Saturday, June 20, 2015

Beginning to Conclude

Today is our last day at Fatima. I would love to write with abundant detail, but I think this post will be more of a conclusion of my experience.
Most of us spent the morning at St. Anthony's playing with and saying goodbye to the kids. Tears come more easily than words when attempting to describe the experience. I think the most concise way to explain it is that we have cultivated a deep love for those children and a terrible longing to keep them in our arms. 
Yesterday we spent the morning painting the mural at Barefoot School. It reads: "Welcome to Barefoot Community School," then under those words we painted the logo of the two bare feet, then below that, their motto, "I Can Do It." 
I am so grateful for having been able to experience the beauty of this place two times. I refuse to believe that this is my last time coming here. The Dominican Sisters in Zambia have cultivated a community that has such a bright future, purely due to their loving presence. They educate, care for, and enrich the lives of these joyful people in ways that I know we often lack back home. 
My greatest hope in relaying the story of our stay here is to paint a clear picture of how this place has impacted me. We undoubtedly see things that are painful to see, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. 
As we drive past people on the streets, we wave to them. Our waves are met with enthusiastic smiles and waves in return. People say, "You are welcome" each time we enter a new place. Mothers rely on each other for support; strangers interact as though they were family. The girls at Fatima work harder than any students I have ever met, rising as early as four in the morning to sweep their dorms, rake the leaves from the beautiful landscaping, care for the rose bushes, and more. The novices in our dorm complex spend their day praying, cleaning, and cooking wonderful meals for us. 
I came to Zambia to do service for this community. I came here to offer all that I have to these people in hopes of making a small difference in their lives. It turns out that they changed my life. I have no doubt that I will dedicate my human existence to helping others have a better quality of life. I have learned that the human experience is a difficult one. Our ability to contemplate, change, and study ourselves is a heavy burden and a miraculous blessing. 
Tomorrow we leave bright and early for our two-day stay at the safari lodge. There we will be immersed in some of the the amazing natural beauty that Zambia has to offer; it will be a time for rest and reflection. Our stay here in Zambia is quickly coming to an end, but the impact that this trip has had on our team will remain with us no matter where life takes us. 

Much love from Team Mutomo 2015

June 19th and 20th

June 19th and 20th
Lea Groebe

The past two days have been both fun and exhausting. Each morning for the past few days, Sister Christine has led us in a prayer. She had us think of a bird that had characteristics similar to the way we woke up feeling that day. The first bird that came to my mind was a parrot. I thought about the bright feathers and the talkative and energetic personality they have. I woke up energized and ready for the day. We usually share the feelings we have during the reflection with the entire group. Everyone from the team agreed that it was the perfect way to start off our days and reminded us of what we are here to do and why we are doing it. Yesterday, after prayer, we spent the morning at the Barefoot School painting the rest of the wall mural we started earlier in the week. The mural said "Welcome to Barefoot Community School." Underneath were two feet and their school motto, "I Can Do It." It was a lot of hard work, but seeing the final product and the excitement it brought to the Barefoot community made it worth it.

 In the afternoon, we went to St. Anthony's Orphanage and spent time playing with the kids there. For me, this was my last time going to the orphanage, as I chose to spend my morning today at the Kavu Clinic with Dr. Hansen. I loved seeing some of the kids I had previously connected with during our other visits to St. Anthony, but also enjoyed meeting some of the other kids there as well. I especially loved spending time with the babies and helping to hold and feed them. It was sad for me to say goodbye to all the kids because after spending even just a few short days with them, I felt attached to some of them. I also felt the need to keep helping as much as I could because the kids need a lot of attention, especially given the attention they receive at the orphanage. Even though it was extremely hard, I realized that the days I spent with the kids made a difference in their lives, even a small one. I will never forget all of the beautiful faces at St. Anthony's and they will always hold a very special place in my heart.

 After St. Anthony's we came back to Fatima School and walked into the building to see some of the nuns grilling. They were grilling a ton of food for our farewell dinner. We had to do our farewell dinner last night because due to Ms. Africa night tonight, we will not have time. After settling in a bit, they called us for dinner. We walked into the courtyard to see a huge table with chairs all around it set up with a ton of food and drinks. It looked like a huge feast! The food was fantastic. During the meal, all of the students spread around and talked to some of the nuns. I really liked this because it gave me to chance to get to know some of the nuns on a more personal level. After we finished eating, we did speeches. Each person would get up and say a few words showing their gratitude. After speeches we had dessert and the Vis students even sang a few of our own songs. Overall, it was an amazing night that I will never forget. it helped me to realize how amazing of a community the sisters have established. They are so active and work hard everyday and are both amazing women and role models.

Today, I had the opportunity to go to the clinic with Dr. Hansen. Only one student can go to the clinic at a time, so today was my day to go.  I really enjoyed this experience. I recorded notes based off of what Dr. Hansen observed about each patient and helped pack the medicine they needed. This was interesting for me especially because I am interested in pursuing nursing as a career in the future. I learned so much and saw a lot.

Tonight we have Ms. Africa night! I am excited to experience this and heard it is a lot of fun. Tomorrow we wake up bright and early at 5 am and leave for the Safari!
Much love from Team Mutomo

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Katie George
June 18, 2015

Today Team Mutomo spent our day at an outreach clinic in a village about thirty minutes away from where we're staying. We traveled on rocky dirt roads in the Fatima Girls' bus with four other medical professionals from Kavu, the clinic supported by the Dominican Sisters for the community. Dr. Hansen, Kate, and Mrs. Feltz kept busy all day long, seeing one hundred and three patients while the others measured the kids' height and weight for research. The outreach clinic comes to certain villages on a monthly basis. The majority of the patients are women and children as few middle- aged men attend. Our medical team did an impressive job treating today's patients with, for the most part, nothing but Tylenol, anti-fungal cream, and Amoxicillian. Meanwhile, students prepared bags of medications for distribution, handed out bracelets for the children who got checked, and helped take vitals. People were treated for malaria, viruses, open wounds as a result of domestic abuse, and more were coming to get the vaccination to prevent Elephant Titus which has begun to spread in Northern Africa.

Throughout our busy day, a few of us had the opportunity to see the village of the day's patients. One woman we met readily greeted us and invited us into her home. She is a mother of five young children, with the youngest being just seven months old. We were informed that she divorced eight months ago, and her husband left and provides no financial support. Her house has two rooms. The first room is the "sitting room;" although, it is a completely empty, cement room. Their second room is the bedroom with nothing but a thin cloth lying on the floor for all six family members covered by the roof constructed of plastic bags and potato sacks. The remarkable thing is that this house was given to her, which brings me to my next observation.

We are working with people who deal with severe poverty, but their sense of community is unfathomably rich. As we walk through the streets or ride through the town in the bus, people greet us with waves and smiles so often that my arm gets tired on any journey longer than twenty minutes. Not only are Zambians the most welcoming people I've ever met, but they show that same level of care and compassion to one another. At the clinic today, mothers were helping other mothers, children were carrying their baby siblings, one little boy comforted Mrs. Simon when she got sick, and a young girl brushed off my pants for me after I stood up from sitting in the dirt. The line took roughly six hours to get through, and one woman was selling fritas, a common fried bread snack in Zambia. When women and children came to her with little or no money, although she likely did not have much money herself, she would readily give them a frita anyway.

The people of Zambia have made our trip here so wonderful and have taught us what it really is to be welcoming and caring. I think I speak for everyone when I say that I have loved every minute here and am sad that the end of our trip is coming so soon!

Tomorrow we're headed back to Barefoot School to paint a mural then to St. Anthony's Orphanage; we'll keep you updated!

Team Mutomo June 17th, 2015

June 17th, 2015

Due to technical difficulties, I was unable to post yesterday and I am glad to get a chance to communicate today.

As many have been stating several times, today was another very exciting day for Team Mutomo! We were able to tour/teach at two different schools. The first school was a day-school for boys and girls and it was ran by the Dominican sisters. This school was meant for those who have physical and/or learning disabilities. The second school we visited was an all-girls school, which happens to be a (friendly) rival of Fatima School!

When arriving at the first school, we walked along the newly-built school classrooms, which had previously been in big storage containers. As a Team, we were instantly filled with the anticipation of working, teaching, and playing with the students. At this school, there are a little under 800 kids ranging from 1st-10th grade! Each grade is given a break time during the school day, similar to the 20-minute one we have at Visitation after our two class periods. When we arrived, many younger kids, perhaps 1st or 2nd grader, and 9th graders, swarmed us eagerly waiting to ask us questions and play with our hair! They even attempted to teach us a few sayings, which of course, I completely butchered. Many asked what grade we were in and our age. At the school, it is not surprising to have a 17-year-old in 8th or 9th grade, so they were very shocked when I revealed I am a 15-year-old going into my 11th grade year. We also got to go into their classes and witness what they were learning. I went to one of the three 9th grade classes where I learned (more) English, and business! I found it so cool and interesting to be in a business class and I definitely wish Visitation offered that to us. In fact, many schools in Zambia teach home economics and other classes where the skills are much needed and used.

The second school in Ndola is for the girls-only was very impressive. I found several similarities between Ndola School, Visitation, and Fatima School: all-girls, uniforms, similar classes with each grade, same amount of classes, etc.... At the Ndola school, it was a great pleasure to meet Sister Grace, who was formerly a teacher at Fatima, but transferred to become the headmistress of the Ndola School. At the end of our tour there, I could truly see why she was loved so much and I now have that same appreciation and love,

Much love from all of Team Mutomo.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Updates From The Vis Girls

June 17th 2015
Andrea Feltz

Things have been going very well the past few days here in Ndola. We have still been very busy with various projects and outings that have been planned for us. Two of the more exciting things we have done in the past few days was attending the Barefoot School's presentation for us and going back to St. Anthony's Orphanage.

After finally finishing our painting in the classrooms and beginning the mural on the outside of the school, the school preformed many different songs and dances for the Team. We arrived at around 8:30 yesterday morning to a giant group of the students, more excited than ever and ready to preform for us. they set up seats for us lined up on the opposite side from the other students watching and we sat down in anticipation for the show. the first act was the boy scout group who preformed a "march" for us, showcasing their moves and discipline. they were so excited to show us this, many of them couldn't help but smile during it, no matter how hard they tried not to. next, the choir sang a couple songs for us to welcome us. the choir was made up of kids of all ages, boys and girls. they wore either a uniform that was donated from a school in Minneapolis (small world huh?) or their own clothes. they sang beautifully and full of passion and happiness. we all had the biggest grins on our faces the entire time. next, the dancers came out and preformed a cultural dance for us, which was absolutely amazing. Lastly, another group danced with drumstick-like things which was, once again, fantastic. All of these kids were so energetic and excited to have us there and put a show on for us. We all danced afterwards (or at least tried) and introduced ourselves and made about 100 new friends. It was a truly amazing experience.

We also went back to St. Anthony's yesterday. It was fun to go back for the second time and see all of the familiar faces. So many of the kids remembered our names after a couple of days, which really shows how much attention they receive. It is really hard to go there, especially over and over because it is hard not to make friendships with some of these wonderful kids. I learned a lot upon my return. One interesting thing that i experienced was a little girl named Grace. On the first day, Grace ran up to me right as i stepped foot off of the bus, begging to be held and so energetic and happy. We spent the entire day together and she never left my side. She, along with others, tended to be very protective over whoever gave them the attention like i did, so Grace became very protective of me. After spending this day with her, and falling in love with her pretty little smile i was SO excited to come back and spend more time with her. For the first hour yesterday, i couldn't find her anywhere. i assumed she was probably napping or eating lunch and didn't think much of it, but then i finally tracked her down on the opposite side of the orphanage alone. She hadn't come to see any of us all day or even any of the other kids. When i decided to go see her, she turned and ran in the opposite direction once we made eye contact with her from the other side of the field. The change in Grace in that short of a time really made me realize the effects living at an orphanage has on these children. Grace went from being so outgoing and fun to not even allowing us to come near her or say hello. this really made the behavioral issues they develop when living alone and taking care of themselves constantly at a place like St. Anthony's become very realistic.

Overall, this trip has been the best opportunity i could have ever dreamed of. we have been able to experience such amazing things with the culture and people here that i cannot even dream of coming home yet. tomorrow we will be going to the out-reach clinic to help the people in the Bush, which we all cannot wait for.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


When you look up at the sky at night here, the stars are glitter that is sprinkled on the blue-gray canopy of night, some brighter than others. Constellations are so easy to point out.

This is my second stay with the Dominican Sisters in Zambia. My experience so far has been one filled with familiarity, exhaustion, joy, learning, and love.

Due to our busy schedule and also our repeated technological difficulties, we have not been able to blog as much as we would like to. However, we are very eager to share our stories and will continue to try our best to relay them to you.

On Sunday, we went to St. Anthony's Orphanage for the first time this year. We were all anxious with anticipation; mine stemming from the thought of seeing many of the beautiful children that I had connected with last year. There is faith, she is this beautiful little girl with a radiating and bright smile. She stays in the house with the disabled children, although she has no mental developmental problems. She was born with one leg that stops at the thigh and a foot attached to it that has little bone structure, mostly tissue. So, her green and black-checkered dress extends past the limbs of her body. Michael is four years old. One of the workers there told us that he has "soft bones," which is evident because both of his legs and one of his arms are slightly twisted. He usually waves with with his twisted arm; it's the most amazing thing. He lifts his arm up really high bending his wrist at a slanted 45 degree angle. With completely separated fingers, he waves it forward and backward instead of side-to-side. All the while sporting his signature grin that makes everyone melt with joy.

I could write on and on about each and every kid there; they're all so charming in their own ways. Getting to know them is difficult, knowing the kind of life they live. The lack of nurture in their daily routines, the fact that they have to be so independent and self-reliant at such a young age is heartbreaking. This is something that I greatly struggled with the last time I was here, and I continue to struggle with it. However, this year, I've begun to focus on straying away from pity and pain. These children would be dead or on the streets without this place. These children are human beings, just like you and I. They were born into a difficult life, but they experience happiness in the same capacity that I do. We long to take every single one of them home, but our longing doesn't help them. Our hugs, our smiles, and our companionship is what helps them. It's extremely hard, but after a year full of reflection and hope for returning to this amazing and life-changing place, I have become better at focusing on what I can do, rather than what I cannot do.

Quick update: tomorrow we will be traveling to Natwange to tour and help at a school for middle and upper-school students with physical and developmental disabilities. We will do our best to update the blog!

Much love from Team Mutomo
Katie George
June 15, 2015

Today the Team Mutomo girls shadowed the girls at Fatima Boarding School. Like Vis, Fatima is an all-girls, rigorous high school connected with a convent. The Fatima students could not have been more welcoming! We had in-depth, educational conversations as they have many questions about life in America just as we do about Zambia. We followed the students' busy schedules with an early wake up call to attend 6:45a.m. breakfast consisting of biscuits and tea before a long day of work. Students at Fatima take excellent care of their school; therefore, following breakfast, everyone takes off to do their assigned chore. My chore was to sweep the dead bees in the chapel that had made their way in from their yet-to-be-found hive nearby. Next we were off to the six classes of the day including home management, a class to teach girls everyday skills for being a mother and taking care of a home. After classes, the girls taught Natalia and I how to wash our clothes by hand; so, after amusing the Fatima girls with our sub-par laundry skills, we finally took care of a week's worth of laundry! We are blessed to have spent an incredible day at Fatima and eagerly await what another day in Zambia has in store!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Team Mutomo in Zambia

Hello from the winter month in Zambia- it is actually almost as we left Minnesota (temperature wise.)
We are staying at the Fatima School run by the Dominican Sisters, on a beautiful campus and we have comfortable rooms and fantastic meals. Tonight a part of our dinner consist of a tradition- caterpillars! We will let you know how they tasted tomorrow!
The students here- Natalia, Lea, Katie, Andrea and Erin have been fantastic traveling companions- keeping a positive attitude, even through the 36 total travel hours, food that is unfamiliar to them, long hours of painting with minimal tools available and everything else there is to being away from home.
After our travel we finally made it as over 100 girls surrounded our van and sang a welcome song to us. So far we have going on a tour of the private girls school which has about 500 students Much like our school but it is a boarding school and mostly self-sufficient with pigs, chickens and a garden. The girls speak perfect English and are very friendly wanting to know our names and what the United States is like. Many students will go on to colleges.
We also toured the local clinic/hospital which was interesting. Most patients there have malaria, TB or HIV, which is interesting as you compare to our country where most sick are diseases and illnesses related to smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise.
We also worked for two days at the Barefoot School which is funded through the Sisters here. That school is for the very poor and every child there has donated close on, I saw a Rails to Trails Triathlon shirt on one boy, which is a Minnesota triathlon. We are all planning on leaving any clothes and shoes we won't need for the rest of the trip with them. This school is free for them and teaches them a basic education along with a trade- carpentry for the boys and sewing and the like with the girls. Most of the kids there do not speak very good English.
Tomorrow we are visiting the local orphanage, which we have heard is very powerful. The girls will be blogging about that in a day or two.
Thanks for reading, we miss you all!
Jayme Simon

First Days in Zambia

June 11-13th
Lea Groebe

After a long two days of traveling, it is amazing to be here at Fatima Girl's School. It is so surreal to finally be here after all of the hard working and planning that went into this trip. The trip so far has been extremely tiring and busy, but equally as fun. When we were on the bus and driving into the school, all of the students were lined up outside to greet us. There were all chanting and so excited for us to be there. This made me feel very welcomed. They sang a song to us as we were getting off the bus with their amazingly beautiful voices. I have never seen anything like it. We got off and immediately girls were rushing to hug  us. It was such a great way to start the trip and is something I will never forget. The next day (yesterday), we got up early to go to mass at 6:15. The mass was very beautiful and reminded me of our masses at Visitation. It is interesting to see the parallels between Fatima Girl's School and Visitation. After the mass, we went to go pack up some of the medical donations and bring them to the clinic because the clinic was in need of them. This was my first time seeing the clinic and to me, it was eye-opening. As I walked around, I saw many people lined up waiting to get medical attention. It was hard to see so many ill people needing help, just waiting for a doctor to see them. It made me feel good however, to bring in all of the donations that would help them. After the clinic, the team had the opportunity to get a tour of the entire campus. My favorite parts of the tour were going to the Barefoot School and seeing the village and market. I loved these experiences the most because I was able to connect with so many people. Almost everyone I encountered either shook my hand or said hello. I am so amazed at how welcoming everyone is here. These experiences, like the clinic, were eye opening. The lifestyle here is so different and the areas we saw were so run-down. Despite the conditions these people live in, they are so incredibly happy and I am so inspired by that. The rest of the day yesterday and all day today we painted two classrooms and the main dining hall at Barefoot School. The kids were around most of the time so it was fun to interact with them. They would peek inside and try to see the work we had done. I could tell they were excited. I will admit, it was not always the most fun job, but seeing the way it excited the kids is what made me want to keep going.  After just three days here, I can already say this trip will change me. I am having an amazing experience thus far and am excited to see what the rest of the trip holds.

The Past Three Days in Zambia

June 11-13th 2015
Andrea Feltz

The past three days have been absolutely amazing here at the Fatima School. Although we haven't had access to the internet to blog as often as we wanted and planned, we have been so busy and have been experiencing some truly life changing things. There are so many things I could talk about, but one of the most touching things that has happened was our arrival at the school. Upon our arrival, over 100 girls from the school stood outside jumping up and down, waving and yelling out of excitement. This really set the tone for the rest of the trip, in my opinion. Once we exited the bus, the girls began to sing a welcome song, which included the phrase, "Welcome to our school, your home away from home" and this has really felt like that is the case. I have truly never met a friendlier and more welcoming community than what I am a part of right now. Every person, no matter their age, have greeted us with a wave and a smile, and even began conversations with us despite the fact that we are complete strangers to them. This sort of happiness and friendliness that I am experiencing when in contact with not only the girls at the school, but also the nuns and the people at the clinic or living in the village has completely changed my view on not only life, but how to treat other people. I can honestly say i have never seen this genuine of happiness than I am seeing here. Despite the poverty these people are faced with, or the sickness they are battling, a smile or a simple hello never is missed. I could go on for hours about how amazing this trip has been so far or how inspiring the people i am surrounded by are, but I assumed you (whoever is reading this) would be curious to know about what we have been doing. So, in the past three days we have...
-arrived at the school after two very long days of travel
-gone to bed at 7:00 and woken by 4:00 because of our confused sense of time
-finished painting two of the barefoot school's classrooms and the main hall
-eaten some great traditional Zambian food made by the nuns and novices
-taken a tour of the entire campus
-come very close (we are anticipating the phone call and it is supposed to be tonight) to see a baby being born
-prepared ourselves for eating a caterpillar tonight
-attended a beautiful mass
-I have been the only one to get sick yet, so we are going strong in that category too

These are just a few of the things we have been doing the past three days. We have some awesome things coming up in the next few days that we are really looking forward to as well.

Tomorrow we will be attending an all school mass, which is supposed to be absolutely beautiful and then will be spending the day at St. Anthony's Orphanage. I am really looking forward to see what tomorrow brings and we will make sure to write as often as possible despite our droopy eyes and busy days.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Team Mutomo Begins Its Work

The wi-fi isn't working at the moment in Ndola, but Philip Goldman sent this quick email about Team Mutomo's work today in Zambia.

Here is a picture of some of the team busily painting the Barefoot School for the poor.  The classrooms are beginning to look a whole lot better.  Natalia and Janelle are not in the pic as they were at the clinic.  The team is doing great work and is getting along tremendously.  They pitch in at a moment's notice and are doing their parents and country proud.  All are standing tall after 11 hours of sleep. Tomorrow we finish painting and move on to other activities.  Dr. Hanson said the clinic work went very well today.  More tomorrow!

Team Mutomo members painting the Barefoot School

Monday, June 8, 2015

Planning, preparation and anticipation for Ndola, Zambia

As the 2015 Team Mutomo is getting ready to depart tomorrow, we each are going through our own excitement and nervous thoughts and feelings about the trip. (And packing, see photo)

Recent graduate Katie George said, “This is my first time being out of the country, and I'm very excited! I've been working for months and have invested a lot into this trip and have no doubt that it will all be worth it. I'm also very nervous, as this will all be new to me, but this is the best kind of nervousness. I love service, traveling, and trying something new and cannot wait to embark on an experience so foreign to me.”
Philip Goldman writes, “As for excitement, it is one of the great privileges of my life to be invited to join these Sisters in their mission to help the poor and most vulnerable of their community.  There is nothing more inspiring or humbling than joining them shoulder-to-shoulder.  I am a little nervous as well as I want to make sure every student, without exception, will meet and exceed her personal expectations for this trip.”
As for me, this is a new experience as well, although I was fortunate to go to Guatemala in 2007 and 2008 on Visitation mission trips. This trip, however, brings a different type of nervousness, especially with our needing so many vaccinations and prescriptions, although everything I have heard seems pretty safe. I am excited to see a different community in Ndola and form new friendships with the Sisters, teachers and children as we work in different surroundings such as the schools, orphanages and in the field helping with medical are.

We will try to blog every day on our trip. Please keep us and our work in your thoughts and prayers.
Thank you!

Posted by Jayme Simon, Upper School physical education teacher and Team Mutomo chaperone

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Team Leaves Tuesday

Upper School teacher Jayme Simon and Visitation parent Philip Goldman are leading a team of five Visitation students to Zambia in south central Africa, starting Tuesday, June 9.  Please check this blog for information from the students as they write about their work each day.  Best wishes to the team as they head out to work with the Dominican Sisters in Ndola!