Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Back at the Mount ... still catching up on sleep. It was a wonderful trip- thank you to all the participants. Our hearts are changed forever.  Enjoy a few more pictures of Guyana 2013 ..

Sunday, March 10, 2013

To be chosen for the Mount Aloysius College Guyana Service Trip of 2013, was very surreal.  I was unsure of what was expected of us and what to expect on our adventure, needless to say it was a very exciting time for all of us!!!
Our trip to Guyana has been an amazing journey.  To be immersed in another culture so different from ours has changed my perspective on life.   We as Americans complain and may become angry if we have to go without something we want.  For many Guyanese, many go without things they need and yet are happy. I found their outlook and attitude in general is very different from ours in the states.  The old adage "less is more," rings true in a case like this.
I found their culture and way of life simple and relaxed.  Americans life tend to be rushed  and complex with work, deadlines, doctors appointments, soccer practice etc.  For many we push our boundaries almost to the point of insanity and exhaustion.  The Guyanese experience life "in the slow lane," if you will, as compared to us.  They take the time to enjoy their day, unrushed.
I think for many of us the hardest thing was knowing we had to leave.  We have created friendships and bonds with some of the residents especially at the Bosco Boys Orphanage and at The Palms, an old age nursing home.  It was hard leaving everyone behind, knowing the living conditions and their situations.  It was especially difficult for me to leave the boys behind.  I found we gave them a sense of false hope.  We spent time with and loved the kiddos while we were there, then turn around and leave them just like everyone before us.  I hope this repeated coming and leaving of people don't add to any abandonment issues they may already have.
I found it very rewarding to spend time with, teach and help those we visited.  Giving those a sense of hope and letting them know that others care, is the the most satisfying feeling in the world.  The vulnerable need a sense of belonging, love and meaning in life.  I hope we gave those feelings that will ultimately last a lifetime. 
I hope we inspired those attending school at Mercy Wings to continue on with their education even after they graduate their vocational schooling, I know they inspired me and I found that I enjoyed something that I never thought I would, teaching.
I know I learned a lot from the people of Guyana, more than I ever taught them. From this trip, I question the path of education I am currently taking.  I received a sense of complete satisfaction and joy by helping the less fortunate.  Because of these feelings I experienced, my path of learning will probably take a detour.
I would like to thank the Sisters of Mercy for making this trip possible for students like myself. In addition, I would especially like to thank Sr. Nancy Donovan, who without her experience, expertize and mercy values, this trip wouldn't have been possible.
I will carry the people of Guyana in my heart especially those small boys, looking for a family to call their own.  I wish everyone the absolute best. I will miss Guyana and the people who call it home.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Journal days 1-5

Day 1- We arrived in Guyana late this morning, and already I love the weather. All of the buildings are open to air and there is a constant breeze. The first thing that I learned is that there are no rules for driving in Guyana. First, they drive on the opposite side of the road and the driver’s seat is on the left. I sat up front (on the right side) leaving the airport, and at points I just had to close my eyes in fear that we were going to hit someone.
We got to sleep in a bit today and explore the retreat center. Compared to many of the houses we have passed on our drive here, we are staying at a luxury resort. I am sharing a room with Trista, who is getting her Master’s in counseling at the Mount. We each have a small bed, which is actually very comfortable, with a bug net (which is crucial). We also have our own bathroom, and although we use a rain water collection system here, the showers are usually warm. This is definitely a lot nicer than what I was expecting.
A few of us went for a walk down the road in the early afternoon, and stopped at a small convenient store. Here, instead of walking into the store, there are metal bars with the worker behind and you tell her what you would like. We didn’t get to exchange our money yet (a lot of places do not accept American money) but the cashier gave us some local made bubble gum. I could never see this happening back home. After lunch, the group (there are 11 of us total) started to walk to the orphanage and where stopped by our bus driver, Veno. He invited us back to see his son’s tire shop and then to their home. We went upstairs and met Teresa (Veno’s wife), Jenny (his daughter), and Jenny’s husband. Everyone was so nice and welcoming. Veno got us all chairs to sit and a glass of ginger beer with ice. Ginger beer is kind of like gingerale, but with a much stronger ginger taste, I really liked it. It was also amazing to have a cold drink! Teresa made us plantain chips, and a full Indian meal! I could not believe how these strangers would open their home to me and make such an amazing meal right on the spot. I can’t wait for tomorrow.
Day 2- I had the opportunity to go to the hospital today. St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital is a private hospital in Guyana that is run by the Sister’s of Mercy.  Half of the hospital is made of wood, and the other half is currently under construction and is being remodeled. I could not believe what I saw when we got there. I have never been to a hospital outside of the U.S. and really didn’t expect things to be as bad as they were. Most of the equipment didn’t work correctly (including the machine used by anesthesia during surgery), the suction was run by a motor. You would need to experience this hospital in person to fully understand my feelings.
Day 3- I went back to the hospital today. We had the chance to meet a medical team from the U.S. that was coming to perform surgeries, one of whom let us sit in on a plastic surgery they performed that afternoon. After the surgery, we met some of the St. Joseph’s nursing students, and I realized that the stress I have from nursing school is understood in all countries. It was nice having something in common with someone who lives such a different life than I do.
We also went to the John Basco orphanage today. I immediately fell in love with all of the boys. It is hard to believe that boys who have been abandoned by their families, and some severely abused, could be filled with such joy. A few of the boys were attached to me and started calling themselves “the fan club”, they were all so funny. I cannot wait to return back on Thursday.
Day 4- Today we went to the Palms, which is a public nursing home. I was literally in shock. The government has not passed the budget yet, so the facility is short of many crucial items, including food for the patients. Many of the women on the ward that I visited were not able to walk, and they were on the top floor with no elevator. There were also many residents laying in bed with no sheets, just laying on the thin plastic mattress. These people are in much need of donations.
We also went shopping in town and visited the largest wooden cathedral in the world, which is in the center of Georgetown. It was so beautiful! After, we went  to a park where they protect manatees. Veno pulled this certain grass for us that they love to eat. It was a really neat experience. 
Day 5- Today I was originally supposed to go to the orphanage during the day and help with school, it ended up that a teacher was sick, so I taught 1st grade. I knew many of the boys in the class from visiting earlier in the week, and they were very well behaved. Unfortunately, today was our last day doing service. It was so, so hard leaving all of the boys. One in particular, Alex, became very close to me. He was always beside me holding my hand. He started to cry when I was, which immediately caused me to cry as well. It was a very difficult day.
Today was our last day of service and probably the most emotional for all of us.  The realization of the horrendous living conditions the Guyanese people face daily has set in. The poverty here is unfathomable, hopelessness and despair is a reality for many.  A government funded nursing home called "The Palms," is a three story' multi-building, wooden facility.  There is no elevator, the elderly and handicapped have to climb steps or be carried. This is an open air facility, there is no privacy for the residents, not even small partitions between resident beds.The residents sleep on very thin mattresses, some covered in plastic, with no sheets. Many mattresses laid on a plywood base. Some residents don't receive enough to eat, and go hungry. Stray animals come and go at The Palms.  Birds have even built nests on the beams directly above resident beds. One gentleman had bird feces on his bed, next to where he was laying. The nurses do what they can with what they have but honestly, they are over worked and don't have the proper supplies to meet the needs of the residents. One of the nurses had said that at times they have only 1 nurse staffed for approximately 25 beds. Despite the living conditions at The Palms, the residents are happy.  Many sang hymns in small groups.  For many residents, they only thing they have is their faith in God.


My, oh, my. What a journey it has been. Here we are, at the end of our service here in Guyana. After four days of sensory and experience overload, I must say that I wish I had forty more. Today, I was blessed with the opportunity to teach first grade at Bosco Academy (the school at the orphanage). Kara and I were basically thrown into a class with no real explanation. We did numbers, reading, and writing. We also did a lot of laughing. It is impossible not to, considering the silliness of seven first graders. For the first time in my life, I really felt like an adult. I was responsible to make sure these young boys learned something. At the very least, I hope I brought a bit of joy into their lives. 

That is where this amazing adventure becomes bittersweet. We have spent afternoons playing with the boys at the orphanage. However, this was the first time that I spent the entire day there. From the very get go, the boys were grabbing my hand and leading me around. The whole day I tried to give them all as much love and attention as I could. I just felt like those boys needed a hand to hold and someone to hug. I picked up as held as many as I could and a few sat with me in the afternoon while I read them stories. By the end of the day, I just wanted to scoop them up and bring ten home. I am amazed at how fast I grew attached to those little guys. I didn't know everyone's name, but they all smiled when I looked them in the eye and called them "little man". The most heart breaking part of this experience was having to say goodbye to them. All I heard was "Miss, come back tomorrow!"  It was so hard to tell them I was not coming back again. Their innocence and youth showed. One boy in particular, Alex, made a permanent impression on me. After Kara walked to the van, I saw his eyes overflowing with tears. He just starred at the van sitting just beyond the gate. It was seeing him and all the other boys at the fence that almost caused me to lose it. 

As heartbroken and sad as I am, I have to believe that this trip positively impacted not only myself, but the people I came in contact with. I hope those boys and girls that I taught this week have a positive memory of me and that they knew, that for at least a few hours, that someone truly loved and cared about them. When all is said and done, however, this trip was not about the service we did. It is about the things we experienced and felt. It's about the way we were affected and how our lives were changed. 

I can say, with absolute certainty, that I am not the same person that left Cresson less than a week ago. I will carry this experience with me forever in my heart. It is my greatest wish that I can return someday. Please say a prayer for all the boys at the orphanage. They need some more love than I can send them. 

Tomorrow is a day to explore the natural beauty of our host country. We will explore the rain forest and hopefully find a way to lighten our hearts and soothe our souls. Then, it is back to the real world and everything that we left behind. I want to that thank each and every person on this adventure with me. It is a once and a lifetime opportunity that I am glad each of you has been a part of.

That is all for tonight. Love and miss you all. 


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Today was another amazing day. We all had the chance to visit The Palms a public nursing home here in Georgetown. The men and women there were happy and very welcoming each one of them replied I’m doing well by the grace of God or I’m doing well thanks to God, when I asked them how they were. Their faith and view of God is inspiring. First I met Jean who was reading her bible the book of Psalm and she said it is here favorite book because it’s full with praises. I read to her few verses and she told me the reasons why he’s always praising God that was touching. Another lady I mat was Ester or should I say “Queen Ester” she has a voice on her, goodness she’s like a walking Word(Bible) she spook so much truth and brought light to some areas to my life.
So much to talk about but these bugs are eating me alive. Hopefully I’ll be able to blog about my experience at the David Rose School. I was there Monday and Tuesday with the deaf and hard hearing students I am going back tomorrow and I need all the rest I can get tonight. They make me smile :)
 man! The fruits here are mmm good!

The Good and the Bad

This has been an awesome experience so far. The weather, the food, and the hospitality are outstanding. I have been to the St. Joseph Hospital, John Boscov Orphanage, and the Palms Geriatric Home. Conditions are horrible in the hospital and at the Palms. The hospital here is something Americans could never fathom, it looks like something from an old movie, the equipment is outdated and aseptic technique is not practiced. They use mentholated spirits instead of alcohol and the drapes in the OR are blood stained and brown. The Anesthesia equipment that helps keep the patients alive were not reliable, the leads were taped and kept disconnecting.

The Palms is a sad, yet happy place. The conditions are crammed and they don't have enough food to eat properly. These people are left behind by society and have no money, some have family, some don't. Some have family in the states. The buildings are wooden and of an open floor design, meaning there are no partitions or dignity.

The orphanage is a depressing place, most of these kids have been abandoned. All are boys under 16. Their eyes light up and they get a big smile on their face when we show up. They love to play soccer and chase. They are well behaved and call you sir or miss. They are starved for attention and appreciate any little bit that you can give them. When you start doing something with one of them, you better be prepared to do it 25 more times. This is definitely a highlight of the trip.

On a good note we have visited a few different places and went shopping down town. We visited the St. George's Cathedral today, which is largest wooden cathedral in the world. It is a sight to be seen. We figured it could seat over 2000 people.

Guyana Day 4-Palms,manatees,sea wall &John Bosco

Guyana has been wonderul,I look forward to more of this country and its beautiful people everyday. Going to the palms(public nursing home) and meeting those wonderful people with tremendous faith even in their state was a life changing experience. Queen Ester was my high moment of the day;a blind woman that sang and praised God so passionately. I'm looking forward to Tommorow and what  God has in store for us. Guyana 2013!!!!

New experiences in Guyana

Today our whole group went to the public nursing home for the elderly. It was called 'The Palms.' I got the chance to talk to many of the men and women residents that stayed there. The men and women had their own separate wards. In total there were 8 wards. A lady named Merasa Squires was a nurse at The Palms. She talked to me about the ward she worked in and how her husband is in the Buffalo, NY working in maintenance for lofts. She hopes to come join her husband soon. She said the phrase 'Good things come to those who wait.' When she said that I was struck and it seemed to be even more realistic than when I would use the phrase because of her working conditions, low pay, the residents lack of food to eat, and just everything put together. One of the patients named George asked me for a pair of sunglasses so he could read outside without hurting his already deteriorating eyes. We told the sisters and they planned to go get them for him that day! It amazes me how the older sisters go to The Palms every Wednesday morning to visit all the residents there and give them sweets. That sure is dedication!
We got the opportunity also today to pet and feed endangered manatees. We used grasses that they eat and kind of swished ten in the water to get their attention. It was delightful and exciting to pet such a graceful creature. Some of them would roll over for you to rub their bellies.
I'm looking forward to go back to The Palms tomorrow especially because I can observe the physical therapy department. :)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I am extremely proud yet humbled to have been invited on this trip to Guyana. This was a dream come true to be able to travel to South America. To be traveling and realizing a dream yet  giving back to the less fortunate makes it much more meaningful for me. I had expectations of an easy time here,physically yes it has been, emotionally and mentally, its been tough. The people of the country have been welcoming and very hospitable. Many have what we would say "go out of their way" to talk to us, holler at us from their porches from across the street or from their balconies. We have had an amazing array of fresh fruits direct from the source, many of them, many of us have never tried let alone heard of. The weather has been absolutely beautiful, in the warm 90's with a constant breeze and usually Reggae music playing in the background. The birds are always singing and you can hear the calmness of the area. Very relaxing and beautiful!!
Beautiful people and weather in Guyana. Sure have experienced hospitality inmany forms. Have gone to the hospital for past two days. Taught Guyanese nursing students. Spent alot of time with nursing faculty. Regina there is a street named after you! No Zukowski street though.  I wish I had a copy of NCLEX blueprint. Thanks Theresa nursing faculty appreciated books. Please tell Wes that I am thinking about him and his family.  Miss all of you. Follow the blog.

Monday, March 4, 2013

First day of service in Guyana is complete! I was blessed to be able to travel with Mardia to the Dave Rose School that teaches hearing impaired and developmentally disabled children. We arrived during prayer time and we were introduced to the entire student body. It was quite an experience! The deaf children created a "sign name" for me (put an L to your forehead and then swipe from one side to the other). Afterwards, all the children wanted to shake my hand and greet me. After a quick tour, I was placed in a "Grade 1" classroom. I use the term loosely because there isn't really a system. The children move up a class when the teachers think they are ready. I interacted with students of all sorts. Some had Autism while others had Down's Syndrome. Their teacher was an incredible woman in her late twenties. The care and compassion for her students was evident. There was one girl in particular that was attached at my hip. Her name was Shania and she was always smiling at me. She was extremely patient with me when I was not able to understand her. It's funny how we are both speaking English, but sometimes it seems like a foreign language. I have found that I have started to pick up a Guyanese accent on certain words.

The biggest lesson I learned today was how similar we all are. There are many ethnicity's here along with people of all different ability levels. Yet, despite all the differences, we are similar in more ways than we could ever imagine. I have learned a humbling lesson in accepting people no matter how they are.

Tomorrow, I will be heading back to the same school. I cannot wait to meet a new classroom of students. In the afternoon, we will be going to the boy's orphange to run around and play soccer! I am so very excited. That is all for now!

Love and miss you all,

Laura :)

Memories from Sunday

Here we are, already at the end of the first day here in beautiful and warm Guyana. I find myself entirely fascinated by everything here. There is no doubt that we are in a completely different culture. I was pleasantly surprised by the hospitality of the Guyanese. We were visited by our driver for the week, Vino, and his wife, Theresa. They warmly welcomed us to Guyana. Later on, we visited them at the site of their new tire repair shop. While there, we were treated to a wide variety of home cooked food that included fried plantain, curry chicken, a fried bread made with chickpeas, ginger beer, and fresh fried peanuts. To top it off, Vino went out and bought a giant sugarcane. He then took a machete, cut up the cane, and gave it to us. I've never experienced sugar in this form before, but I must say that nothing comes close to the deliciousness of it. When we thanked them for the hospitality, they told us that everyone in Guyana would treat us the same way. 
While walking on the streets near the retreat center, we were acknowledged or greeted by everyone we passed. People waved to us and shouted "Good Afternoon!". As a group, we certainly garnered a great deal of attention. At first I thought it might be my florescent green tank top and my purple shorts. However, the more logical reason was my pale complexion. I have never had the experience where I felt uncomfortable for being of a lighter complexion. Not one person said or did anything to make me feel uneasy; it was more of an internal thing. The experience was a humbling one and a great lesson. When you come from a small town in rural Pennsylvania, diversity is very low. It was the first time in my life that I was the minority in a situation. I hope that I will always remember this experience and be able to put it to use in the future. 

I am anxiously waiting for morning as we head out on our first day of service. I am forcing myself to rid any expectations or preconceived notions that I have in hopes that I will keep an open mind regardless of what I end up doing. Please pray that we keep open hearts and open minds. I love and miss you all back home.

First day out doing service

Today was our first day out experiencing Guyana. The people here are really friendly. Everyone says hi and waves when you walk by. Even at the young boys orphanage that some of us went to today they were very kind. I liked going to the orphanage and look forward to going back tomorrow. The heat isn't what I'm use to and it drains my energy fast. I got to try many different fruits and local dishes that are a stable here in Guyana. So far from what I can remember I've had plantains, coconut, salmon, an awesome potato dish, and curry chicken. So far I've enjoyed all the food I've tasted. There are many animals roaming free along the road. They include horses, goats, donkeys, dogs, and a few cats. The place we are staying is the St. Paul's Retreat center. The women that cook our meals are wonderful and I'm very appreciative of their hospitality and cooking.

Friday, March 1, 2013


Only a couple hours left before we depart for our trip to Guyana. I'm excited for the new experiences through the people I will meet. My high anticipation for this trip is to learn about the Guyanese fatith and religion. By learning what their belief system and how their way of living coincides, I can achieve my goal. I hope to leave and take home with me a powerful message, that compassion is the key to hope and happiness through service.

This is my first time traveling outside the United States. That makes me a little worried and nervous, but I know I will be surrounded with caring and wonderful people. I have to admit I'm looking forward to the warmer weather. Once we arrive and hit that climate change I hope my body takes it all in. The cold, wintery mix of weather dampens your mood sometimes. I think all of the people going on the trip will enjoy this weather just as much as me. I'm bringing two cameras but I feel I will need more than that. What pictures I don't take will be kept in my memory for the rest on my life to remind me of the beauty and experience in it's entirety.

Stacey Mowery

Is this even real?

Nine hours. That is all that stands between me and the most amazing life experience I have ever had. Honestly, it just started to hit me a little bit ago. This is no longer just something I am going to do in the future. This is real. This is going to happen. I am excited, terrified, curious, and calm all at the same time. 

Although I am a mildly seasoned traveler (I have been to five or six different countries), this will be my first experience outside of North America. That fact in itself is truly incredible. You see, I was born and raised in a tiny town in rural Elk County. Many of my neighbors have never left the country, let alone traveled to another hemisphere. I am blessed to have the opportunity to experience things many of my fellow peers could never even imagine. 

This trip is going change me. That is undeniable. However, I am determined to run straight into this adventure and dive head first into anything and everything offered to me. I want to make the most out of this seven day journey. I hope to experience the food, the culture, the music, and the people. I want to get a taste of it all.

Nine hours. Nine hours stand between me and a life changing adventure. I want to thank my family, friends, Sister Nancy, my fellow travelers, and everyone who has supported this trip or I in any way possible. I am so very blessed to be a student here at Mount Aloysius College and to have this once in a lifetime opportunity. Thank you for following our blog. Please say a prayer for us!

--- Laura Stahli

Final Preparation

Final preparations are under way as we will be leaving in less than 24 hours, as always I wait until the last minute to get everything ready. I think we are all looking forward to what is to come, but at the same time unsure of what to expect. We are entering a country where they appreciate what they have and we leave behind the American way of life where we take everything for granted, so I think it will definitely be an eye opening experience and a positive one. I will hopefully contribute to this blog at least once a day. For now so long and please keep us in your Prayers!

Chuck Brink

P.S. It's 86 degrees there!