If you could support the education, nourishment and caretaking of third-world citizens in Nicaragua and other Central American countries by just purchasing a bracelet, would you?
This semester, Plattsburgh State’s senior public relations majors are campaigning for the North Country Mission of Hope.
The North Country Mission of Hope is spiritually-based humanitarian effort which works to provide Central American countries and even the North Country with food, clean water, education, child care and protection from domestic violence.
Current MOH Executive Director Sister Debbie Blow is a Dominican Sister of Hope through St. Peter’s Parish in Plattsburgh.
She co-founded the mission in 1998 and has fulfilled duties as an administrator, networker, observer and public servant. The mission, she said, is the “North Country’s best-kept secret”.
“College and young people have a desire to help but may need guidance on where or how to unfold this,” Blow said. “That’s where we come in.”
Blow described the trip to Nicaragua as eye-opening.
“It is a formative first experience of third-world mission work,” she said.
Blow mentioned the first mission trip was a difficult but unique experience because her and the volunteers were “exposed to the extremes of third-world poverty for the first time.”
PSUC’s public relations department is bridging the gap between the university and the MOH, whose services are credited with feeding 6,600 Nicaraguan children every day.
Colleen Lemza, associate professor of public relations and advisor to Cardinal PR, is currently having her final campaigning capstone class for PR majors to work with the MOH and fund for their relief efforts.
Students taking the campaign course, the second half of a year-long campaign, treat MOH like a true client, helping them to raise money, awareness and support.
Students presented ideas to the mission’s leadership board as well as keeping in contact with Blow multiple times a week regarding progress and the fulfillment of objectives.
One fundraising method included the sale of homemade unisex bracelets for $5 a pop. Lemza’s students tabled throughout campus to sell the bracelets and have a target of $5,000. Students created the packaging and the slogan #becausewecan, inspired by Blow’s ‘Why not help those in need?’ perspective.
However, the upcoming February mission that the funds were raised for might not happen.
In a New York Times article published in late August, Nicaraguan authorities and their cohorts have killed, tortured, raped and forcibly disappeared anti-government protesters.
At this time, hundreds of citizens have died and thousands have been injured due to the brutality. The United Nations has recognized this time of civil unrest as a human rights crisis.
“For the first time in 20 years, they cancelled last summer’s mission because it just wasn’t safe,” Lemza said.
Through this event, the work of PSUC’s PR students and those volunteering through MOH will still make a large impact on the lives of those in need.
“[The mission] is still working with nonprofit organizations within Nicaragua and Central America,” Lemza said. “And they were still able to find an NGO in Nicaragua to help continue feeding the children.”
Blow said there is still unrest in Nicaragua and that it is highly doubtful that the February mission will happen.
Nevertheless, Lemza’s students are putting effort and professionalism into supporting the foundation.
“I love the class,” Blow said. “I am very impressed with Colleen Lemza and equally with the students.”
Email Sage Lewandowski at firstname.lastname@example.org