July 2023 Trip Review
We had an awesome trip to Reynosa July 6th -14th! Over the 8 days in Reynosa, we celebrated graduations with our partners and did a team focused camp with Big Heart Orphanage. Though our group was small (Scott McDonald, Cory Vessa, & Holly Vessa), we had a big impact by God's grace! Watch the highlights from the trip in the video above.
While security was a concern, the week proved very tranquil - praise God! As we reported in the June newsletter, the city has been relatively peaceful and we encountered no violence.
Friday and Saturday we celebrated graduations. A huge part of Rohi's mission is to help end the cycle of poverty through education. Thus, celebrating graduations provides an opportunity to honor the hard work of the students, families and teachers, as we seek to achieve this goal together.
The first, Friday morning, was at Colegio La Cruz in the 23rd of March community. Run by Rosy and Mauro Esquivel, this is the school's first year of operation. They had one kindergarten graduate and four primary school graduates. Each graduate received a gift from Rohi and Cory had the honor of helping distribute the diplomas.
Friday afternoon we celebrated the high school graduation. High school is not free in Mexico, but Rohi partners with the government, through a special program geared towards impoverished rural communities, to provide a free high school for the communities we serve (located in the La Union community). Every year Rohi awards each graduate a new laptop computer, presented at the graduation. This is made possible by a partnership with DressWell GiveWell and other generous donors. The promise of a new computer encourages students to finish their education and gives them a vital tool to be successful in post-secondary studies and in their careers. Over half of the 9 graduates honored this year are pursuing post-secondary degrees in nursing - most together at the same school! We are so proud of these graduates and grateful to be able to support them.
Our final graduation celebration was Saturday afternoon at Iglesia Nueva Esperanza (New Hope Church). This small church that David pastors is located in an apartment complex where many who lived in the La Union community moved to. We honored 7 graduates of kindergarten, primary and secondary schools. Each received a gift from Rohi. This graduation is particularly special because we know each of the children and their families so well.
Team Challenge at Big Heart Orphanage
After a wonderful Sunday worshipping at Gracia Abundante and New Hope Church, as well as a celebratory lunch with the Garcias, we transitioned on Monday to a four day camp with the children of Big Heart Orphanage. The heart of the week was teaching the Biblical principles of teamwork through team-based competitions. Of particular emphasis was I Corinathians 12: 12-27. These verses highlight that though each member of the body has different gifts, we are all needed and valuable. The competitions were varied in type to ensure that everyone had an opportunity to contribute and excel. We also continually emphasized being helpful, encouraging, and self-sacrificing. During our "real-life VBS," we sought to have a great time while learning to work together as the body of Christ.
On Day 1, three teams were formed, varying in age and abilities, so as to make them as equal as possible. Our first activity was deciding on team names, flags and slogans. The Pixels, Tigers, and Red Crimson teams then began competing for points - first in a "Best Friend Game," where partners had to answer questions about each other, next in a scavenger hunt, and finally in capture the flag. We ended the day with an evening volleyball game.
On Day 2, we started early with a morning workout (we had one Day 1 as well, but it wasn't part of the team competition as yet). We awarded points for attendance and effort. The rest of the day was free of competition and spent doing girly and manly activities. The girls had a "spa" day, complete with facemasks, massages, watching a Barbie movie, and manicures. The boys made hula hoops, helped "test" our obstacle course (which Scott was building with Jorge and Pepe - maintenance workers at Big Heart), and played in the game room. We ended the day with a Thai Curry dinner courtesy of Chef Scott.
Day 3 was full of competitions again, starting with our morning workout and then the obstacle course. Each team had to complete the obstacle course for time. Points were awarded for best times and teamwork (like cheering each other on and helping each other). We then headed to the pool and had a coin finding challenge. After some free time in the pool, we did a hula hoop contest. In the heat of the afternoon, we went inside and did an English Jeapordy game. We ended the day with fun on the zip line, which Scott, Jorge and Pepe had set up.
Day 4 was our epic finale. The day started with our morning workout, emphasizing stretching, but also with challenges in planks, running (short & mid distance), and weights. Next was an egg hunt, the winner being the team with the most eggs. We then had a second obstacle course competition, with teams having to select a boy and a girl to complete the course for time. After, we did a tug-a-war competiton and had an hour of free time on the zip line and obstacle course. Before lunch, we did "Gross Games." Each child had to make a shake consisting of four ingredients picked at random from a bag - a condiment, a liquid, a seasoning, and a fruit/vegetable. Imagine a shake consisting of ketchup, orange juice, Lawry's Seasoning salt, and onions. Yummy! Those who could down 4 ounces got 100 points, with 2 ounces earning 50 points. If you couldn't do it, you could have a teammate do it for you, but that teammate was limited to one substituion. Nearly every team was able to drink the entire four ounces of their 5 shakes. Amazing! We allowed the substituion because sometimes we need help. We can't always manage on our own. It demonstrated a key element of teamwork.
Finally, we did a Master Chef competition. The teams each made a main dish and the adults judged the food based on taste and presentation. The dishes included pizza on hot dog buns, French fries and fried cheese sticks, and cheese and bacon burriritos with salsa and chips. The burritos/chips and salsa won.
After all the scores were calculated, we announced the winners. All particpants got prizes, but the winning team got to pick first. The ceremony included many words of encouragement and was an amazing end to a really blessed week.