In early April of 2018, a Volunteer Mission team from St Michael’s Episcopal Church in Raleigh, North Carolina returned for their 12th year to help at Holy Cross School in San Pedro, Belize.
With so much skill and experience behind them, this team was able to do an incredible amount in just 5 short days. They ran a vacation bible school, to give students a fun and safe activity for their school holidays. They also helped us with some much needed construction and maintenance. Finally, they continued their support of the industrious women in our sewing center.
The mission trip began on Monday by walking through the San Mateo neighborhood to let the children know that the Easter Vacation bible school would be starting the next day. Even though San Mateo has improved immensely over the last decade, with improved roads leading to improved housing, water and infrastructure, the neighborhood is still clearly very poor. And trash – the cheapest form of landfill – is still abundant.
But for returning members of the team a walk through San Mateo is not about seeing what is wrong, but finding something special. “When we were walking through San Mateo the local children ran out to say hello. They remember us. We’re not strangers here, but friends.” says Paige Madtes, returning for her 4th Easter at Holy Cross.
VBS – Vacation Bible School
While St Michael’s have a strong commitment to helping with infrastructure, it’s the children of Holy Cross that keep the team coming back. Every year they run an Easter Vacation Bible school to share Christ’s message of Salvation, and also to have a fun time of crafts, games and friendship.
This Easter about 50 children attended – many Holy Cross students, but also students from other schools who live in San Mateo as well as children visiting from the mainland. Usually the team enforced age limits, but this year they changed their mind. “We had kids still in diapers coming with their older brothers and sisters. It was actually really incredible seeing how well these 8 and 10 year olds would look after their younger brothers and sisters.”
The VBS focused on the events following the crucifixion of Christ, including the road to Emmaus, Jesus helping his disciples fish and the ascension. “We wanted the children to know that Christ is always with them. We also focused on what they could practically do in their own community. They had ideas like feeding the poor, but when we shared that it could be as simple as hugging a friend they really got it and were really excited.” says Paige.
Construction and Maintenance
Most of the team’s effort for the week focused on a couple of large projects – servicing and moving some of the existing solar panels and roof repairs.
Mr. John McHenry, who leads the volunteer mission team from St Michael’s, has a long history of helping Holy Cross become more sustainable through the use of Solar power. He’s fundraised to have two banks of solar panels installed at the school and much of his effort this week was getting ready to install a third lot of solar panels later this month. You can read more about this solar project here.
The team removed the oldest solar panels to service them and repaired the roof underneath. They replaced the solar panels and prepared space for the third lot of solar panels to be installed in the upcoming weeks.
We’re excited to see so much changing so quickly.
Corridor roof repairs
In addition to fixing the roof by the solar panels, a second major project was to replace a long section of roof over the corridor alongside the cafeteria. This was a big job as all the old framing had to be taken down and replaced with new framing at the correct angle to drain off the tropical downpours correctly.
This work will be appreciated by our students when the rains return later this year.
The final part of the mission trip was to assist in our sewing center. The congregation of St Michael’s had gathered together boxes of fabric and notions to donate, as well as our most needed items for the sewing center – gray thread and long zippers for the school uniforms. Then team member Meg McHenry spent the week with our sewing ladies, teaching the finer points of adding zippers and other finishing touches to the girl’s school uniforms. Making and repairing uniforms is the main work the sewing center does for the student’s of the school. Meg also helped Ms. Elsa to make new aprons for the ladies in the kitchen – and they looked great!
More team photos
Enjoy these other photos from St Michael’s week of mission work at Holy Cross.
Are you interested in learning more about volunteering at Holy Cross School. Click here to find out more. Or you can help us by donating school supplies from our wishlist or making a financial donation.