PLATTSBURGH — Children in two Nicaraguan orphanages can count on fuller bellies now.
North Country Mission of Hope's new pilot program, the Orphan's Hope Project, is on the job.
A brainchild of mission volunteer Barbara Dobilas, the program signs up sponsors for the children at El Crucero and Juan Pablo orphanages, ensuring they are provided with plentiful and healthy food, basic medical care and other necessities.
The nuns at El Crucero tuck in 35 children every night; there are seven orphans at sister facility Juan Pablo.
So far, 59 sponsors have assumed either the full or partial cost of providing for those children for a year. Full sponsorship is $300, or less than $1 a day.
Orphan's Hope doesn't limit its support to the here and now, however, but addresses the future of the youngsters, too.
Dobilas wants to introduce vocational programs — sewing, baking, database entry on computers "to help the orphanages become partly sustainable and so (the children) have a way to make a living one day."
Recently, an anonymous sponsor paid to ship boxes of fabric and a multitude of sewing supplies to El Crucero, where idle sewing machines can now be put to work.
Those machines aren't electric, but powered by pedal. On the other end of the technology spectrum, the facility has eight computers.
"But they need a secure, appropriate room for them," Dobilas said on a recent trip to Plattsburgh.
That will happen over the next few weeks, as the summer effort of Mission of Hope unfolds. A total 32 missioners will arrive in Nicaragua between Aug. 1 and 4, among other projects tackling facility improvements at El Crucero. Leaky and nonexistent roofs and extensive mold have deteriorated the buildings there to the point that some are uninhabitable. The sisters don't have the financial resources needed for upgrades — in fact, earlier this year they were forced to beg on the streets just to be able to provide food for the children and themselves.
Dobilas saw for herself how dire the situation was when she took part in the February mission.
"The poverty was so devastating to me," she said. "I just couldn't stand the thought that I couldn't do anything.