New Tour Video

Its been a long time since we’ve given you a tour of where we live and work here in Montero, and a lot has changed. We’re especially grateful for all the new things we’ve been able to do thanks to all the generous contributions.  Thank you!

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World Mission Sunday

Tomorrow (October 21) is the annual World Mission Sunday for the catholic church all around the world. As such, we thought it would be a great idea to give all of our blog readers an update on how things are going at our mission site.


The end of our school year is coming quickly; in Bolivia the school year runs Feb – Nov. The kindergarten finishes up classes the first week of November and then has graduation November 13th. Laura has had another very successful year teaching computer class at the kindergarten for the ~300 students each week. This year they have learned the basic parts of the computer, how to move the mouse, click, double click, and drag (while also learning to identify letters, numbers, countries, and other kinder-level activities), and where the keys are on the keyboard.

My (Tom) multimedia class has just started its last section of the semester, video editing, after already completing the photo, graphics, and audio editing sections. This semester the class was popular enough to fill up all the slots, so it was extra busy with making sure all the students were getting enough attention. Looking back, this course has been a great success with several dozen students having completed the grueling five month course. (5 days per week, 2hr per day)

Also at the Institute, Laura is finishing up with her second set of students for the year-long English course. The students leave the class with basic conversational abilities as well as reading, writing and listening skills. Besides the students learning her midwestern accent, Laura makes an effort expose the students to different English accents by bringing in other native english speakers from around the U.S. as well as the U.K.  Most of her students will either be teaching English themselves someday or using their English to work in industry, technical services or international business.

Youth Group

In leading the Infancia Missionera group (roughly translated to child/young missionaries), Laura is helping children from the neighborhood to learn that everyone is called to be a missionary and bring Christ’s love to those in their communities.  Each week she has around 20 children 6-12 yrs old that meet for an hour to sing, play, color and learn about how to be a good person.


Though we don’t have any official responsibilities at the hogar (girls home), the girls there are never very far from our thoughts. On Sundays we each walk one or two girls to mass and sit with them through the service. Laura has also been running a “Venta de Valores” (Store of Values) where the girls receive tickets for showing good values: helping out, being truthful, etc, that can be exchanged for small items like jewlery, kleenex packets, or shampoo. In addition, Laura has been spending an hour each week with our god-daughter Carmen helping her learn to read.


The best news we’ve gotten in the last couple months is that we are getting replaced!  The two new missionaries that the Salesians sent down arrived in August and September and we’re working hard to get them up to speed on everything.

Support Us!

We’re so grateful for all the support we’ve received from family and friends back home. We wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of what we have accomplished without  your support!

As we get set to leave here, we are especially looking at ways to keep the work that we’ve started going even after we leave. For the class that I started, we would really like to get a Bolivian teacher to start teaching it, so that it isn’t dependent on volunteers continuously working here. To make this happen, we would like to raise part of the salary for the teacher for the first year, so that the sisters have some time to budget in this new position. If we can hire someone in the next month, then I will be able to work with her (she’s a former student of mine) to hand off some of the behind-the-scenes stuff.

We are also hoping to raise some money for continuing maintenance for the computer labs. My lab gets used heavily and every semester I usually have to replace a part or two. Laura’s computer lab in the kindergarten doesn’t have to do any heavy-duty computation, but half the computers are 10+ years old and frequently die, we have a goal of replacing a few each year, so that there are always enough working that each of the students in a class (~30) can use their own.

If you would like to donate to support these efforts, please see the ‘Donations’ link at the top of the page or click here. If you want to send a tax-deductible donation to the sisters, please send us an e-mail at the same time, so we can make sure that your donation gets routed correctly.

Finally, please keep us, our students, and the people of our community in your prayers. The people here can use all that they can get, and we have a big transition coming up with our move back to the states.

Want to hear more?

The other part of our mission that we took on when we came down here, aside from serving the people here, was to show what life was like in a developing nation (hence we have this blog!). When we get back, we would love to talk to families, church groups, school classes, etc about our experiences. If you know of a group that would like to hear from us, let us know and we can set something up ( 314-266-8359).

Backyard Friends

Ever wondered what lives in an urban backyard in a tropical country?  Wonder no more…I finally sat myself down last week and identified our backyard birds here.  We have a wide variety on any day but here are the most common visitors:

Guira Cuckoo

White woodpecker

Sayaca Tanager

Rufous Hornero

Saffron Finch (Male)

Smooth-billed Ani

Southern House Wren

One I’m missing on this list is a dove species that I haven’t identified yet, turns out there are a lot of very-similar dove species in South America.  We also have a ton of house sparrows and pigeons, but then who doesn’t?

On exciting days we have the occasional parrot visitor.  Here are some white-eyed parakeets that came by the Institute one morning

I have also seen Quaker parakeets in the Toborochi trees at the Kinder.

As far as non-avians we have superfluous geckos who run all over the walls eating bugs.  We also have ameiva lizards who run around in the gardens and grassy areas.  Unfortunately our cat population keeps the lizards down, meaning less bugs get eaten.  Here’s Guida vs. Ameiva.  I believe Guida won.

In the insect department we are back into millipede season now, they’re everywhere!  We also have superfluous centipedes, beetles, wasps and so many more things I could never name.  We also have the occasional scorpion or tarantula visitor.  The butterflies are just amazing here with common visitors being the blue morpho and this callicore sorana

We also have some HUGE moths.

Here’s a cool garden spider that had babies in our hedge:

And finally as far as plants, we have abundant fruit trees and palm trees.  The coconut tree right outside our house finally came through with some coconuts this year.  Here it is flowering and then later with coconuts.

Mango season is right around the corner and it looks like we’ll have a good crop this year.  Starfruit season has already passed, it was June-August.  But the trees are already flowering again, getting ready for the next crop!  They have a really pretty flower

and I got into quite a kick of making homemade starfruit juice this past year.

And that’s our backyard!  Thanks for visiting!

Comings and Goings

August and September were months of comings and goings here.  We had the yearly group of Italian volunteers from Rome come for two weeks and leave at the end of August.  Meanwhile the first new Salesian Lay Missioner, Vivian, arrived towards the end of August.  Also Michelle, a Cochabamba Salesian volunteer, passed through Montero on her way to her site.

Extended community dinner (left to right): Tom, Michelle, Vivian, Aubrey, Ramona

Then the first week of September was a flurry of arrivals with Madre Clara, the big cheese, returning from her trip to Europe and three other Salesian volunteers arriving:  Maggie, Monica, and Tania.

Then too soon we had to say a sad goodbye to the outgoing Salesian volunteers, Aubrey and Ramona.

Then two weeks later Lainie arrived and finally AnnMarie (a repeat volunteer from last year)!  Now we’re a group of 8.  Each person brings their own talents and skills to offer and each is staying a different amount of time so the experiences differ but we all travel down the same road together for this brief period of time.

Sunday night community dinner (left to right): Tania, Lainie, Maggie, Monica, Vivian, AnnMarie, Tom.  And I’m taking the picture.