PLATTSBURGH — Kathy Hall showed students at Chiquilistagua Public School how to dig a garden bed and sow seeds earlier this week.
Friday morning, as she and the rest of the North Country Mission of Hope volunteers in Nicaragua wrapped up their efforts there, she took the time to check on their progress.
“They had watered (the garden) well, and the greens are already sprouting,” the New Russia woman said with delight by phone.
A master gardener with Essex County Cooperative Extension, Hall saw signs of even greater growth on her first mission with the Plattsburgh-based humanitarian-aid group.
She and her husband, Kevin, have sponsored the education of a Nicaraguan girl for 13 years now, and Kathy met her face to face for the first time on Sunday.
“She is in university now for bank and finance,” she said. “She is just the sweetest and loveliest girl.”
Just as the greens in the Chiquilistagua School garden will grow faster than the tomatoes and watermelon planted there, some mission efforts are completed more quickly than others.
“We built two houses in one day,” said Chazy Central Rural School senior Alexis Guay.
The home shelters measure just 10 by 10 feet, but all the same, she was more than impressed by the Nicaraguans who took on most of the labor, smacking in nail after nail with just two blows each.
“We tried helping, but it took us, like, 10 minutes to hammer one nail.”
Donations to Mission of Hope paid for the dozen or so home shelters completed this trip.
SLEPT ON CEMENT FLOOR
About 95 percent of the projects planned for the February mission would be complete upon the group’s departure today, said mission Executive Director Sister Debbie Blow.
Except for a coat of paint, the work at a school in San Luis was finished, including a kitchen.
Distribution of the contents of three shipping containers was complete, with some clothing, medical supplies and other goods neatly labeled in the storage facility at the mission’s compound, Ni-Casa.
Renovation of a small building as a home for four Serviam Sisters, Blow said, delighted the women.
“They actually have a mattress to sleep on, a working bathroom, a fan, a ceiling ...”
Friday was hotter — and more humid — than Blow ever remembered for this time of year in Nicaragua.
It made very real what it had been like for the four nuns, trying to rest in two tiny, airless bedrooms.
“Sister Karla said it was so hot that they were sleeping on the floor, on the cement,” Blow said.
No volunteer fails to be amazed at the joy the people show, the gratitude for small improvements in their lives.
“It’s amazing,” Guay said. “The people are so thankful — it’s really heartwarming to see their faces.”
That gratitude blossomed with the very first mission after Hurricane Mitch in 1998 wreaked further devastation on the poorest of the poor in Nicaragua.
Mission of Hope was born soon afterward, and the consistent efforts in Chiquilistagua and other areas of the country grew trust.
There were hundreds of children in the Mission of Hope compound, Ni-Casa, for playtime Monday afternoon, showing in yet another way “how the mission is becoming well established in the community,” Blow said.
Brian Murray, a Seton Catholic senior, delivered rice and beans to people in the poorest barrios, incredulous that they could live in the tumbledown shacks made of tin and rotted wood.
And yet, he said he realized, “it’s still possible to have a lot of dignity.”
The mission’s work, he observed from his week among the poor, “is definitely helping.”
Education, as he sees it, is the greatest gift they can give.
This trip, his first, Murray met a 17-year-old boy named Harvin whose education was sponsored by mission supporters.
“He’s going to university for telecommunications,” Murray said. “We helped him become educated — it’s beautiful to see that.”
Email Suzanne Moore: firstname.lastname@example.org