PLATTSBURGH — As North Country Mission of Hope members sat in a meeting at San Fernando Orphanage in Nicaragua, a little boy sauntered in, held a cup under the spout of the water filter and drank.
Three full cups.
“All of us got quite emotional,” said Sister Debbie Blow, executive director of the Plattsburgh-based nonprofit that brings humanitarian aid to the Central American country.
The tot’s businesslike focus on working the dispenser was cute, yes.
But the simple act represented far more to the American volunteers who provided the $29 unit to the orphanage to filter out contaminants common in Nicaraguan water.
Sister Delia, the nun who runs the facility, told the missioners who visited in January about two monumental results from having that purifier, Blow said.
“The number of parasite illnesses and general illnesses among the children have improved tremendously since they first used the filter,” she said.
Before, the nuns and children drank water from the kitchen faucet, Blow said.
“Sister Delia showed us,” she said. “It was awful — dark and dingy.”
Now, the children — who all have Mission of Hope sponsorship — not only serve themselves from the filter, they do it often.
“Water is a treat,” Blow said happily.
SCHOOL BATHROOMS BROKEN
The group does not rest on its laurels. In mid February a mission team of 52, including Blow, will tackle numerous other projects in Nicaragua that build on what was accomplished — or scoped out — in January.
At a very poor school in the community of Nejapa, Blow and her small contingent found the bathrooms out of order, so five toilets will be replaced.
In the preschool classroom packed with at least 30 children, “it was so sad,” she said. “They had nothing.
“Not enough chairs and tables, no educational games, no books. The chalkboard was so bad they couldn’t write on it.”