professionals without Borders, which has installed alarm systems on three buildings. But there’s still a great need for funding at the children’s home. The director, Delfina Mitchell told News Five today that they are having a major fundraiser at the Bird’s Isle on Sunday and hope to raise thirty thousand dollars.
Delfina Mitchell, Director, Liberty Children’s Home
“We have a fundraiser which we are marketing as a family fun fest. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a Bird’s Isle and we’re gonna have lots of rides, games, food drinks, lots of activities and we’re going to end the day with a concert by some local artists. Why we’re doing this is to raise money so we can continue our work. You know recently we had a series of break-ins which meant that we had to institute additional security measures to make our campus safe. Because of those additional measures, we’ve had to put up additional lighting, security and all that. It’s going to cost us more money every month in utility bills, paying for security and all that and we are strapped for money as it is so we have to do something to increase the money so we can take care of the additional expenses that these thefts have incurred. The fundraiser, anybody that comes out will have a great time. We have lots of neat games, lots of great prizes that have been donated to us. I think it’s going to be a fair like no other because of the things that we have as giveaways, the prizes that we’ve gotten. The fair is going to be from ten a.m. to eight p.m. there is free entrance from ten to twelve, no charge. After twelve o’clock we’re charging five dollars for adults and two dollars for children. Santa Clause is going to be there from twelve to three-thirty with a gift for every child so bring your child out to meet Santa Clause and get a gift. I also want to say, take this time to not cook Sunday dinner because we’ll have turkey dinner, barbecue, stew chicken and rice, lots of pastries so come on out and have a good time. Start the Christmas season. Listen to the Christmas season and come out and support our children.”
Cal Ihler, Professionals without Borders
“We came to Belize looking for a place to do service work and came to Liberty and just were so struck by how the children were taken care of so well and the needs that they have. So for this particular trip, we heard that they were being broken into and computers were being stolen, clothes were bing stolen and it was not only affecting the staff, but the children too. And so we started doing fundraising to find some generous donors. They donated all the alarm equipment to us so we came down and installed alarms in their office, library and learning center. And so we’re pretty happy and grateful to be able to come down and help out.”
Professionals without Borders previously installed a water irrigation system at Liberty Children’s home and have plans to return in March of 2013 with ten students from the Seattle University to do further improvements on the water system and replace the gutters on the learning center.
Click here for the original article on Channel 5 Belize's website.
Belize for Spring Break with Seattle University Women's Soccer
Courtesy of www.goseattleu.com (Official Athletic Release)
Release: Wednesday 04/03/2013
Seattle University women’s soccer head coach Julie Woodward alongside two of her student-athletes,Stephanie Verdoia (Salt Lake City, Utah) and Renae Russell (Lake Forest, Calif.), traveled to Belize over Spring Break for a service trip sponsored by Seattle U’s Professionals Without Borders (PWOB). Furthering Seattle U’s mission of educating the whole person, the group helped those in need at Liberty Children’s Home, an orphanage currently housing 28 children who were abandoned, abused, or afflicted with HIV from the ages of four to 14 years old.
This was the third year in a row that PWOB journeyed to work with Liberty Children’s Home, building upon and repairing water filtration systems they had previously built during past trips. The filtration systems have allowed residents to repurpose laundry water for use in the garden and to clean pig pens, which helps provide food for the children. The team also helped add security improvements to the home.
Renee Vandermause (Madison, Wisc.), who played her final season with the SU women’s soccer team in 2012, has also previously been involved in PWOB trips, including trips to Nicaragua and Zambia, and past trips to Belize.
As it was the first trip of this kind for all three, their experience was unforgettable and can only best be told in their own words. The following are first-hand accounts from Woodward, Verdoia, and Russell.
JULIE WOODWARD: “Our service trip to Belize was an amazing, humbling, and beautiful experience. Being able to share it with Steph and Renae was extremely special and continued to remind me what a great place Seattle U is, not just for student athletes, but our campus community as a whole. We were able to help others, meet some wonderful people and experience another country’s culture. It is something I will never forget.”
STEPHANIE VERDOIA: “The mission of Professionals Without Borders is to ‘empower students to serve and lead sustainable service projects that help people in need’. Seattle University facilities employees lead groups of students around the world to make these projects happen. Ten of us made the trip down to Belize including three facilities employees, Coach Woodward, an employee from admissions, and five students. We worked at an orphanage called Liberty Children's Home, a place where Professionals Without Borders has made several trips. Our main goal was to fix the gutters on their school building, but we also temporarily fixed a leak in their boys’ dormitory. Professionals Without Borders is an organization that takes pride in creating strong relationships with the people they help, and finishing the jobs they start.
While in Belize we got a few days to explore and see the sights, but undeniably the best part of my experience was spending time with the children at Liberty. At the beginning of the trip I expected to feel some strong emotions while working at an orphanage in a relatively poor country. I definitely did, but they were opposite of what I expected. I did not worry or get upset but instead I was overwhelmed with happiness and affection. I felt this way because the environment that Liberty has created is welcoming and warm. This amazing group of kids showed me how to move past hard times in life and what family truly means. The children look after one another and treat each other as brothers and sisters, and are surrounded by caregivers and staff that love them and always want the best for them. The kids were truly happy no matter what circumstances put them there. They were a special kind of family, and they made us feel like we were a part of it.
Being a part of the soccer team at Seattle University has allowed me to create my own unique family up in Seattle. My teammates are like my sisters, and I cherish every moment I get to spend with them on and off the field. The children at Liberty reminded me that no matter what obstacles you face in life, the people that help you through them are the most important. Thanks to Professionals Without Borders I not only explored a new country, but I was reminded of the priorities I want to uphold throughout my life.”
RENAE RUSSELL: “Going to Belize was an amazing experience that I will remember forever. Being at the Liberty Children's Home and playing with the kids was definitely eye-opening. The kids there have a lot less than what we have here in America, yet everyday they would be outside playing with huge smiles on their faces. Our group stayed overnight at the orphanage for the first two nights and then we moved to a house down the street for the remainder of our stay. We slept in one of the dorms that was across from the kids dorms, and I will never forget the second night, when we could hear the kids singing Miley Cyrus' ‘The Climb’ and Michael Jackson's ‘Man In The Mirror’. It helped me to realize that we do not need much to be happy. The main reason for our trip was to take down the old rusted gutters on one of the buildings and put new ones up. The gutters emptied the water into water storage tanks until they needed it. It felt so good when we finished, knowing that we contributed to helping the children's home. While we were working some of the kids would come over and help hand us tools and just hang out. We had a lot of time where we could play with the kids around the orphanage and we learned so much about each of them individually. When it came time to say goodbye to them at the end of the trip, we found ourselves at a loss for words; we could not express how much we were going to miss them and how much of an impact they had on us. The kids were wonderful and they all found ways to touch our hearts.
There were also a few days where we were able to go experience some tourist attractions in Belize. On the first day, we visited the Mayan temples, and we spent the second day at the island Caye Caulker, where the water was crystal clear. One of the nights, the lady that runs the orphanage invited us to her beach house, which was absolutely amazing. Her house did not have electricity or running water, which was another new experience for me. On our last full day in Belize we went on a three-mile hike in a cave where we climbed up waterfalls and jumped down them into large pools of water; as scary as it was, I would most definitely do it again!
Overall, Belize was absolutely amazing and I am so glad that I got to go. Hopefully I will get the opportunity to go again next year because I miss it already.”
Click here to see the photo gallery on www.goseattleu.com
Click here to see the original article.
Kimberly Friedrich-Feeley recounts PWOB's December trip to Nicaragua
After a brief hiatus, PWOB returned to Nicaragua in December of
2012. While PWOB’s third trip to Nicaragua, it was the first with its new
community partner, Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH). Led by PWOB member and Seattle University
faculty Audrey Hudgins, the team of seven students and one staff member spent
10 days working alongside the young men and women of NPH Nicaragua, Casa Padre
Casa Padre Wasson, one of many NPH homes for youth in Latin America and the
Carribean, serves approximately 250 children and adolescents, or pequeños, from across Nicaragua.
Nestled on a lush property near Jinotepe, Casa Padre Wasson is a haven for the
youth that call it home. It took very little time for the PWOB team to
recognize the strength and importance of the family that NPH Nicaragua has
formed for its pequeños. To some it is the family they needed, to others, the family
they’ve never had, one which the team was pleased to join—if only for 10 days.
From day one, the team got to work on its primary project:
constructing a much-needed post and wire fence around a pasture for the
compound’s herd of cattle. With help from a crew of machete-wielding pequeños, the perimeter was
cleared and marked for digging. Armed with shovels and macanas, the PWOB crew worked
side-by-side with the pequeños digging holes, tamping and placing posts, and stringing barbed
wire. Many hands made for light work and the patient pequeños proved to be invaluable
teachers for our unskilled group, helping make the project a huge success.
Rest times were equally satisfying. When not working, the team
spent time eating, playing, and socializing with the pequeños. Whether playing soccer,
giggling, singing songs, or catching a quiet moment to chat, it was these
personalized experiences which formed lasting memories
for each member of the group.
After a rewarding first trip, we hope to continue partnering with NPH Nicaragua
and look forward to future projects at Casa Padre Wasson. To learn more about
Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos International, please visit http://www.nph.org/.
Cal Ihler shares his experiences in Zambia as they happen...
Mike and I have made it to the Chikuni Mission in Zambia...it was a long journey, but all is well. From the airport it was a three hour car ride to get here; we left Seattle on Thursday at 1pm and arrived at Chikuni on Saturday at 7:30pm. There is a nine hour time advance here, so at home it would be Saturday at.... Oh, you figure it out, I'm too tired! We will be adding photos over the next few days and are very glad to be here.
Anyway, my first day here was really nice and I am appreciating everyone’s efforts. The locals do quite a bit of dancing to drum music and you know you are really in Africa. The weather is good and we got right into two plumbing projects, and we made some headway on both. First project: The hospital tanks project may work well (we want to re-utilize two abandoned large water tanks for the local hospital so they can have water throughout the day and open up a neo-natal unit but there are no parts available (it is holiday here) until Wednesday, and it is a 1 1/2 hour drive on really rough roads to the nearest plumbing supplier. It is amazing when thinking about the rarity of materials and the scarcity of them. Second project: We also dug up some piping for the Chikuni Mission compound and are looking for a cross connection that is contaminating the water to the houses here. We do have a plan that may work but it will depend on available materials and the time we are staying here. There are several other projects that are going on that I am not involved with. We are staying at the Jesuit compound, every morning we get a good breakfast and then have lunch and dinner at the Mukanzubo Cultural Center. The Jesuit compound is very clean and we have toilets and showers... and our own bedrooms!! These are really very nice facilities when compared to the PWOB Belize trip. The best part is I am not a leader and do not have to organize anything...hurray!!!
Thank you all for your support of our PWOB efforts.PeaceCal
Today went well, the hospital tank’s water supply line is connected and some water went into the tanks before we stopped work for the day. Tomorrow we will need to flush the two tanks we are bringing online and install a 2" valve to isolate the old tank. Materials here have been the toughest challenge but all here have a great attitude and it is nice to work with the Zambian people, they are so polite and friendly. (Mike is still looking for the "darkside" of the culture but hasn't been able to find anything... he keeps trying in his own socially gregarious ways :).) Another project we are working on is the water line cross connection for Mukanzubo; the water supply for the community is fed from an underground well (safe to drink water) and a local lake (bad to drink water). We are separating the two sources so the drinking and food water will be from the well and the irrigation water will be from the lake. There is another water tank that we are connecting a float to for automatic start/stop of the pump so it will not run all day. There are some humorous things that happen each day but I am probably too focused on the work to notice. At the end of each day we are very tired and appreciative for the team’s camaraderie and the good Zambian (cooked over a fire) food. We all are very grateful for everyone’s support of PWOBs efforts to help others.Thank you all so much.PeaceCal
Hello Friends Another very productive day!!! Mike and I brought the two new hospital water storage tanks online…it took us till 9pm and it was dark but we were successful! We also replaced a tub/shower fixture at the Jesuit house and repaired two water lines. All piping is very old here so you touch one thing and it leads into several other repairs along the way, and the challenge is to find parts! Several times I have gone to the “scrapyard” that has old parts and piping and searched for pieces of pipe or fittings… there are two local sources that may have old rusty parts that we can recondition to use, one is Father Gabriel’s work yard and the other is the hospital’s shipping storage container, some of these parts are buried under brush and haven’t been used for years but we are very glad to have access to them, it may take awhile to find the part but most of the time we have been lucky. We also have a Zambian plumber friend named Killian, he has been a great help to us, and he is tireless and very motivated. Steve and Byron went into town today and had to go to at least three stores to get simple plumbing parts, and electrical wire. By the way we also installed a start/stop float for the Mukanzubo community water tank and Byron did an excellent job of figuring out how to wire it without any diagrams! All is well. Thanks to all of you for your support!PeaceCal Ihler