Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Almost Packed and Ready!

We have a new group of mission team members getting packed up and ready to leave cold St. Louis behind and head to warm and sunny Belize on January 4!  We have a good mix of old and new teammate with new friends joining us from as far away as Houston.
We started packing a few weeks ago, after the parish wide "Shopping As Jesus Would" collection.  All of the school supplies are packed for the three villages where we will be working.  That filled 12 LARGE suitcases, and yes, we actually weight them to get as close as possible to 50 pounds each.  The other 24 bags will be filled with religion books, tools, empty pill bottles, seeds, soccer balls, construction paper and an assortment of other goodies.
For our new Blog readers, this is a map of the area where we will be working. We will be in the villages of Otoxha, San Lucas and Corazon Creek.  The solid red line is the PAVED road, so you can see that most of our day traveling is on dirt roads. For reference, we stay in Forest Home. 
Check back for updates during the trip, and keep our safe travel in your prayers.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Hello from Punta Gorda (PG)!  Once again, sorry for the delay.  We have been very busy and have not had much time to make it in to PG to write.

Day 1 at the villages doing our education projects and construction.

Aguacate - Jane, Leah, Jim and Derlene met the students and staff at Aguacate.  They played musical chairs, simon says, did the 'duck dance' while Jane played the accordion, passed out hygiene items and taught the older children the cupid shuffle! They found out a few interesting things on the culture such as the principal and staff are selected to work at Aguacate instead of the principal interviewing and hiring staff.  Also, when women get engaged, they get a ring on their left ring finger and when they get married they put the second ring on their left middle finger.

Corazon - Nancy, Ann, Alli and Nick visited Corazon Creek village and gave out gel bracelets, coloring books and candy bracelets.  After the candy bracelets, they asked the students "what do you do after you eat candy?" and the students already knew "brush brush brush!".  The students played soccer against Nick and Alli and really enjoyed that.  Nick also dressed up in a 'cat in the hat' costume and read books to the students - they loved it!

San Lucas (Construction) - Keith, Bill, Jerry and Todd started wrapping up the construction at the new San Lucas school.  This included hanging cement boards (acting as drywall, but used cement so the walls would not mold).  It was very labor intensive as they had minimal hand tools and no power tools. They finished about 90% of the boards on day 1.  Keith also enjoyed trading jokes and riddles with the children.

Santa Theresa - Emily, Sarah, Shannon and Bob visited Santa Theresa and passed out flip flops for the kids, taught hygiene lessons after passing out candy bracelets, and played soccer.  The principal kindly invited them to their house for lunch.  They met a very interesting saleswoman (a young girl) who screamed "DO YOU WANT TO BUY MY BRACELETS??!!" and SPRINTED BAREFOOT about a mile away to get her bracelets for the team to buy.  She is now nicknamed the 'screamer'.

Day 2 at the villages doing our education projects and construction.

Aguacate - Derlene, Jim and Leah helped the children write pen pal letters back to the States and took pictures of each child so they could send a photo in their letter AND get a copy to keep. They also taught the cupid shuffle to the older kids and at the end of the day got everyone (including the principal) outside doing the dance to the actual music. They did some hand puppets and Jim dressed up as 'cat in the hat' while reading Dr. Seuss books.  The kids always say 'Sir' or 'Miss' and like to do their best job so they often ask "like this, miss??". They are all very polite and say "good morning, miss" or "good afternoon, sir" and not once have we heard "yeah" they always say "yes."

Corazon - Nancy, Alli, Nick, Ann and Jane played musical chairs while Jane played the accordion and they did the duck dance and hokey pokey too.  After lunch they did hand puppets while the older kids drew pictures for water color painting the next day.  Nancy and Nick asked two little girls to ask the Cabanaras (traveling salesmen) if they had hammocks and they each bought one.  After lunch one of the local students took them to the newly built St. Francis church in Corazon.  They also visited a craftsman home that did wood carvings and basket weaving.

San Lucas (Construction) - Bob, Todd, Keith and Bill joined in day 2 of construction by finishing the cement boards and painting the inside of the school lavender (even the ceiling!).  The kids even joined in by painting their crocs (shoes) while they were on their feet!  Bob and Todd did the fascia and soffits.  The team enjoyed a local meal of stew beans and black corn tortillas. 

Santa Theresa - Jerry, Emily, Sarah and Shannon watched Standard 6 (their elementary schools call it 'standards' instead of 'grades') graduation practice and the marching for the ceremony.  They did bubbles with the kids, read books, did water color painting, made puppets and played volleyball and soccer - it was quite an eventful day.  One interesting thing was how the children sharpened their pencils - Shannon asked the kids to go sharpen their pencils and they brought back a machette to do so!  Jerry is now a local celebrity as he was interviewed by the local radio station, 96.1 Blue Creek (Jordan).  The team also found a Minnesota sign that was left down there a few years ago from students at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Day 3 at the villages doing our education projects and construction.  The biggest thing of the day - our 17th team member arrived safely from the states - TJ!!!!

Corazon - Nancy, Nick Alli and Jerry went to Corazon for a few hours to play volleyball - even the principal joined in and she was quite good, she likes to spike the ball!  They joined the principal and all the teachers for lunch at a local's home.  The older students received their water colors to finish up their art project from Tuesday and the younger children played duck duck goose.  All the children's received poppers (a little round toy). 

Conejo - Jim, Ann and Leah visited Conejo for the first time.  The most impressive thing was a computer lab with 14 computers which was donated by an American company.  Although these kids were still in need of basic school suppliers (which we will drop off later in the week) as not all of them had extra pencils.  The female students had won several trophies for soccer over the last few years.  They passed out flip flops and did pen pal letters with pictures, as well as Dr. Seuss for the little kids.  

San Lucas - Derlene and Shannon visited San Lucas.  Since the school was under construction, they held classes in the church.  They also taught the cupid shuffle and the teacher requested that they focus on Standard 6 as they will now include the cupid shuffle in their graduation ceremony on Friday!

Santa Theresa - Emily, Sarah and Jane joined the Santa Theresa students.  Jane played the accordion while Emily and Sarah danced the polka (which may have involved the 'sprinkler' dance moves too!).  The kids were fascinated by Jane's hair - they kept patting it and touching it!

San Lucas (Construction) - Bob, Bill, Todd and Keith finished painting the outside of the building by lunch time.  It is a dark grey color.  For lunch, they had the most delicious meal of curry chicken and cabbage rice.  After that, they played soccer with the students until the rest of the teams arrived.

At the end of the day, all of us (including TJ!) went in to PG for the Social Economic Organization's event held by the director, Miss Dorla where we enjoyed some local beer, wine (made by the nuns) and homemade salsa and chips.  We were able to shop for local handmade items such as baskets, seasonings and coffee.  Then the team had dinner at a local restaurant which was delicious.

Phew....write more later this week when we have time!  Miss and love you all!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sunday June 16th

Hello from Punta Gorda!

We are one day late on Sunday's update due to internet troubles, but we are now in an internet cafe in Punta Gorda.

Yesterday was quite eventful!  We started the day with a delicious breakfast at Tranquility Lodge; french toast, sausage, papaya, watermelon, banana, pineapple.  Then we headed over to Corazon Creek Technical High School for their first graduation ever.  The motto for the graduation was "Together we have experienced our lives, separately we will pursue our dreams and forever our memories will remain."  The graduates sang "Unwritten", "The Climb" and "We are the World".  All graduates received a $1000 scholarship to attend the local University in Punta Gorda. 

The speeches were fantastic.  Ofelia Tush, the Valedictorian, had a very memorable speech; it was so touching it brought tears to our eyes.  As was the guest speaker's speech.  Some quotes that stuck with our team were "Live in poverty, but do not let poverty live in you" and "be a producer, not a consumer".  We also witnessed four of the All Saints scholarship recipients graduate and following the graduation we went to Amalia Caal's house (one of the recipients) to help celebrate.  We enjoyed some tasty food comprised of "Calda" (chicken and broth) and "Poch" (hand ground corn wrapped in a palm leaf).  While eating, a chicken walked in to Allison's juice!  That was so funny, you had to be there.  We wrapped up the celebration with some photos and dancing performed by Sarah, Emily, Shannon and Allison. 

Part of the team moved on to Aguacate to enjoy a church celebration (under the new roof that All Saints helped to pay for) and more local cuisine comprised of chicken and tortillas.  In talking to a local, he was very excited about the new solar power project coming to San Lucas.  Each family will get their own solar panel.

We also found out the hard way that this was one of the first real rains of the season; Todd and Jim were able to show off their swimming skills!

We miss you all and will try to update as soon as possible.  Everyone is having a great time and we are safe. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Day one we are here!

The team arrived safely and enjoyed a nice local dinner after the long drive to Tranquility Lodge. More to come tomorrow.

Sent from Yahoo! Mail on Android

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"All our bags are packed, we're ready to go..."

Yet another team is heading to Belize for the June 2013 trip!

We have a team of 17 unique and passionate individuals, bringing 30 suitcases (full of donations thanks to many of you!) visiting 5 villages, 5 schools and 1 construction site over the course of 9 days.

Our team is looking forward to this experience and will be updating families and friends through this blog over the course of the trip as often as possible.  We have heard from prior trips that it's not likely we will have access to the internet until a day or two after we arrive, so do not panic!  We will let you know we arrived as soon as we can.

Thanks for your support and stay tuned for details of this amazing journey ahead.

Attempting to attach some pictures from our packing session...

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Fw: Farewells on Friday

Gordon Bernardy
JDAM / SDB International Project Manager
Desk: (314) 777-2133
Cell: (314) 308-8106

----- Original Message -----
From: Bernardy, Gordon
Sent: Friday, January 11, 2013 09:11 PM
To: 'jaime.powers.belizemission@' <jaime.powers.belizemission@>
Subject: Farewells on Friday

Otahxa students were so sad to see our teachers go. The families provided lunch for us and showed much appreciation. Judy Derlene Roy and Kathy have great memories to treasure and the students have sock hand puppets as their treasure.
Corozon teachers shared a community meal with Rose Ann Carolyn and Bobby and the children gave wonderful presentations.
San Lucas community came out in full force for Mass with Fr. Don, for a tasty meal of puch and pork ribs. Boeing airplanes were flying all around as the workers completed one door for the school and the windows. Celebrating Esner's bday was a joyous occassion with dancing, singing, coconut crust, and banana pudding. We will forever treasure our memories that we are bringing home. We are sure we have made a difference in the lives of so many; we wonder if our friends in Belize can ever know how we return a changed people because of the difference they have made in our lives.
Gordon Bernardy
JDAM / SDB International Project Manager
Desk: (314) 777-2133
Cell: (314) 308-8106

Thrilling Thurs

Our adventure is coming to an end. We are heading into the villages to minister to our many friends for the last time this trip. San Lucas will be celebrating Mass as a community complete with child led Prayers of tje Faithful and the little ones processing in with banners! Fr. Don is thrilled to be celebrating Eucharist with all the parents, students, and teachers. Corozon teachers are planning to blow up bags with their science experiments. They are looking forward to celebrating this afternoon with the students and teachers they have fallen in love with. Otoxha teachers are going to be very busy writing letters, flying airplanes, singing with puppets, and writing names with playdoh. We are planning on closing our final time by celebrating Esner's 2nd birthday with a party in San Lucas. He is the son of the San Lucas teachers.
We hope all our friends and family are well. May God continue to bless us all.

Gordon Bernardy
JDAM / SDB International Project Manager
Desk: (314) 777-2133
Cell: (314) 308-8106

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wonderful Wednesday

The weather is finally on our side! The team of Annne, Suzanne, Donna and Roy made it to Otoxha to teach health and hygeine to the students. The community had lunch prepared for the team. The San Lucas construction crew is about 80 percent finished with their project. It will be ready for painting when the June group comes down. In appreciation of the hard work the principal and teacher cooked tamales wrapped in wahoo leaves for the group.
Little Flower school is within walking distance of our sleeping quarters. We added the school this year. It was like being in the Catholic schools back home. Judy, Kathy and Derlene brought music, religious education and a Living Roasry led by the students. Many new songs were sang during our prayer. The San Lucas teachers continue to enjoy their time with the students. There was all student participation as Mary, Jill and Fr. Don taught how to make carbon dioxide rocks. All was amazed and excited to be learning hands on science. Rose, Carolyn, Ann and Bobby brought art projects and brought gifts of flip flops, health hygeine to the students. The students were soooo excited to see Bobby and play football with him. The students played with the puppets that Anne's class back home made for them. It is clear by the many words of appreciation how blessed the people feel by the generousity of our many friends back home.
We send our love back home to our families and friends; please continue to keep us in your prayers. May God continue to bless you all.
Gordon Bernardy
JDAM / SDB International Project Manager
Desk: (314) 777-2133
Cell: (314) 308-8106

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuesday Adventures

Hello friends in the States!
We have had a wonderful day with only spotty showers in all of the villages.....so  beautiful sunshine mixed with some showers creates lots of mud and humidity.
We had some great experiences today, with a sad note that we did not make it to the Otaxha village due to flooded roads. We are very hopeful that the water will recede and will be able to go tomorrow. 
Workers at San Lucas school finished the ceiling and began working on the walls to the school. Before you know it the school will be finished and our teachers will be ready to work with students in the new classrooms and not in the church and community center. 
From Ants in Your Pants to Angels of Mercy.... now that covers a lot of challenges.
It was not the students who had Ants in their pants, but it was Donna....stepping on a mound to avoid mud puddles she discovered it was a fire ant hill.  Oh my!
Fr. Don began as a teacher today but quickly became an Angel of Mercy for the villagers.  He transported a very sick child to the hospital, assisted a man who needed medical attention with an infected leg from stepping on something a few weeks ago; and a pregnant women was experiencing difficulties but was seen by the doctors.  We were so pleased to be able to provide transportation into town.( a 1.5 hour drive)
Our team in Corazon had a marvelous experience with a living rosary that connected them to students at Assumption Church in O'Fallon MO.
For the first time we sent a group to Little Flower School, which is on the grounds of the convent campus.  There are 217 children in the school and all of them received an art lesson today as well as math or science activities. 
Tonight we will be hosting the two Jesuit priests for dinner and look forward to sharing our St. Louis connections. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Monday adventures

Our group of twenty are safe but a bit soaked. It has rained at least three inches each day.
Seeing mayan ruins through the rain added a unique dimension to the jungle.
We are experiencing great commraderie in planning and packing at the convent as well as working with villagers in corazon and san lucas.
"Dem bones" was a big hit during health lessons, especially with jill's skeletons from halloween.
Judy's recording the children singing "rain down" added a little humor but the real fun came when they watched themselves on the IPad afterwards. There were lots of proud moms watching the video at the community luncheon. Santiago hosted a caulda tortilla lunch. Hope to share some pics soon.
Due to the rain the men in san lucas were not working the field so there were 18 men replacing the ceiling at the school.

Miss ann wants to share that concepcion and felix have named their son justin after justyin bieber :)

Hope and Peace.

Gordon Bernardy
JDAM / SDB International Project Manager
Desk: (314) 777-2133
Cell: (314) 308-8106