Every summer, women from St. Edward’s Church travel to Teresa Toda to deliver a summer camp, called Campamento, to a home for very poor girls run by Carmelite nuns in the Dominican Republic.
VBS on the Road to the Dominican Republic
Since 2002 St. Edward’s has supported Teresa Toda, a home for girls who have had very difficult life experiences, by traveling to the Dominican Republic to put on an energetic, dynamic VBS-style “camp” for the girls. Everyone working on the ‘campamento,’ travelers or not, enjoy a different reward from the experience.
“I see now why you return year after year…the smiles and friendships lure you back. The relationships with the girls far outweigh any lessons you would like to show them or teach them. The real lessons learned seem to be that our presence there – the proverbial gift of time and the gifts of our friendship – is needed and valued there the most.” – Deb H.
Why a Summer Camp?
Carmelite Sisters run this home in Azua, Dominican Republic for 40 very poor girls. During the school year, the girls live at the home, visiting their families monthly to maintain relationships with their birth family and their neighborhood. During the summer, the girls live with their families. The Sisters found that this stay was long for the girls. They would return with many poverty related maladies: malnourishment, skin diseases, sores and lost academic progress they made over the school year. So, the Sisters started “Campamento” to check in with the girls mid-way through summer. They get the health check and nutrition basics, but the Sisters wanted it to be a special annual event for the girls. That’s where we come in!
The primary activity of the ministry is an annual summer camp, or “campamento” in which we do Bible study and reflection, sing, dance, do crafts, tutor in math, explore science, engineering, and health and build community. From the first campamento, our goals have been:
- To spend time with the girls
- To create and maintain a lasting friendship
- To develop the girls’ self esteem
- To teach the girls English
- To gain spiritual insight from the Sisters and the girls
- To take a break from our usual routines, both the girls’ routines and the travelers’.
“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.” – Benjamin Disraeli
This ministry is for all you women called to become closer to God through sharing your gifts with beautiful and poor children in an international setting. The youngest travelers are 14 years old. Travelers younger than 18 require a parent chaperone. We’ve had a wide variety of over 100 travelers so far.
At first you might think, “What can I bring? What should we do? What if I don’t speak Spanish?” But if you come on the trip, you will realize that the girls, and therefore the Sisters, are so happy just to have us there with them year after year. We are welcomed like family, treated like special guests. We bring the camp activities, but the girls share their love, enthusiasm, lives, and their beach with us!
The camp is two weeks long with 10 travelers per week. Most travelers come to one week of the camp. Some women participate to satisfy a sense of adventure. Some participate after a tragedy. One went after 9/11 affected them. Others have come after a family member’s death. Students come to practice Spanish. Parents bring their high schoolers to experience another life together, one that is unimaginable, here in Bloomington Minnesota.
For all Catholic Sister Parish relationships, our five principles are:
- Emphasize relationship over resources
- Practice mutuality and equality
- Seek to give and receive, learn and teach
- Work to change unjust systems and structures
- Deepen our faith by experiencing the universal, catholic church