2006 MOTLEY MISSION CREW Our first mission trip was two weeks long and began on April 29, 2006. Because of our very diverse backgrounds we were nicknamed the MOTLEY MISSION CREW. First week 'crew members' were: Jaime Katz, Rich Fox, Margie Everett, Marty Uldriks, Lynn Raymond, Ken & Darlene Stamm, and Rick Raymond. Mike Whitesell and Dan Truax joined us in week # 2. We were blessed with $26,000 in cash donations and many additional in-kind donations. During this trip, one house was built from the ground up in Santo Domingo and five others were remodeled in the Cienfuegos area of Santiago. Although the Motley Mission Crew did not have time to assist in the construction, thanks to individual donors, we were able to leave the funds necessary to completely remodel and refurbish a home that was destroyed by fire. 185 backpacks valued at over $9,000 were stuffed full of goodies and shipped to Santiago and Santo Domingo. Each of the 120 plus children that were sponsored by Project Santiago received a backpack that was stuffed to the brim. Furniture, cooking stoves, food, and clothing were also delivered to sponsored children and other needy families in the Dominican Republic. Our facilitators in Santo Domingo were Gustavo and Bien Guzman and in Santiago the entire staff of the Santiago field office of Children International. Both facilitating groups did a phenominal job and our greatest expectations were exceeded to the nth degree.
Inside old home
Yokira with children
Jaime and Margie install window
Week # 1 From the first day it was quite apparent, we were indeed a 'Motley' bunch. In fact, our original project was supposed to be the repair of a dilapidated church--and those plans were scrapped at the last minute when the board of the church we were to repair had a problem with the denomination of a couple of our 'crew' members. Trying not to be discouraged, we directed Gustavo to find us someone who was truly in need of a new home. We had budgeted $3,500 for construction costs and would need to build the home from the ground up. The first time we met Santos and Yokira and their family it was almost as if they were total castouts of their depressed community. They were very timid and shy. Santos earned about $1 per day repairing motorcycles, but often times did not work because of his location. The family of 5 lived in a one room 8 x 10 shack with a dirt floor, and slept on one full size mattress. On the day they moved out, I remember two things: #1. their entire belongings with the exception of the mattress fit in a potato sack, and #2. under the mattress was a rat.
It was a deplorable way to live, but without help, impossible to change.
As the week progressed we learned to accept imperfections, used lumber, and doing some things in unconventional ways. We learned a lot about community spirit, the joy of helping someone that was living in desperate circumstances, and what it felt like to put in a hard days work. At the end of the fourth day I remember Gustavo telling us that we had to finish the next day. We did not have the roof on, the siding completed, or the cement floor poured. Did I mention that all the cement was mixed on the ground by hand and then poured bucket by bucket?? It seemed impossible, but with the help of a lot of people in the community, and of course God, we did it. By the time the house was completed, Santos and his family would run down the lane and greet us when we approached the work site and by the end of the week everyone on the work site was almost overcome by joy. With the help of private donors, we furnished the home with three beds and mattresses, a table and chairs, food, and a propane stove. Crew members stepped up and paid for the repair of Santos' motorcycle (he now supplements his earnings by serving as a 'moto-concho'), paid for an operation to repair Sammy's clubbed hand, sterilization of Yokira, and the cost of obtaining papers for the kids so they could begin school. For those of us that were on the trip for two weeks, we agreed not to mention how awesome our week was to the new incoming crew--because we thought it could not possibly be matched in intensity.
Santos & Ken mix cement
Ken, Gustavo, and Margie work on foundation
Setting the interior petition, Dominican style
Darlene 'teaching class'
Lynn & Marty on the job
Marty, Rich, and Ken
Mike & Ken work the cement
Touring Cienfuegos streets
Mike with Wanderson & family
Back pack delivery in rural area
Week # 2 After being joined by Mike Whitesell and Dan Truax, we headed to Santiago with Alberto and Gustavo to begin the second week of our journey. The Colonial Hotel was chosen for our headquarters because of it's close proximity to CI's downtown office. After a quick check-in at the hotel, we were off to the Children International Office to find out what they had planned for us. We were pleasantly surprised that our whole week was planned, every detail, including 5 different homes to remodel. The staff was very cordial and we almost felt guilty that they had committed all of their personnel resources to us. They accomodated us with interpreters and local help at each job site. It was a good thing that help was provided, because almost all work involved cement-- cement floors, stucco cement walls, cement bathrooms--you get the picture. Mix, mix, mix, all by hand. It was May and it was HOT! The highlight of every day was buying all the icecream and popsicles from the street vendors and giving them to the kids. By the end of the week we had made many new friends--the people of Cienfuegos and the fantastic staff of Children Int'l. On day 4 we set out to deliver some of the backpacks to children of Project Santiago sponsors. As we pulled up to one of the Sub-Project offices in Santiago, we heard the roar of children. We were surprised when we entered the community room by shouts from approximately 50 children of Project Santiago sponsors along with their parents. It was truly a moving experience for us--having so many sponsored children in one room thanking us. Throughout the week we met with our sponsored children and visited their homes--Mike with Wanderson, Ken & Darlene with Anna Rosa, Rick with Henry, Dilenia, & others, Dan with Anna, and Lynn with Eric, Yanna, & Juan. Writing letters to these kids is one thing, but having them lead you around their homes thanking you for everything in sight is something else. Sometimes you come across a special need that can be addressed for very little money, and you are blessed with the opportunity and privilege to improve a life, right there on the spot. Often times, you meet a kid that just jumps in your heart, and if you're lucky you are able to sponsor them, too. The last day of our trip we were once again surprised by the staff of Children Int'l with a talent show that was conducted by the Children of Cienfuegos as a thank-you for our efforts. It concluded with a special video presentation that the staff had made from pictures taken that week. I glanced around, hoping I wasn't the only one with tears streaming down my face--I wasn't. In fact, everyone in our group had tears of joy. We left that night for the bus station and I felt that we had been given a glimpse of what heaven must be like.