Tuesday, December 30, 2008

About Our Blog

This year, we are trying something new so that our family, friends and people of our parish can follow our trip and allow us to create an opportunity for those who can’t join us to experience a bit of our trip.

I have set up this blog and will update it throughout our trip. If you are not familiar with blogs and visiting ours for the first time…it is a website where you can post information and pictures…like an online diary. It is very easy for visitors to follow.

Now that you are here....WELCOME!!! But, here is my disclaimer….I am a beginner at this, so it is a work in progress AND…as you can imagine, updating the blog while we are in Belize will not be an easy task with no wireless access in these small villages. But, we think we have it figured out. If all goes as planned, I will be able to update the blog three of four times throughout the trip.

Feel free to visit it when you can, I already have background information on the trip posted. And, there is an option to add your name to the blog follower list…not necessary, but an option.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Packing Party for our 2009 Trip

Yesterday was the packing day for the supplies we will be taking to Belize with us in just 5 days! We have 40 (two for each traveler) suitcases filled with items, each suitcase has 50 pounds of supplies for a total of 2,000 pounds of supplies leaving St. Peters, Missouri and traveling all the way to the Mayan Villages in Belize. How exciting!!!

Here are some pictures showing our suitcases filled with supplies. WOW!!!!

We want to send a thank you to all of you have so generously donated items for our trip. I wish there was a way to list every single person that has contributed, but please know that your donation is GREATLY appreciated and will be put to very good use. We have had neighboring churches and parishes, school kids, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, women’s groups, neighbors, coworkers and many friends and family who have all kindly donated supplies, money and time for the supplies we will bring. It is amazing…it brings tears of heartfelt joy to witness so much generosity – especially during these tough economic times!! A big, huge thank you to all and we will be thinking of all of you as we drag these heavy suitcases through airports, customs, on and off buses and vans and then finally to the villages!!

A very special thanks to the following groups that helped support our trip by collecting a big majority of the supplies:

All Saints Parish
All Saints School Families, Faculty & Staff
Brownie Girl Scout Troop 631
Dunkman Family Reunion Collection
Save-A-Lot Food Stores
Friends & Family of our Mission Team
Marsh USA
Pheta Eta Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi Sorority
St. Katherine Drexel School
Check out the blog titled Supplies We Are Bringing for a list of items we are taking with us.

Also, if you were at 10:30 a.m. Mass at the gym at All Saints on December 28, you witnessed a special blessing from Father Chris for some members our group to have safe travels and a fulfilling trip to Belize. Thank you, Father Chris…and, please all remember to keep our team in your prayers as we make this journey to Belize and back…safe travels, good health and that we can make a difference.

I missed the Blessing and the Packing Party this year, I was in Chicago with Doug (my beloved….which sounds better than “boyfriend” when you are 32!!!) and we were celebrating a very lovely Christmas with his family. But I wanted to include a post about the Blessing and Packing Day…both special events for our team.

I promise a few more post before we leave.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Background Information on Belize Mission Trip

Welcome to our Belize Blog. We have a group of 20 team members that will be traveling to Belize in January on a mission trip through All Saints Catholic Church in St. Peters, Missouri. Belize is in Central America, south of Mexico and east of Guatemala. It is a very small country with a population of 250,000....it is about the size of Massachusettes!!!

We will spend our days in the Toledo District, which is in Southern Belize and the poorest area in the country. Over 70% of the families are poor living in poverty with no running water, electricity, computers, television, refrigerators, telephones, cars and often even shoes.

Our team will be constructing a church in a remote, Mayan village and we will also visit the schools in three villages and teach the children about health and hygiene and bring them a bit of US culture.

Many of our friends and families have asked about the details on the trip, here is some basic info:

English is the official language of Belize, but many locals speak Mayan. In January, the average temperature is 75 degrees. We are staying at the Pallotine Sisters' Convent and Retreat Center.

We have to get vaccinations – Hepatitis, typhoid, tetanus and we have to take anti-malaria pills. Our last two days of the trip, we do get to visit the beach for some downtime and relaxing.

And, coming as a surprise to many of us, especially those going for the first time...we get to take three pieces of luggage. So, you think GREAT – 10 days, 3 suitcases, no problem! Well, nope, that's not how it goes. The two suitcases that we will check at the airline are filled with SUPPLIES that we will bring to people in the village. So, everything team members need for 10 days will need to be packed in a carry-on suitcase and a backpack.

Quite a shock, especially for someone like me who can two suitcases for a weekend trip!!!

But, we don't need makeup and jewelry and mostly will be wearing a hat or a pony tail, so no need to pack 5 varieties of hair product…so that eliminates close to one suitcase!

This should be interesting…anyone who knows me, knows that I rarely leave the house without makeup and jewelry on! I think this is going to be a humbling experience for me in many ways.

We are bringing supplies to the children of the village. We will be taking the following, so if you'd like to donate anything, please let me know: toothpaste, toothbrushes, bar soap, combs/brushes, crayons, pencils, sugarless gum, small paperback books, tennis balls, soccer balls, fingernail clippers and other classroom educational supplies.

We are also doing a Kid-2-Kid project. School-aged child at All Saints and surrounding schools that would like to reach out to the children of Southern Belize, can write a letter and include a photograph of themselves. And these letters will be delivered to the school kids at the villages we visit, and then the Belize children will write letters back to their American friends.

More information to come.....I will keep you posted as the trip gets closer. We leave January 3, 2009.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Meet our 2009 Belize Mission Team

Here is a picture of the 2008 Team that traveled to Belize in January 2008, and below is a list of people attending the mission trip in January 2009. We are sitting on Mayan Ruins.

2008 and 2009 Team Leader:

Ann Lacker

Returning Team Members:

*member of All Saints Parish

Ann Lacker*
Jack and Carol Deveney*
Mike and Anne Schappe*
Mike Doherty and Kathy Kane
Bridget and Colleen Doherty
David Rauh
Jaime Powers*
Chris Schmid

New Team Members:

Conde and Ann Canedy*
Fr. Don Wester*
Joanne Turek
Shannon Lacker*
Joanne Turek
Jay Couch*
Bob and Rebecca Mueller*

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Photos of where we will stay in Punta Gorda, Belize.

This is where we stayed during our trip. The building that is blue with the cross is the Pallotine convent in Punta Gorda, Belize where we sleep. The other picture is of the church at the Pallotine convent...it is beautiful.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Supplies We Are Bringing With Us

Supply List for 2009 Belize Mission Trip:

For Volunteers:

Medical scrubs – we wear these in the villages so that we don’t look like tourists, and because the villages are very conservative in their dress.

Used Suitcases –we use these to pack the supplies and then leave them in the villages where they are put to very good use.

For the Catholic Parish in Punta Gorda, Belize:

Used First Communion dresses – the villages use these for the girls’ first communions and they are used over and over.

Fronts of used Christmas cards with religious scenes

Used Easter candles

For the personal health and hygiene bags and school supply bags that we give to each school child (about 300 kids, so we collect about 300 of each):

Bar soap


Standard-size tubes of toothpaste




Pencil sharpeners

24 count boxes of crayons

Sugarless gum

Gently-used tennis balls

Items requested by Belizean principals and teachers for use in their schools – usually one or two room schoolhouses with one teacher teaching all grade levels, and they have VERY limited supplies:

Wall clocks





12” rulers

Thumb tacks

Rectangular pink erasers

Colored chalk for blackboards

Chalkboard erasers

Antibacterial ointment

Band aids

Dictionaries (paperbacks, the smaller the better) – slightly used is okay

Wide-lined loose leaf paper

Graph paper

Multi-purpose (printer) paper

Permanent markers (black or colored)

Decks of playing cards (used for math games)

Plastic tape

Current world maps

Educational posters: Science, Math, Language Arts

Flashcards: Math, Words with pictures for little ones

Paperback books for ages 5-13

Books for early readers with words repeated frequently

Sports/Recess Equipment for Schools:


Sidewalk chalk

Chess Sets

Checker sets

Monday, December 1, 2008

Recap of 2008 Mission Trip

Mission Teams from All Saints have been visiting Belize for a few years, I was fortunate enough to join the team last year (2008) and going again in 2009! I wanted to post a recap of my experience in 2008, since I had such an amazing time.

There aren't even words to describe the experience. I also have a ton of photos, but even the pics won't do the entire experience justice.The group that went on the 2008 trip had some fabulous people, when you spend 10 days with 20 people, you become as close as family. Each of us brought something unique to the group and we all feel connected by the experiences we shared. We had so many fun, touching, scary, hilarious, sad and heartfelt moments that I couldn't even begin to share them all.

The picture here is of me with a group of school children that I worked with during our trip. They are adorable!!!

After spending these days in the rainforest, it was quite an adjustment getting back to our normal everyday lives, I have never been more grateful for paved roads, my own car, a hot shower, electricity, drinking water, shoes – things we take for granted here, but are not available to everyone in this world. So many miraculous things happened while we were there, but I still think the two biggest miracles for me were that I survived 10 days WITHOUT my Blackberry ( I turned it off and left it at home!) and that I was able to fit everything I needed into ONE carry-on suitcase!!!

The people we met along the way were some of the most gracious, giving and compassionate people. The sisters at the convent, Fr. Dick Perl (missionary priest from MO who oversees the parishes there) and Peace Corp workers who have devoted their lives to being missionaries were incredible. They have truly given up so much personally to make a difference in Belize.

The children we met, worked with, played with and taught were best described by someone in our group as being able to witness God here on earth. They are so full of life, love and joy, despite conditions most of us would see as unacceptable. Children are children, no matter where in the world and they are so un-jaded and innocent and can see past language barriers and cultural differences.

They loved to learn new games, songs and hear all about the US. They laughed when I told them my dog's name was Griffey…a name they have never heard before…and then they asked me the names of my cat and pig!! Most everyone there has multiple farm animals, so they just assumed I too had a pet pig.

Some of our best moments were playing Duck Duck Goose, Pin the Tail on the Donkey and blowing bubbles with the Mayan children of the village – all new experiences to these children. They had so much joy in receiving a tennis ball and Frisbee, and asked over and over to play with the circle (what they were calling the Frisbee).

They loved the females that had blonde hair or curly hair – something they are unfamiliar with…at any given time, I had little hands running their fingers through my hair and playing with my curls (and believe me, I had some pretty wild curls with the rain and humidity in the rainforest).

Speaking of the rainforest, it was absolutely beautiful…unlike anything I have ever seen….so green and tropical, rivers, creeks, streams, waterfalls, hills, pineapples, bananas, coconuts, citrus, animals, birds, insects. There is one main road that leads through the rainforest into the villages, it is unpaved consisting of rock and gravel and MUD, LOTS OF MUD. Many days it took us two hours to reach the villages, and then a two hour drive back to where we were staying. Some of our scary moments were driving on the road – we had some close calls.

The weather was great…sunny and hot, very hot….80-90 degrees plus the humidity. Rainy season in Belize was just ending, so we did have a rainshower everyday for about 45 minutes…They receive about 160 inches of rain each year. English is the native language, but in the villages people also speak Keckchi. Usually the children are fluent in English by age 7 or 8, and most men in the village are fluent in English.

It is definitely not an equal rights community, the men are the most educated and go onto highschool and some even college. Women are only able to attend if their families can afford to send them. It costs about $450 Belizean dollars for higher education (that is $225 US dollars)…unbelievable, isn't it?

Most of the teachers in the schools are men, otherwise the men farm and make about $10 a day. Women cook, clean, laundry, care for the children, work on the farms and do some sort of craft work. There is no running water or electricity. They bathe, wash clothes and dishes and drink from nearby creeks, rivers and streams. It is very common to see the men walking around carrying their machetes…used to cut through the brush of the rainforest and with farming.

Some of us had the most unique experience of being able to visit the homes of some of the villagers. They live in very small houses with mud floors and thatched roofs. They do not have furniture, but sleep in hammocks. Most homes have just one room, with a shelf of cooking utensils and pots and an open fire in the middle where meals are prepared. Corn cobs are burned for the fire. When we had lunch at the homes, we sat in hammocks, and ate things like fresh tortillas with black beans and soup.

While having lunch in the homes, it is not uncommon for several dogs, cats, chickens, baby chics, partridges, turkeys or even pigs to walk in and out of the homes. Can you imagine having dinner with chickens and pigs at your feet?

In addition to teaching the children, part of our group spent the week working on constructing a church, and they got so much accomplished in a week. The day I spent on the construction site was so impressive. The people of the village come to help, they take much pride and a sense of ownership in their village, and to work side by side with them was the best way to truly experience their culture and get to know them. They understand that we, from the US, have much more resources than they have, but yet they openly welcomed us.

We often hear how so many other countries have ill feelings towards the US, but that is not true of the Belizeans we met, they always referred to us as their "friends from the States".

The supplies we brought and the many donations we received were incredible…we used just about everything we received and it was such a blessing to many of the villagers when we distributed the items.

Often throughout the trip, we were reminded of the scripture: Matthew 25: "Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me." This is an incedible way to serve Jesus, by serving his people...an dnot just his people here, but his people in Belize also.

God bless, Jaime