PLATTSBURGH — "Have you brought food for me today?"The words echoed in Sister Debbie Blow's mind as she worked to complete North Country Mission of Hope's annual grant application to her order, the Dominican Sisters of Hope.As clear in memory was the little girl who uttered them, in Spanish, in the dump that serves the city of Managua, Nicaragua, where hundreds of the poor eke out an existence on garbage.This past trip to Nicaragua, in February, Mission of Hope for the first time helped feed those people, assisting a local church that operates a soup kitchen for about a half-hour daily. Volunteers deeply moved by the experience have donated funds to help expand that effort, Blow said."Already, we are able to provide $50 a month."With that money — and more, should the Dominican Sisters' grant come through — Mission of Hope's Mauricio Flores in Nicaragua will buy rice and beans that he will deliver to the church, which will prepare and distribute the food."We do not distribute money," Blow said. "We purchase the items. That way, we make sure there's no misuse of funds."
As much as the Plattsburgh-based humanitarian-aid group's executive director prays the grant will be awarded for that reason, that's just a small part of what that funding would do."Without the Dominican Sisters' grant, we don't have funding for our doctor, we don't have a clinic," Blow said.For four years now, that funding source has provided between $20,000 and $25,000 for Mission of Hope needs, including the salaries of Dr. Melida Lopez and medical assistant (a total $5,000 in the coming year) at the Mission of Hope clinic in Chiquilistagua.It also supports the wages of Flores, who transports the clinic doctor to remote villages also served by Mission of Hope and buys supplies for the Children Feeding Children program.This year, the money also paid a physical therapist much needed at Parajito Azul Disability Center."This is the heartthrob of the mission," Blow said of the grant.The funding this time around also would pay for midwife training and for prenatal instruction for women to encourage them to access care throughout pregnancy, "so they don't just come to the clinic when they're sick or something is wrong," Blow said.
The grant, which covers Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, pays the cooks who prepare the school meals for the Children Feeding Children program and, this time, would include money to expand that program, which now feeds children at two Nicaraguan schools.And it would fund purchase of parasite medication for 500 children and for hydration medication for babies suffering from the dangerous rotavirus.Mission of Hope funding comes also from other grants and from individual donations.
A $3,000 check from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg's Society for the Propagation of the Faith will offset the cost of sending the group's next shipping container, in May, to Nicaragua. It will carry medical equipment such as ultrasound machinery; items including wheelchairs and crutches, clothing, bedding; and sports equipment collected through the Mitts for Mission Program. Still needed, though, is $3,000 for the purpose and $6,000 more for yet another container.Because of North Country generosity, Blow said, "we actually have enough medical equipment and supplies to ship two."The nun, accompanied by Mission of Hope veteran Sister Stephanie Frenette, just returned from a tour of nine speaking engagements with schools, churches and women's groups in Florida, where word of Mission of Hope has spread through former North Country residents or others who winter there."There's a huge connection," she said.
One dedicated mission supporter in Florida who networked on its behalf was Frenette's nephew, Shawn Watson of Orlando.In the midst of the Plattsburgh women's trip, on March 15, the father of three died suddenly. He had scraped his leg while playing softball, said Blow, and the resulting infection was improperly treated by the hospital where he sought care.Watson had been a devoted supporter of Mission of Hope, sponsoring the education of five Nicaraguan children and prompting donations of containers for Children Feeding Children and medical outreach packs from Whirley Drinkworks, where he was employed.That company, said Blow, has since established the Sean Watson Spirit Award, the winner of which, every year, will have a child sponsored in his or her name.And the mission has received more than $1,000 in Watson's memory."In the midst of the senseless tragedy and loss of life," said Blow, "even there Shawn planted seeds."