2018 Campamento Trip Report

6 Aug

Teresa Toda Home and Church of Saint Edward, 16th Camp, 21st Year Together

“You are not visitors. You are not strangers. You are family.” Sister Fifi, Director of the Home, to the travelers

 Dates July 7-22, 2018


Debbie Gibbs, Victoria Gregus, Hannah Heitzman, Abby Konkoly, Jane Konkoly, Karen Konkoly, Ella Marzolf, Ann McGuire, Emma Nelson, Stacia Nelson, Ann Nusbaum, Barbara Owens, Joan Pare, Jeane Peters, Abby Rinowski, Mai Ah Sani, and Mary Beth Schleif.


Week 1 Girls and Travelers – on our way to Mass

group pictureWeek 2 Sisters, girls, and travelers at the Botanical Garden



Thank you to parishioners and friends for the donations. The shoes are most appreciated!

Parishioners and friends donated over 33 pairs of shoes needed for school. They also donated OTC medicines, vitamins, and other requested donations.

Overview of Campamento

We structure Campamento like a Vacation Bible School, customized to the girls’ needs. Our theme was and will continue to be “Women of Faith”. We chose this theme because the Sisters who run the home are women of faith. The travelers and girls continue to grow in faith. Studying women of faith from the Bible, the Saints, or other faithful women provide relatable lessons for the girls.

Each day we study one (or sometimes two) women of faith. At opening ritual, one of the girls reads a Bible passage or a passage related to the woman of faith. We then discuss what happened in the story.


Girls volunteer to read the Bible story for our daily opening ritual

Next, we break into age based groups, who then rotate through stations. At one station, the girls reflect on the characters they share with the woman, and what they’d like to develop and explore other lessons related to the Bible story. The other two stations are English and math. When the stations are done, we all get together again to do a craft that relates to the woman we studied.

Instead of stations, the oldest girls work on life skills that can help them now and in the future. This year, the program was based on “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens”.

Formal camp activities are about half the day. The other half of the day, we take an excursion to girls’ home neighborhoods, go to the beach or pool, or do other unstructured fun activities.


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 healthy, 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 two weeks when they go back to the home for Campamento. Before our relationship the Sisters ran a camp. In 2002, we started by running one week of two weeks. This year, we had enough travelers to lead a two week camp.


These are the five top goals we have for the Church of St. Edward/Hogar Teresa Toda relationship.

Goal #1 Enjoy a balanced relationship where we all benefit.

For Campamento this year, we gave our time, our talents, and treasure, and we received much more in return.  The Sisters’ hospitality is very generous. They make sure we are well fed (delicious mangoes!), hydrated, and safe. They run a generator to make sure we have electricity. 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 kids 6-18 years old are capable of (to the chagrin of my 14 and 17-year-old sons).


Girls peeling homegrown yucca for dinner

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 in their routine! We hope that camp is a small incentive for the girls to work hard, follow the rules, and stay at the home for another year. Sister Fifi enjoyed her third camp this year. In the past, she told us that the girls talk about camp all year long. That is high praise which inspires us to return year after year.

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.

  • The entire Parish contributes through the Social Justice budget. 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 new security lights, school uniforms and other items needed for the girls.
  • More than 25 parishioners, travelers, and past travelers help at the annual “Cutting and Kitting Night” where we prepare the crafts. Doing this helps make the craft part of camp run smoothly. Michelle Berndt designed, purchased the materials, and prepared the crafts for cutting and kitting night for this year.

A St. Ed’s Tradition- Parishioners Enjoy Kitting and Cutting Night

  • Many parishioners gave requested donations including shoes and medicines. We had so many travelers from Minnesota this year that everything fit easily!
  • Our spouses, families, and friends all help out when needed, keeping our families running smoothly when we prepare for the trip and are away on the trip.
  • The Church provides storage for supplies and donations throughout the year.
  • We use the Parish copier for Travelers’ guides and Girls’ journals.
  • Many pray for us, especially when we are mentioned in the Prayers of the Faithful at the Masses.

The Sisters, the girls, and everyone involved with Campamento very much appreciate all these ways that Saint Edwards Parishioners and friends support Campamento. We hope everyone feels 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. One speaker this year was a surprise – she was a Spanish-certified flight attendant for international flights! We also have local help from Sister Stephanie and (layperson) Elizabeth. Both of these women have helped with camp in the past, and we hope to see them again in the future.

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” on the blog campamento.blog again 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.

For the curriculum, Abby Rinowski and Victoria Gregus planned the math station. Joan Pare and Mary Beth planned the English station. Michelle Berndt planned the crafts. Heidi Busse helped choose the “Women of Faith” and the lessons to learn from them.

Many parishioners have personally come to the Campamento or visited the Hogar. This helps to maintain momentum. Over the course of our 15 years of camp we have had 63 Saint Edwards parishioners visit the Hogar. They are: Michelle Brooks, Kim Brunner, Samantha Brunner, Katelynne Delfs, Kristine Delfs, Jana Duggan, Sue Griffin, Lizanne Ham, Hannah Heitzman, Sue Kellett, Mike Kellett, Pam Kennedy, Kelly Kennedy, Maureen Kent, Kathleen Kent, Karen Kinsella, Stacey Kinsella , Michelle Koster, Lindsey Kreye, Mary Kurth, Vi Lee, Ella Marzolf, Moe McCullough, Kate McCullough, Kris McCullough, Ann McGuire, John McGuire, Jack McGuire, Michael McGuire, Emma Nelson, Stacia Nelson, Ann Nusbaum, Carolyn O’Donnell, Corinne O’Donnell, Laura O’Donnell, Chris Ohotto, Deborah Paone, Jackie Peters, Jeane Peters, Marilyn Peterson, Shelly Pomonis, Mary Pat Potts, Michaela Potts, Abby Rinowski, Diane Ross, Mia Ah Sani, 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 42 friends and family travel who are not parishioners. They are: Lindsey Allais, Ashley Andres, Amanda Berndt, Michelle Berndt, Samantha Black, Abby Burgason, Emily Carr, Julie Carr, Laura Dallmann,  Marilyn Fox, Charlotte Freschi, Sarah Freschi, Debbie Gibbs, Victoria Gregus, Deb Hohenstein,  Meghan Hohenstein,  Susan Hulbert, Sydney Hulbert, Abby Konkoly, Jane Konkoly, Karen Konkoly, Michelle Koster, Sharon Marini, Isabel Mendoza, Jean Nightingale, Leah Nightingale, Cheryl Noyes, Barbara Owens, Joan Pare, Emily Peters, Fatima Pimento, Heather Rowe, Georgina Santos, Amber Scaletta, Julie Seguin, Mary Beth Schleif, Forrest Schrader, Susie Schrader,  Claire Skach, Cheryl Tombarge, Melissa Trujillo, and Haley Wayt.

This totals 105 travelers, just 33 more than the 72 missionaries mentioned in Luke 10:1-9.

Goal #4 Continue running a two week Campamento each year at the home

This year was our second two-week camp in a row! We’re so happy we got the travelers this year. The girls really benefit from the second week. We have recruiting plans to be able to continue with 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

  1. Emphasize relationship over resources

2. Practice mutuality and equality


First time traveler and parishioner Stacia enjoying the Zoo with everyone

3. Seek to give and receive, learn and teach

Debbie and Girls with Dominican Republic Map, Diane enjoying a manicure, Jeane, Campamento co-leader enjoying a pedicure , Victoria leading the math station

4. Work to change unjust systems and structures

Sister Fifi, Director of the Home, and Sister Stephanie who lives and works there.

When we support the home, we are supporting a just program

5. Deepen our faith by experiencing the universal, Catholic Church


Mass at Buen Pastor (The Good Shepard) Church


The Chapel in the Cloistered Carmelite Sisters Monastery. The flowers  from their garden smelled fabulous!

This Mass, which started with the praying the Rosary, began the celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Carmen. Sister Fifi and the girls provided the music. The priest was a seminarian when Sister Pillar was a teacher there. He shared fond memories of that time. It was also his birthday, and he said he’d remember this one. He was the only male in the chapel! Coincidentally, it was also Father Mike Tegedar’s birthday.

20180710_1802281817229984.jpgVisiting with the Cloistered Carmelites after Mass at their chapel – they are so friendly and happy to see us. They told us they pray for us. Four of them live in the Monastery and only speak a limited time each day.

More about Camp 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 Faith”. This worked so well at Camp. We will use this theme for years to come.

Woman of Bible Daily Theme Daily Craft
Hagar God is always with us. Frames
Elizabeth Jesus is Christ Burp Clothes (to give to babies)
Lois and Eunice We teach faith to children. Cross Jewelry
Malala Yousafzai “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”

– Malala

Wooden henna hands
Deborah We are peacemakers. Peace Charm bracelet
Lydia We offer hospitality. Stick people craft
Syrophoenician woman We have faith. Prayer bucket with prayer sticks
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux We are holy. Paper flower crowns

Each day we opened with a ceremony where we sang the theme song “Take the World by Storm” by Lukas Graham, read a Bible passage, and read a psalm. Then, we lead a discussion on what happened, then how the woman and her story relate 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, English, and Journal. After that, we all do the craft together. Then we conclude for lunch.


Burp Clothes for Elizabeth Day 2 – they will be given to Azua babies in need


Beading – another favorite craft

Henna hands to celebrate Malala

Popular Flower Crowns for Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

Making Craft Stick People for Lydia


Each evening a different group performed a skit of the story we read in the morning. Once again, Stephanie did a great job getting everyone speaking lines and coaching them on dramatic motions during the skit.


The Retreat

The older girls (14-18 years) begin and end each day with all of us. While the younger girls do Campamento “stations”, they learned the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. A habit it an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary. Habits can be effective or ineffective. If we want a balanced, fruitful life, we need effective habits.  The habits are:

  • Be proactive
  • Begin with the end in mind
  • Put first things first
  • Think win-win
  • Seek to understand, then to be understood
  • Synergize
  • Sharpen your saw (which we localized to “Sharpen your machete”)

These are the same habits taught in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, delivered in a way interesting to teens. We call this a “retreat” where they worked on skills they can use now and in their future.

Because you learn things well when you teach them, we had the girls teach. Each night they presented a children’s story featuring a main character that embodies the lesson. For example, “The Little Engine Who Thought He Could” illustrated “Be Proactive”.


Preparing “The Little Red Hen” to teach “Put First Things First”

Notice the board: Like last year’s book “The Power of a Positive No”, the 7 Habits explained the habits using a tree. The first 3 are “private victories”. Like roots, you cannot see them, but the rest of the tree depends on them. The next four are “public victories.”

20180709_213004A 7 Habits skit

Home Visits

On Friday afternoon week 1, we visited 5 homes. Many of us have heard the statistic that 1.2 billion people live on less than $1/day, 1 billion are illiterate, and 1 billion do not have access to water. We witnessed how hard it is for people facing this kind of life. It really makes us thankful we happened to be born where we did.


Family visit – this girl will be old enough to come to the home with her older sister in September. Both their parents have left, so the grandmother takes care of them.

20180713_145015Family Visit – the mother was randomly killed in her neighborhood, leaving the father very sad. We’ve visited this family many times. Today was the best we’ve seen them. The son, in red, will start school in September. The father hopes his daughter will have a better future by living at the home and getting an education.


Each girls the girls go on an excursion with the travelers. It’s a great opportunity for both the girls and the travelers to see other parts of the country. This year they visited the National  Botanical Garden and the Zoo.

More Pictures of the Girls and Travelers


Some week 1 travelers with friends


Barbara Owens, second-time traveler from Washington DC, with Alex, our newest high school graduate. Alex graduated with academic honors and plans to be a doctor. She starts university in Santo Domingo in September. We pray that twelve years of camp prepared her well!


Sometimes family members visit Campamento. This is Lucy, these girls’ loving mom. She is blind and lives independently. She takes care of the girls during breaks. We’ve known her for many years and visited her home this year.


Betania, with Debbie from Washington DC. Betania has attended all 16 Campamentos. A high school graduate, she’s going to college in Azua, and helping with the little girls in the home in exchange for room and board. She is a very hard worker. It’s so fun to see her all grown up. Debbie is our fabulous week 1 Zumba instructor!

20180710_142528Dominicans love dominoes – and these girls are no exception!

This playground was built with funds from Father Mike Tegedar’s 25th Anniversary.

20180713_120456Simply spending time together is the most important part of camp. These books, in both English and Spanish, help make a shared experience.

20180711_185804These two joined the Hogar last September. This is their first camp. They had a great time!


This was a fun mini-excursion. We visited this hotel in Azua. The owner graduated from the Carmelite high school in town, so we were his guests.


Zumba! This was fun for everyone, including the Sister and the travelers. Debbie, first time traveler from Washington DC is a licensed Zumba instructor. She made every day feel like a party!! She even choreographed a dance to our theme song “Take the World by Storm” by Lukas Graham. Interestingly, the title phrase translates into “Take the bull by the horns” in Spanish, which was fun to dance to.


On week 2, Abby, at her 5th camp, learning the dance from the girls


Frequently asked question: What do we eat at camp? Delicious, often homegrown, all locally grown,(plantains, yucca, and bananasa grown on the property) organic, free range food. Two standout ingredients: succulent, flavorful chicken, and mangoes picked that day. These tropical treats are just not possible in Minnesota.

award winners

These six girls got the best GPA last school year. A community physician, whose wife is a tutor at the home, awarded them a generous cash prize.

1-graduate and abby

We are so proud of Alex, who graduated with academic honors and is planning to pursue a career in medicine.

What makes Campamento special? It’s the special relationships we form over the years. St. Edward’s parishioner and second time traveler Ella enjoys spending time with the girls. These two even got matching braids!

group 2

Sisters, girls, travelers all thank the Church of Saint Edward for your continued support!

If you have questions on how to support campamento or would like to travel, please contact Ann through this blog.


Ann McGuire


2 Responses to “2018 Campamento Trip Report”

  1. Susan Hulbert August 7, 2018 at 3:36 pm #

    Thanks Ann, It was great to read Campamento Trip Report. I loved seeing the pictures of the girls and Sr Fifi. They brings back great memories of Campamento 2017

  2. Susan de Hoog August 7, 2018 at 4:58 pm #

    Wonderful evolving story! I read through the whole blog and loved hearing about the relationships formed through this sharing ministry.

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