Journal November 20-25
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Last night I stayed at camp with Calin and 3 of the kids from Hermano Pedro. I was ready for a sleepless night but the kids were all tired enough that they fell asleep within an hour after being put to bed. One of the care givers from Hermano Pedro is once again coming in each night to help with the kids so that really helps. This morning she got Mercedes and Sonia showered and dressed while I did Moises, Byron, and David. Actually I had the boys finished before any one else got up. It seems that they were all slept out by 5 am so I took advantage of the empty showers and had them ready before the rest room filled up with other campers.
After a delicious breakfast I worked on a few powered chairs while the kids separated into groups and started some of today’s activities. Mathew, one of the volunteers who has come from New York for several years now approached me and said how happy he was that 5 of the kids from Hermano Pedro could come to camp this year. He said that he could not help but think about some of those that do not get to come to camp though. Especially those that have no families to go home to at Christmas time. Ones like Christina, who sit in their wheelchairs tied to the wall with their hands bound the entire day. Or ones like Sam Sam who are seldom allowed from their cribs. If only they could experience camp. if not for the entire week, even a few hours would be great. Mat and I looked at each other. The campers were all being well taken care of by the other volunteers. What if he and I went and picked up Christina and Sam Sam and brought them to camp for the afternoon. I was not sure that the hospital would allow it but it was well worth a try. Christina has not been out of Hermano Pedro in all of the years that I have known her and Sam is fortunate if he gets out more than a few times a year. Soon the 2 of us were on our way to Hermano Pedro.
Mat later told me that he had prayed the entire way to Antigua that Christina would be allowed to come to camp. Over the years he has established a real friendship with her. Christina who often times bites and scratches at herself and anyone that gets to close to her calms down any time Mat is with her. When we got to Hermano Pedro I went in and talked with Jessica, as expected she was for the idea but we still had to get permission from Social Work and from Father Jose. Less then an hour later Christina, Sam Sam, Mat, and myself were driving out of Antigua on our way to camp. I had called ahead and asked if they could save some lunch for us. The others had already eaten but that was perhaps for the best because both Sam Sam and Christina do better when there is less commotion. The ride to Antigua went great. Sam Sam sat next to me and was so calm that I immediately removed the helmet that he wears day and night. Christina sat in the back seat with Mat. She simply loved the car ride and looked in wonderment at every thing along the way. After lunch we took the 2 of them into the soccer field near the chapel. Most of the other campers had just gone into the chapel to hear Candy give her testimony. We felt that so many people in one building would be to much for Sam
Sam and Christina so we stayed out side in the soccer field. A few of the families who had younger children did the same. The next 2 hours had to be the best hours of Sam Sam and Christina’s lives. Christina was content to sit with Mat and enjoy what was going on around herand she was happy and smiling the entire time. She looked so happy that it was hard to believe that this was the same girl who is often screaming and biting at herself and others. Sam Sam had the time of his life. He played with several of the others adults and kids who had remained out side and was smiling and laughing out loud most of the time. Every now ant then he would come running to me for a reassuring hug but would then go back and play or simply wonder around exploring this new world. The afternoon went all to fast but it was one that none of us will soon forget. When we got the 2 of them back to Hermana Pedro I almost forgot to put on Sam Sam’s helmet which had been lying on the floor of the car the entire day. Unfortunately it was needed the second that the nurse put Sam back into his crib. We said our good byes and headed down the long hall way. Christina had been put to bed with her hands tied, and the bang, bang, bang of Sam Sam’s head against the steal bars of his crib echoed down the hallway attempting to drowned out the memories of an unforgettable afternoon.
Yours in Christ: Dick
Wednesday, November 21, 2007, 10:00 PM
Another outing on the lake today.
Everyone had a great time. I’m tired.
Yours in Christ: Dick
Thursday, November 22, 2007
I pretty much stuck around camp today. Tomorrow kids camp is over so I wanted to be with the kids as much as possible. I managed to work on a few wheelchairs but with all of the willing helpers that I had it took a bit longer then I had expected to get anything done. Jason, a boy that use to live at Hermano Pedro, and Moises were both determined to be my chief helpers so the competition gat a bit out of hand at times. In their enthusiasm to hand me tools they managed to dump the entire contents of my tool box onto the ground several times. Have you ever seen one of those tool boxes that has a tray built into the lid that has dozens of individual compartments that hold hundreds of various size nuts and bolts? Chris and Donna bought me one like that for Christmas last year. I loved it at the time but after having nearly every kid in the orphanage and several of the kids at camp open the lid to my tool box with out first closing the lid to the nut and bolt tray I am considering writing a letter to the company that made it telling them what a stupid idea it was. It was a great day though and in spite of having nuts bolts and tools scattered from one end of the cam to the other we managed to get a lot of wheelchairs fixed. Myrna a little girl from Santa Maria Dejesus was especially happy that we made the seating system of her power chair larger so that she could once again drive it.
This was our final night of camp so after a big dinner we had a closing ceremony. Each camper and their parent or care giver is given a gift bag and the opportunity to say something, if they want to. Several of the kids simply said thank you but the smile on there faces said it all. Others express their feelings in words that brought tears to many of our eyes. One that really stands out in my mind was Erica, the little girl with the skin condition. She not only thanked everyone in Spanish but also in English then she gave a big hug to many of us. She has been an absolute delight all week. Everything that she does is done with so much enthusiasm that it is contagious and so is the smile that is continually on her face. It is hard to believe that this is the same little girl that Chris and I found cowering in a corner of her home when we met her a few short years ago. Was this camp a success? YES!! Even if Erica had been the only one that attended it would have been well worth it, but she was not the only one that attended, nor was she the only one who was beaming from ear to ear. Over 50 other kids with disabilities and many family members had experienced 5 days of camp that they will not soon forget.
Yours in Christ: Dick
Friday, November 25, 2007
Right after breakfast we gathered up the Hermano Pedro kids to take them home. Mercedes, who can not speak with words was fully communicating to us how she and so many of the other campers felt about going home. Mercedes is usually nothing but smiles was in tears, and for nearly an hour there was not much that we could say or do to keep her from crying. Even though there were tears in many eyes I guess that I felt the most for Mercedes because she does not have a family to go home to. The other 4 kids that had come to camp from the orphanage at least had families that were going to let them come home during the Christmas holidays but the closest thing to family that Mercedes has ever known are the people that at camp that have come to know and love her. She cheered up a bit when I told her that I was not going back to the States for Christmas and that even though it likely would not be right on Christmas day I was going to take her out for lunch. Sonia also got a little terry eyed on the drive home but managed to keep from crying. When we reached Hermano Pedro and I opened the door to the van she let out a squeal of delight. Her father and a brother and sister were there to take her home for the holidays. Moises was equally as happy when he discovered that his family was also there to take him home. David and Byron’s parents were not there for them but should be with in a day or 2. Hermano Pedro will empty out a bit for the next 2 months but the kids that stay will be the ones that have no relatives so I am going to try to see to it that at least some of them get attention.
As soon as I got back from the Orphanage we loaded up Ronny, his sister, and his grandmother. Lillian, (another camper) Lillian’s mother, her sister, and 5 of our volunteers from the States also joined us. This was the first time that these 5 volunteers had ever been to Guatemala so being able to see where some of our campers actually lived was quite an eye opener to them. Lillian’s home is a simple 2 room block house but her mother has a way of making their simple dwelling look so inviting that I think many of us could have moved right in. Everything in the house is kept spotless and the entire yard is full of flowers. The family served us rice milk and then gave us 2 live chickens to bring back to Chris and Donna as gifts. Both gifts were appreciated but a few of our volunteers were apprehensive about drinking the rice milk because it was likely made from water that was not filtered. I graciously drank mine but have for the most part developed an iron stomach after living here all of these years. I must admit though that the thought of having 2 live chickens with us in a warm van for the next several hours was not up there on my list of favorate things to do. Never the less there was no way to refuse such a generous gift.
Our next stop was at Ronnie’s house. This was the real eye opener to the group that had accompanied me. Unlike Lillian’s house there were no flowers, only damp mud. Not just in the yard but also in the tin shed that this family calls their home. Ronny’s entire family was overjoyed to see him, his sister, and his grandmother. They were also glad to see us. Here we were offered no food because they had none to give us. Ronny’s other grandmother who had walked over from her house to say hello told us that she was completely out of food so I gave her some money to buy some. I seriously thought about giving them the chickens who’s ever present aroma was becoming more apparent the longer they stayed in the van, but I knew that Lillian’s family wanted them to go to Chris and Donna. Soon we were saying good bye and with in an hours we were sitting in a restaurant having a good meal. One of our team members actually ordered chicken. I made sure that I sat on the far end of the table from her.
We got into Antigua at around 5 pm. This gave the volunteers about an hour to shop. Pastor Bill and some of the others who had not come with us to bring the 2 families home met us there. When thye commented about their ride from Chemaltenango to Antigua on the Chicken buss I told them that they would feel right at home on their van ride to Chemaltenango. As much as I dread shopping I had chosen it over sitting in the warm van that was beginning to get down right ripe.
I have now had a shower and given the van and the chickens to Chris and Donna so I think that I will be able to get some sleep.
Yours in Christ: Dick
Saturday, November 26, 2007
Chris took six of the volunteers to the airport early this morning and then picked me up with the van at around 7:30. The chickens were no longer in the van. Evidence that they had been their was still lingering. After meeting with the rest of the teem for breakfast at Camperos (the chicken place) I drove the van straight to the car wash.
The rest of my day was spent bringing people to and from the airport. Several of my neighbor kids traded off in coming along. On our firs trip we had about 2 hours between drooping a group of and picking one up so Abner, Calin, and I spent some time at the Zoo. We spent most of that time driving the bumper cars. It is always a good way to stay in practice for normal Guatemalan Driving. I always make sure that I am at the airport before a team arrives because coming into a foreign country not knowing the language and seeing only strange faces when you walk out of the airport can be a frightening experience to even the seasoned traveler.
I just dropt of the last of our volunteers that flew in from the USA. Monday will be the beginning of our third and final camp of the year. We are expecting over 80 campers. Each of them will likely bring one or 2 family members along with them so I think that this will be a record breaker. We are looking forward to it though and are praying that this camp goes as smoothly as our last 2. They were fantastic. All of our campers had a wonderful time and many of them gave their harts to the Lord.
Yours in Christ: Dick
Sunday, November 25, 2007, 8:54 PM
This morning most of the USA volunteers accompanied me to the church that I attend in Antigua. Fernando and Jason also came along. Most of the other kids went to the water slides with a church group from the church that Calin’s grandmother attends. After church we went to Hermano Pedro. Most of the kids who have family members have now gone home for the Christmas holidays but those that were at Hermano Pedro were glad to see us. They are the kids that have no family and are hurting the worst because of lack of someone who can spend time with them. We stayed for a long time but finally had to say goodbye. For some reason I had an especially hard time leaving the orphanage today. Partly because some of the kids seemed so sad. I think it was because they knew that the others had familys to go home to and they did not. Another reason that it was hard to say good bye was because of 2 kids that are in malnutrition who are not doing well. They are the 2 kids that I mentioned in my November 7 journal. When I looked in on the little 5 year old girl I was shocked to see that she looked much worse than she did when she was admitted in to the hospital 2 weeks ago. I fear that nothing short of a miracle will keep her alive much longer. 14 year old Byron (not the Byron that I usually write about) looked a little better but is still not out of the woods. His arms and legs are not much bigger around than my thumb. I wanted so much to hold these 2 children but was afraid that if I did not pick them up correctly they would possible die in my arms. The nurses in the malnutrition ward are trying to give them the best care possible but some times even that is not enough. Please pray for these 2 children and many others who have no hospitals to go to. Pray for us to. It is hard to see these children suffer but it would be harder yet not to be here for them.
Yours in Christ; Dick