PLATTSBURGH — Her hair was matted, her feet still bare, but Xochitl was in school.
North Country Mission of Hope had built a home shelter for the Nicaraguan child, her three siblings and parents just a few days earlier and discovered the youngsters were not receiving an education but very much wanted to attend school.
They lacked suitable clothing and had no shoes, Mission of Hope Executive Director Sister Debbie Blow said.
And there was no way the family could pay the tuition.
Their situation was so desperately poor, missioners from the Plattsburgh-based group learned, that they slept on the ground with their heads resting on a 2-by-4.
Elvis Otero and Martha Navarrette lived with their four children in a rude shelter made of branches covered with scraps of tin, plastic and empty rice bags located down a steep slope on a wild and remote hillside.
The woman that leads the local junta in that barrio had brought their need to Mission of Hope.
“The word she used was ‘invisible,’” Blow said. “They were invisible.”
Mission of Hope selected the family as recipients of a new home shelter that the volunteers, Otero and Navarrette would build together.
It was then that their extreme need became apparent.
Blow arranged to have mattresses brought for the family, to improve their comfort sleeping.
And a sponsor stepped up, so Xochitl — at 10, the oldest of the children — could be enrolled in school.
Blow visited her there before the mission trip wrapped up last week.
“This little girl, in a matter of hours, had gone from no hope to being in school and seeing other children her age,” she said.
The child was told that Blow was with the organization that had made that possible.
“She didn’t know me at all, but she just came running over and hugged me,” she said.