2007: A Volunteer Finds Surprises When He Inspects the Roof

Dear Friends of the Refuge of Mercy,


At Merciful Love Connection Board Meetings, we talked of the dreams and necessities for the Refuge, which included extensive renovations. An experienced contractor for over forty years of building in Seattle and Alaska, the President of the board knew the pitfalls of renovations and new construction; he needed to see the projects for himself.


Bill and I arrived in Santiago in April, 2007. Bill would be there for 10 days. His main job was to look over the building we are going to remodel in order to give the Board of Directors first- hand advice. I thought it would be cheaper to repair the zinc roof (a metal roof typical of Santiago); after all, the roof had served the Refuge for 50 years. But, after his first look at the roof, Bill said, "If you took off the zinc to repair it, you’d never be able to effectively patch it and there would be a continual leaking problem." We decided to put on a new zinc roof!


Bill and Miestro Poso Roof 07 1In addition to checking the condition of the roof, another of Bill’s goals was to check the condition of all the buildings, including the flooring. He found that the hard-used but good quality old flooring was in quite good shape and that most of the buildings were structurally sound. When he climbed onto the roof for a closer inspection, however, he found that it was weak in several places. His foot nearly went through the metal roofing material after one tentative step. Subsequent cautious steps revealed other places where the roof was poised to give way. He also found another daunting problem. When he climbed safely down, he was the bearer of tidings that several of the roof beams were in bad shape. Not only would the metal roof have to be replaced, the broken support beams would have to be replaced as well. He met with the architect and worked with Sr. Mari on plans for the remodel. Bill took photos in order to have a visual record later of each part that would be remodeled and what needed to be done.


A few days later, other surprises awaited us. Bill and I were walking down the street in Santiago when suddenly I felt a tug on my shoulder. I turned around and saw a man running away with my purse. "A Robber!" I yelled. Bill turned around and, at a speed that belied his 70 years, ran after the thief. Despite Bill’s heroic efforts, the robber turned a corner and was lost in the crowd. Like all newcomers to any big city, the incident reminded us to be observant. But thieves can be clever. As Bill, his son Mike, and I toured the St. James Cathedral in Santiago, someone surreptitiously smeared catsup on Bill’s coat. A well-dressed man addressed him, saying “So sorry. Come with me. I know where there is water to clean it.” The man gestured for Bill to follow him. They started down the steps into the new tombs of the archbishops. I knew there was no water there. I saw another man coming down the other side of the stairs. The first man was searching through Bill’s jacket. I shouted, "Bill! We’re being robbed, let's get out of here!" Bill grabbed his coat and we were gone.


These mishaps were reminders of the hard reality of street life that some of the young mothers have endured. The effect on us was slight when compared with our respect for the wonderful people of Chile and delight in the lovely work of the Refuge, the dignity and peace of life there, and the devotion of the Sisters to the young mothers and their infants. Bill commented on the young mothers’ determination to learn to read and attend school, and the way that they supported each other. He was delighted to be asked to drive to the hospital to bring one of the new mothers and her newborn son, Carlos, home to the Refuge. He saw firsthand the way that welcome packages brightened the spirits of wary young mothers who were newcomers to the Refuge. His greatest joy during his stay was to experience the hospitality of the Sisters and to witness the courage of the young mothers.


We returned home inspired to continue our support of the Refuge.



Sr. Yvette Mallow, OSB