Campamento 2019 Trip Report

17 Jul

Teresa Toda Home and Church of Saint Edward, 17th Camp, Our 22nd Year Together

“The girls look forward to campamento all year long.

Sister Fifi, Director of the Home, to the travelers

Dates June 18-25, 2019


Abby Rinowski, Jeane Peters, Jane Konkoly, Ann McGuire, Emma Nelson, Desiree Green, Michele Cowling

All the girls wearing their Campamento 2019 T-shirts

Zumba and the Holy Spirit

This year, Debbie Gibbs, first-time 2018 traveler, offered to lead a Zumba party to benefit Campamento in two ways: promoting Campamento in general and providing the opportunity to support the home through gym shoe donations. Wow, parishioners, neighbors, and friends filled half the social hall. They saw a presentation about camp, then got to sample the spirit of Campamento by doing on of our favorite activities there: dance!

Zumba 2019 – a new Campamento tradition?

About 50 people came – some had never danced Zumba before. Others were excited to dance with this instructor visiting us from Washington DC.

Check out these dancers!
The not-camera shy Zumba Dancers
Visit to Paisley Park before heading back to Washington DC – five stars

The Holy Spirit was working with us this year again in mysterious ways. This was the first year we provided the opportunity to help purchase shoes through donations in January (no mystery yet, except that Debbie offered to fly to Minnesota in January ❄️). Then in February our source for the gym shoes, Payless Shoes, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy (not a mystery – many retailers have been closing lately). Payless announced they would be discounting their shoes to liquidate their inventory. In the past, this would have been a crisis, but this year, we had the money to purchase the shoes!

White Tennis Shoes

Michelle Padua, past traveler and on-going supporter, and I each chose four stores to scour for the shoe sizes we needed. In the past, this would have been a crisis, but this year, for the first time, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we already had the money to purchase the shoes! Our Parish Administrator, Beth Schorle managed the finances for Campamento, including supporting our last-minute shopping spree.

When things fall into place like this, I believe that’s the Holy Spirit affirming our work by assisting us. We call these events “camp miracles”. Through Campamento, I’ve seen more of these then I ever thought possible.

Cutting and Kitting Night

Cutting and Kitting night was a huge success again this year. It’s so fun to see past travelers, future travelers, and volunteers committed to coming back each year to help how they can. Cutting and Kitting Night makes our craft time at camp a lot more efficient and organized. Thank you to the 35 volunteers!


Unique Donation = Unique Packing Challenges

Thank you to parishioners and friends for the donations. The Sisters and girls appreciate them so much. A friend offered a thoughtful gift this year – these boxes with sections for organizing things. They were used for a lab and were about to be discarded and this friend thought girls at the home would like to use them. To pack them and the other generous donations of medicines, socks, underwear, jewelry making supplies, and other things into our suitcases, we took everything out of packages and packed them in the boxes. It was slick; all donated items fit into our suitcases.

As well as the shoes from Zumba, Parishioners and friends donated OTC medicines, vitamins, Spanish books, 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.

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.

Reflection Station with Desiree
English with Michelle
Math with Abby

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 “Getting to Yes” a classic business book by Harvard negotiation professors. We have three curricula we rotate based on “Getting to Yes”, “The Power of a Positive No”, and “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens”. The girls benefit from getting the material more than once.

Negotiation with Jeane

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.

Family visit


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 Sister and director of the home 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 don’t have the resources to support them to thrive. 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 or two weeks. This year, we had enough travelers to lead a one 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 15 and 18-year-old sons).

The girls and the Sisters benefit from the Campamento experience, although we are a lot of work! 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 helps the program that the Sisters have developed by providing a small incentive for the girls to work hard, follow the rules, and stay at the home for another year. Sister Fifi enjoyed her fourth camp this year. Each year, she tells us that the girls talk about camp all year long. That is high praise which inspires us to return year after year.

It’s also a privilege to be able to witness the Holy Spirit through the Sisters’ lives. As Carmelite Sisters of San Jose, they turn over their lives to serve the children. Like San Jose (Saint Joseph) took care of Jesus even though He was not his biological child, the Sisters take care of these girls and other children who are not their biological children through medicine, education, and pastoral outreach. Carmelite Sisters wear a wedding ring – signifying that they are “married to Jesus”. I admire their commitment. They are role models in faith as well as in their actions.

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 beds, school uniforms and other items needed for the girls.
  • More than 35 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.
Three of the new beds from donations from St. Ed’s parishioners and friends.
Girls led us on a tour of their rooms – the matching sheets, blankets, and curtains were donated by a local community member.
  • Our spouses, families, and friends all help out when needed, driving up to and from the airport and 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. This year Desiree joined us from Washington DC. She was a dream traveler – a Spanish speaking accomplished singer and dancer. We hope to see her 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 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, Michele Cowling, a physician in Obstetrics & Gynecology prepared a health class. Abby Rinowski planned the math station. Michelle Berndt planned the crafts. Heidi Busse helped choose the “Women of Faith” and the lessons to learn from them.

2019 Travelers with Sister Sandra, former Director of the Home

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 64 Saint Edwards parishioners visit the Hogar. They are: Michelle Brooks, Kim Brunner, Samantha Brunner, Michele Cowling, 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 43 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,  Desiree Green, 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 107 travelers, just 35 more than the 72 missionaries mentioned in Luke 10:1-9.

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

With the schedule changed to June, this year was a one week camp. We’re so happy we got any travelers this year and look forward to a second week next year. The girls really benefit from that 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

4. Work to change unjust systems and structures

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

The First Group to Church

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

Ready for Mass

Because camp was in June, we got to celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi Mass, which was Thursday, June 20 this year.

More about Camp Activities

We held one week with two programs and activities each day. One program 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 BibleDaily ThemeDaily Craft
EveWe have choices.Snakes
Mary Mother of God
(wedding at Cana)
Do what Jesus tells us.Craft boxes
Poor Widow of SapphiraTrust in God.Coin purses
Mother LangeTeach OthersVision Boards

Each day we opened with a ceremony where we sang the theme song Look up Child by Lauren Daigle, 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.


Sharpie Tie Dye t-shirts
Tie-Dye T-shirt
Craft Boxes – an upcycle from a laboratory
Giant Coloring Page – Sea Turtles
A Collage of Finished Frames
Snake Craft by one of the two new girls (from Eve day)
Ready for Church and sporting the purse she made (Widow of Sapphira day craft)
Vision Board (from Mother Lange day)


Each evening a different group performed a skit of the story we read in the morning. Desiree was the director of the skits this year. The kids really are good performers. We had some new costumes and props this year, which was fun. Each younger group had a skit to perform based on the Bible passage of the day. The oldest group performed two skits illustrating what they learned in negotiation class.

The Cast for Eve (the youngest group)
Cast of Mary Mother of God – Wedding at Cana (the young-middle group, some missing)
The Cast of Widow of Sapphira (the middle group)
Cast of the Negotiation Skits (the oldest group)

The Retreat

The oldest girls (14-18 years) begin and end each day with all of us. While the younger girls do Campamento “stations”, they learned to negotate using the model in “Getting to Yes”. Negotiation is a tool to solve problems. You can solve problems with win-win results. The model is:

  • Me (know and articulate what you want, interests – not just positions)
  • You (understand what they want, interests – not just positions)
  • Together (work together to find a win-win solution)
  • Build (realize the win-win solution together)

This is the model in “Getting to Yes”, a business classic, presented originally for teenage girls in Zambia. The model is universal and it resonates with hte girls. We call this a “retreat” where they worked on skills they can use now and in their future.

Notice the board: Like last year’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” had important definitions and models. In this program, we learned what a negotiation is “Speaking and working together with others to solve a problem”. We also defined Positions vs. Interests, and Win Win Solutions.

Home Visits

We visited homes this year as well. 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.

One visit (pictured earlier) was to “A”. “A” is to Sister Fifi’s left with her family. We met her last year. She did extremely well in school, but got homesick. She is welcome back when school starts in late August. Pray she does decide to return – she is truly gifted!

Another visit was to a family we’ve visited before. The stepmother is mentally ill. The father doesn’t know what to do. It’s a very sad. Sister Fifi is looking into options for the girl there. We did not take pictures at this home.


Each year the girls go on an excursion with the travelers. This year, Sister Fifi had to scramble, because she was hoping (as we were) that there would be two weeks of camp and she planned something for August. So, we went to the Carmelite school and had a good time there.

Riding in the GuaGua (minivan)
Refreshing Pool Time
Sister Fifi and Desiree Dancing the Bachata

More Pictures and Stories of the Girls and Travelers

Here are four daily blogs from Campamento.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Betania – a former camper and high school grad, is now helping at the home and going to college. She’s studying early childhood education.
Why did it take 17 years to bring Twister to camp? It was a hit.
Jeane dancing with “H” – fun!
Evelina made this sign as part of the 25th Anniversary of the home.
One of the two “new” girls this year
Dancing with Desiree to “Look Up Child”
Dancing with Abby to “Waka Waka (This time for Africa)” by Shakira
Touring the Bedrooms and Neat Closets! She displays the bead craft from last year!
Abby and Michelle with two girls
The girls do each others’ braids.
Emma and girls reading the lyrics to Look Up Child
Jeane cooking Mac and Cheese (a rare treat!) for the girls
New two weeks ago, this girl was a little overwhelmed by camp. She can really jump rope, though! From this day on, she really opened up and had fun with everyone.
The home is filled with gardens. These are papaya trees.
Three jump ropes tied together!
Jane is holding a giant mango from the driver’s farm. The local fruit is delicious! Sister Grace in the middle has lived in worked in New York and Wisconsin. She speaks English very well!
Dominoes – a Dominican favorite game
Party Buffet
Party Smiles
Friends in the playground
Ann (me) with some of the kids on the final night.
“G” in her beautiful new Quinceañera dress – a gift from a Bloomington friend. If you are Kondo-ing your prom and homecoming dresses, consider passing them along to the girls at the Hogar.
Check out this video by Jane and her daughter Michelle. Thank you Jane!!!

Thank you Saint Edwards Parishioners, Staff, all travelers this year, all past travelers, volunteers, and supporters!

Pray that each girl decides to stay at the home through high school graduation, like Evelina this year. She graduated with distinction.

Please consider joining us next year. It will be in July and we’d love to have two weeks of Campamento! You can help make it happen!


Ann McGuire

4 Responses to “Campamento 2019 Trip Report”

  1. Sue Kellett July 19, 2019 at 2:44 pm #

    An amazing blog Ann! Pictures are outstanding! The descriptions really give someone who’s never been there a glimpse of what this valuable experience could be for others. It’s a wonderful trip for anyone with an adventurous spirit. I highly recommend it!

    • Ann McGuire July 20, 2019 at 6:58 pm #

      Thank you for starting this whole thing Sue! You are such an inspiration to me! Please continue to spread the word about campamento. We need travelers!! Peace.

  2. Sharon Soderlund July 20, 2019 at 5:07 pm #

    I just finished reading Ann’s report. The descriptions and pictures were wonderful. I wish I were younger and spoke Spanish. I can see why my niece went back several times — lots of learning and fun for the girls and for the travelers. It’s great that our parish is forming these relationships with the sisters and the girls and that we continue to go back and renew these friendships every year. Thanks to all the people who went on the trip and to all the folks who helped to make it happen!

    • Ann McGuire July 20, 2019 at 6:56 pm #

      Thank you Sharon! You are welcome. The only physical challenge is the heat. Definitely no Spanish is needed – just making the trip and being with the girls is a huge statement of support for the girls. For you and others who can’t travel, there are ways to help here. Let me know if you’re interested. 🙏 THANK YOU!!

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