Volunteer Mission: June 2010 Pine Forest UMC
COORDINATOR’S LOG: JUNE 2010
Trip: Pine Forest United Methodist Church of Goldsboro, NC
Dates: June 15-29, 2010
Pre-Trip Panic – We need one more volunteer!!!
Shortly before our departure, team member Dolores Hans’ mother was hospitalized. With the team’s full support, Dolores and her husband, Tom, made the tough decision to cancel their trip in order to be with her. Realizing that we needed at least one replacement volunteer in order to meet our minimum 10 passengers for our group airfare reservation, we began the frantic search for ONE BRAVE SOUL who might be able/willing to spontaneously dash off to Bolivia with us…
Less than 48 hours before takeoff, past volunteer KELSEY GRIFFITH (from Pine Forest’s 2008 & 2009 teams) courageously jumped on board. She turned out to be, of course, exactly the team member we needed… THANK YOU, KELSEY!
Arrival & La Paz Tour
After nearly missing our connection in Miami due to weather delays (airlines should add “wear running shoes” to the list of warnings/advisories at the bottom of e-tickets), we arrived in La Paz on time on Thursday morning. Victor showed us some new sites on this trip’s City Tour, using his seemingly-infinite knowledge to help us appreciate the urban renewal currently taking place in La Paz. New tour stops included: beautiful public parks; new soccer fields and basketball courts; and a long walking bridge (Villa Balcon) that winds through several neighborhoods.
There is nothing in the world quite like the feeling of arriving at the Kory Wawanaca Children’s Home in Tacachia. Our trucks were met by a crowd of grinning, shouting children, bursting with excitement and ready to smother us with hugs. All but two of our team members had been to Tacachia before, and the tears started flowing as soon as the truck doors opened.
Project #1: Birthday Party
Our first job in Tacachia was to celebrate the birthdays of Abigail (11), Rita The Cook (ageless), and Colton (19 – one of our rookie volunteers). Instead of a cake, a giant pyramid of donuts (the kids’ favorite new treat!) was placed in front of Abigail with a candle on top.
After birthday wishes were made and properly formalized, each party-goer took a donut to the donut-decorating table where Bronwyn (my mama!) provided cake-decorating tools and training. Everyone from little ones to adults got to ice their donuts with sugary flowers, leaves, and words in various colors. Meanwhile, at another table, Jessica, Hannah, and Gavin set up a tie-dye “shop” where everyone picked out patterns and colors for their own made-to-order tie-dyed tee shirts. Bubbles, balloons, and beaded necklaces rounded out a fantasitc fiesta.
Feliz Cumpleanos, Abigail, Rita, & Colton!
Working in Tacachia: Painting
Of course, we didn’t just party the WHOLE time. We also did some work…
Kelsey, Lisa, and Carrie teamed up to paint two of the boys’ rooms – one with a jungle theme and one with a cowboy theme. Thanks to Kelsey’s amazing artistic talent (remember how I said she was just what we needed?!), the boys are now sharing their rooms with a monkey, a leopard, and (by special request of the two youngest boys) a “baby horse”.
Working in Tacacha: Rocks & Cacti
There are two things in Tacachia that you never have to worry about running out of: rocks and cacti. Fortunately, the KW Family knows how to handle both. “Every rock has a purpose,” said Frank (who had managed to become a fully-acclimated Tacachian since I dropped him off in April), “Some are paving rocks,” he said, “Some are corner-stones, some are perfect for walls…” And, so, with Frank, Gavin, and Ernesto (“El Maestro” of construction) in the lead, the team helped various rocks acheive their destinies while building another retaining wall and continuing progress on the kids’ basketball court. As for the cacti, they were “handled” with machetes and shovels in order to clear another plot of land for farming. It was tough work, and everyone did a GREAT job!
Working in Tacachia: Jewelry
Last Day Excursion to the Amazon Basin
On Monday, our last full day in Bolivia, we decided to swap our trip to Lake Titicaca (almost all of us had been there before) for an excursion to THE YUNGAS – a warmer, lower section of Bolivia which is part of the Amazon River Basin. Trusting in Victor’s never-failing guidance (how great is it to have the ultimate tour guide as our partner in Bolivia???), we drove up over the snowy Andes mountains (about 15,000 ft above sea level), and then down into the jungle (about 5,000 ft), where we walked over the Amazon River on a rope bridge and trekked for about hour or so to a small eco-lodge called El Jiri. After a traditional lunch, some of us hiked onward to a waterfall, while others learned how to make chocolate and coffee.
The best part of the trip was having Roy and Miguel join us. As the two oldest boys, they are now living in La Paz so that they can attend school. We missed them in Tacachia and were thrilled to get to spend the day with them. Miguel was a helpful gentleman, constantly stopping to assist us over slippery slopes and difficult rocks, while Roy, who is originally from the Yungas, was so excited he could barely contain himself. Thank you, Victor, for an incredible day!
We arrived safely home on Tuesday, June 29th, after an absolutely wonderful trip. This team bonded together seamlessly – like a family – from the very beginning. They were a joy to work and travel with. Thank you, again, to all of the family, church, and community members whose support made this trip possible!
THIS WAS THE FOURTH MISSION TEAM SENT TO THE KW HOME BY PINE FOREST UMC (www.pineforestumc.com). Your dedication, faith, and generosity are greatly admired and appreciated! THANK YOU! Come back soon!