Teresa Toda Trip Report – “Campamento 2015”, Thirteenth Camp
Dates: July 11-19
Hannah Szfraniec, Carly Schirber, Abby Rinowski, Annie Weatherhead, Liz Weatherhead, Marilyn Peterson, Mary Pat Potts, Jeanie Peters, Jackie Peters, Ann McGuire
Overview of Campamento:
We structure the Camp like a Vacation Bible School, with more. This year we created a curriculum – “Women of the Bible”. Each day we read a Bible Passage featuring a woman. Then, after discussion what happened in the story, the girls reflected on how they were like the women, how are they different, and how would they like to be more like the women. For example, Mary, Mother of Jesus was the first woman. The theme of the day was “Listen to God’s voice”.
In addition, for the first time, we designed a program for the high school age girls. We called this a retreat where they worked on themselves and their future.
The Church of Saint Edward has had a relationship with Hogar Teresa Toda, a girls’ home run by Carmelite nuns, since 1998.
The relationship began when Bloomington Rotarians dug a well for the home. The Rotarians had only planned to dig another well in the region, but the Sisters convinced them to dig a well for the new home. After digging and digging, the crew was not hitting water. The prospects were looking grim until the Sisters gathered the girls in a circle around the hole. In the limited Rotarian Spanish and Carmelite English, the Rotarians asked “What’s going on?” The head Sister said “You dig, we pray.” Within minutes, the crew hit water, enough water for years and years to come. After that success, the Sisters expressed interest in maintaining a relationship with an American organization. This was not in the scope of the Bloomington Rotary, but someone there knew a Saint Edward’s parishioner.
Sue Kellett and Vi Lee headed down on cheap ($98 each!) tickets the following winter to see the place first hand. They saw the good work that the sisters and girls were doing at the home. They asked what the Sisters would want from a relationship with the Church of Saint Edward – money, supplies, clothing? No, they wanted to build a personal and spiritual relationship with parishioners through a Summer camp, or “Campamento”.
The girls live in the home because their families cannot take care of them. Many mothers have died in childbirth or due to malnutrition or other poverty related complications. Other mothers work long hours for very little pay and cannot supervise the girls while they are working. Many of the girls do have extended family. They are not “up for adoption”. The girls are basically well behaved girls with capacity to succeed in school.
The girls live in the home during the school year. They attend the Catholic school in Azua. Two times per month the girls return to their families. In this way the girls maintain a connection to their roots and the girls provide a positive influence in the community. Many of the girls return from these home visits hungry and dirty, but they are maintaining these important bonds. In the summer, the girls return to their families except for four weeks when they go back to the Hogar for “Campamento”. Before our relationship the Sisters ran a camp. In 2002, we started by running one week of two weeks. This year for the third time, we had enough travelers to lead a two week camp and the Sisters have the girls for one week after.
These are some of the goals we have for the Church of St. Edward/Hogar Teresa Toda relationship.
- Enjoy a balanced relationship where we all benefit.
- Make many connections between Saint Edward’s parishioners and the Hogar Teresa Toda so that more benefit from the relationship.
- Organize so that the Campamento does not rely on one parishioner.
- Continue running a two week Campamento each year.
- Adhere to the Principles of all our Sister Parish Relationships.
Goal #1 Enjoy a balanced relationship where we all benefit.
For the Campamento this year, we gave our time, our talents, and treasure, and we received much more in return. The Sisters’ hospitality in the Mother House in the Capital and also at the Hogar is very generous. They make sure we are well fed and feel safe. The girls make sure we eat first at the family style meals. This is embarrassing to some of us, but we respect the honor. We received a spiritual lift, a cultural exchange, their love, mind and heart expanding experiences. After a break from our normal lives, we returned energized and excited to be back home. We appreciate the material wealth we take for granted every day.
We get to witness the goodness in the simple life that they live. The kids make up their own games, know what fruit to pick and eat off the trees, and share with each other. These girls do chores with minimal complaints. Compared to some children here, they are very resourceful and responsible. I (Ann) came home with a renewed idea of what 9 and 12 year olds were capable of (to the chagrin of my 11 and 14 year old sons).
The girls and the Sisters benefit from the Campamento experience. The girls get a lot of attention from us. They get the comfort that we return each year to be with them. The girls get English practice and math tutoring. The Sisters get a break from some of their many responsibilities! We hope that camp is a small incentive for the girls to work hard, follow the rules, and stay at the home. New Sisters are running the home this year (Sister Sandra and Sister Maria went to Cuba for clandestine work. Even though religion is not legal, the priest administers the sacraments and the Sisters prepare the candidates.) The new Sisters told us that the girls talk about camp all year long. These new Sisters were excited to experience camp!
Goal #2 Make many connections with Saint Edward’s parishioners and the Hogar Teresa Toda so that more benefit from the relationship.
Each year we make many connections between the Saint Edwards community and the Hogar Teresa Toda. This year was no different.
- Our Middle School Faith Formation small groups each ran a fundraiser where ½ of the proceeds go to the Hogar (the other half goes to Our Lady of Angels in Nicaragua).
- Many from the community stayed for breakfast which supported the youth who supported the program.
- The entire Parish contributes through Tithing. The parish donated $2,000 to offset camp costs. In this way, every parishioner is a part of the trip, even if they cannot travel themselves or help out in other ways.
- Some parishioners, past travelers, and friends made cash donations as well. This went toward school uniforms and other items needed for the home.
- About 20 parishioners, travelers, and past travelers helped at the annual “Cutting and Kitting Night” where we prepare the crafts. Doing this helps make the craft part of camp run smoothly. Susie Schrader designed the crafts and purchased and organized the materials for this activity.
- Many parishioners gave requested donations like backpacks, school supplies, clothes and medicines. As in the past, we just barely fit everything into our suitcases.
- Our spouses, families, and friends all helped out when needed, keeping our families running smoothly when we were preparing for the trip or away on the trip.
- Many prayed for us.
The Sisters very much appreciate all these ways that Saint Edwards Parishioners and friends support campamento. We hope everyone feels that they contributed and enjoyed doing it.
Goal #3 Organize so that the Campamento does not rely on one parishioner
We get closer to this goal each year. The good news is that we have many travelers who want to return. Also many travelers know of others who are good candidates for the future. We always have to work to find Spanish speakers who could travel. We rely heavily on the few who can speak well. This year, we had more Spanish speakers than usual. We are getting return travelers and also are finding Spanish students. This is a win-win for everyone involved because the students get to practice what they learn at school.
We used the “Travelers’ Preparation Guide” for the ninth time this year. It’s a compilation of wisdom from past travelers and other sources. This was useful for this trip and will be useful into the future. We continue to update it with new insights from recent travelers.
Many parishioners have personally come to the campamento or visited the Hogar. This helps to maintain momentum. Over the course of our 14 years of camps we have had 52 Saint Edwards parishioners visit the Hogar. They are: Michelle Brooks, Kim Brunner, Samantha Brunner, Katelynne Delfs ,Kristine Delfs, Jana Duggan, Sue Griffin, Lizanne Ham, Sue Kellett, Mike Kellett, Pam Kennedy, Kelly Kennedy, Maureen Kent, Kathleen Kent, Karen Kinsella, Stacey Kinsella , Michelle Koster, Lindsey Kreye, Mary Kurth, Vi Lee, Moe McCullough, Kate McCullough, Kris McCullough, Ann McGuire, Carolyn O’Donnell, Corinne O’Donnell, Laura O’Donnell, Chris Ohotto, Deborah Paone, Jackie Peters, Jeane Peters, Marilyn Peterson, Mary Pat Potts, Michaela Potts, Abby Rinowski, .Alexa Schirber, Carly Schirber, Carol Schirber, Haley Schirber, Jill Schreiber-Smith, Jackie Sias, Stephanie Sias, Anna Smith, Mary Snydle, Kate Soderlund, Hannah Szfraniec, Katrina Viegas, Diana Villella, Annie Weatherhead, Joni Weatherhead, Liz Weatherhead, and Jenny Webster.
Additionally, we’ve had 27 friends and family travel who are not parishioners. They are: Lindsey Allais, Ashley Andres, Abby Burgason, Emily Carr, Julie Carr, Laura Dallmann, Marilyn Fox, Charlotte Freschi, Sarah Freschi, Deb Hohenstein, Meghan Hohenstein, Michelle Koster, Isabel Mendoza, Jean Nightingale, Leah Nightingale, Cheryl Noyes, Emily Peters, Fatima Pimento, Heather Rowe, Georgina Santos, Amber Scaletta, Julie Seguin, Forrest Schrader, Susie Schrader, Cheryl Tombarge, Melissa Trujillo, Haley Wayt.
This totals 79 travelers, just a little more than the 72 missionaries mentioned in Luke 10:1-9.
Several other parishioners donate clothes, school supplies, and medicines for the girls. Parishioners and friends have donated money, as well. This is especially helpful for buying the required shoes for school uniforms and the uniforms themselves.
Goal #4 Continue running a two week Campamento each year at the home
We have recruiting plans to be able to run a two week campamento again next year. Each traveler is encouraged to share their experiences with friends and invite good candidates to consider joining us.
Goal #5 Adhere to the Principles of all our Sister Parish Relationships:
- Emphasize relationship over resources
- Practice mutuality and equality
- Seek to give and receive, learn and teach.
- Work to change unjust systems and structures
- Deepen our faith by experiencing the universal, Catholic Church
Details of the Activities:
We held two programs this year, 4 days each. One was for the girls ages 5-12, and another new program, a “retreat” for the girls ages 13-18. This is consistent with VBS in the US where the regular VBS becomes somewhat juvenile for the older girls. We developed the VBS curriculum this year “Women of the Bible”. This worked so well at Camp. We will use this theme for years to come.
|Woman of Bible||Camp Theme||Retreat Theme|
|Mary, Mother of Jesus||Accept||Vision|
|Priscilla, a businesswoman and leader in the early Church.||Learn||Plan|
|Samaritan woman at the well||Share||Act|
|Ruth and Naomi||Be a good friend||Overcome Obstacles|
Each day we opened with a ceremony where we sang the theme song, read a Bible passage, and read a psalm. Then, we lead a discussion on how the woman and her story relates to the girls’ lives.
Then the older girls went to retreat, and the younger girls did Camp activities.
The younger girls broke into their age-based groups. The three groups were: the youngest (5-6), middle-younger (7-9), and middle and oldest(10-14). The groups rotated through three “stations”: Math Games, Self-Esteem, and Journal. After that, we all do the craft together. When they are done with crafts, we do a variety of physical activities like kickball, volleyball, basketball, jumping rope, and dancing. Then we conclude for lunch.
As well as the on-site program, we had two excursion. One was some fun for the girls at a pool in Ochoa, a town in the mountains. We got to visit the family of two girls from that area.
On another day we visited several families. This is such a meaningful part of the week. We saw some very difficult situations, no matter how you look at it. We also so poor, but very good, people. The girls can really benefit from staying at the home and getting an education.
This girl only has her 70+ grandmother because her loving mother died unexpectedly while working at the hospital. They live in a tough neighborhood. The grandmother harvests fruit from the trees in her yard to make ends meet. This grandmother has lost her husband, one son, and a daughter.
This girl, 9, has a loving, but very poor family. Her brother, 14, is taking the same class as his little sister because he only this year was able to attend school. Until recently kids in wheelchairs were not allowed to go to public schools. He is very bright, but has a long, difficult journey ahead.
Girl with her blind mother and family. The mother is blind, but lives independently. She was very well educated before she became blind, then had to reteach herself many skills. He husband left her when she lost her sight.
On “Overcoming Obstacles Day” this woman from Azua, visited the Home. She is a dental hygienist, but before that had cancer in her jaw. She was an inspiration to all of us.
We prepare a daily schedule if you are interested in seeing more details, please contact me.