Archive | July, 2018

Letter from a First Time Traveler to a First Time Traveler

27 Jul

Hello to any potential “first time travelers”!


Sister Fifi and Victoria

I have just returned from my week at the Campamento at Hogar Teresa Toda in the Dominican Republic! It was a life-changing experience for me, which is exactly what I wanted. Now my intention is to use what I have seen, heard, felt, tasted and touched back in my own home experience in Minnesota. I don’t know what God has in store for me next, but I could definitely feel his love and protection throughout the whole trip.

If you think this is the right move for you, I would like to encourage you to pray about  joining the journey next year. You will get to meet the most fabulous, beautiful nuns you have ever known! You will get to share meals (including the absolute best mangoes ever) with fellow travelers and the girls at the camp. You will get to sing, play games, dance


Zumba on the Kiosko!

(maybe even Zumba if you are lucky) work and interact with the girls in smaller
groups at the daily camp stations. Local beaches and pools may also be a part of the trip, and you get to experience the joy of the girls as they participate in summer activites that are not in their normal lives. Mostly, you will be a loving presence to some girls who really need that! This is your opportunity to share the love of Christ in a very simple way with some sweet girls who really appreciate your presence.

Do you have to speak fluent Spanish? No (I didn’t) and you will still communicate your


Making Burp Clothes for Azua Babies

care by your presence while coloring, making beaded bracelets and other crafts, doing puzzles, playing cards, etc. Would it help to speak some Spanish? Definitely yes, just for the ability to communicate one-on-one with the girls. Don’t worry, though, some people on the trip will speak Spanish well enough to translate for you, and the girls are really accepting of our “deficiency”. Your best language tools are a smile and a hug, along with a listening ear and a caring heart. I got invited to share meal tables with the girls, and they totally knew that I didn’t speak Spanish well, but they wanted me there anyway. What an honor for me!

Here are a few suggestions for a first-time traveler (from me):
1) Follow the suggested packing list
2) Bring a personal fan to use under your own mosquito netting at night
3) Deep Woods Off (green can) worked great!
4) Bring a towel (they will give you one, but I was wishing for a second one some times)
5) Bring a light robe if you can
6) A mini book light is just as good (maybe better) than the suggested headlamp for nighttime reading, etc.
7) Bring a book (or two) for your personal reading
8) Sleeveless shirts are a must, even for pajama tops!
9) Don’t bring out your sunscreen in front of the girls, they all want to use it
10) There is a small chapel located in the nuns’ courtyard. I went their every day for a little talk with Jesus – He always wanted to hear about my experiences!

Again, please pray about whether or not you would like to join the experience. There are definitely challenges to a mission trip but the change of heart that you feel as you grow during the week is priceless.

Best wishes,

Victoria Gregus

Campamento Day 3

13 Jul

Hola Amigas!

Today was our third day of camp. It started out sadly. Sister Pilar’s sister died. She was sick, but they didn’t think she’s would die from it. So, Sister Pilar left to the airport after morning Mass with Sister Stephanie. Everyone was sad.

For camp, our women were Lois and Eunice, theme “We teach faith.” Elizabeth worked with Debbie at reflection. All three stations went well. The craft – a bracelet with a cross and other charm – was a hit and quick, which was good timing. Sister Fifi organized an excursion to a newish hotel pool. So much fun!

A note about Sister Fifi – she’s amazing.

  • the girls are calmer and more engaged than ever
  • she showed us her complete and organized record keeping systems
  • the meals are delicious, including vegetarian dishes and banana pudding.
  • Everything is (pretty much) on schedule
  • She expanded the gardens, so the plantains we eat grown on the property. Mangoes come from Job’s mango trees. They are delicious!
  • The dogs are gone, but one cat has kittens. they now raise chicken, ducks, and turkeys.
  • The playground have been redone. I’ll update with pictures.
  • She plays the guitar and dances bachatta and Zumba with the girls.
  • She’s almost always smiling.
  • She’s very loving with the girls and us
  • She told us..we’re not strangers, were not visitors, we’re family. and she treats us that way every day.
  • She is an amazing person, resourceful, hardworking, inspiring, loving – one of a kind!

Tonight we will watch the Malala movie to introduce us to tomorrow’s woman of faith. Home visits are tomorrow as well.



Campamento 2018 Excursion Day, Wednesday

12 Jul

Hola from Azua! Happy 70th Birthday to Father Mike in Heaven who encouraged and supported campamento from the beginning. Happy 37th anniversary to first-time traveler Victoria and her husband Gary.

Today was our excursion. We went back to Barahona, the Larimar museum/shop/school, but chose the Larimar Costa hotel for lunch, pool, and beach. It was a beautiful and relaxing day. When we get home, I’ll post some pictures from others. I was so relaxed, I didn’t take any 😀

You may heard about flooding in southern Dominican Republic. We had rain yesterday, but we’re all fine. it’s rare to get rain here, so it did cause a crazy bug hatch, and the chickens and turkeys feasted on the surprise.

Zumba at night was fun. We have a surprise for the week 2 travelers! And, I’m getting better at bachatta, thanks to fab teacher Giselle.

I just want to again thank everyone who supports camp through travel, prayers, donations in kind (gym shoes!!), and monetary donations. It is all going directly to the hogar for the girls.

Sister Pilar, with Maryanny and Maylobi

See-saw fun!

Camp first-timers Yurkania and Aracelis

not sure why – but we were the first to down to dinner tonight (?)

playing scoop ball

pucas/beads: the classic campamento activity, and still a favorite!

pictures aren’t loading, I’ll update when I get home.

Campamento Day -1, 0, 1, and 2

11 Jul

Hola from Azua! Thank you to everyone who support camp through kitting and cutting night, travel to past camps, sending your kids to camp, donations, and prayers. This post is to update you on campamento 2018.

Travel day: (-1) everyone arrived at about the same time – no delays. Sister Pilar and Job met the travelers at the airport. They came straight to the hogar so they were here by about 3:30. Sister Pilar met everyone because Sister Fifi brought Alex to her high school graduation. As an aside my son Jack escorted Alex at the graduation. Jack Michael, John and I all attended. It was a unique experience to be able to see the 20+ kids graduate from the Catholic High School that our girls attend. We are all so proud of Alex who has been at the home since she was 8 and has also attended camp since then. The girls have many obstacles to graduation and Alex is no exception, but she persevered.

The travelers this week are Jane with daughters Abby and Karen from Pennsylvania, Barbara with friend Debbie from Washington DC. Joan and Victoria from Pax Christi, and Ella, Hannah, Mia and me from the Church of St. Edwards.

Day 0

Sunday we had breakfast and went to Mass at Buen Pastor, then the beach.

Our Coast as well as much of a coast of Puerto Rico is having trouble with seaweed.. But it was no problem for us. The water was clean so we had a great time swimming plus it was a relief from the heat.

The overall feeling of camp this year is relaxed. the girls just aren’t as anxious. Sister Fifi teachers order and self-discipline in a nice, encouraging way.

Bags, nametags, photo ‘treasure’ hunt, etc went smoothly.

Day 1

Each traveler is sharing her love and gifts with the girls and the other travelers.

The older girls are learning the seven habits of highly effective teens. For the younger girls it’s a similar program as past years with math English, reflection and crafts. Sister Stephanie, who was a noviciate I think 4 years ago, is a Sister living and working at the home. She and Debbie are leading reflection. Debbie is also a Zumba instructor so after crafts and before lunch we dance Zumba. It is so much fun the girls loved it – and so do the travelers. Debbie is the real deal. We begin the day with opening ritual and close the day with circle time. At the circles the younger girls are taking turns presenting the Bible story dramas. Then, the older girls are presenting dramas of children’s books each book has been selected because it illustrates one of the seven habits. The medians (medium) girls did a drama based on Hagar and Ishmael – so cute!! Sister Pilar commented that the girls really learn and remember the Bible stories when they present dramas. The older girls didn’t do a drama because it was just an introduction day for them on Monday. After some down time in the afternoon we all went to the Bon shop for ice cream. And, a big group was dancing Zumba in the park!! So some of us joined in of course.

Day 2

Elizabeth was the woman of the day. Our plans to return the beach were thwarted by strong rain. We continued with camp. For the older girls, Elizabeth from the same year Stephanie and Estafania, joined us and is now helping Barbara and me teach the 7 habits. She’s amazing and has a close relationship with the sisters, and decided to remain a layperson, a teacher.


fter camp we went to Mass at the cloistered nuns’ monastery, the same one we visited 2 years ago. the vey old bnun isn’t there any more, but 4 are. we prayed the today before mass. It was the priest’s birthday. He was the only man there. Hermana Pilar was warmly recognized because she helped the priest when he was a seminarian. She ran a program that included dramas of bible stories. Don’t tell the (now) priests, but she said our girls’ plays are better. lol. Like last time they invited us to meet the after mass. We even got pictures. It’s unreal that young women course this life, but their faith is inspiring. Back at camp, the younger girls presented Mary and Elizabeth, which was fabulous. And the mayores presented The Little Engine that Could to teach habit 1: be proactive.

Sister Fifi is amazing. The playground is complete (pictures coming). The vegetable gardens and fruit orchards are expanding. They have chicken, ducks, and turkeys. The meals are delicious, healthy and on time. and the girls are behaving well, cooperating, and everything.

Thank you for reading this draft.ill edit it next week. If you were at camp the week that Elizabeth, Stefanie, and Estafania came, pleaae tell me what year it was.