Latin American Partner Development Visit
On Tuesday 23rd June 2015, the intrepid duo Denise Flack and Sally Roddy set out on another marathon trip, visiting 7 countries, taking over 20 flights, visiting 8 VC members on assignment, appeals at 27 Masses in 5 parishes in 3 languages, (with Gena Heraty as part of Mission Cooperative Programme in the 2 US dioceses), 3 Partner Development Workshops attended by 49 individuals representing 39 organisations, visits to 20 projects and meeting a myriad of dedicated and hardworking people, both local and expat, making amazing efforts on behalf of the poor and those with special needs.
What started as a Partner Development and Volunteer Support visit to Peru and Bolivia somehow expanded into a whirlwind tour! All very logical and good value for money of course! While passing through the US, why not do some MCP mission appeals in Oakland, California and Miami Florida? While in Oakland why not accept the kind invitation to stay with our US representative Dianne Kavanagh and her family in their beautiful new home in Moss Beach, and contact our friend Anne Bader, who for the second year in a row, generously drove us to our parishes and gave us hospitality in her apartment? While killing time in between two weekends of appeals, why not visit our 5 volunteers then in Haiti, Gena Heraty, Colin Brennan, Annette Johansson, Shane Lynch and Michael Nolan? While we were at it why not take a little break from the hard work and visit Brazil and see Rio and the Iguazu Falls (from two sides, Brazil and Argentina)? When in Bolivia, why not visit Denise’s former mission locations and meet many of her friends and contacts? And that was what we did and a lot more besides!
California, Haiti and Florida
Time was tight so after the Oakland Diocese appeals in the parishes of Dublin and Hayward California, it was straight to the Airport and a night flight across the US to Florida, arriving next morning and straight on to Haiti, where we were met by our own Colin Brennan, former VC staff member. Next morning after Mass at St. Damien’s Hospital, celebrated by the Director of NPFS, our Partner organisation in Haiti, Fr. Rick Frechette and Fr Enzo, we visited at the hospital with Shane Lynch, our Bio Medical Engineer and heard about his life and work at St. Damien’s.
Then on to Kay Germaine, Special needs school and therapy Centre, where we saw the work of our physiotherapist, Annette, (along with Norma, NPFS long term Argentinian volunteer physiotherapist), and visited the School, which was on holiday. It was Annette’s birthday so we had cake after lunch and a birthday meal that evening in Petionville.
Next day we went up the mountain to the scenic Kenscoff where we found VC’s Michael Nolan busy teaching English to the orphanage children at summer school. While there we also bumped into Liz Lawne, former VC volunteer, who pioneered the work on the Special Education Project at Kay Germaine over the previous 3 years and was back visiting Haiti at the time and her Haitian Husband, Guy, still working on his Irish visa, (which has thankfully come through since) and long term volunteer special education teacher cum trainer from Clare, Jacinta McGuane.
On Friday we were back down the mountain in the early hours and back to St. Damien’s for Mass and another meeting with Shane Lynch, and met up with the hospital Director, Dr. Jacqueline Gautier, who was very happy to have Shane on her team, before going on to the Airport for our flight to Miami for MCP with Gena Heraty, who had agreed to speak at the Creole Masses there. By chance Norma was also with us at the Airport as she was going home to Argentina for a short break.
MCP in Miami on Independence Weekend was another roller coaster, risking life and limb, with Sally at the wheel of a rented automatic car, (which in fairness she had begun to master by last Mass on Sunday!) Gena spent her spare minutes in between Masses, shopping for her large family in Haiti, undaunted by the prospect of travelling home with 40 pairs of flip flops as well as many other items of clothing, cheaper to buy in Miami!
Sunday evening, 14 Masses in 3 languages later, we made a mad dash back to the hotel to pack again and having said our goodbyes to Gena, who would fly back to Haiti early next morning, set out once again on the one hour drive through the city to Miami Airport, to return car (thankfully it and us in once piece, major miracle in itself!) and catch flight at 2.a.m. for Lima. At last our Peru and Bolivia visit proper was about to start!
It was early Monday morning, 5th July when Tessa Cornally, VC volunteer with the Incarnate Word Missionaries (IWM), met us at Lima Airport and we abandoned ourselves into her capable hands and after a 7 hour very comfortable bus journey along the Pan American Highway, she delivered us safely to our hotel in Chimbote. No rest for the wicked or VC field trippers! Next morning we were on the job early, along with the new Director of IWM, Ada Gonzalez who was also on a field visit to Chimbote with a colleague Marcy, an early childhood educator.
Each day brought a new and interesting encounter as Tessa guided us through the main activities of her project and her daily life in the Invasion Zones on the outskirts of Chimbote, which is virtually set in a desert but with a very scenic Coastline. We met the local Department of Education Supervisors of Early Childhood teachers and schools and discussed the current impact and future needs of the project with them, followed by a training session given by Marcy and Ada.
We sat in on a Workshop for parents, facilitated by the Project Psychologist, Carmita, visited two early childhood kindergartens and discussed progress with the teachers, met community leaders and parents, talked with the Director of the Nutritional Project Simbrando Infancia who were a partner in this project, visited the Health Centre and the Hospice run by the Incarnate Word Missionaries. Following a debriefing session with the main stakeholders, we discussed VC’s partnership with IWM, along with future project possibilities and visited the school where our next VC volunteer with IWM, Yvonne Moynihan, would be based.
And suddenly it was Friday and time for our first Partner Development Workshop of the trip, at the Centenario, a local convention centre where the project Workshos are held. 14 attended representing 8 groups mostly connected to the Incarnate Word Sisters Ministries. Denise did a Power Point presentation on VC and IWM and how we work with Partners, what
we have to offer and the conditions necessary for project funding. The Presentation went well and there was good participation in the discussion session. Refreshments were provided and VC documents handed out in Spanish Translation. That evening we celebrated our wonderful visit to Chimbote with the local IWM volunteers including our Tessa, Nicolena and Jackie. It was a relief to have our first PD Workshop under our belts as we waved a sad farewell to Chimbote early on Sat morning and headed back down the Pan American Highway to Lima.
Our VC volunteers are wonderful! We cannot speak highly enough of them. Tessa handed us over into the care of Brigid MacCarthy who brought us to Puente Piedra, on the outskirts of Lima, where she has lived for the past 14 years. Having booked into a local Hostel, Brigid brought us home by tuk tuk to her apartment for a delicious home cooked meal and the inevitable evening of chatting and catching up over a glass of vino. Sunday was a lovely relaxed day which started with a simple yet beautiful prayer and communion service at Brigid’s Basic Christian Community, where we met many of her community friends followed by a sunny winter’s afternoon of strolling and chatting at the nearby Ancon Beach, and back again at Brigid’s apartment to finish off yesterday’s feast.
Monday morning and the start of our second jam packed week in Peru! Brigid brought us to see her projects, many of which she has been working on since her arrival there 14 years ago, with other members of Vida, the small Community Based Organisation, which she set up; wonderful work on Environmental and Community Development, Music, Special Needs etc in schools and Community. We visited the amazing flowering school gardens, blooming like an oasis in the surrounding desert, her friend Liz’s Don Quixote Library, the Peru Children’s Charity set up by Michael Murphy, whom we had met at VC., Asphad a special needs centre run by Columban Father, Chris Baker, where Brigid also teaches music.
Other highlights of our week were an overnight visit to the NPH Home in San Vincente, 2hrs away by bus, an afternoon meeting and catching up in Mira Flores, with our third VC volunteer, Anne Reilly, who was doing a Spanish Course and a day out in Central Lima with Sr. Maura Gallahue, Columban Sister, where we visited the Dominican Church, where the remains of the city’s patron saints Santa Rosa de Lima and Martin de Porres are to be found.
Our second Partner Development Workshop was held on Tues 14th July at the Columban Centre CCEM (Centro Colombano de Estudios Misioneros) in Los Olivos. There were 16 participants representing 10 Organisations, 4 of which were Misean Cara Members. The discussion was lively with some participants expressing an opinion that funding agencies don’t understand Latin America and are too focused on Africa. There are many needs among these organisations, which are doing great and necessary work, but satisfying the funding organisation’s criteria for partnership may prove very challenging.
And so at the end of our week in Lima we once again bade a sad farewell to Brigid and Anne and all our new Peruvian friends. Of course we had only scratched the surface of this wonderfully diverse country where so many of our VC members had worked over the past 55 years. One of them, Eileen Moynihan, who went to Peru in 1964, and met her husband and made her home there, contacted us and was very excited to hear that VC was still going strongly after all those years. She promised to call on us when she comes home and we are looking forward to meeting her.
…our next installment in this marathon trip will be on Bolivia! Watch this space!