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2017 FHMB Update

By Katie Brown


2017 has been a very busy year for FHMB.

Our Annual Spaghetti Dinner fundraiser was March 6 with so many volunteers, I hesitate to name any one, but Master Browne won the hearts of everyone as he was the most efficient of our waiters. He was not confined to his table for clearing, wherever he saw an empty plate he was “johnny on the spot”  for clearing and cleaning the tables. Yes, we have requested that he return in 2018.

We had over 70 silent and live auction items and sign ups to provide scholarships at $200.00 per student. Pat and Bob Yelanosky again hosted a private wine tasting evening as another special fundraising event. Thank you!!!

When all was tallied, we cleared over $27,000, and we had 2 extra special donations, so we were able to share $37,000.  Thank you from all at Damien House and at Fr PJ’s Parish and school for your generosity

We sent $10,000 to Fr PJ for overage costs building the Church of Beata Mercedez, and another $10,000 for the students’ scholarships so he could provide 40 full and 18 partial scholarships. We learned later that he had to raise the tuition this year to $24/month.  (Looks like we will need to ask for more in 2018).

We have been able to send additional money ($12,000) to Fr PJ to continue construction at the school where he built a covered playground area and covered assembly place at the school itself as well as finish tiling classrooms and painting the new rooms.  He did so much more, but, you get the idea, he was the non-stop worker.


Our other mission, Damien House, wasn’t left out either. Since the Rotary in the Guayaquil area was doing major remodeling work to raise the floor in the men’s patio to stop the yearly flooding, and putting a specialized roof over the area to keep it cooler, as well as providing 2 bathrooms and an upgraded bedroom for several of the more disabled and elderly men, we asked that the $12,000 we sent to Damien be used for food and medicine as needed. They were most pleased as the biggest costs besides salaries, are food and medicine (close to $1,000. /day).

We went Ecuador!!

June 15th found Kathy Strege, Serena Arts Baker and Katie Brown southbound from LAX!  Our overnight flight to Panama City then there to Guayaquil was wonderfully boring, no problems at all.  Magale and Danello met us and whisked to Damien House in about 10 minutes where Mass had just ended, so we got to meet several residents right away.

The residents welcomed Kathy and Serena with open arms for their first visit.  We had many extra people living at Damien because they had had nerve decompression surgeries just 2 weeks prior, so were recuperating at Damien and being provided good nutritious meals and clean environment so their surgical wounds could heal. These are called miracle surgeries because---the bacteria from Hansen’s disease remains in the body even though it is not active, but it causes constriction around the nerves of the forearm and lower leg causing drop foot and decreased sensation and reflexes as well as loss of grip and hand function.  When Dr. Wilson comes with his team from New Hampshire, they release these constrictions and almost immediately, sensation and function returns to the hands and feet.  Often the patient will have one arm and opposite foot done at the same time. This year there were 24 of these Miracle surgeries!


While Kathy and Serena were giving manicures and pedicures to the new ladies, Katie toured Damien to see all of the changes in just 9 months.

The men’s patio area had the floor raised with the plumbing underneath the surface to prevent flooding during the rainy season, the floors of the bedrooms and patio doors are now level, for easier wheelchair access and the cover is now made of a new insulated material keeping the area cooler! 


I used to roast, now it was comfortable while visiting the men-yes, still warm, it is Ecuador!!! Justino proudly showed off the new work, then took me to see the new bedroom for a few of the more disabled men with their 2 new bathrooms.

Serena, a nurse practitioner, and Kathy, a nurse, had a special interest in how wound care is done here at Damien House.  They spent several mornings in the clinic and spend time with Dr. Martinez as well.  They have provided Sr. Annie with several suggestions on how to bring the care up as it is not at US standards.  We hope with some improvements and the move into the new wound care room, there will be improved levels of healing. 


Thank you. too, to them as they provided much needed wound care dressings and supplies from local donors. We are so grateful to all our hundreds of donors.

When Betty Matteson and Julie Misleh arrived at Damien House, they too were most impressed with the progress.  Their prime mission was to visit Babahoyo and see Vivianna and Luis their children and bring a supply of food.  Last year we left money for them to get married, and they did!  A Church wedding and all.  Also note in a picture a refrigerator behind Vivianna and Betty.  It worked worse than it looked.  Note to selves, we need to help with a newer one.


While Katie was there alone at DH, we looked around at what were the most pressing needs:

  1. Refrigerator for the women’s section, the oldest of the 2 was an energy eater and, old enough to just have one door, and the small freezer inside on the top was missing a door

  2. Refrigerator f for the men’s dining room.  Someone had been promising them a second one for a couple years.  With 20 plus men using the old one, a second one was needed.

  3. The chest freezer in the comedor was another energy guzzler and inefficient.

  4. Refrigerator f for Vivianna

  5. New would care room had some yukky pieces-like the IV pole was all corroded and the chair the nurse sat on while working on a patient’s leg/foot was not appropriate-need rolling stool and new IV pole.                                                                                                                                      

We went shopping to price refrigerators—on sale!!! We bought all 3 needed refrigs and the chest freezer for under $3,000.  Thank you FHMB donors again!!!  Our trip for medical supplies was also successful in one stop.  We are now sending $6,000.00 to Damien House for food and medicine needs.


Serena and Kathy, Betty and Julie had to return to San Diego.  Our new visitor, Elaine Quattro arrived and off we went to See Father PJ Hughes in San Francisco Dos to see the Church of Beata Mercedez with walls and a roof and no doors.  The worship space will be completed later, but with plastic chairs and a new Altar, Mass is celebrated there now.

Next up, the school with 475 students (there were about 125 when we first went 6 years ago), classes from the Initials- 4 year olds to the 9th level -14 year olds.

We saw firsthand the 2 covered play areas, completed classrooms painted and tiled floors and 2 building to be completed as bathrooms for the play areas.   Buildings are fine, BUT the children are GREAT.  Oh! the WELCOME everyone got!  Never been hugged 4 deep? Come with us to visit the students and live in the world of unconditional love, the world of smiles and hugs and joy and excitement.

Plan at Escuela Julio Matevello-provide toothbrushes, paste, pens, pencils, soaps and other surprises like hair ties for the girls, Rosaries for all the first Communion students, and last, but not least, cookies a few times.  What we learned too was that several students couldn’t afford the workbooks needed for each class.  When Betty and Julie had been at the school, they used donor money to purchase 2 computers for the computer lab (all classes have instruction on computers).  We went to two shops, and purchased all the books needed and gave them directly to the students that day.  Without these books, the students had to copy the info from the blackboards—even some of the 5 year olds.  Again, thank you to FHMB donors.

We have all been touched anew with God’s Love through all we encounter at Fr PJ’ Parish and school and at Damien House.  At Julio Matevello, Betty was given a plaque of gratitude for all we have done IN YOUR NAMES.  There is a plaque on the school office building thanking San Diego for all of our support.

There is a new plaque at Damien House thanking you all as well.  We get the hugs and thanks for all of you.

Well, the year is only half over, and FHMB has certainly been busy.

Fr PJ was here in June for a wonderful visit.  He is now returning to Ireland.

Sr. Annie will be here the end of August for her annual visit and Mission Appeal at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart August 26-27.

We will have a fundraising Tea on August 25.  Let me know if you can come.

Thank you again for all of your support.

We accept donations on line through PayPal and please sign up with Amazon Smile with friends & Helpers of Madre Berenice as your charity of choice.

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