Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Highlights from the past 11 days

You probably think that since Pammie and Wendy showed up I forgot how to write...well, we were just super busy and I could not find a block of time to sit and write. i will catch you up now though as they left today. It is so quiet and lonely at my house tonight. I have the geiko and a new frog outside that the cat is driving crazy. Since the cat has not killed it, I am wondering if it is poisonous. I am not going near it.

Pammie and Wendy were awesome social workers and I do say I know they have many new friends and email partners to keep up with now. They helped me more than I can even explain by interviewing children and giving me new eyes to things that happen every day at the school and on the island. I am having hard time processing what happened today as I have had them to talk to every night and morning. It just helps to have someone to talk to about the days here. They worked hard and sweated a lot. I miss them already. Everyone was sad today and asked if they really left.

The highlights of the last days...D and N are actually doing their work! They have not been sent out of class either. I did a sexual abuse prevention talk yesterday to the Standard I students - their classes - 60 7 and 8 year olds...I had questions like I have never had before and I have probably done this talk over 100's of times. One question - So what happens if the person who is trying to sexually abuse you has a knife or a machete and they are going to cut your throat? What if you can't get away? Now you have to imagine that he is showing me the cut across the throat as he is asking the question...another question - "I heard that if they sex you - you can get pregnant, is that right?" and when asked where you might me when sexual abuse happens...on the beach, behind the bushes, in a hotel, in a shop, in your house...who? dad, step-dad, uncles, moms, tourists, anybody! ok enough - it was more than I could take from 7-8 year olds. D and J came up to me afterwards and told me that J had seen someone hold a knife to a kids throat in Belize city but he got away but the guy shot at him. D wanted to talk but then didn't so I am waiting him out and checking with him every day.

On the lighter side...I have given three of the worst behavior girls in Standard II (third grade) post-it-notes that are heart shaped, flower shaped and they just love them. I also took them for ice cream when they acted appropriately for a week. Three other girls fromt he same class walked me home the other day. One of them said do you have any more of those heart notes? I said no, but I am trying to get someone to bring me some from the states because i figure all little girls in Standard II need heart shaped notes...she said well, do you think all little girls need ice cream? I thougth for a sec and said hmmm...i am sure that all little girls need ice cream - so when are we going? they said next week. I am going to walk them home friday and ask their parents if we can get ice cream.

The San Mateo soccer coach - Cruz - came to me last Friday and said - "Miss Kim, we have a problem. The shirts you got the ladies for their soccer are white and all the other teams have white shirts." I told him that I don't have another color of shirt. He said then you have to dye them. No, not me...unless you want tye died....then he said no we need you to buy the dye and they will dye them - ok - long discussion on to dye....they showed up on Sunday afternoon with beautiful blue-gray shirts that match the school colors - i told them the marble look they created is one you pay big money for...they won their game and played so good together - Lynette played and made a goal! Now we have tow more things happening. We had a meeting and they are in favor of starting a coop - cottage industry. They need income. So after much discussion - we want to teach them to sew - make island table clothes, place mats, napkins, clothing, and the school jumpers. They also want to learn to make pastries to sell. During the discussion though - one mom said - but Miss Kim even if we got the sewing machines donated...we do not have electricity - we need a building with electricity, sewing machines, material and a start. Any ideas for grants? One of the volunteers is all aobut helpign with this. Then one of the moms came to me after church sunday and said we have

We have about a dozen kids who are not in school way back in San Mateo and there is not room at the school. They can't go anywhere else and they are going to be so far behind their ae group. so Wendy and Pammie and I walked the planks...talked to them about the issue and there are two women who have high school educations who could teach in that little area...we are going to get the lesson plans and books for the different ages and they are going to home school until the fall to try to catch them up. We saw Shirley's garden too - amazing how she can grow anything in the soil...she knows how to make the compost to make the soil that can grow things. We saw how they cook on an open fire of coconut shells. Amazing women.

Ernesto and I took the guests on a tour of the island on Saturday - north and south and went thorugh DFC and San Predito. they had the $15 dollar tour that not many get. We ate at all my favorite restaurants and tried a new pizza place that was really good. Wendy learned that no sooner do I mention a persons name and they show up - really weird. They have experience Kareoke also and Wendy and I sang a lot - our best one is "I love this bar", #2 - mountain music, #3 - delta dawn, #4 - rocky top,#5 - country roads....on and on. I will miss my kareoke partner. Wendy celebrated her birthday last Friday - we had a dinner with friends at Nautica and I had them put a candle in the key lime cheesecake with mango sauce. She even got gifts. they sort f learned to Punta dance...heard about the gringo in belize, had mango mojitos, learned about dirty bananas, learned that eating here takes time...had a few belikins. Ernesto cooked stew chicken, homemade tortillas, cocnut rice and potatoe salad for them. They will be back.

Wendy collected enough money to buy the drums. There will be a trip to the mainland. She also brough money to support the soccer teams. I hope I have some vitamins coming this way by volunteers and visitors as we are out of them.

Pammie uncovered a situation in which two little boys were coming dirty to school - no money coming into a single parent hoem because their dad left. They have not had water for months. I learned a lesson in this situation...Pammie got them two new shirts each so they would not be filthy did not have his new shirt on the next day. I asked him why and he said he was saving it. I asked him if they had any food in their house for the weekend - he said yes. When mom cam upon request to talk with me on monday - she said S said you asked him if we had food and he told you yes - i teach my children not to beg or tell what we do not have but we really have no food. Ms. Laura said "kim, when you ask them those questions - they will never tellyou that they do not have food." So what do you do? Just figure they dont and get the food.

some things are nuts you know - I heard a preacher talking about fasting for lent to these children...sorry...just didn't set right with me - they could give up a meal for someone else to eat?? wonder who among use can go from friday noon until monday morning with nothing to eat? just wondering....wendy kept feeling guilty when we were eating at restaurants...

This may be enough for tonight. I am going to try to attach a sermon to my blog that Rev. Ann wrote about the blessing of the house. I can't read it without crying. She has captured the experience much better than I did. I hope it works to attach it. I continue to be amazed at how the people here let me into their lives. I am the one being blessed. Take care, love and miss you all.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wendy and Pammie are here!

Yes, Wendy and Pammie have arrived! We went to school today and they both ran the vision tests. They learned that the correct way that you identify a "Z" is to say "Zip". We went on a tour of San Mateo and they are constantly meetin gthe children. Of course they have promised too many that they will buy a bracelet from them....We went to Butch's bar to watch the sky divers and they met Butch and Johnson. Biggs came by to arrange their snorkeling trip - of course he was laying it on thick! Then we went to Lily's to eat. So far they have liked the food and the people. This is the best of the island of course. We are tired and at home and getting ready for another day. Love and miss you all.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

san mateo moms

The San Mateo moms had their first soccer game Friday night. We were told it would start at 6 pm. so in my usual gringo fashion I show up at 6 p.m. along with the two other gringos that are helping with the children's soccer teams. Lynette is a good soccer player from Canada and her husband coaches soccer at a University. They have brought their children here for several months. We get another lesson in "time" around here. The San Mateo moms were all their a little after 6 but the other team did not show up until about 7 pm. No one gets upset - just play ball. This league is a little different. They play on the basketball court that has a dug in place at each end for the soccer goal. This is a very physical game and has a few different if you kick the ballout of the stadium, there is a penalty kick that is a death wish for the keeper. If you kick it out - you may or may not get your ball back because it is likely that someone will just pick it up and take it is important to not kick it out. Lynette was asked to play and was allowed to start...everyone loved it when she did something good. What an experience for her. It was fun.

Lionel and Elgardo came by my home after school on Friday to give me a valentine's present after they already had sent me cupcakes for valentine's day. Sweet 11 year old boys...Lionel made me a beautiful blue and black beaded necklace with a red heart and Elgardo gave me a wooden fish key chain with Jesus on it. It was Lionel's birthday this week and I had been trying to take him for ice cream but he had to work everyday after we went for ice cream to celebrate his birthday and valentine's day. Ms. Eileen at Dandee's Ice Cream Shop is an awesome woman who looks after many children on the island by talking to them and loving them. The boys got banana splits and even though I usually get one scoop of Soursop ice cream - they were making the hot fudge and whip cream look too good...Ms. Eileen told me I should get the mini sundae and try soursop with hot fudge and marishino cherry sauce and whip cream...oh yeah - now I am really in trouble! It was awesome.

I stopped at Wariguma's to get a shrimp burrito to take home for supper. These burritos are so big that I ate a third of it for supper, a third for lunch yesterday and a third is still left. Gotta love it.

Ernesto brought me a flower arrangement with roses and daisies along with two coffee cups that are very special for Valentine's Day. He is so very thoughtful. Debra called me and it was so good to talk to her. I know it cost money to call me - not like picking up the phone at home and calling each other - and here you think before you dial because it is 50 cents a minute even local - so you only call when necessary and talk one minute to set up where you will meet to talk! Debra even talked to Ernesto.

I laid out in the sun most of the day. I fell asleep at the pool. I had a very relaxing Saturday. Klarisse came to my house and we went to the Mojito Bar for strawberry mjitos and then to a restaurant/bar that is new called Nauticas to check it out. It is upstairs from Fidos. It is very nice and we met a new friend - Ashley who is from North Carolina. She just graduated from college and she told her mom - "I do not have a boyfriend, I do not have any children or husband..I am going somewhere" She got a ticket for 7 weeks in Belize and said if she din't find work she would come home. She is managing Nautica. She is fun and typically southern so Karisse and I liked her right off.

From there we met Martin after he spent the day taking people fishing and BBQ'ing for them. We went to see Robert play at Jambels. Jambel is a name derived from Jamacia and Beliza. I had never eaten there so we decided to eat supper there. I had jerk chicken - very spicy and a lot of food! Ernesto kept trying to get away from work but he couldn't and then he said he was wore out so Martin had two dates. He kept saying I have two dates on Valentine's Day! So far - a great weekend and it is only half through.

I am going to work this morning and then I am going lay out in the sun again. The sky divers are here so I might walk down to coco locos and friar tucks to watch them and see Butch. See what the day brings...

Wendy and Pammie are coming tomorrow. They are taking the water taxi here from Belize City. Pammie is good with it but I think Wendy is like - a water taxi? Wendy called from the UPS store as she was mailing stuff to Belize...the guy at UPS asked her for a street address and a postal code. I said "it is a tiny island - we do not have postal delivery - we go to the post office to get mail - Belize has no postal code." The guy wanted to argue...I said just make sure you write out central america or he will send it to california or canada...even thought it says Belize. So I am excited that they are coming and I will have guests!

I know I have apologized for spelling and typing errors before but now it is even worse...I have to keep retyping and correcting because I find myself typing in Creole - cutting off words - changing the order of words... phrases are in my head now like...
Did you reach? Did you arrive yet?
I reached. I got there.
I dropped. I fell down.
Boom! Done!
You Understand? (We say that a lot because between southern and creole there has to be a lot of - You understand what I say to you? - Good!)

love and miss you all!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

good friends

Ernesto and I hung out with Karisse and Martin tonight. It is so good to be with people who "get" you. When I first met Karisse it was at the Tides. She was sitting at the bar and I was listening to her talk and all I could think of was "Did I have twins that got separated at birth?" She and Amanda are so much alike. She is an awesome person and now she has joined with Martin to make a life together in Belize. They are great together and we laugh and talk and I feel like we could talk about anything - the conversation is perpetual. Martin can tell the funniest stories and we can all see the humor in almost anything. We ate together Tuesday night - Martin cooked fish. We were 6 hours into the night and I had to make myself leave to be able to work the next day. Good friends who can talk about real stuff of life and have your best interest at heart always...I cherish them. It is good to have a girl friend that sees the world like I do...the age difference doesn't even matter.

Karisse, Martin and I have a new friend - well Ernesto's old friend - Robert. He sings - so we listened to his group at Cococuts. Karisse is going to do his CD cover. We have met a new friend through Robert - Sahed. He is from New Jersey - a policeman - He has to leave Saturday to go home - but he just connected with all of us. Ernesto and he are buddies now and I hate to see him go. We have his email though - so now we all have a friend in Jersey! He will be back...

It was hot today. I was drenched before 10 am. More health clinic and dentists...I am still struggling with "D" and "N". One of the volunteers told me that "D" drew here a picture and it was awesome. This child has so much talent. "N" got in trouble in class today and was sent to see me - He is so happy and content to be with me that it dawned on me...I asked him, "Do you just give your teacher a hard time so that you can come to see me?" He said, "Yes". MY, MY, MY - now what? He had no socks today again. Then he started holding his hear and writhing in pain. I was like,,,he is eight years old - what is this? I took him to Dr. Peter and interrupted him with another child. Dr. Peter is so cool - he figured out quick that he had swallowed a piece of candy and it was stuck - cured with a glass of water. I have not had any urge to take care of another child in my home for a long time - but this one is stealing my heart. They were selling valentine cupcakes today. "A" sent me a valentine cupcake...

I had a terrible scare today. I have been asked to counsel a teen from the high school that attempted suicide on Monday night. He keeps not showing up to talk. It was rumored today that he succeeded in killing himself last night. His brother goes to school at HC. I talked to him and found out it was not true, but the attempt was Monday and the 12 year old brother was able to save him. this is all over a girl. The teen was suppose to come today again but did not. This is on my mind.

I ate supper with the volunteer group. I know I have said this already - but these folks are awesome and so committed to the children. I know I have new friends in this group too. Dr. Jim gave me his number to call if I have a child that I can't figure out what may be wrong medically. He told me to say it is Kim from Belize and get him if I call the office. That is the definition of support. They are so much fun. One of the best things here is the meeting of new friends that I will have for life. Great people in a great place...I do miss you all - if I could just have my friends from the states here and teach social work to my students here - life would be perfect. No such thing as perfection though....just a lot of "ifs".

Love and Miss everyone!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

We can't have chicken - there are no beans.

I have often told my social work students that my wish for them is that they can find employment such that when they get up in the morning they are excited to go to work and and during the day they can say "I can't believe they pay me for this - I would do it for free!" Then at the end of the day they know that they spent the day doing something worthwhile. Not everyone can do this in their life - but I am so happy that I have been doing this for years. Now I am somewhere in which I am doing this for free. I love every minute and can't wait to get back to the children when I wake up in the morning.

So much has happened in the last three days. We have been running a health screening for all of the children that includes overall exam - ears, eyes, throat, skelatal, skin, other as needed. We have a pediatrician and a family practitioner and three nurses volunteering from one team plus they have other folks volunteering. There is a lady here that is volunteering and working hard every day in the heat who turned 80 yesterday. The cooks in the kitchen at school made her the best cake ever. We have found a variety of problems. The hardest one for me is that we have 3 children who have scoleosis and I have no idea where to refer them for what they need to have a straight spine. We have one boy who had surgery on his club feet - but no follow up. He wore the worst looking sore on the side of his foot from the brace to the point that about an inch thick callous has formed and part of it looks like a bed sore. No complaints. We have had several cases of scabies, impetigo and ear infections. We have major wax build up in the ears. One child had a broken arm. She was not complaining. I do not even want to try to give a number to the cuts - especially on the feet. Severe athletes foot was also uncovered along with numerous other skin rashes and infected bug bites. We also have two children who have tongues that will not stick out of their mouth and it is affecting their speech. Many children need glasses. So...this seems overwhelming...but the team handled it all and worked togehter so good - keeping a sense of humor and total care for the children.

I am awed by the pediatrician. He has done home visits and seen many babies. You can tell he truly loves the kids and has even treated some moms. He is an excellent diagnostic person as he sees things right off that are signals of something wrong. He and I have covered ourselves in antiseptic - whatever we can use after hugging children with scabies. I am going to learn to use the audiology machine they are donating so I can test hearing next week. We just couldn't do it all.

There are dentists here too. This is hat happens here...the dentist asked me to talk with a mom of two children that have terrible gum disease and problems witht their teeth. Plus they were filthy. I talked with mom and she just sighed heavily and said I try to get them to wash and brush their teeth but it is like they do not care (10 and 11 years. old). She told me that she was a single mom because her husband died - well he left her for a "bar woman" but he was still paying support for the children. The woman left him and then the man came to this mom's home (where his children were) and hung himself on the veranda at 2 am - so I guess they all would find him. She asked me to talk with the children - her son thinks he will do like his dad. There is no one on the island usually to send these kids to for counseling. Then she tells me that she is so embarrased because they have been asked to bring something for the valentine festival party friday and she has no money - not even to feed them. She is trying to get what jobs she can cleaning. She prays everyday that someone will need her services. When she left I was sad and took a moment to compose myself. As I prayed and got myself back together - one of the volunteers came in (a couple who are helping any way they can) and said we have $100 that folks from home sent and asked us to give to a family in need. I know there are so many but should we give it to one or two families and who? I am amazed at how quick God can answer prayer. I told her the story.

It is such a blessing for me and anyone who spends time with these children and families. I gain so many rewards. One of the docs turned to me yesterday and said - You really work hard. How do you do this week after week? I just looked at him as I was thinking "work? How can this be classified as work? I love it so much." Thus my thoughts at the beginning of this blog.

Ok - Linda went in to the kitchen to get the grocery order for today. She thought it was chicken day - so she asked how many chickens did they need. The head cook said "I can't cook chicken - there or no beans." Of course. You can't eat chicken without beans. Apparently, we now have a bean shortage. Now this is not good.

I have not gotten my hair cut and it is a mess - especially in the wind. One little girls came running up to me on the beach walking to school. she said "You're hair is a mess. Of course hers was nicely braided. I said myabe I need braids - She agreed and began to hustle me to allow her mom to braid my hair. She even remembered today and asked me when I was coming as her mom said she would braid my hair.

So, that sums it up. Love and miss ou all, Kim

Monday, February 9, 2009


We have two doctors and 3 nurses plus two dentists here. I am in charge of getting children through the dentist and all the children through a health screening. Today we found a child with a spinal problem and two children with problems with their tongues that they can't stick their tongue out of their mouths - speech problems. A few ear problems, a case of scabies, an arm that has been broken and no one has x-rayed...various infected cuts - and other problems. We say all of the infant - I children - I think that is about 80 kids...but not sure. Seeing more kids tomorrow and then going into San Mateo for the well baby checks - home visits. The doctors are great! I talked with "D"s dad. He is very concerned and we need to work on some things. He thinks the child's mom is telling the child to not do his work and act bad so that he will get kicked out of school. she wants him to go to RC school and live with her as she let's this little boy watch her baby. the child just is tormented. We are going to work on this though. He is my potential drummer - I need to find this mom. I made a Belizean style fajita. I think it was good - it is all gone. Had some friends over and it was a relaxing time. I got to talk to Amanda tonight. that was good. I am making it short tonight as I wrote soooo much last night. Love and miss everyone!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Witnessing miracles

I know I have left you hanging on whether or not I walked the planks or took the boat, but life has been rather busy since I last wrote. I walked the planks. It wasn't impossible because I did not fall off and none of them broke. First thing Friday morning, the mother and child came to the school and did want the priest and I to come to her home. She wanted her home blessed with Holy Water and the evil driven out. The child was still distressed and clinging to her. She was exhausted. While the volunteer who is an Episcopal priest (Ann) was talking with the mom - I had another physical abuse referral of the five year old whose mom twisted his arm the other day. He had a mark on his face - but he said he "dropped" on his bike. Very likely as they live in San Mateo. He had a cut on his knee so it was probably true this time. (Remember this for later.)

We left to walk the long trek back to the far side of the lagoon. We got to the home and mom was so nervous about us seeing her home. It was very clean and orderly. I do need to tell you though that it is one room that is about a 10x10 foot area. It has a bed, a crib, a stove with a butane tank, and a small table. The sheets were clean - everything was in it's place. She showed us pictures of her family and baby pictures of her children. She and her husband and two children live in this home. There was nothing to eat in the home and she said that she just buys what they need to eat so that no roaches or other bugs come into the house. She also said that it is important to feed her children and never lets them go to sleep with empty bellies even if she does not eat anything.

I asked her about the neighborhhood. She told me where different families lived that I know. I asked her if anyone back there was practicing witchcraft and she reluctantly said yes and said 2 people are and her house is between them. Then she told me that they were angry with her because she called the police on another neighbor when the husband was beating on his wife. She thinks they sent the evil to her home and it was affecting her 3 year old. The priest blessed the water through a service and the mom had told us about her grnadmother telling her on her death bed to always read Psalms 81. We read this passage and it was perfect. She took a mangrove branch and dipped it in the water and sprinkled the house, the doorway, the window, the beds, the kitchen and then the little boy and mom. All the time she is talking and explaining what she is doing. Ann was awesome at making the mom feel good about her protection of her child, ability to be a good mom and meet the needs of her children in hard circumstances, etc. The child would not get on the floor of the house and was distressed about being in the house. His face was tortured. When Ann finished blessing the house he seemed to be better and she put her hands on his head and blessed him. The child started singing a song he knew "Thank you God" several verses...his little face became so at peace and calm it was like nothing I have ever seen. We had a little new testament that he held tight to. Then Ann blessed mom but she was just crying such tears of joy. She just hugged us and thanked us and on the way home she told her friends that everything was better. Everyone just shook their heads in acceptance. It was a total blessing to me to be a part of this. I truly witnessed a miracle. I could barely talk about it.

On the way back, there is a little store and I told the mom that we needed to stop at the store. She had gotten light headed on the walk to her home and was more so at the home. I know the experience was overwhelming but I asked her if she had eaten anything and she thought for a moment and said "well, yes - I ate yesterday - I think - but I fed my kids last night" she began trying to explain their finances as her husband works every day but does not get paid much. I gave her $10 belize that I had in my pocket and told her to get something to eat - thinking she would get something to eat right then - but no - she spent $6 BZ on a multi-pak of ramen noodles to take home and tried to give me back the $4. Thinking ahead for supper...probably more than one day.

When I got back to the school yard I was faced with the principal looking for me - the little boy that had the mark on his face? One of the other parents made it her business to tell in the commnity that I looked at his face and talked to him before I left to do the home visit. Well, the little boys mom is not a favorite in the community so I guess everyone knows she abuses the boy - even if this time she didn't. The gossip was a good thing though. I have asked the mom and the little boy about his father. Mom just shrugged and the little boy said he knows his dad but he does not know where he is...The gossip unearthed the dad! Yeah!!! He came to the school from work - he is on the island. Mom's mom was there also...guess they are warring factions. I talked with dad about my concerns. he said mom has not allowed him to see the child. He cared for his son from the time he was " a year and some change" until he was just over three and then the mom wanted him back. He could fight it in court. He wanted to because when he first got the child - the first night - he told him they were going to get ready for bed and the little one (year old) took a shirt that was hanging on the back of a chair and put it in the corner of the room and curled up on it like a dog making his bed. Dad had tears in his eyes and mine were coming too. I am so glad that the gossip allowed me to find this child's dad. I am witnessing miracles over and over.

Every child was given a worm treatment on Friday. Maybe we will have fewer stomach aches for awhile. I counseled a sexually assaulted teen from the high school. I talked with my sexually abused child at the school. Checked on several of the others I am following before the weekend. We did height and weights of all the children to be ready for the medical team coming in. I took the child with the busted ear drum to the doctor for a check up - still a little hole - I got to look at it. Busy day. About noon - Ernesto called and asked me when I got a break...Break? I just held the phone out to the children I was with and said - kids, do I get a break? They all shouted "NO".
I do try to eat lunch every day. I refuse to let anyone interrupt my lunch. It is too good.

I went home with "N" and "D" to talk with their parents. These are the two that we can't get to do their work...beatings, absent moms...well, N's mom said she beats him but can't get him to do what he is suppose to. She told me that he threatened to kill himself to her and told her no one loves him - she whipped him and told him not to say things like that. I cannot describe to you what a loving child he is - smart - playful...on the way to their homes - D said - my step mom isn't home - I said where is she - "working" I said where? "selling food" then I remembered that she sells food around form their home by compadres bar. I said oh but I know where she sells food - D said "she only speaks spanish" - I looked at "N" and said "Can you help me with the spanish?" he said "YES!" I looked at D and said - Your buddy just sold you out! they both just laughed and took my hands and walked with me to their homes. they are precious little boys...I have to buy the drums! They just want to know that you really care. Mr. Cruz joined us as we walked and helped me - I am working on the spanish - actually can understand more and more.

I cannot tell you how tired I was Friday night. Whew! Mr. Vernon's birthday dinner was that night and they served red wine - I had to be so careful - those of you who remember me and red wine when I am tired - not good! We ate at Hamilton's which was wonderful! Then I got up at 6 am to go to Estelle's for breakfast with the volunteer team - I told them I was kidnapping their Priest - and all of them - they were passing the baton to the medical team coming in to work this next week. We will be doing health screening on all 512 children and visiting the babies in San Mateo. I met the docs and nurses - more great people.

We have been sharing stories of how each person came ot volunteer at Holy Cross - I think this is a book - great stories. We could sell it for Holy Cross.

So after breakfast...there was workshop from a NGO in Belize - Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Belize. Yep - it is here - I helped to advertise this and we got 62 people to attend. There was one police officer. i asked him - Are you hear by choice or did you want to come? He laughed and said he wanted to come. He is a communty police officer for the schools, etc. I told him he had just become my new best friend. He is following up on my sexual abuse report as no police officer has come to the school yet. He is going to get someone there and come to the school also. He told me that he is watching the same child I am for sexual exploitation. I thought something like that might be going on....

Miss Francis founda pediatric psychiatrist who has moved to the island...I talked to him and he is coming by Tuesday...I hope he can help me with some of these children.

I gave up - nothing but rest and relaxation since then. Karisse and Martin came buy to talk and that was fun - it is great to have friends to hang with - Ernesto came up with a couple of friends. We just all sat on my porch and drank a few beers and laughed and talked. Turns out Robert is a musician and needed a cd cover for his new cd and hooked up with Karisse to get it done. Serindipity! Ernesto, Robert and the new friend(tourist) Sahid, went to Kareoke at Pier Lounge. Yes, now I get requests for Jambayla...I can't believe it either. Ernest sings so good.

I slept until noon today - missed church. Ate BBQ chicken, potatoe salad and rice and beans for lunch - Ermesto brought it to me. I made an egg and soft cheese sandwich for us for supper. He said we are cooking tomorrow night. I hope this does not mean I am on the tortilla station. Now I am going to finish getting the medical screening forms done for tomorrow and go to bed. My hair is getting longer - have just found someone to cut it - maybe. I talked to Ben today and Wendy tonight so that was good. I love to hear from you all. Miss and love ya, Kim

Thursday, February 5, 2009

On acceptance - walk the planks or take the boat?

I have been accepted. I have gained trust. Sometimes I forget that this carries the burden of responsibility. It is like a rare gift that I have to handle with the utmost care in order to not break it. I was met with this today.

First, I was walking through the school to check on several children and "N" came up to me and hugged me hard. He is a 7 year old little boy - (if you are following the blog - he is the little one who had no socks and boots that are a size to small - I gave him new tennis shoes and he put them in his bag so he could act like he got them from home...). He said "Miss Kim- where have you been?" "I said, "N", I have been right here - but I tried to find you yesterday and you were not here" He seemed pleased that I looked for him. Then he said, "but I have been looking for you today and I could not find you." "I stopped and said, "N" Why are you trying to find me? He said, "because , Miss Kim, my stepdad, he just beat me and beat me (showing me how) and he is beating my mom - and it is no good when he beat my mom." I just held him and he just clung to me. I said, "I know - it is not good to be beat." We just sat there awhile. I said "I think it is time for me to talk to them." Before he was afraid for me to talk to them - he did not want me to. There is no use trying to make a report on this - he just has a few marks - like small cuts on his legs, no one would do anything. So...he said "I want you to come home with me tomorrow and talk to them.' I said o.k. Now that he has let me in....the responsibility is great.

Then I made it a few more steps and "A" came up and pulled on my shirt - I looked down and saw it was him. He had a new hair cut and as I was commenting on it - I saw he had a black eye.

The little girl with Impetigo - along with 6 other 5-6 year olds - no one came to get them when school was out today. Finally by 4 p.m. all parents were located. They did not get their children back until they talked with me. We will see what happens tomorrow.

We will also see if the police come tomorrow to talk to the child who was sexually abused. We are also planning on the Poly Clinic coming tomorrow to give a worm treatment to every child. No testing - everyone gets the treatment.

Back to being accepted. Remember the mom who helped me yesterday? She came to the school to get her older child. When I saw her I knew she was distressed. I went to her and her 3 year old was clinging to her. Yesterday he was running and playing and holding my hand as we walked through San Mateo. Today he looked frightened and clung to his mom. I asked her what happened - what is wrong? she said "I need your help. I felt something bad in the house last night - something weird. Then, he woke up at 2 in the morning screaming and saying the crabs were biting him. He has always been a child that sees things - he senses things. He was in pain and trying to get them off of him - he was awake - not dreaming and I took him out of the house. But every time I try to take him back in he starts screaming and shaking. I gave him the Bible to hold and he threw it - then I knew. It was a bad spirit. He does not act like this. There is somethng bad in my house." I asked, What can I do?" She said, "I need some Holy Water - does the school have any Holy Water?" I said, "I don't know". So I asked. Well, the answer was "we can get some, but it will have to be by tomorrow, the priest has to bless it - but we have a priest here" Ok - the priest is from the US - a volunteer. The other moms were around by this time and looking to me to help her. So, this mom lives across the lagoon in the place I can't get to by the planks - I can take a boat - now the boat is a canoe - and of course there are crocs in the lagoon. I think the planks....The group of moms were trying to get another priest who could come this afternoon with Holy Water to bless the house and drive out the evil spirits. I know that another belief is to hang garlic over the door and to cover the mirrors at night. I asked her what she has done. She said she looked everywhere to see if it was something for real biting him and she washed the sheets and cleaned but he is still not able to go into the house. The mirrors are covered - no to the garlic. But another mom said the garlic will keep them away but it is already there. When she said she was headed home - the child heard her say it and he about went into convulsions screaming "the crab are biting me" No - a scream like you have never heard and holding his mom so tight. Ok - the priest said she would go to the home with the Holy Water and bless the house. Planks or boat?

It is a very different world. I walked by the pool on the way home and everyone is lounging in the sun and I am just thinking. I hear the tourists talking about where they are going ot eat tonight and how crazy they got on rum last night. I see the couples leisurely strolling down the beach. I am becoming one of those people here that criticize the tourist driving of the golf carts and how they don't know how to walk down the street to stay out of the way of traffic. I go to local food places and bars. I eat a lot of beans and rice and tortillas and stew chicken and fish. I go to central park at night to make sure the kids go home at curfew. Ernesto says - everyone knows who I am. I can go to any neighborhood on the island and find my way to homes with no addresses. Life is different as I am no longer a tourist. I love this place even more than when I was a tourist. I am thinking...the tourists are missing the best part of this island. I am reminded of a line from my favorite hymn. "the love we share as we tarry there - none other has ever known." I think I will tarry here awhile - I feel God's love wherever I go - anywhere in the world - but I feel like I can share love here in way like no other place I know - as of yet.

Much love to everyone. Miss you all.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

San Mateo

I went into San Mateo after school today to try to locate the babies who are under 1 year old. Mr. Cruz and a mom from the school helped me to locate them and helped me with translating into Spanish. I found several babies and moms, but about three mothers would not come to the door. They are afraid, I guess, as they are probably not legally in the country. I am always saddened when I travel through this community. There are some homes that I cannot reach because the planks leading ot their homes are so unsafe. Yet, the children travel across these every day. I do not know how I am going to get the pediatrician who wants to do home visits into these houses. I think he is going to have to see some of the babies at the school. There is no way I can chance walking across the rotten planks. I was not the balance beam pro in the I weigh too much. Mr. Cruz was so protective of me. He walked ahead to make sure the planks were safe and then made me step where he did.

For those of you who are reading and do not know what I am talking about...This area is where the school is and many residents do not have water, electricity and no one has a sewage system. So the lagoon that is under the homes is sewage. The planks are built over this nasty water. The is garbage everywhere. The homes are put together for the most part with whatever they can find for building materials. Some homes have curtains for doors. Many homes have no windows and few have screens if they have windows. Many are very small - 10 x 10 foot rooms with little furniture. There may be 10 people living in one of these tiny homes. I can't see how anyone is safe from predators - especially the two-legged kind. The only thing is to get to some of these homes is impossible in the dark. Walk that plank in the dark? - not me. There are a lot of mean dogs in the neighborhood too. I do not even ask if the dog bites - just know it will.

The mom that was helping me is an interesting person. She is trying ot get the other moms to trust me. She came to me this morning and asked me to help several of the moms organize their own soccer team. I think we will start with the soccer team and then we are going to work on a women's coalition and I think this will be a start for the "eye on the child" project Susan and I want to initiate here. All in time...this communtiy organization work is fun but earning trust requires so much patience. I understand the wariness of people here. I am sure they do not understand anyone trying to help them. The school itself does so much more for them and their children than they have ever known. In a culture of survival and oppression it is the norm for people to be suspicious of outsiders. I am reminded of the book "When Invisible Children Sing". This was about a doctor's work in Bolivia. He worked with street children. He had to learn the lesson of letting the children come to him - just be there. I know this is the way - the mother's are starting to come to me little by little. (They even said I could play on there soccer team if I wanted to - I laughed and said "do I look like a soccer player? I will be your biggest fan!"

I am trying very hard to organize eveyrthing for the doctors who will be here next week. We are going to do a health screening on every child. It is an awesome task to come up with the record system and follwo-up that will be needed. It is coming along though. I wish I had more skills at writing programs in the computer. I have a man helping though who is volunteering this week.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The decisons we make

So much has happened since I last wrote. Something was wrong and I could not get ont he internet from my home...this is normal around panic - just wait...Adagio...go slow.

I have bad news. Jean Paul, the man who led diving groups at the Tides has been killed. It happened Friday night but I did not hear until Saturday evening. I could not believe it. His body was found 19 miles north of san pedro - just south of Rocky Point. I went to the Tides Saturda night and helped Sabrina set up for the wake but I did not stay for the wake. She was so upset as was everyone. I was so sad. He has two children and his son is at Holy Cross. He always had a smile and gave so much joy to those around him. You could not be unhappy around him. As the days have gone by, the story has been slowly revealed...bu we do not know everything. The police shot one man and another got away - they were in a boat coming from the direction of Rocky Point and pulled a gun on the police when asked to stop. Then today - two more men were found in a grave close to where Jean Paul's body was found. The news said that it may be all related to the cocaine found last week. If it is all I can think of is how bad decisons affect so many lives. Jean Paul will be missed by his children, wife, family and friends. I do not know why he was there - but this whole thing is really sad. Please do not think this makes things unsafe around here. This is happening due to some bad choices by a few people and it is a long ways from here - where I am on the island. Nothing like Memphis or Jackson!

I have thought a lot about the decisions I have made and those around me have made. Some of the children I work with make poor decisions as do their parents. We all make poor decisions at times. I just wonder why - when we are faced with possible terrible consequences do we make a choice that will lead to our own unhappiness or downfall or the unhappiness or destruction of other lives? It is truly one of those human nature "things". It is a lot easier to see other's poor decisons that it is so see our least at the time we make them. I guess this is so obvious that I should not even be writing it - just on my mind.

I have been working on the sexual abuse case. I am having to advocate for this child. The parents are great - but I am having to write my report and have discussions with them in spanish...that means a translator. I keep having this experience of a parent talking for 5 minutes in Spanish and the translator saying "He said "no". Maybe not that severe - but close. Ernesto is worried about me. I am taking this very slow and being very aware that I am in a different country with different rules and ways...but gotta call it like it is...I gave the child's dad my phone number to call and tell if I had the report correct. He called to tell me it was good. Then I got a text from the little girl last night. It said "This is ******. thank you miss kim. I love you." She is nine years old. Oh yes, I am sure that it is all worth it. I went to the police department yesterday afternoon and sat for an hour and then got told that I couldn't make a report? I asked to speak to the detective and was told to come back this - I was there at 8 a.m. granted they were discovering more bodies up north but...I was acknowledged but waited until 10:30 a.m. before anyone said anything else. Again Adagio....go slow...I think they thought I would leave...but I kept thinking of that text....Decisions - I would have stayed all day.

I have a medical team coming next week. Some of the other church members are here this week so we are trying to plan for doing health screenings on each child next week and the pediatrician wants to go into San Mateo to see the infants. I have one of the mom's of San Mateo (who first told me when they see me they hide because I am a social worker and they are afraid I will take their children) tell me that she would distribute flyers for me to the mom's of infants and then help me find their homes. I thought that was great...I am gaining acceptance in the community. Beatrice is helping me too.

I had a domestic violence case last week. Not sure if I blogged on this before - a 12 year old boy came to school crying and upset. His mom is pregnant and her boyfriend is beating on her. She has been in the country for 15 years. She came from Guatamala when she was 10 years old. She came with "someone" who was not family. she had her first child when she was 13 yrs. old (this is the 12 year old now). She has had two Belizean children. this abuser told her he would have her deported if she went to the police about him. He has beat her and caused two previous miscarriages. the 12 year old in attempt to protect mom has been hurt in the past. I want to help her get her papers but she is so afraid she will be sent back and wants her children to get an education at Holy Cross. They had no food for the weekend and no way to acquire any. This was hard on me - I cannot imagine being 25 years old with all of this to deal with in life. Try to deal with this with no domestic violence shelters - no women's advocacy groups - no victim advocate- when the police came - they wanted my information - including birthday. why? One of those great Friday afternoon situations....that is the same no matter where you are.

Oh and another thing...two weeks in a row. I have had a DHS social worker from the mainland come to the school after 3 pm on a Friday (kids leave school at 3 pm) to ask me about a child that I did not even know they had a case on and when the child has gone from school of course - ask me to interview, etc....ok - I am thinking there is something up with this - am I just looking for problems??? Are they wanting to be in San Pedro on a Friday night - weekend? Hmmmmnnnn.
Maybe a coincidence. Decisons we make.

Ernesto and I went to Marlin's and then Butch's on sunday afternoon. I had talked to them all during the finding out about Jean Paul. I also saw Martin and Clarise finally - hate that it was at the wake. they left me a note today on my door to come see them later this week. It will be good to reconnect with them. Talk about decisons - Clarise just decided to move down here and live with Martin. wow. she is able to work from her computer. they are very happy.

Ms. Francis asked me yesterday about 10 a.m. to do a workshop that same afternoon on teambuilding...and teamwork among the staff and teachers - glad I already had material in my head as I accomplished it with no prep. those always seem to be my better workshops.

Ok - i tried to make my own tortillas totally by myself. This caused a great deal of laughter at the grocery store. since I went back three times for more flour - I was buying it a pound at a time as it takes a pound for about 10 tortillas. It took a few tries...Ernesto was kind and ate them but they do have room for improvement. I was trying to make the whole meal but Ernesto said if he let me make the whole thing we would be eating at 9:30 and he was hungry. He helped - got done at 7:30 but the tortillas....I told him I should get and A for effort and he informed me that I get an E for effort. the stew chicken was good. I learned that you can make it taste totally different by using a varied spice grouping...have I told you that they have this spice called Ricardo? good stuff. more decisions...what to put in the stew chicken.....

I know the Jerry Jeff Walker fans help the economy. They are messing up my routine. They take over Wet Willies so no Kareoke on sunday and no Taco Tuesday for two weeks!

Kelly McQuire is here next week? He is doing all kinds of concerts in different places.

I am glad that I made the decison to do my sabbatical here. I am learning so much and growing in my skills and cultural responsiveness abilities. The children are taking my heart and filling it up with love. I am meeting new friends. Awesome passionate people are throughout this country and come to work and help at the school every day. Ernesto is a great person and we have the best times. We have had a few times that we had to have hard discussions but the awesome thing is that we could talk things through pretty easily. Every decision though has some problems. I hate that I am not there when my friends and family may need me. I am so sorry that I am not there for Debra and Winston as Winston's dad just died. I heard that Ashley's uncle has died. I wish I could be with my friend Sherry as she battles cancer. The department is struggling with budget cuts. My students are good to email me and support me but I am not there to support them. I also miss the joys of my friends, students and family. Do not think that this decision was easy and every day I miss you all and think about you. I keep you in my prayers. Please keep me in yours. Lots of Love to all!