February 17, 2013

Mission of Hope heads to Nicaragua


---- — PLATTSBURGH — North Country Mission of Hope volunteers will install a new kitchen in a Nicaraguan school this week, so students’ moms can cook for them there.

“When,” said Sister Debbie Blow, “they have food.”

Government-owned schools in the Central American country, the organization’s executive director said, promise to provide such nutrients as milk for the impoverished children who attend, but often that happens maybe once in a school year.

And this school in the barrio of San Luis, about 5 miles from Mission of Hope’s Nicaraguan compound, NiCasa, in Chiquilistagua, “is extremely poor,” Blow said. 


She and 52 volunteers head to Nicaragua for the largest mission of the year this week — nine-member Advance Team leaves today and the rest on Monday.

“On this trip, the youngest volunteer is a high-school freshman and the oldest is 83,” Blow said.

While Mission of Hope’s home base is Plattsburgh, and many in the group are high-school students and adults from the North Country, others come from five different states for this trip. 

Projects will include construction of home shelters for about a dozen families, paid for by donations both local and from afar, including Forrence Orchards in Peru, Elizabethtown Central School and families who live in Peru, Schroon Lake, Boston and Florida.

Other efforts will include a health fair that will provide water filters for 47 families, delivery of school supplies given by Plattsburgh’s A.M. and Noon Rotary Clubs.


One of the projects will provide aid to a public school that has 1,500 students and no desks or textbooks. 

“We will be doing some renovations and starting a school garden there,” Blow explained. “The garden is a joint project,” with the American and Nicaraguan students working on it together.

Another task will be providing an irrigation system for La Finca, the farm owned by Parajito Azul Disability Center.

Disabled boys live there, growing and harvesting the crops that help support the center.

Mission of Hope will provide boots for the boys, Blow said, much needed for the work they do.


Meanwhile, work will be done “converting a dilapidated hotel near the Oriental market into a health and training facility for women,” Blow said.

The John Paul II Fundacion will provide home-health-care and vocational training; Mission of Hope has provided funds and materials. 

“Between 15 and 20 volunteers will work there (this week),” Blow said.

“We will also be helping Sister Karla Marie and the Serviam Sisters,” she said, referring to a group of nuns living in “some of the worst poverty I’ve ever seen.”   

In the community of Granada, the nuns are attempting to convert a small abandoned building into living quarters.

“Even the most veteran among us were disturbed and shocked by the level of poverty they were living in,” Blow said of a trip she and a few other mission members made there in January.

The building where they live has no ventilation, “and we’re talking about tropic weather,” she said. 

And the roof is full of holes. 

“And yet they exude joy,” Blow said. 

The mission will make repairs to the building and provide some basic food for the nuns.


Bill Murray, vice president of the Mission Leadership Team, noted that much work has already been done in preparation for the trip. 

He was on the January trip for that purpose. 

“I was traveling around to orphanages, hospitals and schools, determining projects, needs and costs,” he said. 

“We wanted to be ready to go, and there were a lot of logistics to work out.”

“No moss grew under our feet in January, and no moss will grow under our feet in February,” Blow said.


Another project — and a very personal one — will be the creation of a memorial garden at NiCasa.

“There are so many people who have traveled and given (in support of Mission of Hope) and now passed away,” Mission of Hope Treasurer Kathy Eppler said. 

“The garden will be an area set aside on our own grounds where we will construct a quiet place.”

“It will provide a space for the processing and internal struggle that takes place when we live and work among the extremely poor,” Blow added.

Among those who will be honored by the garden are Marlene “Molly” Allen, Marilee Patnode and Shawn Watson, who were dedicated Mission of Hope volunteers. 

The garden will incorporate the natural beauty of Nicaragua, including a flowering tree that will provide shade. 


Eppler noted that one of the aspects that has most impressed her about Mission of Hope is the “ripple effect” on young people involved in it. 

“The kids don’t just go on one trip. They keep going back.” 

Some, as well, have joined the Peace Corps or made other career choices in response to the suffering they have seen. 

“It affects them as they choose their life path.”

HOW TO HELP North Country Mission of Hope is supported largely by donations of money and materials, along with grants. Donate through PayPal at, where the many projects that rely on funding are described in detail, or send checks to Mission of Hope, P.O. Box 2522, Plattsburgh, NY 12901. Follow the February mission in the Press-Republican and also on the Mission of Hope website. Dr. Roger Patnode of Plattsburgh has been in Nicaragua for going on two months, overseeing medical efforts. Read his blog see pictures at: