Archive | July, 2017

American Mothers blog post

29 Jul

Thank you American Mothers for this nice post!! Thank you Barbara Owens for making it happen!


image1Two American Mothers, Ann McGuire, (Minnesota) and Barbara Owens, (District of Columbia), traveled together to the Dominican Republic this summer to participate in Campamento.

Campamento (Camp) is an annual summer camp for very poor girls who live at the “Teresa Toda Home” in Azua, Dominican Republic. Camp started about 20 years ago when the Church of Saint Edward and the Teresa Toda home became Sister Communities. Instead of material help, like food, clothes, school supplies, or money, the Sisters at Teresa Toda asked for a personal connection with other women of faith. This request led to an annual camp, themed “Women of Faith.” Travelers come from all over the country and represent many different faith traditions. All sacrifice a week of summer to share their love with these very poor girls.

We asked Ann and Barbara to share a little about their experience this summer. Here are their stories.

Barbara’s Perspective

Volunteering with Campamento was a game changer for me! As a mother and school teacher, I have a vested interest in helping young people thrive. So, when I met Ann at the American Mothers, Inc. conference in April 2017 and heard about the girls in Santo Domingo, I felt I had to know more. The following week, Ann told me all about the mission and shared how important her work had been to her over the last 15 years. She had watched many of the girls in the program grow from adolescents to teens. The idea of pouring into those young lives was something I couldn’t ignore. And after reading the program materials, it wasn’t long before I agreed to participate in Ann’s mission trip scheduled for July.

Saying “yes” to the trip was a scary, exciting leap! I had volunteered in the States and Africa before, but this one was different. This time when I said “yes,” I didn’t have a clue about the cost, the travel itinerary, or even know anyone on the mission team. The one thing I was sure of was the grip in my gut that I felt every time I thought about going. I told myself that the details were not important. I believed they would be revealed to me with each step I took.

As March turned into late April, I assured Ann that I was absolutely committed to going! I just didn’t know how I could afford to get there. I told Ann it would be a faith move for me and indeed it was. My job at this point was to pray and wait. I asked God to make a way for me to go and to work out the details. Following my prayer, I took several acts of faith. I made calls to the CDC to find out what shots I needed. I decided to take with me 50 pounds of multivitamins for women and children, and made public appeals for donations. I blocked off the dates on my calendar. I also informed others of this step of faith and asked people to pray about the process with me.

The response to what I was doing was overwhelming. Every week, people in my local congregation encouraged me, donated vitamins and funds, and inquired about my progress. By May 1, 2017, the only thing I didn’t have was my airline tickets. That same week, my husband and I had dinner with another couple, who inquired about my trip. I explained that I was putting things in place but had not purchased my airline tickets. The couple offered to purchase my tickets on the spot (“Faith without works is dead.” James 2:14.) As I boarded my plane, I thanked God for His goodness, but my blessings didn’t stop there.

Little did I know that my small leap of faith would lead me to one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I knew that I was being sent for three reasons: to serve, to learn, and to give. There were seven of us on the team. We started each day with the girls all together, opening in prayer, then a song and bible study about women of faith. Afterward, we broke into groups. I was assigned to teach math. Yet the girls at the Home taught me far more than I could ever teach them. Let’s start with their hospitality and big hearts. These incredible young ladies are selfless, respectful, kind, and beautiful. Whatever offering we made, they graciously accepted. They didn’t complain. They were thankful. I gained a new level of gratitude just from spending time with them. They simply loved the connection they made with volunteers and were content in knowing that someone cared enough to be there.

I learned from my experience that it’s okay to step on faith when you answer a calling, even when you don’t see the full picture. Just trust God in the process, and know that things will work out the way they were predestined. I also learned that it’s important to know more than just a few sentences and phrases in Spanish. Now I am committed to learning Spanish so that I can better communicate with those I serve. Most of all, I learned to be grateful for what I have and that sometimes, God just wants you to be a ministry of presence. It’s not always about what you do, but the fact that you care enough to show up and be present in the moment. This welcomed change in my perspective is all due to my experience in Azua.

Ann’s Perspective
Every camp is special and rewarding. Like all American Mothers know, your blessings multiply when you share them with others. This year was special because Barbara Owens, Mother of Year, Washington DC, joined for the first time along with travelers from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and California. Barbara and I first met and quickly became friends at the American Mother’s Conference. Barbara heard God’s call and said “yes” to Campamento, although the logistics were not straightforward. Once there, she and all the others jumped in with both feet, never complained, and bonded with these girls with such different backgrounds as ours. Seeing the girls light up around the travelers gives me a feeling like no other – a mixture of thankfulness, peace, compassion, and love.

The girls are so happy to see us, but are even sadder when we leave. The Sisters who run the home tell us the girls talk about camp all year long. The opportunity to give these girls something to look forward to all year long is a blessing. I’ve been co-leading camp for 16 years. Now, the Sisters and the girls are part of my life, like extended family. Bringing new and return travelers to Azua to develop the same bonds has been one of the great joys of my life.

I personally learn from studying the women of the Bible, Saints, and other women of faith to prepare for camp. The first week our women were Jochebed, Rhoda, Mary and Martha, and Saint Teresa of Calcutta the first week. The second week we studied the Queen of Sheba, Susanna, Phoebe, and Saint Cecilia. Each is a fascinating character who has a lesson to teach us. This year, Martha and Mary was a favorite – how do we balance doing with being present? The perennial challenge for moms!

If you would like more information on American Mothers, click here.  

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Campamento Day 5

16 Jul

We had an excursion and a full-blown quinceanera today.

The Americans went on an excursion without the girls. Sister Ascension and Rigo  (driver) took us to Barahona. Barahona was listed in the New York Times “52 Places to Go in 2014”.  It felt very remote but naturally beautiful, and different than Azua, even though it was only 2 hours away.

Almost there!!

First we stopped at the Larimar Museum. We got to see how it is mined and processed and then we bought souvenirs. We learn some history of larimar. It was discovered in 1916 but wasn’t allowed to be mined until 1974. It was a joint project with the Peace Corps. Larimar is named for the one of the developer’s daughters “Larissa” and “Mar” the Spanish word for ocean.

We then we went to the beach. First we had delicious lunch by the river which empties out by the beach. We had typical fish, shrimp, & chicken lunches.

The beach was named  Playa de Los Patos or “Ducks’ Beach” and this is one of its residents.

wp-image-337219075jpg.jpgWe got held up by local traffic on our way home. 🙂

We were welcomed home and got cleaned up for a quinceanera. The quinceanera, or 15th birthday, for a girl is a big deal and Latin American and Caribbean cultures. They also celebrate the girls’ birthdays every 3 months. So everyone who had a birthday within the three months were specially recognized.

The 15 year old girls got to wear makeup. Yamilka, our English Station teacher and a trained makeup artist was in charge of them. She also did the stage makeup for our skits.

Two of the 15 year olds -Estella and Jennifer.

Aridenny, the third 15 year old.

Happy  Birthday Abby! Abby said she had her best birthday ever, between Barahona and this party. Sister Fifi loaned her this dress.

It was a super fun party!

Thank you for following our blog!!

Campamento Day 4

14 Jul

Last day of formal camp activities! Wow, that went fast.

Our woman of faith today is Mother Teresa. Did you know her father died when she was only 8? Many of our girls have lost at least one parent when they were young.   She was poor, only one parent,  and look how she changed the world. Math,  English, and reflection stations went well. For negotiation, we  reviewed,  then had them the assignment to create skits of situations that they would have in their life. Plus they did the Mother Theresa  skit as well. Hermana (Sister) Fifi played the Pope.


After camp activities we visited 4 families.

Anayelis with nephew

Anayelis’ whole family and us

Maryanni’s family with Sister Fifi. Maryanni’s mom, although poor, is vivacious and very generous. She took in one girl, and is not taking care of an abandoned four year old girl a couple of days ago. She raised pigs and grew fruits, like chinolla, in her back yard.

Camila dancing bacchata with her charming cousin. He speaks English!

Camila’s family

Yisell’s family. Thank God, her uncle, who is a professional and practices good values and has a lovely family has taken her in. <prayers answered>

Maria, her grandmother, 76, is still living alone. She’s a spitfire!!

At the end of the day,  we presented the hymnals to the Sisters to celebrate our 20th year together. Thank you to Church of Saint Edward for giving the leader’s guide and each family who purchased a hymnal. They loved them!

Campamento Day 3

13 Jul

Time flies at campamento.

The Women of Faith today was Mary and Martha . The younger girls did their English math and reflection stations today. The craft was a placement representing Martha.

The play presented by the youngest group was very cute here’s a picture  of the cast

For the past Travelers there is a new Bon ice cream shop . It’s on a new park and about a 20-minute walk away it’s super nice. Azua is really growing!

Our new shirts came out great! Thank you Michaela for design the logo. And Jane for donating  the shirts and making the tie dye activity happen.

Then,  after dinner we celebrated Miguelena and Patricia’s graduation with cookies after dinner. Michelle – they really like the mortar boards!!
It was a full day again!

Thank you for your support!!

Campamento Day 2

13 Jul

“Today is better than yesterday and tomorrow will be better than today” – Carmelite saying for the girls.

The mayores (oldest girls) were completely engaged in our “Power of a Positive No” negotiation class today based on the book by William Ury. The travelers are, too, for that matter. We learned about less powerful “no’s”-  give in (out of fear), attack (out of anger), and avoid (out of guilt). The girls each developed and performed skits representing these weak ways of dealing with a difficult situation.  Then,  we learned the Positive No model,  which is like a tree.

 Craft was frames.

The Woman of Faith was Rhoda. This is the cast on costume after the play. 

The younger girls played in pools.

We mini celebrated Miguelina and Patricia’s graduation!! We are so proud of them! Miguelina graduated with honors and Patricia was valedictorian(!!)

Lots of fun!!

Thank you for reading this, for your prayers,  and support!!

Campamento Day 1 

11 Jul

Today we started official camp,  with our Women of Faith. Juliana read “la lectura” (the story) about the birth of Moses featuring his mom Jochebed making a basket. For the lesson,  we emphasized that baskets ate made for a purpose and the girls were wonderfully  made for a purpose on earth. The play that night was fabulous. They even had stage makeup.

Here is the cast after the play.

Stations were math, English,  and reflection for the younger girls. The oldest girls reviewed negotiation from last year. Well start the new material tomorrow.

Here is a girl with the basket she made today.


And rinsed out the shirts…

Busy,  fun day!

Let me know if you have any questions!

Thank you for all your support!!

Sunday, July 9, Campamento Day 0

10 Jul

We had a jammed packed Day 0. 

Traveler’s this week are Jane, Abby, Barbara, Ella, Hannah, Shelly, and Ann  (me). We make a good team!

We started with Mass at Buen Pastor “Good Shepard”. Upbeat music and a message of humility and simplicity. So appropriate! 

Then,  off to the beach. The only shade is in restaurants on the beach,  and we don’t bring money there, but one restaurant owner remembered us and invited us to use his shaded table and chairs. Gracias Luis for your generosity! As always, fun at the beach. Nayali, Nayalin, and a new girl can really swim! And floating is still popular. The experienced girls helped teach the new girls to “be a starfish” to float. It was a relatively short trip – about an hour – so everyone was refreshed but not wiped out. We hit a literal roadblock in our way home. To get to Playa Monte Rio  (Mountain River Beach), we have to cross a bridge over the Monte Rio. A large tour bus tried to cross, but got stuck,  so no one else could get by. They evacuated the passengers and men somehow unstuck it. I’ll post a picture later. 

Back home,  lunch,  then Camp Day 0 activities.  Everyone got a nametag,  a camp journal, and a bag with goodies like chapstick and scented notebooks. Then, they decorated the bags while we set up for tie dying. Hoo! We started very organized, nice assembly line,  names on the right size shirts,  then the normal chaos of all the excited girls. The travelers, all first-timers stepped up to the challenge.  The girls twisted, banded, and dyed their own shirts.

They are now soaking in the dye overnight.  The girls made a huge mess,  but also cleaned up. Amazingly the kiosko floor was not stained. Our hands are,  though. Cleanup and snack,  then downtime. 
Sometimes people ask what we eat. Breakfast was bread,  papaya,  juice and coffee. Lunch,  the largest meal of the day, was fried fish,  gineo (sp?), salad (prepared with potable water) rice and corn, and pineapple. Dinner was hotdogs,  bread,  homemade mango and pineapple mango juice. yum!

Two travelers got braids. 

We’re thrilled to get some local help from Estafania (sister in formation)  and Yamilca (Sister Fifi’s niece) this week. 

For past travelers,  Keisy, Grasie, and Margerita are no longer at the home.

At night we thanked God for our productive day and for everyone won did not travel,  but generously support campamento. We ended up with the 10 hymnals and leader guide we wanted, 41 pairs of shoes, 40 back packs, medicine,  vitamins,  socks,  underwear,  so many donations and we packed them all. Thank you so much for your prayers and support!