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Campamento Memories

6 Jul

Monday, July 8th – if the world was normal, today would be Day 1. It’s usually an overwhelming day. We’re still a little tired from travel. The heat goes from novelty to oppressive. The girls are primed for camp! Most of them have been there before, so they know the ropes.

Usually on day 1, our “Woman of Faith” is from the Old Testament, like Eve, Hagar, Rachel, Jochebed, Miriam, Naomi, and Ruth. Hardly anyone is named in the Old Testament, even fewer women, so each of these women are quite substantial and have a lot to teach us. One joy of camp for me personally has been learning insight on these women from Heidi Busse, a Biblical scholar. Thank you Heidi for helping me understand how these women speak to us thousands of year later after they lived on Earth.

Day 1 is often the time to cram Spanish. “They speak so fast.” “Their pronunciation is not what we heard in Jefferson High School Spanish class.” And occasionally “Wow, my college Spanish is coming back to me!” Between Duolingo, the Spanish Learning Club and my dorky attempts at practicing on patient Spanish speakers, I am getting better each year!

The most frequent observation from first-time travelers is that everyone – even the first-time travelers – are welcomed with open arms. It’s like visiting distant family. And it’s appropriate; we are Sister Communities. Our communities, not just the people who travel, are all connected over faith, time, and common values.

On joys and blessings… one for me is getting to know travelers in a way I don’t think I’d ever without sharing a trip like this. The Konkoly family is very special in so many ways. I met Jane and two of her daughters while rafting through the Grand Canyon. You know I can’t go very long without bring up Campamento. On that trip, I think I held back until about day 5. After telling Jane about it, she decided to join along with her daughters. She sees the potential in these girls and gives what she has to help them reach their dreams. Check out this video Jane and daughter Michelle made about last year’s camp. “Try Everything” by Shakira was the theme song in 2017.

Throw back to 2009

Some Girls at Campamento 2009

Travelers and volunteers – if you have a memory and/or a picture you’d like me to post, please send it to me over the next two weeks.

Please consider donating over these next two weeks as well. We are raising money for shoes and back-to-school supplies. Shoes are about $30 at Dominican Republic stores. PM me for details on how to do that.

Campamento 2020 – pictures and more

2 Jul

Our Campamento 2020 plan was to depart early Saturday, July 4th! Of course, that wasn’t possible, yet Campamento 2020 still happened! Continuing our last post – more pictures! I’m so proud of the older girls for taking charge and making camp happen – regardless of the obstacles 2020 throws us.

An experienced camper showing a new girl the ropes
Another new girl with two experienced campers
the beginning of a star
Star Craft
Decorating the Kiosko

If you made it this far, you’re a true Campamento Amiga or Amigo! The one thing we couldn’t do this year was bring our donations – especially those famous all-white tennis shoes – to the home. Well, I think we figured out a way to still get them new shoes.

The Sisters have a bank account with an American bank. It’s not registered as a non-profit so the donation is not tax-deductible. Yet, I think this is the most reliable way to donate to the home. So, during these two weeks we’d usually have camp, (July 4-19) I’m asking for donations for shoe money. They cost about $30 dollars a pair at Payless Shoes in the Dominican Republic. Any amount helps! If I did not already send you the instructions on how to donate, let me know and I’ll pass that along to you. My goal is $1,600, which would be enough for shoes plus extra for school supplies.

As an aside – the Sisters and girls have been literally quarantined on the property. Who knows if on-premise school will open for them in the fall? Here’s a site I check on periodically to learn about COVID-19 in Dominican Republic.

Stay healthy! Peace,


Campamento 2020 Day 1

17 Jun

Day 1 of Campamento 2020 looks like other years – with no Americans. Like a mom as her kids get older and more independent, I am so proud yet a trifle sad that we’re missing the fun! They had opening ritual and the stations. Here are the pictures. Be sure to scroll to the bottom for some bonus content!

Opening Ritual

What I love – some are wearing their camp shirts. They look so calm. The hulu hoop rack!

Jesus is the light of the world. A light no one can put out.

Math Station

English Station

I’m just so proud of them – the older girls earnestly teaching the younger ones.

Craft Station

We usually leave behind some extra supplies. We use them the next year at camp. Sister Fifi and I agreed that they should open the suitcases and use what’s there!

These are the pictures Sister Fifi sent me. I also received a video of “N” reading off the groups and the “profesoras” for each station. I also got nice audio recordings from “G” and Sister Grace – who lived in NYC and speaks English. I couldn’t download them to share, though.


As if all this was not enough for one day, Miss Barbara Owens sent me this interview of her. She shares her thoughts and experiences on the special challenges black and brown families face during COVID as well as how we white people can be allies to others. Check it out!




16 Jun

My heart is bursting. Look what I got today on WhatsApp!

The girls are going to stay at the Hogar all summer because of the virus. But is that keeping them from having Campamento 2020? No!

Above is their list of camp activities that they will lead. They are even getting t-shirts to dye (or decorate). I am beyond proud of them and I hope everyone else involved in camp is, too. These girls are so resilient!

From Sister Fifi… my translations follow.
“Las niñas mañana inician su campamento.” [The girls tomorrow are starting their camp.]

“Me han hecho una lista de todo lo que van hacer😂😂😂” [They have made a list of everything they do]

“Ellas dicen que son las americanas.” [They said that they are the Americans.]

“Y van a dirigir.” [and they are going to lead.]
“Les voy a dar materiales de los que dejaron.” [I am going to give them the materials you left.]
“Hoy a comprarle camisetas porque quieren pintar.” [Today I bought them t-shirts because they want to dye them.]
Estan muy motivadas. [They are very motivated.]

“Este año no podrán ir de vacaciones por el virus.” [This year they won’t be able to go on vacation (home to their families) because of the virus.]

“Cada una tiene su personaje.” [Each girls has their own personality.]

I am so proud of them for making the best of a tough situation. And Sister Fifi is so supportive of them. I hope everyone else feels the same!! So many people have been a part of campamento, either traveling, volunteering here, or donating. It’s been such a blessing in my life and I’m humbled that it’s continuing even in 2020!!

Campamento 2019

I hope they send us pictures from Campamento 2020!! If so, I’ll post them!

A Plan for Our Times – UPDATE

22 Apr

Hoo boy, got that message loud and clear. Like Gilda Radner’s Litella, I’ll say “Never mind.” Take a look at your e-mail for another idea. I’m leaving these content ideas from below on this page in case you need ideas.

We had our first virtual Campamento meeting! It was a little bumpy, but together we met our goal.

Our goal was to keep moving toward campamento goals given our constraints today: no travel, no shipping, unreliable internet connection at the home. I’m e-mail this info with some other details to people who’ve shown an interest. If you do want to participate, but didn’t get my e-mail, please let me know.

The Plan

We settled on sending a weekly letter to Sister Fifi. Everyone who wants will take a turn creating a letter (signup genius schedule through e-mail, lmk if you didn’t get the meeting follow-up e-mail and want to). You can put together the letter at anytime, just send it to Sister on the date you signed up for. She can share it with the girls. See the e-mail for a schedule to sign up for a week and more detailed instructions. Copy me on the e-mail to let me know you sent it 🙂


They should be sent in Spanish, making it easier on them. If you don’t have a family member, friend, or resource to translate, let me know and I’ll try to put you in touch with someone. If you want to be a translator, please let me know. I’m learning Spanish so am going to use this time to practice what I’m learning. Of course that may make for simpler messages, but that’s OK.

Ideas for Topics

We brainstormed ideas on what to include in the letter. We’re not going for a consistent format, but consistent timing. So each letter should reflect what you want to share or do.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Photos or short video of you, family, friends, work in quarantine life (remember their bandwidth is low)
  • Stories from what’s been going on with you and your family
  • Prayers (that you’ve written or like), prayer requests (pray for my sister who is ill), prayer offerings (we are praying for everyone in quarantine at the hogar, the Sisters and the girls. We pray for everyone who is suffering. We pray for everyone who is helping.)
  • Bible stories – or women of faith. Current women or Saints, or Biblical women or other stories the kids would like. A link on that you think they would like. (I’m sending them directions for that separately)
  • Songs – sheet music, link to recording. Lyrics with Spanish translation or a Spanish song (see Father Michael Joncas’ new song Shelter Me, does anyone want to translate the lyrics?)
  • What you are grateful for
  • Short English “lesson”
  • Short Math game (they have cards, dice, dominos)
  • These are fun if you can translate one and pass it on!
  • Physical activities – video or link to video of activities like Zumba, yoga, workouts, or games they can do.
  • Notes from other people – in case they have something short and timely to add.
  • Questions about what they are learning in distance learning, what have they been doing, links or pics they want to share, etc.


Do not call out (i.e. name or somehow specify) any one girl. Don’t call out a group unless you’re calling out everyone. For example, if you want to say something special to the pecenas (smallest girls), be sure to say something special to the other three age groups as well.

Review the Code of Conduct or ask me if you have questions.

Saint Teresa of Avila

For inspiration, learn about St. Teresa of Avila here


Want to learn more Spanish with me? Use this link to sign up for DuoLingo.

Sister Community (Dominican and Nicaragua) Meeting Monday April 20, 2020, 7-8:30 PM

16 Apr

Location: Video Conference. Contact me for the link.

Opening Reflection

Dear Lord, thank you for the opportunity to meet this evening. May we engage with each other with faith and perseverance. May we manage this new situation with wisdom and value. May we speak and serve with integrity and purpose.

Lord, we invite you to work within us today. Amen


Let’s go around and introduce ourselves.

New Normal

It looks like we won’t travel in July 2020 due to the global pandemic. We always think Campamento will always happen “Si Dios quiere.” Of course God wants us to do camp, so of course it’ll happen again. I’m confident that we can do something, but it won’t be the same as last year. I’m inspired by friends’, my employer’s, and the Church’s response to this virus, they are figuring out a new way – whether it’s:

  • a golden birthday parade, complete with a police car, fire trucks, electric scooters, decorate minivans. It really livened up our sleepy neighborhood!
  • my employer’s first “road show” to major cities in the US plus London is moving to an online series of events on EventMobi
  • Archbishop Hebda offering an inspiring Easter morning Mass and drive-thru blessings.

What’s cool about these is they are all redesigned events under new design constraints. Our design constraints for camp this year are: no travel, no shipping, unreliable/low bandwidth internet.

Campamento has been such a special experience for me and so many others as well as for the girls and Sisters. My hope is that we can find a way to maintain a relationship even though we can’t travel. We might even be able to include some Americans who couldn’t travel but wanted to be a part of it. As a group, let’s review our principles.

Principles of Sister Community Relationships

Let’s review

1. Emphasize relationship over resources

2. Practice mutuality and equality

3. Seek to give and receive, learn and teach

4. Work to change unjust systems and structures

5. Deepen our faith by experiencing the universal, catholic church

Brain Writing!

In this exercise, each of us will simply start an e-mail with a few rough ideas for solving the problem in an e-mail. Each e-mail is then sent to someone else, who reads it and adds their own ideas and forwards it to the next. This process is repeated until everyone has had a chance to add to each original e-mail. The e-mails can then be gathered, ready for discussion.

The big advantage of brain-writing is that it makes sure everybody is given the opportunity to have their thoughts and ideas thoroughly considered by the group. This avoids the loudest or most extroverted people (I’m guilty!) unintentionally dominating the sessions.

Two rounds:

  1. What are the goals of these activities. See for our on-premises campamento. I’m hoping we can settle on 3-5 goals.
  2. Ideas for solutions “Meeting our goals with travel restrictions”

Next, let’s look at each and consider the ideas. I don’t think we’ll come up with a final answer yet, we might even prototype/test some ideas, depending on what we come up with. We can whittle down based on realities of their internet, travel, and shipping. Then, what people will sign up for.

Next Steps
Action items/owners
Next meeting

Closing Prayer

Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
All things are changing.
God alone is changeless.
Patience attains the good.
One who has God lacks nothing.
God alone fills out needs.

            St. Teresa of Avila

2020 Campamento Theme Song

3 Feb

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

And 2020 will be no different. Here are your top suggestions for songs this year. Slow, upbeat, uplifting songs work the best. Out of the past songs, it’s hard to choose a favorite, but one is “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars . We translate the lyrics so the girls can read the uplifting message. It’s a fun way to teach English.As well as the theme song, we bring down CD(s) of fun/popular songs from the last few years. It will include the runners up from this list. 

If you have suggestions for that, put them in the comments here.

Hopefully we can bring DVDs down for “Movie Nights”. Look for DVDs or Bluerays with Spanish audio.

2019 Look Up Child by Lauren Daigle

2018 Take the World by Storm by Lukas Graham

2017 Everything from Zootopia/ Try Everything Spanish by Shakira

2016 By the Grace of God by Katie Perry

2015 “I’m Good” by The Mowgli’s

2014 “Happy” by Pharrell Williams

2013 “Gold” by Britt Nicole

2012 “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars

2011 “Firework” Katie Perry

2010 “When I look at You” Myley Cyrus

2009 “The Climb” Myley Cyrus

2008 “Dream Big” by Ryan Shupe and the Rubberbands

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 My Heart will Go On Theme from the Titanic Celine Dion (this was an accidental success as was the whole first trip)

A Challenging Read – Guardian Article about “Voluntourism”

18 Jan

This article by the Guardian in 2018 hit me hard – challenging me to reflect on Campamento.

  • Are we – travelers, supporters, and I – “sustain[ing] practices and institutions that actually do harm“?
  • Is Campamento “about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege“?
  • “Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asunción” sounds horrific and is now closed. This was a Catholic institution. Could this happen to our Hogar? Is our Hogar like the more humane but “chaotic, impersonal and lacking stimulation” Hogar?
  • How about this description the reporter gave of her feelings after a summer of working at a home for boys in Detroit?

“I now understand that I did leave Rodrick with something: a sense of abandonment. Every single boy in that institution already had abandonment issues. If it was hard for me to leave these boys behind, how much harder was it for them to see me go? And the next adult who came for a few weeks? And the next one? They might have learned that there are people who love them and will take them on walks. But they also learned that these people always leave.

  • Is our Hogar spending “not much money […] on its most vulnerable, disabled residents, while a lot of investment has gone towards making the volunteer experience as comfortable as possible“?

On my first read of this article, I was reading it defensively – thinking “That’s not what we do.” “Our Hogar is not like that.” Then, I read it again with a more open mind.

Here are my thoughts. I’d love to hear yours.

Are we sustaining practices that actually do harm? The reality is we aren’t sustaining anything. The home does not exist to host Campamento. Campamento is a small, optional part of a comprehensive program that is the Hogar. The Sisters provide the foundation of the Hogar. Campamento (I hope) merely enhances the program that they design and run.

As for doing harm – I’ve seen the opposite. Many girls thrive at the family-like setting at the Hogar. (For those who don’t like it for whatever reason, they can return to their homes.) They get basics like safety, a home, food, school, tutoring (many of their parents are illiterate), values, self-esteem, chores, affection, and support from each other.

An old practice, not used any more, was to invite girls to camp before joining the Hogar, to see if she’d like it. One year a new girl came and she had a very tough exterior, was very skeptical of camp (pretty reasonable from a kid who’s never seen anything like the Hogar or experienced anything like camp.) She stuck with it though. Two days later, another new girl joined. The next girl’s response was to cry all day. I’ll never forget what girl #1, with her 2 days off experience told girl #2 “This place is not that bad. The women here are nice and they feed you three times a day.” Girl #2 wiped away her tears, then joined the game going on. Both girls thrived for a while at the home. Neither stayed through graduation.

The education piece is major, even if a girl leaves before graduation, she receives a much better education than she would have otherwise. Many continue their education, even after leaving the home. But it is harder without the support they get at the Hogar.

By “enhancing”, we run a 2 week summer camp with: Bible study themed “Women of Faith”, educational enrichment focusing on math and English, as well as crafts, games, songs, skits, and free time. Our focus is on self-confidence and self-esteem. Many well-off families send their kids to similar camps over the summer. We also work with the director of the hogar on the curriculum to make sure we’re a positive influence at the home.

Over the last 19 years, we’ve had a lot of positive feedback from the Sisters, the girls, and even the community. Here’s my two favorite: A new driver joined the home. At the end of camp, when he was bringing us back to the airport, he said “Many groups come to visit the girls, bringing donations or holding a party. I’ve only seen the girls cry when you leave.” The other is when Sister Fifi took the reins as director of the hogar soon after camp the previous year. She said that she was looking forward to camp and can’t believe it’s finally here. I asked her why, because summer is usually a break for her and camp is a ton of work for her! She said “Since I joined, all I heard was ‘at camp we do this, at camp we do that. The girls talk about camp all year long.” At the end of camp, she told us that she now knows why!

I hope each traveler gets a deep spiritual and personal experience at camp, as well as fun!

Campamento 2020 Kickoff Meeting – New Room

11 Jan

Tuesday, February 4, 7-9 PM, Church of Saint Edward Room 125
You are invited to join the Church of Saint Edward’s 18th Annual 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 2020.

This trip is for women over 18 and mother-daughter pairs for daughters over 14. We have openings from July 4-12 and July 11-19 for travelers interested in sharing a spiritual experience with young women and girls from another country.

Our camp theme is “Women of Faith”. We study bible stories, play music, make crafts, perform skits, and do 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 patience with kids, crafting and beading talents, or your professional experience.

Is 2020 your year to follow the Pope’s lead on social justice, charity, adventure, spiritual experiences, fellowship, growth, and fun? If so, answer the call to travel with us this summer or help from Minnesota.

Please contact Ann McGuire at to RSVP to our kick-off meeting and take a look at this blog site.

December Event – Christmas Card Making and Signing

15 Nov

Don’t miss the first-ever Christmas Card Making and Signing Event at St. Ed’s for the Hogar.

We will make about 50 cards for the girls, Sisters, and staff at the hogar. We’ll all sign all of them. Next, we’ll send them to the home so they (si Dios quiere) make it there by the Feast of Kings January 6, which is what they celebrate with presents and a party at the hogar.

It will be Monday, December 9, 7-9 PM at St. Ed’s. Let me know if you you’re coming or have questions or ideas.

In the meantime, I just discovered another blog, seemingly unrelated to our mission here, but it is! You can read about her mission and how it’s impacted her way of thinking. I’m inspired to write how Campamento has changed my ways of thinking, my beliefs as well. In the meantime, check out 🙂