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Donations 2017

11 Jun
Some Donations from Last Year

Some Donations from Last Year

People have been asking me about donations. Bring any donations to room 106 by 8 PM, Thursday, July 6, which is our packing night. Here is the list from the Sisters. Thank you for your support!

White, leather gym shoes sizes at Payless (Champion brand) for $24.99, but you can find coupons or can signup for their e-mail list to get coupons :

Underwear – Sleeveless Undershirts (small kids’ size 6 or 8, 10, 12, S or M), Panties, White girls’ socks for girls from 6 to 18 years old.

Waterproof Mattress Pads – twin size

First Aid Medications and Vitamins No soft gel, liquid, or “gummy” form. It all melts in the Caribbean heat! Children’s and adults’ Advil, Tylenol, Aspirin Children’s Multivitamins, Adult Multivitamins, Advil Sinus (adults’), Children’s and adults’ Claritin, Anti-diarrhea medication, Over-the-counter oral antihistamine (Benadryl, others), Calamine lotion, Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, Burn Relief Gel, Omega-3 supplements

First Aid Supplies Bandages, including roll of elastic wrap 2”, 3”, and 4” (Ace, Coban, others) and bandage strips (Band-Aid, Curad, others) in assorted sizes, spray (Bactine) or lotion (Calamine, Campho-Phenique) Antiseptic solution

Top 9 (plus 1) Questions

7 Jan

After announcing the kick-off meeting, I’ve been getting some questions. These are also topics we discuss at the meeting. I thought I’d just share the questions and answers in case you are considering.

  1. Who can join the trip? Girls 15 – 18 with their parent or a chaperon as well as women 18 and up. You do not have to be a Saint Ed’s parishioner or Catholic. Catholic Sisters run the home. We study Bible stories. We go to Mass at least once during the week. You are welcome! You can be from any part of the country, although we’re based in Minnesota, we have had travelers from Massachusetts, Florida, Iowa, California, and Oregon.
  2. Exactly how much does it cost? The flight is the largest cost at around $800 (from MSP to SDQ). New, replacement or renewal of a passport book: $110 if age 16 and older;$80 if under the age of 16. The last major expense is a visit to the travel clinic. That is about $100-200 and is sometimes covered by insurance. Travel health insurance is about $15. Tipping the driver, other small expenses and shopping can range from $40 to $200. There are no overhead or administration fees. The total is close to $1,200. When you compare that to other mission trips (or Spanish immersion camps), you’ll find this to be a bargain. That is because everyone makes the trip happen. No one is a mere passenger, you’ll help plan and create the camp experience.
  3. How are you going to raise that money? Travelers pay their own way.
  4. How many people will we take? 8 is the ideal number of travelers per week, with 6 the minimum and 10 the maximum. We’re hoping for two weeks of travelers, so the range is from 6 to 20 travelers.
  5. What is the mix of return travelers to first-time travelers? It’s usually about half of each. Many travelers return at least once.
  6. Can youth participate? Yes, 14 and older, but they need to come with a chaperon. Several mother/daughter teams have told me that it was a wonderful experience to share.
  7. What are the sleeping arrangements? We sleep in the girls’ dorm. They clear out rooms for us, so we have beds, mosquito nets, towels, and closets. We use our own (travelers’) floor bath.
  8. What is a traveler gets sick or injured during the trip? We require travelers’ health insurance for this situation. We recommend for travel insurance.
  9. What other resources will we need? How will they be paid for? The Sisters provide transportation, room, and food. We really don’t go out on our own typically. Sometimes at the end of the trip we’ll go to a  restaurant in the capital.
  10. Other questions? See other posts here or contact me.



2016 Mission Trip Kick-Off Meeting Monday, January 25, 7-9 PM

6 Jan

Pope F Mercy 2Celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy by joining our Mission this year. Support a social justice organization – the Teresa Toda Home, a home for very poor girls in Azua, Dominican Republic with a summer camp in July 2016. This trip is for women over 18 and mother-daughter pairs for daughters over 15. We have openings from July 9 through July 17, and July 16 through July 24 for travelers interested in sharing a spiritual experience with young women and girls from another country. In a Vacation Bible School format, learn bible stories, play and dance to music, make crafts, perform skits, and other activities. We pray, exchange stories, share love, and spend time with the girls. Through the activities they learn English, enjoy crafts, and build self-esteem. Each trip is deeply touching and spiritual. Special gifts you may share are Spanish skills, crafting and beading talents, or your professional experience (esp. healthcare, tourism, retail, scientists, government, education, and other industries). If you want to follow the Pope’s lead on social justice, charity, adventure, spiritual experiences, fellowship, growth, and fun answer the call to travel with us this summer or help out from Minnesota. Look around this blog and please contact me with questions or to RSVP.  Here are the Top 8 (plus 1) Questions from this year so far. Please share!!

Negotiation: Retreat Idea

12 Oct

Last year we launched a special program, a “retreat”, for the older girls ages 12-18. The theme was intentional living. Each day had a different focus: Vision, Plan, Act, Overcome Obstacles. We had some explanation and exercises for each day. This was paired with visits to local employers.


Girls meeting with a dental hygienist from Azua who overcame a major obstacle – jaw cancer. So inspirational.

What if we had two weeks of camp? Doesn’t negotiation training sound like a great idea? I’m going to attempt a negotiation myself by contacting the professor, to find out if we can use their 5 day curriculum. Wish me luck!!

15 year old girls learn how to negotiate the Harvard way

Let’s watch this #15girls hashtag which so far is addressing issues our older girls are facing.

Please continue to share this blog, especially with potential travelers!



Update: The professor who developed this program, even while on sabbatical, responded! Her name is Professor Kathleen McGinn and Google her for some interesting studies. She said we can use the curriculum.

Latest Update: I got the link to the curriculum. It is excellent, very well laid out. I think the pace will be about right, too, for our girls. The next step is to look at the situations that were used as examples and exercises for the Zambian girls, and work to get situations that might be more like those our girls face. Then, I’d like some translation help. It’s going to be quite a lot of work I think. Whoever is interested in helping on this, they are going to benefit from really understanding the material in this course, which I think would help anyone. It’s based on the famous book “Win-Win” negotiations.

Another Update: One amiga has offered to translate. Meghan is doing it as project her Nursing/Spanish double major. She’ll have access college level Spanish professors. It fits the bill as a leadership/social justice volunteer project. She will do this project this semester and deliver it in July! We will submit the Spanish version back to Girls Arise! so it can be used with other Spanish speaker girls. Professor McGinn, who is learning Spanish, is very supportive and interested in seeing the progress.

Lenten Thoughts

18 Feb

“I’d like to pray for every person who has not even had a piece of bread today.” Andrea*, 12, Teresa Toda Home** resident, Azua, Dominican Republic
Lent is a time to simplify in many ways, including our diets. We give up meat on Fridays, or candy, or other indulgences. One of the reasons we do this is to empathize with our hungry brothers and sisters. When Andrea offered the above prayer at our evening reflection, she was not thinking about some abstract “poor”. She was thinking about her parents, her sisters and brothers, her neighbors, all who may or may not have had a chance to eat that day. At the Home, she has plenty and I believe she cannot forget those who are not so fortunate.

3 O’Clock Dinner
In neighborhoods like hers, the poorest, or any family going through a rough time, typically eat one meal a day. Beginning in the morning, the children collect grains, vegetables, bones, and other edibles. They contribute their findings to a pot of boiling water. The typical pots are 1 ½ quart sauce pans. Families would share this one meal at 3 PM. Picture a family of a mother and father, grandmother, 3 kids and one pregnant daughter sharing this small amount of food. This is not one of their three meals, plus snacks in a day. This is the only meal of the day. They eat this and are still hungry.

Eat Big
When a new girl joins the home, she is typically small. Six year olds look like our 3 or 4 year olds. The Sisters and the other girls (who remember their first days well) encourage the new girl to eat. One day after reading Nancy Carlson’s classic book “Dream Big” at camp, everyone good heartedly prodded the new girl, Julia*, to “Eat Big”. I will never forget the look of that tiny girl with big eyes staring at the mountain of chicken, rice, and beans on her plate.

Mealtime Prayer

Senor, te damos gracias por el pan que nos has dado/ Lord, we give you thanks for the bread that you have given us.
Daselo a todos aquellos que no lo tienen/ Give it to all those who do not have it.
Bendice las manos que lo han preparado/ Bless the hands that have prepared it.
Por Jesu Cristo, Nuestro Senor /In Jesus Christ, our Lord,

This prayer is said before every meal at the Home. Maybe this Lenten season, you can say this prayer, too, at your home. Think about the girls at the Home, their families, our Nicaraguan sisters and brothers, as well as all the hungry here in Bloomington and around the world.

*The names of the girls have been changed for privacy.

** The Teresa Toda Home is our Sister Parish in the Dominican Republic. It is a girls’ home for the most destitute girls in the country. The home is run by Carmelite nuns. Church of Saint Edward parishioners lead an annual summer camp for the girls at the home. July 2015 will be our 12th camp. Contact Ann McGuire at if you are interested in traveling or supporting the program in other ways. Check the bulletin for the kick-off meeting.

Campamento Schedule Jan-Sept

20 Jan

Our yearly schedule goes roughly like this:

January and February: (2016: January 25, February 22 or 23 tbd)

  • Recruiting Travelers (in the past we’ve had about 50-50 new and returning travelers)

March – April:

  • Set the dates (usually the first full week after July 4 and the next one, two groups: each go for one week)
  • Select the Women of the Bible for the VBS program
  • Plan the standard activities like Bible study, Math, English, and Crafts.
  • Plan activities based on traveler’s interests and skills: yoga, dancing, science


  • Buy the plan tickets, get passports, make appointment with Travel Clinic and other items on the traveler prep post
  • Each traveler plans/practices her activity
  • Set the crafts


  • Cutting/Kitting Night (yes, it’s as fun as it sounds! Bring a friend.)
  • Go to Travel Clinic
  • Publicize Donation Requests


  • Packing night (each brings two suitcases: one large plus 1/2 checkable for donations/supplies and 1/2 of one small for your own things)


  • Campamento is typically the first full week following July 4 plus the following week.


  • Publicize Trip Report


Potential Theme Songs for 2016

21 Mar

Each year we have an uplifting pop theme song for camp.

Past Theme Songs

2015 “I’m Good” by The Mowgli’s

2014 “Happy” by Pharrell Williams 

2013 “Gold” by Britt Nicole
2012 “I believe I can Fly” R. Kelly (chorus only) and “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars (all)
2011 “Firework” Katie Perry
2010 “When I look at You” Myley Cyrus
2009 “The Climb” Myley Cyrus
2008 “Dream Big”
2007 “Beautiful” Christina Aguilara
2006 “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield
2005 “Breakaway” Kelly Clarkson
2004 (we were just getting started… We didn’t have anything 😦 )
2002 Theme from the Titanic (this was an accidental success as was the whole first trip 🙂

Suggestions for far for this Year:

 Mary Mary – “Got Get It” “Shackles” “Get Up” “I Get Joy” (just discovered Mary Mary who sings Gospel for younger people”
Katy Perry – “By the Grace of God”
Angela Miller – “Set Me Free”
Mandisa – “Overcomer”

What you can do at Camp if you don’t speak Spanish ?

2 Sep

First Things First

Learn these must know phrases – you can do it

To know how the words will sound, go to type in the word, and press the “listen” icon.

  •  Please/por favor
  •  Thank you/gracias
  •  Greetings – Buenos días (day), Buenas tardes (afternoon until dinner), Buenas noches (night), Hola
  •  My name is/me llamo <name>
  •  What is your name?/Como se llama usted?
  •  Nice to meet you/ mucho gusto

Learn the English words that work in Spanish, too. These are called Cognates. For a complete list, see

color- color, hurricane – huracán, artist – artista, tropical – tropical, photo – foto, alone – solo, no – no, OK, Cola – Kola

campamento 2013 018

Figure out what Spanish words and phrases you already know.

Si, No, Hasta la vista (baby), Hola, Adios, Rio, Camino, Sombrero, Amiga (Amigo), Mucho, Macho, Queso, Salsa,  Cinco de Mayo, Huervos Rancheros, agua, casa, “Yo quiero” (“I want” Taco Bell), vamanos! (from Dora the Explorer), la cucaracha, feliz navidad, que sera sera, Mi casa es su casa, no problema, (living) La Vida Loca, Oye como va ( means “Hey, what’s up?” song by Santana, Andale (Speedy Gonazalez), si se puede,  fiesta, siesta… thank you and others

To get used to hearing Spanish

Try duolingo a free app on your smartphone, listen toSantana,  Jennifer Lopez or other Latin American acts that incorporate Spanish phrases into the songs, read the Cheerios bilingual books or other bilingual children’s books, watch Dora the Explorer or her cousin Diego on PBS.

The Activities

Here are the things you can do at Camp with limited to no Spanish knowledge.

“This year the older girls had me read both the Spanish and English and wanted to hear how the spoken word matched what the English word looked like… We all enjoyed the quiet and relaxed time together.” Deb

Interact by being together, silently communicating:

Smile, hug, sit next to someone who is alone, take pictures “una photo”, point or do charades to describe what you want. An example of charades that work is make “scissors” with your hands and say “por favor?” Or act out writing to ask for a pencil. Show pictures of your family.

Jill and Jennifer

Jeane and girls

campamento 2013 015

Play with them

Catch, kickball, duck duck grey-duck (goose the the rest of the world), volleyball, basketball, jump rope, dominoes, cards, games, do puzzles, make a necklace or a bracelet, dance, math games with cards, dice, and dominoes, make patterns with beads,
Heather Cardscampamento 2013 030

campamento 2013 025

campamento 2013 017

Learn some Spanish

Ask them how to count by lining up cards or dominoes with the numbers. Ask the littlest girl, what is this? Count together from one to ten.

Ask them colors by using or making flash cards with the colors and having them tell you roja, azul, etc.

Boldly try to copy the girls as they teach you.

Keep your Spanish/English dictionary and/or phrase book with you.

Write the words and phrases you’ve learned in your journal to reinforce what you learned. This comes in handy with commonly used phrases (camp or hogar commonly, they wouldn’t show up on other lists of common phrases. My example is ¿Quién falta?” “Who’s missing?” ( from dinner, from the minivan, from class).

campamento 2013 014

Teach some English

Do the above (Learn Spanish) activities with them, but you tell them the English word for the color or number.

Find out what the girls are learning at the English station and practice with them after the station.

Ask a girl to read the English in a bilingual book to you.

Help Camp run smoothly

Keep everyone on schedule, lead the travelers’ evening reflection and meeting, demonstrate a craft, organize our supply room,

Practice acceptance

Accept the fact that you will not have the same experience as proficient Spanish speakers. That is OK. Your experience is valuable, valid and meaningful. Figure out how to appreciate that.

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Mother Teresa

I’d appreciate your feedback/comments, especially in the “Spanish words you know” section, ideas for learning Spanish, or anything else, really.

Thank you!


P.S. Here are some resources to learn more Spanish online and free.  – this includes a quiz generator, so you can study a little, then see how much you’ve retained.

DuoLingo app for iPhone and Android  – I *love* the video game format of this. I’ve never seen Rosetta, but I guess it’s very similar and free.

“Coffee Break Spanish” for Podcasts – this was my first resource I spent any time with. I listen to these podcasts when walking or running. Even if it doesn’t advance your speaking, I believe it helped with my understanding the spoken language.

Campamento 2013 Update

8 May

Hola Amigas!

This is an update on Campamento 2013, our 11th camp. The camp is full with 11 travelers the first week and 10 the second. Most have purchased their tickets, which is the major expense of the trip. We expect 42 girls this year, with most returning from last year, and a few new ones to take the place of girls who’ve moved on.

Over the years, technology has improved which makes these trips even easier to plan.

WordPress – this is free and so powerful. I can see that people do read it. THANK YOU! It’s mostly friends, but it also comes up in Google searches to we get others, too.

Facebook – travelers are Facebook friends with some of older girls and the alumna of the home.  It’s fun to see what they’re doing these days. On one of our snowy April days here, one of the alum posted that it was *so hot*. Ugh! Wouldn’t it be cool to have Campamento in the winter?

Signup Genius – L-O-V-E this site We’re doing volunteer signups with this and alto Donation requests. See

Campamento 2012 102-001This is from last’s years trip. We took a trip to Guayacanes, which is a beach town that’s enjoyed by locals and us! We had a great time. Thank you for all your support.




8 May

Wow, we have a full trip consisting of 10 travelers per week. What a blessing. The last post covered nuts and bolts of preparing for the trip. This is more about emotional preparation.

A lot of these trips (and vacations, OK I’ll be philosophical – life) are perceptions. At first I couldn’t help judging “This chicken meat is much richer than we have at home.” or “Sad – she grew up in a home with dirt floors and no windows”. Now I’m trying to observe, not comparing, not judging. It’s really hard and I’m not very good at it, but I believe it’s valuable.

Another aspect of judging and comparing is comparing this experience with the trip as you imagined it or with a past mission trip or vacation.

This is an enlightening piece I happened to hear on the radio before going to bed one night. A former Peace Corps volunteer was featured in a 5 minute segment on “The Story” on MPR. I thought what she read applied so well for our trip, especially for first time travelers. Being able to adjust your expectations is a key to enjoying and contributing to your trip. I e-mailed her and she sent me the text that she read, then also the excerpt from the Peace Corp Volunteer Manual that inspired her revelation.

From the volunteer’s letter on expectations….

“When faced with new situations, we create expectations of what we think might happens in order to manage the nervous feelings we have regarding the unknown.  These expectations help ease our anxiety before, (not that I personally was anxious… J), but as we actually arrive in the new situations, we must be able to separate what we thought would happen, to what actually is going on. If we don’t, we can get disappointed-not necessarily because we don’t like what is happening-but simply because it is different than we expected.  When this happens our next move must be to suppress any disappointment that we have felt, and see if the new situation can still be fulfilling/satisfying to us.” 

“This Isn’t What I Expected.”

(From A Few Minor Adjustments: A Handbook for Volunteers*)

….a brief word about expectations.  All Volunteers have them—and many are undone by them.  Expectations are normal and inevitable; they are our way of dealing with the unknown, which is inherently unsettling.

Indeed, they are our way of making the unknown into the known (albeit with the help of smoke and mirrors) and thereby eliminating our anxiety.  We naturally wonder about our Peace Corps experience-about the country, the job, the people-and whether we’re up to it.  We get all the information we can and begin to create an image of what it may be like.  The more we start to believe it it-until we forget altogether that this is only our notion of how things might be and become convinced that this in fact how things are.

All of which is immensely reassuring.  Now that we “know” how things are, we imagine ourselves in these circumstances and realize that we can cope (or that we can’t, at which point we do not pursue Peace Corps service any further).  From this point on, we no longer expect our Peace Corps experience to be a certain way, we depend on its being that way.  In short, this is no longer a vision of what our experience might be like; it’s a vision of what it had better be like.

Small wonder, then, that when we encounter the reality and it turns out not to be what we had imagined, we are deeply shaken.  Not so much because we don’t like what we find-in fact, we can barely see it-but because we don’t find what we expected.  Feeling anxious, threatened, and disappointed, we can’t really examine the situation we find for what it is.  Rather, we tend to reject it out of hand for what it is not.

This reaction may be natural enough under the circumstances, but we need to get beyond it.  We owe it to ourselves-and to Peace Corps and most especially the host country-to suppress our disappointment for a moment and consider whether the experience it now appears we’re going to have in this country and this job, different as it may be from what we expected, could still be satisfying and fulfilling.  If we can still make a contribution under these admittedly unforeseen conditions, does it really matter that much that we’ve been taken by surprise?

It’s quite true, of course, that our new circumstances—even when examined in tranquility—will still not be what we want.  But it’s always better to have rejected upon reflection rather than on impulse.

*Published by the Office of Special Services, Peace Corps, November 1991.