Monday, February 7, 2011

Progress in San Antonio Palopo: New volunteers arrive to meet the challenge

I am so delighted to introduce our newly arrived team of volunteers.  How easy it is to fall in love with the people here and quickly find yourself involved in an intensive project.  This lively team from British Columbia, Canada, is involved in some exciting new efforts that truly make a difference.

Greg Lawrence (above) from Nelson BC, was warmly greeted by Mari Cruz, our stove rep in La Cruz.  His reputation as stove installer, photographer and his friendly nature is well respected and remembered from the year before.  This year we have 110 more stoves to monitor in three communities.  He is taking a critical look at the temporary school and taking action to make necessary improvements.  His objective view on the disaster is most helpful.
Greg's wife, Marilyn Lawrence (below), a skilled teacher and Rotarian from Nelson, BC, is presenting helpful and innovative teaching methods for our social centre's teachers to observe.  She is working with groups from 3-13 years of age.  Her creative presence and ideas have the centre alive with colorful visuals and learning toys.  In the evenings people will benefit from her English classes.  Her passion for these needy people touches my heart. 
 Dr. John Snively (below), from the Oak Bay Rotary Club in Victoria BC, has been here for a month presenting the dental initiative.
Long line ups appeared outside the health center with people wanting to have their teeth pulled.  The need is so great as little or no service or education has ever been offered.  I had my first opportunity to take a look at some of these amazing mouths and was shocked to the core by the negative effect of overuse of sugar/junk food and lack of dental education.  In March every classroom will receive dental hygiene/health instruction by John and Carmen (photo with John, above), an indigenous hygienist in training.  He is truly dedicated to addressing cause/prevention while he is here.
 Bob Hargreaves (above), also a Rotarian from Nelson, has already made an impact with his managerial skills in getting clear estimates from local welders, along with input from the mayor, for the construction of a playground.  There are over 1000 children here without a dedicated place to play.

Bob's wife, Cathy Hargreaves (above) is organizing a group of women from the poorest barrio of Chocruz to be instructed in sewing on the two newly donated machines in the centre.  There is real enthusiasm here.

From this you will begin to see the wonderful contribution we can make as we share our various gifts.  I am looking forward to Friday when we greet our first group of widows for the hot lunch and conversation weekly initiative.  Due to crowded conditions of space and time these are the most marginalized and needy group, according to Santo, the mayor.
There is much I have left out but I would have to say my greatest delight comes in visiting the homes and spending time with the families.  They have so little but are so generous; they welcome us in with open hearts and pride.  I have come to love so many of the people here over the years and our presence is deeply appreciated.  Truly our experience here gives back to us far more than we can ever provide for them.


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