Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Go Team!

Our usual breakfast meeting started promptly at 7:30.  Sadly, we were down two team members as they had to make their way back to the states.  Assignments were given and rides were coordinated; we are a well-oiled machine.  Some highlights from the day include:

A group of six went to Castries to follow the Primary School’s chorus final competition.  We are happy to announce that they placed first out of the final five schools competing.  While the team was in Castries they had an opportunity to briefly meet the governor general, who was at the competition, and were acknowledged for the work Global Volunteers is doing in Anse La Raye.

The preschool children were missing Sherry, the volunteer who left this week.  The children were also aware of the new roof that was put on over the weekend and some reported that their dads were part of the group who helped make it happen. 

Michelle went to the daycare alone, but luckily the supervisor, Ms. Frederick was back from her training class.  It was still chaotic trying to manage 24 children between two adults.  Michelle, at the start of the morning was given 8 three year olds to work with – a simple task of coloring - but that proved to be too much to handle. 

Julie and Dave, the Earth box team, reported that boxes were transported to the primary school, and that they have created a detailed lesson plan for future teams.

The secondary school team worked with teachers, trying to figure out how they work with failing students, and how they graded and completed student evaluations. 

The Roving caregivers had the opportunity to meet with three families, but were disappointed that they couldn’t have met more.  They also found out which families will be assigned their earth boxes.

The medical team stopped by a few schools to talk about hygiene issues, particularly how to wash the hands, put to music of “Itsy Bitsy Spider”.  It was a real hit with the kids.  They also managed to make connections between the schools and the clinic for vision screening.  They had a chance to meet with the village council, a group of 30 people who are paid to clean and maintain the streets for health and safety reasons.

The Roving Construction guys made a stop at a few schools to fix some of the soap dispensers and/or add new ones, and load them up with liquid soap.  (The children at the daycare, right away, noticed the change and were excited to have a new kind of soap!)

After a hard day of working, some of the team groups assembled as usual, hanging at the outdoor restaurant at JJ’s, enjoying drinks and popcorn, while typing reports, surfing the web, reading emails, making some connections to the families we have left behind.  Some swam and relaxed by the pool, chatting excitedly about their day’s work.

One last incredible piece of news to report:  the first week in Anse La Raye was productive, and we knew that already based on all the great stories that the individual teams reported - we worked hard.  However, to put a numerical value to the amount of work adds a whole other dimension.  When it was a said and done, we as a team put in *drum-roll please* approximately 1209 hours of work.  Go team!!!

And They're Off!

Welcome to the first annual St. Lucia Kentucky Derby.

 For the race this year we have only three entrants; Bud from Minnesota riding his olive green Ford, then there is Warren from Georgia driving a dark blue Suzuki and finally, Ian, from St. Lucia in a white 13 passenger van.

 Odds are 2 to 1 for Bud; he is the boss and he is in a small more powerful vehicle.  Ian is at 10 to 1; he is in a slow heavy beast, but with local knowledge of the track he has home field advantage.
Finally, Warren; the dark horse of the race at 50 to 1 odds.  He has a car with a small engine and tires with no traction.  He has a distinct disadvantage.

It is anyone's race to win.

It is 8:00 a.m. and the racers are at the starting gate.
And, they're off.

It is Warren in the lead, he has a good head start with Earth Boxers Dave and Julie and construction workers Robert and John.
He's up the hill and down the hill and around the corners to the hardware and seedling stores.

Bud's a close second at 8:15 with primary schoolers Linda, Vicki, David and Chris and Roaming Care givers Darlene and Betsy. And he's up the hill and down the hill and around the corners.  He is in the speedier car but he's fading fast; he has to return to the hardware store for another pick up and delivery to the primary school.  He is REALLY fading now with the knowledge that the construction team has once again misplaced the tool box.

And now it is Ian's turn with an 8:30 start.  He's up the hill and down the hill and around the corners.  He has Mary Dee, Keith, Barbara and Marilyn for a quick delivery to the Marigot School. Also aboard are Russ and Lynn; Ian  is in such a
rush that he almost races by the health clinic. He's catching up fast with deliveries of Pam, Roger and Mary to the Infant School and Laurie, Paddy and Michelle to the pre-schools.  Ian has a late start but we are confident that
his mastery of the roads will help his chances of winning.

And they are rounding the bend for home, the morning drop off is almost complete.  It is a tight race, but Ian wins it by a nose.

His pleasant demeanor, patience and superb driving skills are what it took to master this difficult track.There also was agreement among the team that these kids have trouble learning on their own. 

Dave and Julie of the Earth Box Team got seedlings and met with 3 mothers and had them plant Earth Boxes.  I believe there were two tomatoes, 6 cabbage and 3 cucumbers planted in those three boxes.

At the Infant School Pam reported some success when she pulled a few students from class and worked with them individually.  It was also mentioned that  Roger continued his work with the second grade boys.

Darlene and Betsy from the roving care givers continued to go into several home to observe. This day Darlene went into 2 and Betsy three homes.

At the Primary School Vicky reported there was a big discussion about respect of the soap dispensers and what a big hit they are.  The kitchen staff wanted to know if they could have one as well.  Sounded like a good idea to everyone and it was agreed that the mobile construction crew would make it happen.  Linda gave several more of her aerodynamic lessons and they were thrilled.  One student actually wanted to know if she was a pilot.  She is many things, but I do not believe she is that.  It also should be noted that several members of other teams arrive to should support for Linda as well as teamwork amoug the Global Volunteers.

Russ and Lynn reported they spent part of their day looking into local food prices in an effort to see if you can feed a family of 5, 3 meals a day on 10 -15 EC.  They felt you could get close.

Paddy and Michele reported they too had started pulling students out of class and working with them and they felt it was working.

Robert and I assembled an Earth Box Table and cut lumber for a second one.  We also visited the Kiddie Homey daycare at Russ and Lynn suggestion and worked on getting the soap dispensers working properly.  We also have a new drill and drill bits so watch out now. 

Bud and Warren ended their day with several meetings.  The first was with a Former Government official who is a soil expert from McGill University who will assist us in evaluating alternate soils for our Earth Boxes and the second meeting was with the new Agriculture Minister who will help us get Earth Boxes into St. Lucia.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

First Goodbye

8:00 am Pastor Dave lead the volunteers with a 30 min, reflection and thanksgiving service. followed by breakfast. Each and all were headed in a different direction with the departing of Jim. Good -by's were difficult and we wished him the best in his singing. Some again, went snorkling,scuba diving, a tour with the teacher, and some went to Pigon Island. Vicky, Julie, Pam and I had the fun day of going to the Sulfer Springs via a water taxi. We enjoyed the mud bath, followed by lunch and an hour of playing in the waves of the Sea. Had a very nice taxi ride back to the resort for an enjoyable dinner. A good day with lots of laughs.

Friday, January 20, 2012

End of Week One

The first week of our work in St. Lucia concluded with an open house at the suite of Patti and John. It was a relaxing way to celebrate not only the magnitude of contacts made in the community but the new friendships that had been fostered among the volunteers.

The construction crew at the Infant School completed most of their repairs to the roof and walls of the school. Several members of the neighborhood came to work. Additional supplies were purchased today and all the workers will return tomorrow at 9:00, their day off, to finish the remainder of the project. The children will stay dry the next time the pounding rains come.

The Earth Box assembly and demo was done at the library for a group of young mothers who responded with enthusiasm about growing their own vegetables for their families. The roving care givers had spread the word to the mothers about the meeting at the library. The team then visited the nursery to determine what type of seedlings would be possible to purchase for the Earth Boxes. Mr. Francois Henry was so helpful and gracious. I found myself feeling humbled and small in the presence of these ingenious, hard working people.

Vickie exploded with joy when she was presented with 8 soap dispensers for the restrooms at the primary school. She even had three gallons of liquid soap. Having taught several hygiene lessons at the school, the children and staff were anxious to incorporate hand washing into their daily health habits.

Teachers in the secondary and infant schools helped with assessments and supported classroom teachers in their monumental task of instruction with few resources.

Before the evening meal the team of Global Volunteers, dressed in matching shirts, assembled in front of JJ's Paradise Resort for a group picture since two of our group will depart this weekend. The Global Volunteers' shirts, containing a large thumbprint, symbolize that our dream is to leave a mark on the world.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Good Day

The morning began with John and crew heading off to the school to complete the project of the roof repair and constructing the shelves for the much needed space. Lynne and company headed off on the boat to the deep seas to Scuba Dive and Snorkel. The rest of the crew had the rest of the am to get caught up from the activities of the last week. Lunch was enjoyed by all (at JJ's Paridise)and the take off via the water-taxi was soon on its mission to the Market in Castries. Two water taxies were need for the remainder of the volunteers.

The Market was hustled and busy. Melons, Tomatoes, Lettuce, coconuts,oranges,and all the spices the island had to offer were up for sale. Negotations of prices was the item of the day. All had fun and enjoyed the new experience and hard work of the islanders, who ,will be at the market today,tomorrow and was there yesterday. The water taxie brought us safely back to the resort for a fine meal prepared by the staff at JJ's.

Another group of volunteers took advantage of having a massage. And yes, it was a good day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Building walls and relationships

As Jimmy Buffett would say,"another day in paradise." Well, at least another day at J.J.'s Paradise. For the first team of Global Volunteers going to St.Lucia, Anse-la - Raye might not be paradise, but it is a better place because we and other teams of Global Volunteers will be there. You might want reasons for my prophecy, my prediction. I will give you some from the gound up to the roof. Let's start with paving of some school yards, then go to Earthboxes (everyone wants one), and move on to soap dispensers (see a need-fill a need). Walls and roofs in bad shape? Not to worry, we get some tools, some materials and then working with folks from the community, we repair not only the roof, but the side of a building and paint the fixed-side. Global Volunteers are like the Navu Seabees--we can build anything, anywhere! And, I don't want to forget the toilet seat for a school.

But Global Volunteers is building something else that will last as long and longer than walls, roofs, and Earthboxes. The journal reports have listed our teams building trust, and relationships. We seek in schools, health clinics, and in a church to build with doctors, nurses, community roving caregivers, teachers,principals, government ministers, an archbishop, and a priest something the people of St.Lucia need and want.

No, the seawall will not be built before this first team leaves in another week, but it will be built by future Global Volunteer teams to protect a school, children, and a village.

But Global Volunteers is building another wall-a stronger wall to protect children. It is not a wall of stones, concrete, bricks, steel,etc. It is a wall of better nutrition, better health care, better education to make more opportunity and a better community. It is to build stronger community spirit in the belief that yes I can, yes you can, and we the young people of St. Lucia can!

Now I must end my journal today with something a Frenchman said:"Ours will never be a world in which children are not tortured, but it can be a world in which less children are tortured, and if you don't help who will?" Albert Camus wrote that. And that why I think Global Volunteers is here in St.Lucia. We are here to lessen the number of children tortured by poor nutrition, lack of health care, lack of food, and by disease and violence.

Monday, January 16, 2012

First Day on the Job

Our first day in Anse La Raye for all the project teams. After breakfast, the teams headed off to town in the vans: Infant School (confusing name as it is K-2), Kiddies Homey Day Care (0-2 years), Preschool (ages 1-5), Primary School (grades 3-6 and ages 8-12), and  Secondary School (grades 8-12) . In the afternoon the SeaWall, Roving CareGivers and Health Clinic teams also traveled to Anse La Raye to begin work. The EarthBox team stayed at JJs, reviewed videos, with confidence that the boxes are in country and just need to be collected from Customs.

Team reports in the evening were detailed and spirited. The day was described as great, wonderful, outstanding, awesome and terrific.  Bud told us that: "We are engaged as short term volunteers in human and economic development" and reminded us that this will be a slow process. The highest of praise was Bud's concluding remarks that " I've been with many teams and this was, without question, the best first day I have seen."

- Lynn

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Day 2- the adventure continues

After a night punctuated by the cacophony of rain on metal roofs, day broke to more or less clear skies. Unfortunately, coffee eluded the early risers, but breakfast was bountiful, albeit slow in arriving. After all, how fast can one waitress and one chef provide a cooked-to-order breakfast for twenty-six people???

Three loaded vans transported the group to Anse-le-raye for mass at the Catholic Church. Some of us had a peek at the Earth Boxes planted last November and the tomato plants growing there. Father Athanase Joseph, our host and mentor, celebrated the mass accompanied by a choir of young, enthusiastic, robust voices as well as several young musicians. Members of the congregation kindly offer assistance in helping some of us navigate through the service. Our team leader, Bud, presented to the congregation an overview of Global Volunteers and the reason for its presence in Anse-le-raye. Referencing his message of calling and commitment, Father Athanase enlightened the volunteers about the importance of making connections in the community and some of the cultural background likely to impact volunteer efforts.

Following a buffet lunch, a three plus hour orientation with all assembled included a review of the inter-relationship of the Twelve Essential Services and the generation of  the following goals for the two weeks:

    To stimulate life long skills

    To promoted the twelve essential services

    To build relationships/friendships

    To learn the St. Lucian culture

    To be a servant learner

    To enjoy the experience

    To grow personally

Fifteen characters of an effective team morphed into a super team of twenty-some highly desirable qualities and we all promised to do out best to exhibit these qualities. A quick overview of Global policies and health and safety guidelines was given. Remember to keep rested, comfortably cool, well hydrated and adequately fed and “safety trumps everything”! Project groups met to discern their anticipated goals for Monday and reported their plans at dinner.

It was a long day. Bed couldn’t come soon enough for volunteers and team leaders alike.

- Betsy

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Inaugural Team arrives!

We arrive in batches, shuttling from the airport, clunking off to our rooms up rain-slicked paths, straggling through mystical mangroves to dinner.

We are eager to learn about this motley crew assembled from across the country: David, Marilyn, Michelle, Robert, Warren, Roger, Chris, Keith, Paddy, Mary Dee, Darlene, Vicky, Julie, Lynn, Jim, Linda, Shari, Pam, Laurie, John, Betsy, Russ, Dave, Barbara, Mary, and Bud. Now we just need to remember our assigned seating for the next two weeks!

We listen in earnest to Bud’s providential story of coming to Anse La Raye and his hopeful account of what might be possible through teams of volunteers. We are weary and disoriented, waiting to settle in and to see Marigot Bay in the sunlight. And, mostly, we are eager to meet the community.

- Mary Dee