Aiming for sustainability

PHOTO PROVIDEDNorth Country Mission of Hope volunteer Olivia Politi from Willsboro enjoys packing meals for Nicaraguan schoolchildren in a Fabretto warehouse in the Central American country. She and others taking part in the organization’s February trip were joined by local children and a principal from one of the schools that benefits from the meal program.

PLATTSBURGH — It took just three hours to pack 27,400 meals for North Country Mission of Hope’s school-meal program in a recent pilot session on the ground in Nicaragua.

“We worked really hard,” said Carol Herring, volunteer grantwriter for the Peru-based humanitarian-aid organization.

“That will feed five children for a year.”

Mission of Hope feeds 6,000 students in a total 24 schools in the impoverished Central American country.

Buying some food locally and packaging those meals there would not only save shipping costs from the United States but support the Nicaraguan economy, mission leaders say.

So during Mission of Hope’s annual February trip, about 10 volunteers were joined by 35 students and one principal from a Nicaraguan school and a few other locals at a warehouse space provided by international nonprofit Fabretto.

ASSEMBLY LINE

There, the mission had access to a clean space to work and the needed equipment, owned by Feed My Starving Children, that they needed to get it done.

That group and Rise Against Hunger provide funding and/or food for the smaller organization.

There were sifters, funnels, sealers and pre-printed ingredient labels ready to use, along with the food itself, soy and dehydrated vegetables bought locally and mixed with rice.

“it was almost like a little assembly line,” Herring said.

It also was an amazing experience, she said, repeating the feedback of those who took part.

Mission of Hope rented a bus to take everyone to the warehouse and brought along sandwiches, snacks and drinks for all.

JOYFUL

And they set to work.

“It was so joyful — we just laughed our heads off.”

Fabretto had music playing, all kinds, Herring said.

“Here’s the best part — they put on the song ‘We are the World.’

“It was such a bonding experience between two countries that are coming together to solve a problem — a global partnership.”

BREAKING DEPENDENCY

Fabretto has been aiding the poor of Nicaragua since 1945 and feeds 19,000 children a day.

That organization, Mission of Hope and other groups could be feeding far more.

“That’s how big the need is here,” Herring said.

Her goal is to have half a million meals packed in Nicaragua per year within two to three years.

The ultimate aim, she said, “should be to break dependency on foreign help, for them to become sustainable on their own.”

That’s why it was important to involve locals who benefit from the meals, Herring said.

“I wanted children in the remote barrios to have a chance to come into the city and participate with our volunteers,” she said. “And they got to understand what the process is and how the food is made.”

SUCH AN HONOR

In order for schools to be part of Mission of Hope’s feeding program, they must have an appropriate kitchen where the meals can be prepared.

The organization has built many of them, including at Hospitaleth School in Managua.

Mission of Hope adopted that school in 2015; then, it had just been revived by cancer survivor Milagros Vega, who refused to be put off by the conditions of the building itself and the crime-ridden barrio in which it sat.

The school facilities were among the worst Mission of Hope leadership had seen, with contaminated water and a courtyard marred by ditches and holes in the ground, among other deficiencies.

MOH raised almost $15,000 to build the kitchen, provide a stove and water source, add a second exit and make other improvements.

“We renovated the entire school,” Herring said.

Now, just a few years later, she said, the student census has shot way up “because the kids want to be there.”

And the staff and students expressed their thanks to Mission of Hope while the volunteers were there in February, presenting a plaque to “Mission Esperanza.”

“It was such an honor to be there, three years later,” Herring said.

Email Suzanne Moore:

smoore@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @editorSuzanne

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