Brazilian mission trip program featured at Aug. 21 Westfield-Mayville Rotary session

Pam Henry (left) and her son Nate Henry (center) were welcomed to the Aug. 21 Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club meeting by Tracy Bennett (right), Club Treasurer, at The Parkview in Westfield. The Henrys shared highlights of their early spring mission trip to Brazil. Nate is shown holding a keepsake book about their travel experience.

WESTFIELD — Safety and security, regional cuisine and local sites of the city of Belem, Brazil were some of the topics featured during a slide presentation given by Pam Henry and her eleven-year-old son Nate Henry, both of Dewittville, during the Aug. 21 meeting of the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville at The Parkview in Westfield. They shared highlights of their Mar. 25 to Apr. 2 mission trip to Belem. The Henrys were introduced by Tracy Bennett, Club Treasurer, who was the sponsor of their presentation.

Pam Henry, a SUNY Fredonia graduate and a Licensed Enrolled Agent, has been employed by Tracy S. Bennett, CPA for the past 11 tax seasons. She also works at Fancher Furniture in Jamestown, which is her husband Gary Henry, Jr.’s business. Abigail and Rebecca are their two teenage daughters, and Nate is their son.

When she is not involved with her children’s school activities and sports events, Pam Henry is an active member of the West Portland Baptist Church, where she teaches Sunday school and leads a worship team. Nate Henry, who is entering sixth grade at Chautauqua Lake Central School, lists his favorite school subject as math. He also enjoys fishing, playing basketball and watching or playing baseball.

Belem, which is Portuguese for Bethlehem, is the capital and largest city in the state of Par’ in the north of Brazil. It is situated on the Par’ River, which is part of the Amazon River system, and it is about 100 kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean. Belem was the first European colony on the Amazon River, but it did not become part of Brazil until 1775. Its nicknames are “Metropolis of Amazon” and “City of Mango Trees.” Having a tropical rainforest climate, it does not really have a dry season. Its wetter season runs from December through May. Its official language is Portuguese.

While in Belem, the Henry Family’s hosts were members of the Carmichael Family, who originally were from Sherman, New York. Brandon Carmichael teaches at the local seminary, and his spouse Emily Carmichael provides daily meals to the seminary pastors, plus she also teaches piano.

Pam Henry said, “Belem has a very high crime rate. We were told to leave our jewelry and fancy clothes at home. We were advised to not take our cell phones out of the host home. There is no glass in the windows anywhere, but there are bars on all of them. There were bars, chains and padlocks on all of the doors. At night we were literally padlocked in. During our one night in a hotel, we passed through five gates, which were all locked after we passed through. There are even spikes on the tops of all of the walls around homes, churches and other buildings.”

While there, the Henry Family did outreach to neighborhood children. They helped to feed them, gave them small toys, and played games with them. Nate Henry said, “We took mini golf clubs and basketball hoops, but the children had never played golf or shot hoops.” His mother added, “One day during a two-hour drive to the interior, we saw children playing soccer. The children had no shoes and were playing with an old soccer ball that had no outer layer.”

Though Belm is its state’s capital city, the Henrys noted the lack of infrastructure. They saw raw sewage running in ditches by the unpaved roads. Also, there was no hot water, though where they stayed there was running water. Pam Henry said, “In Belem there is no leisure as we know it. The people are trying to survive. They’re focused on feeding and caring for their families.”

Noting that it was “really hot” there, the Henrys endured 90-degree temperatures with 90 percent humidity levels. Even with the tropical weather, the family members wore long sleeved shirts and pants at night to avoid getting bitten by various insects. They slept in hammocks covered with mosquito nets. At one point, Nate endured the pain of being bitten by a quick forming, large group of fire ants.

All three of the daily meals included various dishes of rice and beans. Pam Henry stated, “We had rice and beans, lots of rice and beans, made from scratch. We helped to prepare the meals by first sorting the dry beans, removing rotten ones, debris and also corn. Their dishes were like curries, but our hosts toned down the spices for us.”

Nate Henry added, “I really like pizza, and I had gone a whole week without eating it. So, I got really excited when I found out we were going to have pizza for dinner one night. What was on the pizza? More beans and corn, and no pizza sauce!”

The Henrys noted that açai, which is purple and comes from a palm tree of the same name, is used in many foods, including cookies. “We thought açai tasted like dirt. It was awful.” However, they did enjoy the tastes of fresh coconut water and local ice cream.

Pam and Nate Henry said their experience in Belem was very rewarding and was truly an eye-opener for them. They were glad to have visited there, and were happy to return to the comforts of their home and community. The Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville thanks Pam Henry and her son Nate Henry for sharing insights about their special trip to one city in Brazil.