PLATTSBURGH — A registered nurse will soon volunteer with North Country Mission of Hope in Nicaragua.
Leighanna Mandacino, of Jacksonville, Fla., will be among the 37-member group headed for Nicaragua Saturday for a 10-day mission.
One of the goals of this trip is to give her exposure to the conditions in Nicaragua so she will be better prepared when she returns in October for a lengthy stint there, said mission Executive Director Sister Debbie Blow.
Mandacino's arrival in October for a year or more will coincide with the departure of Mariel Juliano Ph.D., a clinical psychologist provided to Mission of Hope through the Catholic Medical Mission Board.
Juliano, who began her tenure last November, focused much of her work on women and children. Her efforts included holding therapy groups for women and youngsters, many of them orphans who have been through traumatizing experiences.
Mandacino, who learned of Mission of Hope through the Mission Board, will focus on public-health outreach and work with the first responders in the Nicaraguan community trained by the Plattsburgh-based humanitarian-aid organization.
The July mission group is composed of eight health-care professionals, including a psychiatric nurse practitioner, two emergency nurses and an occupational therapist. Also among those going are four college students, 11 high-school students and people who specialize in community development.
This trip, the volunteers will build eight home shelters, take on painting and repair work at a hospital where people with leprosy are treated, a children's hospital and two orphanages.
The volunteers will spend a lot of time at the 150-acre Managua dump where 1,500 people live, 53 percent of them under the age of 18. Those children spend their days sifting through garbage to try to find food and other necessities.
BREAKING THE CYCLE
The work in Nicaragua is ongoing.
The water pump serving a destitute orphanage has been repaired with donor funds as part of an ongoing effort to improve conditions there.
Mission of Hope recently received a grant from the Dorothea Haus Ross foundation that will be used to provide an additional physical therapist and a part-time doctor at Pajarito Azul Disability Center.
Children whose education is sponsored through Mission of Hope are receiving physicals at the organization's clinic at its new compound, known as Ni Casa or Nicaragua House.
"The North Country has been incredibly supportive for the last 12 years, and it's important for them know that we know have our own clinic up and functioning on a regular basis," Blow said.
The new clinic serves five rural villages and also assists 39 other clinics through Caritas International, a far-reaching Catholic humanitarian service organization.
The clinics associated with the Mission of Hope assist about 20,000 people each year.
Mission of Hope has trained 30 first responders who can provide simple first aid, said Dr. Roger Patnode of Plattsburgh, who has been medical-team leader on several missions.
He works on scheduling and coordinating health-care projects and evaluates medical clinics to determine what kind of needs a population has from a medical standpoint.
His favorite part about going on the missions is seeing the positive changes that result from learning the needs of the people. For example, a clinic needed an anaesthesia machine that Mission of Hope was able to provide through a donation. Patnode was happy to see it being used in an operating room on a subsequent trip.
Many improvements are not as easily accomplished in Nicaragua as they are here, and Patnode had to adjust to that.
"The thing I have had to learn the most is patience. The whole end goal doesn't come together immediately in a really organized kind of way."
He came to understand projects often need to be broken down into smaller ones, accomplished at a slower pace than one would like.
"And sometimes you have to deal with the fact that the time frame is not my time frame, and that has been the thing that's the hardest to cope with," Patnode said.
But it also accomplishes a primary mission goal.
Since his first mission four years ago, he said, "we have gone from doing the work to helping the people there do the work themselves."