PLATTSBURGH — For Emily Egress, a change in perspective came from something very simple.
The 18-year-old North Country Mission of Hope volunteer, in Nicaragua with the Plattsburgh-based humanitarian-aid organization, visited an orphanage there earlier this week.
Egress played with the children and gave them some stickers and other gifts.
“The children were just so gracious and neat and had just the warmest hugs,” she said via phone from the Central American country.
As she was getting ready to leave, Egress noticed one little girl carefully placing the stickers that she had been playing with back on the sticker paper.
That was her “Mission Moment,” as the group tags experiences that prompt a deeper understanding of life and their role in it.
“How often do you see a child in the U.S. saving stickers?” she said. “But it was just so precious to them.”
For Joseph “Geeg” Dedam, 17, of Elizabethtown, a powerful moment came when he was helping to deliver rice and beans to a family.
In one small home, he saw 17 people living together in dire poverty.
“It’s hard to know how to react to it; I think I’m still trying to avoid it emotionally,” he said.
“It was probably one of the most heart-wrenching days I’ve gone through in my life, but it opened my eyes to what’s out there.”
The next day, Dedam was building a home shelter with a group of Nicaraguans, one of eight constructed on this trip for families who had lived in decrepit shacks.
While they were nailing down the tin roof, it began to rain heavily.
“It was pouring buckets.”
Caught on the roof in a tropical downpour, Dedam found himself lost in the moment, laughing and enjoying a sense of camaraderie with his workmates.