PLATTSBURGH — “Live your purpose, change your world” have become words to live by for the 25 volunteers who recently returned from Nicaragua.
North Country Mission of Hope Executive Director Sister Debbie Blow gave out green bracelets inscribed with the slogan at the beginning of Mission 46.
“It was an incredible group,” comprising equal numbers of high-school students, college students and other adults, Blow said.
Every project that was scheduled for the 12-day experience was completed, Blow said, and volunteer Bill Murray, veteran of a dozen trips to the Central American country with the Plattsburgh-based group, said this mission was the smoothest yet.
In Nicaragua, he worked with other volunteers repairing broken windows, cleaning rooms and painting walls at Velez Paiz Children’s Hospital in Managua.
“They’re lacking in everything,” Murray said of the poorest of the poor in Nicaragua.
The mission distributed medical supplies and equipment — including large filing cabinets, X-ray devices, exam tables, medicine and first-aid supplies — to Mauricio Abdullah Hospital in Chinandega and the Velez Paiz, Blow said.
Linens and other basic items donated by a local individual were given to mentally, physically and emotionally disabled workers at Jinotepe farm — most of the young men were orphaned as children; their disabilities are a result of malnutrition, disease, abuse and abandonment, Blow said.
At a women’s health clinic, nurse practitioners Nona Wolosin and Cathy Hill performed about 24 pap tests each day.
Blow said that one woman told them she hadn’t received any kind of medical care in 17 years because she couldn’t afford it.
Four mission volunteers delivered eight water filters and 600 pitchers, glasses and bowls to the hospital rooms at Mauricio Abdullah, Blow said.
Eppler was one of the four volunteers and, despite taking part in four missions previously, she was still appalled at the conditions at the hospital.
“It’s heart-wrenching,” she said.
Most people wouldn’t even bring their pets to receive medical treatment in a facility with such pathetic conditions, Eppler said.
About 15 Nicaraguan women were all in labor in a single room, the only one with an air conditioner.
“There were no family members there to support them. They were on their own,” she said.
One of the women was “sitting up in bed and, very quietly, the tears were running down her face.”
Eppler tried to comfort the woman, rubbing her shoulders and back.
“I had a difficult time leaving her” after the supplies had been distributed, she said.
Eppler donated three nebulizers to help young patients suffering from asthma, bringing the hospital’s total to four.
Mauricio Abdullah has a capacity of 250 patients and specializes in the care of women and children, Blow said, including in a burn unit there.
Missioners painted walls in shades of yellow, maroon, blue and green in the boys and girls dormitories at El Crucero Orphanage, the Dermatological Center of Nicaragua and some rooms in a public school in Chiquilistagua, said Clare Whitney, 17, a senior at Schroon Lake Central School.
A special oil paint was used that will last longer than the latex paint and other kinds commonly used in the United States, Whitney said.
“I still have paint in my hair,” she said, laughing.
RICE AND BEANS
Mission volunteers get a more intimate glimpse of daily life in Nicaragua from a project they call “rice and beans,” when they venture into the impoverished barrios around Chiquilistagua to deliver the staples to individual families who live in shacks with dirt floors.
Whitney acted as the “point person,” the mission’s term for manager, for one day of delivery. She had traveled with Mission of Hope for the first time in February but hadn’t been assigned to deliver the food then.
“It was the hardest part for me,” she said. “It was the most touching part.”
She was especially moved when she saw a 7-year-old boy named Miguel, whom she had met in February.
“He remembered me,” Whitney said. “I never thought I’d see him again in my life.”
Miguel took Whitney’s hand and walked with her as she delivered the food, until she left the barrio.
Whitney hopes she will be able to participate in future missions. She is still paying for the August trip with her earnings from a summer internship, she said.
She also organized two fundraisers for mission programs that, together, raised $5,650.
Whitney is planning another event so she can meet her goal of bringing in another $5,000 this year.
When Blow visited Schroon Lake recently to talk about the mission, she saw that the volunteers in attendance were still wearing their green bracelets.
“Live your purpose, change your world” is now a guiding principle for them, she said.
“We strive to become our best true selves.”
Mission of Hope will hold a yard sale, rain or shine, from 8 to 4 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday at Seton Catholic High School, 206 New York Road, Plattsburgh.
To learn more or to make a donation, go to www.ncmissionofhope.org or call Blow at 561-2599.