Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Yesterday and Today at the home

We have two new girls - one 7 one 10 who have never been to school so we are giving them a lot opportunities to learning basic school skills - use of scissors, glue, following instruction, increasing vocabulary. Today I worked with them for a concentrated hour. We parcticed names of the 8 basic colors - the 8 basic crayons. The both can pick them out when I ask for a specific color and the both can say the names of most - maybe all of them. They copied circles, squares, and triangles and did well. The are good at coloring and staying in the lines - although we will continue with a lot of things that will improve small muscle skills. They can fold a paper in half and cut on the line and can glue using the white glue - so we are on our way. We did some number writing practice and also counting up to 10. They both seem eager to learn and I think that they have some idea already that the black squiggly lines say the names of things.

This afternoon we went swimming and they are not afraid of the water and both can swim a bit in the style of the other Emberra girls who are with us - rather like fish that come up for a breath. When I left they were running around and playing soccar.

Our 8th grader is struggling with her math (she has to study for a test because she failed math for the year). It turns out that she needs a lot of help with basic skills, still must memorize some of the tables, and needs lots and lots of practice with basic operations!

Hope I can find time to write about MAchuca III tomorrow.

Tia Sue

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Machuca - part II

Now it is Sunday evening. Before I start writing about Machuca I'll make a couple of comments about the home and todays adventures. Today I managed to have two flat tires at once but they got resolved - thanks to our always very helpful driver. Three girls went off to camp - this is for the 9 to 11 age group. The staff told me that last year one of our girls was not cooperative in chores - so I called her over and read what I had written that she could do (since she has some developmental disabilities there are a few things she cant do - basically academic stuff where she is far behind). I read out loud to her that she coud wash dishes, sweep, wash clothes, make her bed, set the table etc. I then told her that she was to do these things at camp. She said, "yes, Tia Sue". We have some of these issues with her at the home. We will see.

While I was away at Machuca two new girls came into the home. They are sisters, one 7 and one 10 and the (and no other female in their family) have never been to school. Between now and the second week in March they will have an intensive school preparation - they need daily practice in using school tools (sissors, glue, crayons, etc.), an opportunity to inctease their vocabulary (for example the name of the three meals a day, names of many common farm animals (goat - which we do have here .. ). I am looking forward to it. One of the child care workers also has some special training in preparing (younger) kids for school so she will do that as well.

In addition one of the 8th graders failed math for the year and has to take a test covering the entires year's work on Feb. 13th. She has an outline of what is covered. She is studying 5 hours a day! I'll keep you posted.

Day two of dentist practice at Machuca. There were more people waiting for us than the previous day - the news spreads by word of mouth. Some who had been their the day before came back bringing relatives. One was an aristocratic older man, the father of the woman who had four teeth pulled the day before. He was 88 and the dentists felt we should take his blood presure first - it was 130/80! Around 10 when the Ministry of Health dentisis arrive the came with a portable teeth cleaning device. It provided a typical powered brush that was effective with kids teeth - they have less tarter. People were vary happy and many many kids had teeth cleaned. At the same time our two dentists and one of the Ministry of Health dentists continued to pull teath. Most of these teeth are too decayed and broken to save with fillings. If the dentist thought that a filling would save the tooth the cost and what was involved (bus, and there for bus fare and the cost of the work = 1.25 for kids, 1.50 for adolescents, 4.00 for adults. A resin filling in the front teeth is 8.00. At least in that area for bridges or false teeth a person has to go to a private dentist.

More tomorrow - MAchuca III and more about the home.

Tia Sue

Saturday, January 27, 2007

I am back from Machuca!

Well, here is my first report of the medical mission I accompanied to Machuca. I left last Monday about 3 and arrived back at the home on Friday about 3. I was there as a translator. This is something I have hoped to participate in for the last 9 years so I was thrilled to be asked. And, I'll say right up front that the entire experience was wonderful. I'll tell you some things now and hope to write more tomorrow, Sunday.

The team of Doctors, Dentists, Nurses, Physical therapist, gofors, dental assistants etc. came from North Carolina. This is their second or third mission to PAnama with the Episcopal Church - and at least the second to Machuca. They brought two people wo could translate and all of them had taken a course in survival English and English for medical professionels - so they had some basis for communication as well. There were 4 or 5 translators from Panama.

I was assigned to translate for the Dentist team, so I will write about that first. There were two dentists and two assistants from the US and we started out about 9 AM on Tuesday morning using the creative dental chairs (made from weight lifting benches brought down by the team) to pull teeth. When we arrived there were people waiting. I gave out numbers, which is what is done in many health care situations here in Panama. Then each person filled out their basic data (or I did it using their cedula (identity card) as my guide. Some couldn't see well and I expect that there were some who were challenged to read and write. Then we started right in. The first woman had 4 teeth to come out and I don't remember about the second. Basically, the first day the Dentist asked a question, I asked it in Spanish, listened to the answer and translated it to the dentist. Both the dentists became more fluent in Spanish as the time went by, although one was saying "it is dead" muerte in stead of bite down "muerde". But we were all laughing about that including the patients.

About 10 AM two dentists from the Ministry of Health came with an assistant. They set up using school desks, the kind with a broad arm to write on, as dentist chairs. We spent the entire first day pulling teeth. I wish I knew how many teeth and broken off roots were pulled. Some of the patients were kids. We also gave the kids a flouride painting. Many people were asking for cleaning but we didn't have a set up for that. We did check the teeth of anyone who wanted it. I learned more about the programs that the Ministry of Health has. For children in primary school,during the school year - March to december, teeth are checked, cleaned (I think) and fillings are done free. If a primary school child goes to the health clinic for dental care the fillings are $1.25 - Maybe more for a resin filling in secondar front teeth.

I know this may seem inexpensive - but after paying for the bus to go to the clinic (about a 15 min. drive) (They could walk but it takes about an hour.) and paying to see the Dentist $.50 the amount is higher than most of these people can afford. Just about all of the people in Machuca are poor - although I belive that few are in severe poverty. For adolescents the fillings are 2.00 and for adults 4.00 (in the back teeth). For a bridge or false teeth they have to go to a private dentist. This involves a bus ride (which costs) and then they can probably make a payment arrangement with the dentist. We saw a few people who had partial bridges.

We closed down arond three. In the three days we saw over 150 dental patients. More about day 2 later!

The dental clinic was located in the school building along with a very successful children's program and the pharmacy. The medical clinic was up a long hill in a new building that has been a cooperative effort of the past teams from North CArolina and the people of Machuca - I believe.

The first day one woman was transferred to a hospital in (fairly nearby) Penonome after a house call was made. She has kidney failure and was feeling better after having been to the hospital and having fluid reduced.

More later, maybe even more tonight!

Tia Sue.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

I've survived another annual meeting and more....

Today was the annual meeting for St. Paul's Parish. I am on the vestry and have been secretary for the last year. Today was our annual meeting. We spent time a week ago and a bunch of time yesterday planning the meeting and finetuning the bidget for 2007. There were 70 people present - which is a hign. We surprized everone by having the elections for new Vestry members and for delegates to convention very near the beginning of the meeting. It was a good move. We have elected 3 new vestry members (I have 2 more years to go) and 5 deligates and two people who will be there to replace one of the 5 if she/he can't be present. I am happy to say that I am one of the deligates. That means that besides attening the business meeting on Saturday the 10th of Feb I will be participating in workshops on the canons and possible changes and on strategic planning for the Diocese of Panama.

After the meeting, which lasted 3 aand 1/2 hours (about the usual time), I picked up the two of our girls who went to the camp for chiquitas or nenes (ages 5 to 8). There camp was from Friday until today and the staff were tired and happy. Zol and Eni sang camp songs in the care on the way back to the home.

Next week there is no camp as there is a gira medica using the camp site in Santa Clara. I will be there as a translator for the medical mission - my first one. I am excited. You will receive a big blog about it next weekend.

On the 28th there is the last camp of the summer season, kids ages 9 to 11. We have three going. All together 17 girls with some relationship to the home will have been to camp. Saint Paul's was also able to send a number.

In the next week st. Paul's is offering a week of talks and some biblical reflection on sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, family planning and self estime. A number of our girls will be participating.

Next week (starting tomorrow) will be the last week that the young people from Instituto San Cristoble do Social Service. They will finish their painring projects. We have a wonderful new sign on the wall out side the entrance and the inside and out side are newly painted. Inside we are green! Different shades. They will have an outing with all the girls on wednesday to Summit GArden.

More at the end of the week.

Tia Sue

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The home is turning green.

We have a group of 13students from Instituto San Cristobel, one of the Diocesian Schools, doing 80 hours of social service with us. The social service is one of the required things they have to do to graduate. Most of the kids are working on painting and we are being painted inside and outside. The outside hasn't been painted for 10 years and looks really nice - a light brownish pink. Inside we have changed the color of the walls to a light green and the columnes to a dark green. Along with the new paint we are getting some paint drops on the cement walk and on a few other things as well. These are beginning painters and they are enthusiastic. The school is bilingual so almost all of the talk to me some in English.

I have one young woman who is working just for me, sometimes with a helper. We took all of the books out of the bookcases (that is our library), mended a lot, organized them and she and another student made a list of almost every book we have - especially those that are from the same publisher. It is great. Now when I go to a book store I know what I have and so can easily add more.

At this moment the adolescents are at camp so we have only a few younger girls with us. Some of the Social service Students are working with them on some school reinforcement. Yesterday I took to the the swimming pool in Paraiso where we have gone every summer. The pool was not open because they needed a special piece for the filter. So we went and played on the climbing games at McDonalds and had ice cream. When we got back we took out our little pool and filled it up and the girls played in it contentedly.

One of the girls who went to the first week of camp said she had a really good time - not just good but that she had a real spiritual experience!

Next week I am going to go on a medical mission trip to help as a translator. I am excited and you will hear about it when I get back. I think I will be out of contact with the internet for the time I am away.

See www.padremickey.blogspot.com for some photos of his walk from home to church and also to read Martin Luther King's letter from prison.

Tia Sue

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

CRYSTEL starts school

Today Crystel (age 4 and 8 months, just starting to talk, with mild retardation and mild CP) started school. THis is a summer program and will serve to diagnose her and help them place her in a program near her home in MArch. For this program someone has to go with her each day (I hope this will be her 17 year old sister) and that involves going by bus to a reasonalbly near shoping center to get a ride to the center (they will bring her back too.) Crystel and her sisters are coming to visit me at the home tomorrow so we can talk about what we need to do to see that she get there every day (and to help her do her homework). She drools a lot and that is one of the things they and we are going to work on first. Her teacher wasn't too happy about this but that is one reason she is there. The support staff at the school, which has very nice classroom furniture, designed for kids with CP, are very nice and supportive. I haven't warmed up to the teacher yet, but it is only the first day. The school day (2 hours) includes as meal which is great because she will be eating meat (chicken today) and rice and beans. She ate everything today and can feed herself well, I think.

Some of the girls are returning to the home today and tomorrow so that the ones over 12 can go to camp on Saturday! It is nice to have them here again - it helps me work harder. Three sisters all told me they were very bored at home and I think are glad to be back. More about all this in the next post.

The home is slowly turning green - the new color it is being painted. We also have a new sign painted on the wall under the kitchen - it is great and is being done by the students from Instituto San Cristobal who are doing their social service work there.

Yesterday was a holiday here - Dia de los martires - check www.padremickey.blogspot.com for an account of what we have this holiday.

More soon.

Tia Sue

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Diocesian Camp Starts

Each year the Youth of the Diocese put on Diocesian Youth Camps - which are really SUPER. Today was the start of the 1st one for this year - Jovenes - ages 15 to 19. Yasuri is attending this one. She is now living with her long lost original Godmother - so I told her I would pick her up and take her to the Diocesian Office where they gather and then go off to Santa Clara where the church has The Bishop Shirley Camp-Confrence Center. It is close to the ocean so that going to the beach and swimming is part of the camp experience.

Had to leave church early to go get Yasuri. With (well placed ) foresight I had the director show me how to find the apartment building she lives in on Friday. It is the first right turn after entering a part of San Migalito from the road to the airport - BUT the turn is not very obvious and on Friday the director and I with the aid of my cell phone took about 30 minutes to find it. Today it was easy. Yasuri has one of my older duffle bags and it turns out it is the very one I used to come to Panama in 1984 for a vacation in the forest with bird netting and banding - a trip that was part of Earthwatch.

It was fun to remind people that Yasuri is an alumae for the home. In the car she told me that things were going well in her new home but that washing the dishes was a bit of a problem. She suggested that they make a schedule - and they seem to like the idea. I told her that dishwashing is often a somewhat contentious point in any home.

Next wednesday the girls in the age group 12 to 14 will return to the home so they can get ready to leave for camp on the 13th. There will be 8 girls leaving from the home and 2 others leaving from the homes they are staying in this summer.

Tia Sue

Thursday, January 4, 2007

lots of help arrives

I knew about this but it was a surprise when at 8AM (I was eating breakfast and no one else was here - remember the girls are all visiting relatives) when a bus from Instituto San Cristobel pulled up and discharged 12 enthusiastic students to start their Social Service with us. They have to give 80 hours of service and that is a lot!!! 80 X 12 = 960 hours. We will look new (paint and fix up and repairs). I jave one (maybe two) young women to help me prepare teaching and study materials!!! I feel so, so, blest. The young woman (who will be in 12th grade in MArch) lived in the US when she was 3, 4, and 5 and is very happy to work with me and speak English so she can bring her English more up to her age level. What a gift.

I found that giving Canela (one of our dogs who was wounded - see previous entry) her pills is very easy with a one inch chunk of hot dog into which I have inserted the pill. A bit harder is putting the healing cream on her wound which is deep - but she was very cooperative tonight.

More about the renual of our living space!

Tia Sue

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

At the home - with no girls!

I am back at the home. All the girls are visiting family or a friend of the home. Well, we do have two girls - our two dogs, Machita (Spotty) and Canela (Cinnamon). It is very quiet at the home right now and we are spending time doing adminitrative things. I am spending mmost of my time preparing for the summer program. Summer here is the dry season, which may be just about to begin (it is windy) and that is January to April.

I was at the computer this morning and heard a dog fight down the hill. Later I saw that Carnela was bleeding!. Someone took a bite out of her backside. Many vets here transport animals and so we had one close by come and get her. The decided not to stitch anything (I don't think there was anything to stitch - there was a loss of material at the site of the bite). They called and we elected to have it cleaned and then they returned her with the medicine - which I will have to give and apply - a many of you know that I am a CAT PERSON! New experience. Canela is old - over 11 and is blind or partially sighted and almost toothless - but she still bounds around a lot.

The Diocesian Youth Camps start on Sunday and for the four camp we are hoping to send 18 girls. Cost is $60 each - so if you would like to help a girl enjoy a tropical beach, church camp vocation, drop me a note: suewillpanama@hotmail.com.

Tia Sue

Monday, January 1, 2007


My Christmas Present to myself was a trip to Canopy Lodge, a top class birding lodge, in El Valle Panama. They were able to squeeze me in from the 27th through noon on the 30th - between two Birding tours. For me it is a wonderful restful place and so, so different from my usual occupations - the Girls' Home, St. Pauls .... I was an avid birder in my late teens and onward into college and then again while living in Philly.

That is even how I came to Panama for the first time: with an Earthwatch trip in 1984 helping with research on birds on Pipeline road here in Panama.

You can view any of the birds that I mention by typing the name in Google Images. The Rufous Motmot is spectacular and there were up to three each morning at the feeders eating bananas.

Just being there is relaxing. I can relax in a hammock or sit in comfortable chairs watching hungry tanegers and other come to feeder where bananas are put out for them.

Guide lead birding trips are part of the visit. My guide, Tino, (shared with two interesting women, twins, who grew up in Mississippi), was very good. One of his top talents was whisteling bird calls and then having conversations with the birds who often flew in close to see us and be seen in our binoculars. My last day, Saturday, he had long conversations with a Black Throated Trogan and also a Blue Crowned Motmot - but neither came close enough for us to see. He had a good sense of humor too. We were lucky to see two Silver Bellied Gas Hawks.

When I arrived on Wednesday I mentioned that I would like to see kingfishers. Right around 3PM two Green Kingfishers showed near the rushing stream that runs right by the lodge and they stayed there well ove one hour - allowing me wonderful views.

I also wanted good looks at a Smooth Billed Ani - a neat black bird with an interesting beak and a floppy tail - and we saw a lot of them very close on the second day. Also I had been day dreaming about seeing a trogan and although the Blacked Throated didn't come in close enough we did see the Orange Bellied Trogan with spectacular views after almost an hour or Tino's calling and being answered!!

We went to a garden which is around the owner's house. Tino put bananas on the two feeders and in about 2 minutes there were a lot of tanagers and clay colored robins gobbling them up. Some of the tanegers are really spectacular: Crimson Backed Tanager, Lemon Rumped Tanager, and the Thick Billed Euphonia. WE also saw Red Legged Honeycreepers at the feeders. The highlight of the garden visit was very close views of Rufous Crested Coquette (a hummingbird). There were two males and they were sometimes as close to us as 18 inches!

At birding lodges almost all of the guests have a common interest in birds, so it is easay to introduce yourself and have a chat with interesting people. I had a wonderful half hour visit with a very interesting couple. If you would like to hear the story of that leave your name in a comment and if I don't have your e-mail leave that.

Happy New Year to all.