PLATTSBURGH — A pig rooted in the Nicaraguan dirt right smack in the way of the hospital bed that James Carlin and others were moving to a new home shelter.
"A long, skinny pig," said the longtime North Country Mission of Hope volunteer, who had met the animal earlier in the day. "Loud, pink and dirty.
"It came out of nowhere, scared the heck out of me."
While most of the group of 50-plus enjoyed a day off after an intense mission improving the lives of the poorest of the poor, a team of five volunteered to build the small abode for a man named Conception — nicknamed Chon — who is paralyzed from the chest down.
Chon, 49, had suffered an injury on the job, said Bill Murray, who is in Nicaragua for a two-year stint with Mission of Hope that began in early January.
His lengthy stay so far, he said via cellphone from the worksite, "is going really well. I've been healthy.
"And I'm slowly learning Spanish."
Three tree limbs made the framework of Chon's existing rudimentary home, with black plastic sheeting as walls and a length of fabric as the door, Murray said.
The Nicaraguan man's family, he said, "moved him a couple weeks ago; it's a little improvement but still horrible."
And because of the easy access to Chon's shack, he added, "he watches at night while people steal his medicine."
Sandy Davidson was part of a team delivering rice and beans in the poor barrio of Cedro Galan last February that came upon Chon.
"We went into where he was living, noticed he was paralyzed and had sores," said the Saranac woman, with the sounds of construction behind her.
"We went back with the medical team — that's how all this started."
Chon's sister lives next door; his mother a short distance away.
They take care of him, Murray said, a task that includes tending to his catheter and bedsores.
Mission of Hope gave Chon a hospital bed and wheelchair last year, along with a continual supply of bandages and other medical supplies. Doctors with the Manna Project provide his medical care.
"He looks so much better than he did last year," Davidson said. "No open sores.
"This new shelter is going to be wonderful for him."
VERY STRONG DOOR
The barrio sits on rough ground on a fairly steep slope, but the mission team was able to deliver the materials for the home shelter by pickup truck.
"Thank goodness," Murray said.
In some cases, lumber has to be carried in by hand.
Typically, a home shelter measures 12 by 12 feet, has a floor of dirt and no door.
Chon's, however, would have a concrete ramp to allow access for his wheelchair to a concrete floor inside. It would be a bit larger, to give space for his hospital bed.
And it would have a door to bar access to those with nefarious intentions.
Chico, the contractor who build the dormitories at Mission of Hope's compound, Ni-Casa, and partners on other projects with the group, had already prepared the foundation and ramp.
So the team of experienced home-shelter builders — also including Paul White of Essex and Joy Cayea of Beekmantown — got to work on the walls and roof.
And they built the door — "a very strong wood door," Murray said.
COAXED THE PIG
Except for the bed, moving Chon's belongings was a simple process.
A shelf, plastic garden chair and a kind of nightstand that held his clothing — that was it.
And then came time to move the bed.
The 100 or so feet of ground between the old abode and new had no path, said Carlin, who's from Plattsburgh. They pushed the bed through what seemed to be a trash pit, worked their way around tree stumps and over thick roots.
In doing so, they got a sense of what it's like for Chon to maneuver in his wheelchair.
"His arms are very strong," said Cayea.
As for the pig, Carlin said, "we were able to coax him out of the way."
In halting Spanish, Murray asked Chon what he thought of his new home.
The Nicaraguan's smile spoke volumes, but he voiced his thoughts as well.
"He's very happy and very appreciative," Murray said.
He paused for a moment, translating Chon's next words in his mind.
"He's giving us his blessing, and he thanks God."
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Follow Bill Murray's blog on his two years in Nicaragua: http://ncmissionofhope.org/billmurray
Check out Mission of Hope's website: ncmissionofhope.org
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