Saturday, June 26, 2010

VBS soacha/encuentro de jovenes

Last week we took our VBS program to Soacha. It went really well! Brittany and I are really getting comfortable with teaching the music and art projects, and how to adapt when things don't go exactly as planned. We had about 25 kids from the neighborhood and had to be strict with our 6-12 age limit. It was so tempting to allow the little 3 years olds play with us, but we wanted the older kids to get a break from taking care of their younger siblings. We were really fortunate to have the help of my awesome grandparents and padre carlos' family. Without their help it wouldn't have run nearly as smoothly. Thanks grandi and pops and christian!

This past weekend the Diocese of Colombia put on a youth conference and it was so exciting to see pre-teens from all over Colombia (and a group from Ecuador) representing their parishes. Brittany and I ran a work shop with the girls about respecting others and themselves. This is very important for young women in Colombia because the teenage pregnancy is very high . Overall, the 'encuentro de jovenes' was a great success and it was great to meet youth from all over colombia and ecuador.

Now we are in Cartagena with the Diocese of Connecticut mission trip. It's been a busy, HOT few days. We are having a great time getting to know the group and working with over 150 children from four different churches/missions. I'll update all about the trip next week!
Love, Kate

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Brittany and I recently visited a mission church in Yopal, Colombia. Yopal is in los llanos, or 'cowboy country'. We drove there with Ferney and Alex (the church pastors) and saw so many cows and horses on the 9 hour trip. We were immediately introduced to lots of families and children in the town. We were welcomed with open arms and right away I knew it would be a great week away from the big city.
We were there to teach english and to do a program for the children. We ended up combining the two programs and did an hour of english before two hours of games, music, and art. The kids were a lot of fun and picked up the english vocab very quickly. They made t-shirts, watercolor paintings, paper crosses, and picture frames. Afterwards, we walked to a nearby park and played soccer during the afternoons. Luckily, there was only one skinned knee that I had to clean up!

Before church on Sunday, we went to the rio (river) to swim and relax. It was a fun experience with really great people. After the church service they sang happy birthday to Brittany and me (our birthday's are not until next week but they wanted to celebrate with us)! That night we played 'tejo', a typical Colombian game, with a bunch of members of the church. It was a great ending to an exciting week full of new friends and fun kids.
Our trip to Yopal was awesome and I really love the city, mission and people there. This week, we are doing Vacation Bible School in Soacha and are helping plan a youth workshop for this weekend. On Sunday we fly to Cartagena to help the Diocese of Connecticut with their mission trip. We are very excited about this trip!
Love, Kate

Monday, June 14, 2010

a blog from toots and grandpa

As most grandparents know, time with a grandchild is very precious and we, Kate's grandparents (maternal side), had the opportunity to spend ten days not only with our Kate but also with her younger brother Tommy.

Nine and a half months ago Kate left for Colombia as a member of the Young Adult Service Corps. We thought it was a wonderful opportunity for her to improve her Spanish and be a part of a culture perhaps a bit different than that in Maryland. We were to find out that this time away from family was so much more than language or surroundings. But I am getting ahead of myself.

We met Tommy and Kate in Lima, Peru. From there we flew to Cusco and then on to our "adventure" destination of Macchu Pichu. We had an unbelievable time. Seeing and learning about the ancient Inca civilization was fascinating. The majesty of the setting was incredible. After a special five days we flew to Bogota to find out what our "Katem's" world was all about.

Our very first day we were off to Usme - the "closer" mission that Kate and her co-missionary, Brittany, minister to. The bus ride itself was an experience - an hour and a half of belching black smoke from cars and buses that don't seem to follow any specified lanes. The landscape changed from bustling city views to "houses" of corrugated roofs, graffiti and an abundance of stray dogs roaming the congested streets.

In Bogota the bus driver may allow a person or persons to come on the bus to beg. The first was a young mother carrying a little girl that on closer observation had a huge scar covering the top of her head. With Kate as our interpreter we learned that her husband had left her, the child had brain surgery and she had no one to help. The second was a beautiful young blind woman who was escorted on the bus by her brother. I don't remember what her story was but her lovely voice had our fellow bus patrons for the most part reaching into their pockets to give both woman a peso or two. We wondered how anyone living in this part of Bogota could afford to share anything but we learned quickly how even those of little means tried to help others.

It was a pretty sharp climb up to the mission but there perched in between some houses was a tiny church facade with a wooden cross perched on top. We knocked on the heavily locked metal door and were admitted to Kate and Brittany's world. Thirteen adorable faces that lighted up when they saw the girls and Tommy. We were introduced and they all introduced themselves in English. The rest of our time there was spent with English lessons, games, crafts and helping some of the children with their homework. Tommy at 6'3" was a huge hit and he was a natural with the children. Watching from the sidelines were four adults that the pastor of this mission had literally picked up from the streets of Bogota. Four abandoned people - they had no one in the world to take care of them and Father Romeros had taken them in. They spend most of their time just staring out in space or sleeping in their chairs but they have a roof over their heads and three meals a day. We ended our time there with soccer - they have to play on the street. No playground or area other than the street to play.

Soacha, the girls' other mission was an even longer bus ride! But even the long distance could not take away from the shear joy we experienced spending our day with the mostly "displaced" children of Colombia. We had the opportunity to visit a house that two brothers (themselves displaced at an earlier time) had set up to take in families that had left their homes with literally what they had on their backs. Political refugees from their own country!

We asked Kate if she thought she had made a difference or had this experience made a difference in her. Her answer - "both". We could certainly agree. People might say "it's just a few kids" but we could see that her presence, enthusiasm, caring and love touched children that probably received very little if any of the above. The difference in Kate - well as grandparents we are a bit biased. She had always been an amazing granddaughter. Even as a little girl she had that energy that made anything she tackled, whether it be academics, sports or personal relationships special. Perhaps these little observations show best how she has grown in the past nine months. The clerk at the hotel in Bogota calling her by her first name and giving her a hug. The love in the eyes of Myriam her "Bogota Mom" - the sweet smiles of the parishioners of the church as she read the second reading in Spanish - the children of the missions lifting their arms up to be carried or hugged. The respect and gratefulness of the Bishop of Colombia whom we met.

She is the first one to tell you how much she loves what she is doing and how much she loves the Colombian people. We left Bogota with such glad hearts and overwhelming pride.

Toots and Grandpa

Monday, June 7, 2010


After a busy few days of mission work and adventure sports, Tommy and I flew to Lima, Peru to meet my grandparents! Arriving in Peru was an adventure. For the first time in 9 months, I had to learn how to use a different currency, barter with taxi drivers and get used to a different spanish accent. I loved the challenge. My grandparents arrived a few hours after us and it was so great to give them big hugs! We spent the first night catching up, The next day, we took a city tour of Lima and learned a lot about Peru's history.

After a couple of days getting used to the altitude in Lima, we were off to Cusco, Peru. We also took a city tour there and learned even more about the Incan empire and their history. We were able to see a big parade in the middle of the city plaza full of colors, music and dancing. It was such a neat experience to witness a different part of South American culture. While in Cusco, we also visited old Inca places, including an Inca fortress and religious complex called Sacsayhuaman (aka sexy woman). It was a really impressive sight and got us excited for the main event; machu picchu.

We woke up at 330am and started our trip to "the lost city of the Incas", Machu Picchu. It was worth waking up early! We took the 'long' trail through the urban and agricultural sectors (good job Toots and Gpa!) with our tour guide, Mariela. Tommy's favorite part was getting up close to the llamas. It was such an awesome experience and it was so special to see such an incredible site and country with my grandparents!

We all flew back to Bogota and they spent a few days in Bogota, visiting the missions in Soacha and Usme. There will be a blog about their time in Colombia soon!
Love, Kate