Sunday, August 2, 2020

NPH Participates in United Nations Panel: “Inspiring Global Action: Reframing Responsibilities to One Another and Our Communities During the COVID-19 Pandemic”

Below is a post written by Gillian Garvey, NPH USA Summer Intern.            


On Wednesday, June 24th, Dr. Edwin Vallecillo, the Director of Medical Services for Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos International (NPH), spoke alongside three other international organization leaders on a panel for the first event of the United Nations (UN) Civil Society Chat Series titled “Inspiring Global Action: Reframing Responsibilities to One Another and Our Communities During the COVID-19 Pandemic”. NPH has recently been recognized by the UN Department of Global Communications as a Civil Society Organization. This recognition is extremely significant because it reinforces NPH’s continuing commitment to pursuing multiple Sustainable Development Goals promoted by the UN.  


Dr. Vallecillo began his presentation by providing background information about NPH. Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, which translates to “Our Little Brothers and Sisters,” raises children, supports families, and transforms lives in nine countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. NPH provides a safe home, food, clothing, education, and healthcare to over 6,100 vulnerable, disadvantaged, and at-risk children. 


This panel focused on how NPH has been serving as a role model for the best practices in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak in their countries. The first step NPH took to limit exposure to the virus was to create an Action Plan that outlined and implemented new protocols for the COVID-19 response along with the Pandemic Team. Examples of some of the protocols put in place included: limiting staff changes and large gatherings within the home, regular staff COVID-19 screenings, temporary school closings, and the additional purchases of PPE, vitamins, medication, thermometers, and more.


Educating the children and staff at NPH homes about the pandemic was crucial in order to keep them safe and aware of the health risks COVID-19 could bring. Everyone was taught about social distancing, no-contact greetings, and proper hand-washing techniques to use at the additional hand-washing stations. 


In addition to caring for the children and staff at the homes, NPH continues to pursue outreach for areas surrounding the homes. NPH has provided donations of face masks, food, medication, and has also created plans for working families that have children with disabilities. To educate the community, NPH staff members have been going out to perform educational talks and training while also providing needed services. 


NPH also operates the St. Damien Pediatric Hospital, which is the only pediatric hospital in Haiti. St. Damien’s staff has had to interact with many people in Haiti who don’t understand the virus or are unable to take the appropriate precautions to keep themselves and others safe. Unfortunately, many of the people who do recognize that the pandemic is a threat can’t afford medical supplies and can’t miss work to quarantine themselves. Since being selected by the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population to receive and treat all pediatric patients with COVID-19, St. Damien’s has purchased additional PPE, created new protocols, and held additional training for staff.


Other U.N. panelists included Victoria Edmonds, a representative for the Salvation Army, an organization that operates in 131 nations. Edmonds spoke about the numerous states and countries where the Salvation Army is currently providing medical supplies, food, shelter, COVID-19 testing, and many more services to people in need. 


Muzaffer Baca, the Vice President of International Blue Crescent (IBC), an organization operating in the Middle East, Caucasus, Balkans and Horn of Africa with the goal to provide emergency services, educational opportunities, and community building discussed how his organization is providing emergency teams, medical supplies, and test kits to people in Syria, Yemen, and Libya. 


Bimpe Bamgbose-Martins, the founder of the Strategy for Mentoring Initiative and Leadership Empowerment (S.M.I.L.E), an organization in Nigeria and the United States, explained the difficulties in running its youth empowerment programs due to physical distancing. All of the in-person programs that shape young people to become leaders and agents of change in their own societies were halted and suspended indefinitely. The programs were unable to transition to an online platform due to a large number of youth who don’t have access to the internet or internet-capable devices. 

 

In case you missed the event, click here to view the recorded episode on YouTube.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Through it all we’ve managed to remain positive and see the rainbow peeking through the clouds...

Below is a blog post written in June 2020 by Brittni Palkert, the Volunteer and Projects Coordinator at NPH Bolivia.

Who would have thought back in February how the world would look now? I can certainly say that when I arrived to NPH Bolivia on February 1st 2020, I had no idea what would transpire over the coming 5 months and how much my volunteer experience would dramatically shift. 

My first month at the home looked like a typical NPH volunteer experience: meeting staff and children, traveling to the nearby town on Sundays for mass, off-weekend trips into the city of Santa Cruz, and planning for all the exciting holidays and events that would take place over the coming months, like our home’s 15th anniversary. Then the weekend of March 13th arrived, turning our volunteer experience on its head. Seemingly overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic became truly ‘real’ in Bolivia and within days – which felt like months at the time – the majority of our staff left the home, including my direct manager, without a specific return date in mind. The kids underwent a series of handwashing workshops and were no longer allowed to eat nor pick up food in our food hall, everyone received facemasks, and we were no longer permitted to leave the home nor receive outside visitors unless absolutely necessary. Expected visitors from NPHI cancelled their flights, and we as volunteers had to have difficult conversations with NPH Bolivia and NPH USA leadership to determine whether it was safe and appropriate to stay in the home. Ultimately, the four American volunteers decided to stay, but our greatest challenge as a community was having to say goodbye to our German volunteer who was required by his government to return home.

We’ve undergone significant changes and restrictions to keep all of our staff and children safe, but through it all we’ve managed to remain positive and see the rainbow peeking through the clouds. We’ve taken on new responsibilities and roles most volunteers have never nor will ever experience. For example, every 1-2 months when one caretaker shift leaves and another enters, all the volunteers have been asked to serve as ‘tios’ in the homes while the newly entered shift spends a week or two in quarantine. This new challenge has given us a fresh perspective on the home and the daily lives of our children, as well as the joy that comes with being closer than ever with our beautiful children. For me, one of my proudest moments as a volunteer was using my limited high school chemistry knowledge to help a few of the girls complete their 150-question chemistry homework!

On the weekends, especially if our kids are in the middle of a 2-week quarantine because the new shift of caretakers has entered, I enjoy baking or making my Grandma’s pierogi recipe. While there are many weekends where we long to take a trip to Santa Cruz, we strive to keep in mind that this is the reality for our children most of the year; they are at the home nearly 24/7 without access to stores or restaurants. Even without school, our children remain as happy as ever with the necessities provided to them at the home. This kind of inner peace and minimalism is something I hope to take with me into the future. Honestly, most days it feels like the kids are teaching me just as much as I am teaching them!   

Here at NPH Bolivia, I am very lucky to be surrounded by supportive local staff and an incredible group of volunteers that are helping me remain positive. I am truly grateful to still be living in the home, particularly because our presence is needed now more than ever. In addition to being caretakers in the children’s homes, we are supporting enrichment activities in the absence of formal schooling nationwide. Our volunteer English teacher has been leading homework sessions in our computer lab, running our library and reading classes, and supporting piano practice. Two volunteers and I are working on a local fundraising campaign called #VenceAlCoronavirus to cover the cost of rising food prices, facemasks, hand sanitizer, and other unforeseen expenditures that protect the well-being of our children. 

Through these triumphs and heartaches, we’ve remained centered on NPH’s mission: providing a loving and safe environment for children living in extreme conditions. Although the coronavirus pandemic is putting pressure on this mission, we have not and will not fail to continue providing safety and love to our children. NPH volunteers live and breathe this mission day in and day out, now more than ever.

  

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Introducing the NPH Open Home Series!


The “NPH Open Home Series” is inspired by the open house theme; a popular event in the United States that is a friendly, casual time when people are invited to come into your home. Home evokes the image of Family - a core NPH principle. For those of you that know us well, you're well-aware that NPH is a giant, international family. So, while the theme open house may be U.S. centric, the idea of opening one’s home to friends and family is global.

This live video series is an invitation for supporters, old and new, to come into the NPH world in more ways than one. Viewers will hear from personnel inside the NPH homes. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve had to cancel numerous trips and events. Still, amidst the global health crisis, families have found strength inside their homes. The NPH family is no different. We invite you to step inside our homes as well as our philosophy and values.

Take yourself virtually to Honduras on April 30th and join us for the launch of the Open Home Series! Episode 1 will feature NPH Honduras National Director, Stephen O’Mahony where he will address the challenges of the global health crisis and update you on the children and programs of NPH Honduras.


Wednesday, April 22, 2020

A Letter of Gratitude from NPH USA's International Volunteer Program Coordinator

Dear International Volunteers:

Every one of you has been through a lot in the past few weeks. It is a traumatic event to be torn away from the home and family you have made at NPH. It’s terrible to have worked so hard in your jobs and in relationships, only to abruptly leave with hardly a goodbye. Some of you may feel like you’ve broken a promise when you were required to leave—that you hadn’t done enough yet. But here I say to you: what you have already done (whether it was for 3 months or 2 years)—that work and the love you offered to the kids, staff, and fellow volunteers was indispensable, invaluable, and so very much appreciated.

It’s true: when you go back, NPH won’t be the same. But that’s NPH—it’s constantly changing and seeing good people come and go as they do their part. I remember returning to Honduras years after my service and so much had changed! There were new buildings, new programs, and new kids. A little selfishly, I was disappointed that my teenager “boys” weren’t kids anymore. Simply put, it wasn’t the same home that I had known from before. NPH is like a river that is constantly moving and you never stand in the same water twice. In truth, that’s what makes NPH so special—that it allows for that kind of growth so that the kids, staff, and leadership can adapt and constantly strive to be better, to do more, to reach so many individuals. You are an important part of the constantly moving river that represents NPH. Regardless of how much time you spent as a volunteer, you will forever be an integral part of the NPH family.

Thank you, volunteers, for the incredible sacrifices you’ve made as part of this family. Thank you for the unconditional love and care you have given (and continue to give) to our kids. Thank you for believing that we can make a difference when we work together and strive to put the needs of others first. You are all my heroes and I, personally, am honored to get to work with you all and get to know you better. Thank you, volunteers, for all that you do and all that you are. Although time was cut short for many of you—the selfless contributions you’ve made and the love you have shown have made NPH better. You should be very proud of that.

Un abrazo enorme,
Jen Foster






Sunday, April 19, 2020

I wanted something to last longer than my time here at NPH...

Sophie Herman has provided much help and support to our home in Honduras during her time volunteering there and she is a grateful recipient of our Hightower Kloos Legacy Fund for international volunteers. Below is a lovely reflection from Sophie that speaks to the true spirit of NPH - care and giving back. Thank you to Sophie and ALL our amazing international volunteers for being a part of the NPH family and for donating their time and energy to have such an incredible and positive impact on the lives of our children.

With the  Hightower Kloos Legacy Endowment I received, I have been able to greatly impact my hogar at the NPH home here in Honduras. With the money, I had many options and ideas of what I could do. I wanted something to benefit the children with disabilities and I wanted something to last longer than my time here at NPH. With many meetings with coordinators and fellow employees on the Ranch, I decided to start a caseta, or a little store, to help raise money for the special needs hogares, or homes. This way there is always a source of income for the hogares/homes which need money or donations, and it is something that could be continued on even after my year of service. Not only does the caseta provide funds for the hogares, but also it provides a work opportunity for the kids with disabilities who are able to participate and work. 
 
I was given an old, abandoned caseta-type building from the hogar coordinator and I got right to work to fill it with needed supplies and equipment. The biggest expense and where most of the money from the scholarship went was to buy a freezer. With the freezer, I am able to help the kids with special needs to make paletas, or popsicles, and charamuscas, which are little bags filled with juice that you freeze. I also bought kitchen supplies such as a blender, electric water heater, measuring cups, utensils and more little things that were needed to make all the treats that the caseta would sell. The last thing I bought with the scholarship money was products to fill the caseta, such as Pepsi products, popcorn, hot chocolate, coffee, chips, cookies, juice, lollipops, and other treats that the kids on the Ranch request. 
 
Just 4 months into the project, I was able to raise 7,000 Lempiras, which equals about $280 US. While this may not sound like a lot to make in 4 months, money here in Honduras is stretched a lot further and I have been able to buy many important and fun things for my hogar. With this money, I have been able to provide much needed shoes and shirts for the boys in my hogar, a water dispenser, a blender, and a hammock. As we continue to make more money and as my hogar´s needs are fulfilled, I will go to the other special needs hogars to ask them what kind of donations they are looking for and what will help the kids as well as the tios and tias. I am excited and super happy to be able to provide funds and donations to the kids on the Ranch who do not usually receive this kind of help, and I could not have done it without the money from the  Hightower Kloos Legacy Endowment. This money is really making a difference in the lives of the children with special needs and I am happy with the current success and the future progress of the caseta.




Friday, April 10, 2020

We wish for good health and safety for all during this trying time...

On behalf of everyone at NPH USA, we wish for good health and safety for you and your family during this trying time. You are an important part of our global NPH family, and are in our daily thoughts. And, you are in the thoughts of our NPH children, with many of them asking how their godparents are doing.

Below are brief updates from each of the NPH homes:

Bolivia

On March 22, the Bolivian government imposed a country-wide 14-day quarantine prohibiting people from leaving their homes except to buy groceries or receive medical care. The government hopes to slow the spread of COVID-19, which has reached a total of 40 confirmed cases as of 26 March. With no classes scheduled, our children have new-found free time and it is up to the remaining caregivers and volunteers to devise fun ways to keep them busy and constructively entertained. With a mixture of work, games, and homework, we fill the children’s schedule with a variety of fun and safe things to do. In the morning the children’s schedule can include chores and academic studies, which include cleaning their casita, working with our agronomist Hugo, helping in the clinic, working in the casita of our youngest children, and helping in the library.

Last weekend the older boys and girls worked with Hugo to harvest fish from the fish ponds for the home to eat. The boys used a large net and dredged the pond from one side to the other to catch the fish in their nets. Once collected the older girls helped clean and prep the fish for cooking. On Sunday, we cooked a large lunch for the entire home; each person got half a fish with rice, yucca, salad, and lemonade. “It was a lot of fun being able to go into the pond and fish for our lunch with the older kids,” Renzo explained. “Tío Hugo knows a lot and was teaching us how to clean and prep the fish for grilling.” After lunch the children chose their own activities. They can participate in planned activities or rest and relax. Choices range from table games, drawing, jigsaw puzzles, and writing cards to their godparents to sports like soccer, volleyball, and ping pong, and watching movies together at night.

Dominican Republic

Since the first case of COVID-19 in the Dominican Republic was detected on March 1, NPH Dominican Republic has been quick to implement precautionary measures and prepare the children to help prevent an outbreak inside the home. These measures included tutorials from NPH doctors ranging from raising awareness to handwashing, as well as talks about the impact of the pandemic. Caregivers constantly remind children to wash their hands and the children find different ways to greet one another without shaking or touching hands.

The children at NPH Dominican Republic have been doing their best to remain proactive and healthy. During this period, they do homework and reading assignments and do fun activities. The home has a psychologist who has stayed with us to collaborate and support the staff and children during these difficult times. NPH Dominican Republic also counts on hermanos mayores (older brothers and sisters) to assist caregivers with the care of the children and work in the kitchen. Since most of the staff has been sent home, the support of hermanos mayores helps to reduce the number of people entering and leaving the home, thus reducing risk of exposure for children and staff.

El Salvador

Dr. Monterrosa, the general practitioner at NPH El Salvador, who along with two nurses has moved into Casa Sagrada Familia for the duration of the pandemic, shares that as of March 31, there were 32 confirmed cases in El Salvador, a relatively low number compared to other countries in the region. The most important thing is to preserve the health of all children and prevent this virus from affecting the NPH family, and our home in El Salvador has taken a number of preventive measures, for example: suspending family visits (in concert with local judges, as needed); proactive outreach to medical specialists who provide treatment for existing complex medical cases in the home; close monitoring of children is in place and all specialists are on alert and accessible; strict policy of referring only emergency cases to the local hospital, which we have not needed to do so far; teaching children to wash their hands properly and give them constant encouragement to use the proper technique; implementing modified social distancing within NPH El Salvador, and providing instruction to staff about COVID-19 and proactively responding to staff questions and requests for additional support.



Guatemala

Spencer Cappelli, former Communications Officer at NPH Guatemala, recounts his experiences returning from the Central American country during lockdown due to COVID-19.



Meanwhile, NPH Guatemala has been taking care and busy working with local communities, One Family and Hermanos Mayores, around Itzapa, Guatemala, ensuring the most vulnerable members of society receive support in the face of COVID-19.

Haiti

Nos Petits Frères et Soeurs, (or NPFS, the French name for NPH Haiti) which has served vulnerable communities in Haiti since 1987, is working to ensure that our kids remain safe, whether they live in the flagship home St. Helene in Kenscoff, 25 miles outside Port-au-Prince, or in our special needs rehabilitation centers Kay St. Germaine, Kay Gabriel, and Kay Elaine supporting some of the most vulnerable people in the country—the very same population that is most vulnerable to COVID-19.

The homes have prepared ahead of time by taking decisive measures and implementing preventive protocols establish by NPHI Medical Services for all of NPH. Instructional posters have been hung around the schools and homes to remind everyone what to do and what not to do. Masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer have been stationed around the homes for easy access by staff and children.

Sanitation stations consisting of buckets with soap and diluted bleach solution have been placed around the homes; staff and children are encouraged to use them to clean their hands when access to a standard washroom is not available. Children have been taught to avoid close contact with other children. For St. Damien Pediatric Hospital, three sanitation stations have been set up at the entrance to the hospital for patients and visitors to wash their hands before entering.

Meanwhile in the current state of national lockdown, our caregivers organize activities to keep our children entertained and take their minds off the crisis. 

Honduras

Three weeks ago at Rancho Santo Fe, we already initiated phase two of our coronavirus preparedness plan where we invited all staff who is willing to stay at the Ranch until this is over to do so. Overall, we estimate a core team of 50 individuals who have agreed to stay, and we are hopeful that with locking down the Ranch to the point that very few come and go (some drivers, the security team), we have done all we can to prevent the virus from entering. Our high school and university students can also help out with the work, which is a huge relief. OWS has authorized us to use the Moscati Center as the isolation center in case we have suspected or positive cases and the surgery center overnight unit for more severe cases as it has oxygen connections next to the beds. Dr. Merlin has also offered to join us if it becomes necessary.

The demand of our work still only increases. We were able to bring most Pequeños (high school and university students) home but still need to care for many Hermanos Mayores. Simply getting food or medicines to them is already a challenge. Plus, more and more people living in poverty from our neighboring communities turn to us for food. Last week, we packed another 75 baskets with basic food staples. We will continue to do our best to help those around us, even if it is just a drop in the ocean of hunger. 


Mexico

The NPH Mexico family has been working closely with our medical staff to implement cleanliness and hygiene protocols and social distancing guidelines in each of the homes to ensure our children and employees safety.

First and foremost, the NPH Mexico medical team began by teaching everyone the correct way to wash their hands. Doctors have also given talks about how the virus spreads and the importance of remaining calm and not letting our guard down. Everyone is constantly cleaning the house, rooms, and offices. Anti-bacterial hand gel has become our closest friend, especially when we do not have immediate direct access to a bathroom to wash our hands.

Although traditional classes are suspended, children are not losing out on their education. Teachers have been working hard to prepare learning material for students to use to continue their studies in their homes. Children also have a daily routine that involves cleaning the house and doing their homework and some recreational activities, which the children enjoy the most, to keep hearts and minds fresh. Staff now eat lunch in a separate place from the children, an effort to reduce the risk of contagion.

In short, everyone in NPH Mexico is taking the prescribed preventive measures seriously. The NPH Mexico family understands everyday life cannot stop in the face of a pandemic. We must continue doing what we do best: creating a loving home and providing top quality care to vulnerable children, adolescents, and young adults. 

Nicaragua

The children at NPH Nicaragua send love to their Godparents and donors around the world. While in lock-down, children are ensuring they are doing their school homework, ensuring they wash their hands and their home is clean.

The medical teams and staff in our homes have implemented preventive measures so that our children and vulnerable communities do not contract or spread COVID-19.

Peru

NPH Peru has held talks with staff and children about the severity of the virus, and nurses have given talks on how to wash hands and take additional precautions regarding hygiene. The children are currently on summer break. The start of school has been postponed for two weeks and is likely to be delayed another 15 days, at the very least. Since March 22, outsiders no longer enter the home, and two university students have returned to help cook meals as a temporary measure. Our purchasing coordinator comes into the home only when absolutely necessary.

Caregivers who normally work five-day shifts agreed to remain for the 15-day government-imposed quarantine, with the likely possibility of a 15- to 20-day extension of the quarantine by officials. Currently, children and caregivers are under full quarantine and cannot leave their casitas. All the games, books, and coloring sheets we could find around the home were collected and divided among the casitas so all the kids would have materials to play with to help fight tedium in the coming days and weeks.  

Saturday, February 22, 2020

I felt blessed the day we were introduced to NPH...

Below is a Q+A with Michelle Lavelle, one of our amazing sponsors who is also a Mid-Atlantic/Northeast regional board member!  

How/When did you become involved with NPH USA?


In 2014, we were on our 25th wedding anniversary trip in Sedona, Arizona where we attended Sunday Mass. To our delight, the Pequenos of Mexico were visiting the local church; we were so impressed with the children at Mass. They were involved with the music and dance, which were both beautiful. One of the students gave his testimony of how he came to live at NPH. We were unfamiliar with the organization and were so moved by this young person’s testimony that we become involved to help the kids. As parents of five children ourselves, we are well aware that all children need love, education, and food to thrive. We felt drawn to sponsor children through NPH because God is at the core of the program’s mission. We also felt that the monetary commitment was reasonable and manageable; the Catholic Church has a good reputation for economic efficiency and quality, especially in relation to education and orphan care. In addition, we like the fact that NPH tries very diligently to keep families together. They want to avoid extra pain for these children – who already have had challenged pathways - and avoid separating siblings. We chose to sponsor 10 children after Mass from the Dominican Republic and Peru; we sponsored five children in each of those countries matching our family of five children in the USA.


Why do you chose to sponsor in a particular country?


We were Blessed by walking into Mass and having the opportunity to hear about NPH firsthand from the students. We were drawn to sponsor children from the countries that were needing help at the time. We were thoughtful to choose NPH homes that we may have an opportunity to visit in the future. It was especially important for me to become an active sponsor, as well as a donor. I have been fortunate to visit NPH DR twice and have formed some very special bonds with my Godchildren there and many other children as well. I look forward to the day I can visit the NPH home in Peru.


What do you enjoy most about sponsoring a child with NPH USA?


I think what I enjoy most about my sponsorships is the ability to be connected to the children. NPH does a wonderful job of keeping me informed about the children's schoolwork and overall wellness. It is important to me to feel connected to my Godchildren. I think it makes a real difference for the children to know I am involved, as I know they are so grateful for the sponsorship giving them their education.


Can you tell us a bit about your sponsored children and the evolution of your relationship? Why is being a Godparent so special to you?


I think being a Godparent is a wonderful way to serve. God asks us directly to care for the widows and the orphans in James 1:27. So many children are without parents or support; I felt blessed the day we were introduced to NPH in Sedona, more than 6 years ago. I think God exposes us at different times to stand up and help those in need, He asked and we answered.

I have gotten to know our kids in the DR; they are terrific kids. In particular, we have two girls and three boys there that I love to visit. I can see how important it is to all the children that Godmothers and Godfathers make a visit to the homes. It really does show them how much they are loved. In addition, letters from the Godparents makes a big impression on the children; they feel much appreciated and loved that way, and that is something we can do more frequently than visiting. It has also been wonderful to expose my five children as an example of love and charity to the less fortunate.

I have also exposed my Parish and Friends to NPH in hopes of broadening the awareness of this wonderful organization, so more children will gain a sponsorship.



Monday, January 6, 2020

Everyone in Haiti lost someone...

Below is a blog post by Rachel Prusynski, who in 2010, was visiting her friend Molly Hightower who was volunteering at the NPH Haiti home when the devastating earthquake hit. 

I was only supposed to visit my college friend Molly Hightower who was volunteering at NPH Haiti. On the 10th day of the trip, an earthquake of 7.0 Mw rocked the Caribbean country. It changed my life forever. 

My first trip to NPH Haiti: As well as visiting Molly Hightower, who was mid-way through her volunteer year at NPH Haiti, I was considering volunteering for NPH after finishing my doctorate in physical therapy and wanted to see what the volunteer experience was like. Molly and I became close friends while studying at the University of Portland in Oregon. After spending a lovely time in Haiti with Molly and her fellow volunteers through helping her at work at St. Damien’s hospital as well as spending some time traveling around Haiti, the earthquake struck. 

The moment it struck 

I was on the top floor of the Father Wasson Centre, a 6-story building in Petionvile where the volunteers lived and where NPH had offices, day programs for kids with disabilities from the community, and an event space. I was sitting in the lounge area next to Ryan Kloos, who was visiting his sister Erin, another volunteer. Erin and Molly were both downstairs in their rooms showering after our trip to the market. One minute, Ryan and I were checking e-mails, and the next I remember, I was on my feet scrambling as the floor tipped sideways. There was no time to react, and I was buried as the entire building crashed down, our top floor pancaking on top of the floors below. Unfortunately, both Ryan and Molly were killed. 

I was pulled from the Father Wasson Centre by strangers who I believe were involved with NPH who drove me to the US embassy that night. I was evacuated to Guantanamo Bay Navy Hospital due to my injuries, and was back in the US within a few days after negotiating a flight to Florida. I was injured and unable to help immediately in the aftermath, and as a visitor unfamiliar to Haiti I likely wouldn’t have been very helpful, but I ached to help and felt disconnected from everyone struggling in Haiti, especially considering my only connection to Haiti had died with Molly. 

Because of the strength and destruction of the earthquake, everyone in Haiti lost someone. 

Supporting NPH in the Aftermath 

I returned to Haiti for the one-year anniversary of the earthquake and was graciously hosted by Molly’s former boss and colleagues and have returned for multiple trips since, both training physical therapy technicians and nursing students at the St. Luke schools and hospital associated with NPH as well as the Kay Germaine program for youth and adults with disabilities. 

I also had the opportunity to establish a university scholarship in Molly’s honor at our alma mater. Two young adults who grew up at NPH Haiti have now successfully completed their bachelor’s degrees at the University of Portland on a full-ride scholarship. 

I have seen our NPH programs in Haiti go through many changes in recent years, with the initial Father Wasson Angels of Light program borne in acute response to the quake shifting to a more permanent program. I have continuously been impressed by the quality of care at St. Damien hospital, with the addition of the pediatric residency program and expanded oncology service lines, among other achievements. The Kay Germaine programs have expanded to serve adults with neurologic impairment, a huge gap in rehabilitative care present even before the earthquake. I also sponsored a young child who was left at the NPH home after the earthquake and he is now turning 18; we have communicated for almost 10 years and I am extremely proud of his compassionate nature and drive. 

10 Years Later 

Staying connected to NPH was essential for my personal recovery after the earthquake. Having an outlet for some of my survivor’s guilt and my desire to help as well as a connection to the NPH community makes me feel like part of a family and continues to give me purpose. I founded the first Associate Board of young professionals for NPH USA in the Northwest. Through the years, the Associate Board has been responsible for raising thousands of dollars and energizing young donors through many community events and child sponsorships. I now serve on the NPH USA Northwest regional board and continue to support NPH Haiti. In terms of the two university scholarships, I got to be a part of the students’ support team as they went through college here in the U.S. and am lucky to consider both of them as family. I know that when I look back on my life in years to come, my role in their journey and their place in my family will be one of the biggest points of pride and love in my life. 

I was hoping to be in Haiti with the NPH community for the 10th anniversary of the earthquake but cannot, in good conscience, be a burden to them at this time. NPH Haiti is struggling against the daily challenges of keeping the home and hospital running amidst gas and transportation shortages during the current political crisis. The NPH Haiti staff are competent and courageous people and I will continue to send them as much financial support as I can manage, especially during the worst crisis Haiti has faced since the earthquake. Considering they have faced the cholera outbreak and multiple hurricanes since 2010, the fact that this current systemic unrest has even more negative impacts on our operations and poses more uncertainty for the future is a testament to the massive challenges our staff face daily in order to provide care for the vulnerable families we support.






Monday, December 30, 2019

2019 Highlights from NPH USA!

2019 was another fantastic year at NPH USA where, thanks to the support of our dedicated staff, board members, volunteers, sponsors, and donors, there is much to celebrate! See highlights from each region, plus the St. Damien Pediatric Hospital Fund in Haiti, below!

Mid-Atlantic/Northeast Region

  • We are so grateful for the continued support of our individual volunteers and ambassadors throughout the MA-NE region, including our Youth Ambassadors group and Associate Board members. As participation of our YA group expands, we have more Youth Ambassadors traveling and creating clubs at their own schools. Growth of our South Shore Youth Ambassadors has flourished at Hingham High School, Milton Academy and Duxbury High School while the initiatives of our North Shore Youth Ambassadors has grown at Beverly High School and Landmark School. In 2019, we also welcomed eight new Associate Board members and celebrated our 5th Annual Pints for Pequeños. The board also planned a new Trivia Night event.
  • In the MA-NE region, we enjoyed visits from pequeños Victor (Dominican Republic) & Jean-Francois (Haiti) who helped us create new relationships in the community and shine light on the accomplishments of our pequeños and the University program.
  • In 2019, thanks to the dedication of new Regional Board member Michelle Lavelle, we were able to expand our outreach into southern Connecticut.Thank you and welcome to the Board, Michelle!
  • Our Hingham, Duxbury, and Wayland councils each worked tirelessly to plan fun and successful events in their communities this past year. We hosted our second annual Trivia Night in Wayland and our third annual Love Without Limits and Oysters for Orphans events! And our annual event, Irish Hearts, was held on April 7 - what made this year unique was that we celebrated its 10th anniversary milestone. Irish Hearts began after the 2010 earthquake that devastated the small country of Haiti. In response to this disaster, the Irish community in Boston took notice, mobilized family, friends, and local business and held the first annual Irish Hearts. Now, in our 10th year, we are so very proud of all we have accomplished.
  • Our homes welcomed more travelers from the MA-NE region this year with fourteen Immersion trips traveling to NPH Honduras, NPH Guatemala, NPH Dominican Republic, and NPH Mexico. We are so grateful to our many new travelers this past year and to local schools and parishes including Rockport, Saint Paul School, BC High School, the Hingham Collaborative, and St. Joseph’s Church who have continued their annual trips. We are looking forward to even more growth in 2020!



Midwest Region
  • The MW Region's 2019 NPH USA Football Legends Classic Golf Outing was a major success! As guests arrived, they were greeted by our volunteers and received a complimentary Weatherman Umbrella. These umbrellas were kindly donated to the event from our emcee Rick Reichmuth, the Chief Meteorologist on Fox News Channel and the CEO and founder of the Weatherman Umbrella. Also, he is a former international volunteer at the NPH Mexico home in Miacatlán back in the 1990s. As the event’s emcee, Rick started off by expressing the reward that came with spending a year of his life at NPH Mexico. Serving as our auctioneer, Rick’s efforts contributed to bringing in a total raised of over $290,000 -- the most ever raised at this event.
  • Our Viva La Familia Gala was also a major success this past year. Many thanks go out to all who helped make it so successful this year, raising $238,000 (7% more than last year)! Our keynote speaker was the awesome Aurora Zacarias, an hermana mayor from NPH Mexico.  Aurora spoke to a spellbound audience about her difficult life growing up before NPH, the opportunities she took advantage of as a pequeña at NPH, the rewarding relationships she had with two of her sponsored godparents that continued long after she began her independent life, and her exciting professional career. At the event, John Iberle received the Midwest Region’s Corazón Award for his many years of volunteer leadership and generous philanthropy to the NPH mission.    
  • This past year, the Midwest Region conducted ten trips to NPH homes in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador with a total of 225 participants. That’s three more trips and 67 more participants than 2018! Special thanks to Near North Montessori School in Chicago for organizing at least one trip (usually two) every year since 2011. We now have a trip for Near North Montessori alumni of past trips! We also conducted our very first women’s trip that focused on the Chicas Podersosas (powerful girls) program at NPH Honduras.



Upper Midwest Region
  • The Upper Midwest Region's 13th Annual Cinco de Mayo 5k run/walk moved to a great new location this year and raised over $18,800 for our special needs home at NPH Guatemala. We also launched our virtual 5K option allowing 49 people to participate from afar.
  • 2019 marked the first Pequeño tour in recent history in Milwaukee. Students from Mexico were hosted by local families and participated in activities like touring the Brewers stadium and visiting the Mexican consulate. The trip wrapped up with an evening performance and fundraiser. In October, a supporter hosted a fundraiser for Haiti and St. Damien’s Pediatric Hospital in a private penthouse suite in Milwaukee with an impressive art collection. Another first took place in Milwaukee with the first annual MKE pub crawl this past year. More money was raised for NPH children and more locals heard about NPH’s work for the first time!
  • Thanks to our generous supporters, our Celebrando a los Niños Gala had a record-breaking year raising over $500,000! Over $260,000 was raised during Fund-A-Need alone. Rose Schaffhausen received the Fr. William Wasson Humanitarian Award in recognition of over 35 years serving as the Minnesota Friends of the Orphans Executive Director and raising over 25 million for NPH. 
  • Our UPMW Region's Young Professionals board continues to set high standards, surpassing their $33,000 fundraising goal for the year by almost $2,000! Their second annual masquerade fundraiser, Dance Your Masque Off, was another great success and was held at a local Latin brewery.
  • Upper Midwest Region staff and volunteers traveled to 8 out of the 9 homes in 2019 with first-time trips to Bolivia and Peru in 2019! On our Peru vision trip, 10 people spent time with the children and also experienced the local culture with experiences like dining in a local home and visiting Machu Picchu. Many of the participants had never visited a NPH home until this trip and were touched by the warm welcome and excitement of the children. 



Northwest Region
  • 2019 was an exciting year for events in the Northwest! Our Golf Classic hit a hole in one in May partnering with Cauze, a giving platform all about “unleashing your good" and local sports radio show “Cliff and Puck” on 950 AM KJR, hosted by former Seattle Seahawk Cliff Avril and local radio personality Jason Puckett, joined us live from the tournament. The annual NW Gala in November welcomed special guest speakers Miriam, Edwin, and Ana Karina Vallecillo-Betancourth, who grew up at NPH Honduras with their four other siblings. They inspired us with their story of joining the NPH family, feeling rooted in love and support, and shared their gratitude for the many opportunities to spread their wings towards their personal dreams and goals. 
  • In July, we were thrilled to have 24 donors visit NPH Honduras with the NW office. It was a wonderful, immersive opportunity to meet the children and families we support. NW Regional Board Chair, Gail Taylor, was excited for her first visit to an NPH home and found joy in spending time with a group of first graders in their Montessori class. Edwin Vallecillo, the new NPH International Director of Medical Services, led a tour of the internal clinic and answered questions about the facilities and care provided. Two of our trip members who play for the University of Washington women’s soccer team spent many fun afternoons and evenings playing with the kids. And local supporters and former Seattle Institute host family members, Tom and Katherine Boysen, delivered a large number of useful power tools for the talleres/workshops at the home!
  • We are very lucky to have welcomed our first NW Development Officer, Abbey Laninga, to NPH. Abbey is a brilliant addition to the Northwest team, bringing her fabulous energy, innovative ideas, and sheer determination to the table!
  • We are so grateful to have continued financial support from Fundación MAPFRE and other local sponsors who make the Seattle Institute program possible. This year, we welcome Abigail (NPH Nicaragua), Alexis (NPH Guatemala), David (NPH Mexico), and Jazmín (NPH El Salvador) to the NW region! We look forward to seeing the students continue to work hard, share their stories, and develop their skills throughout the coming year.
  • 2019 came to a close with a “Fireside Chat” in the NW region. It was a fun, casual evening where supporters and those who wanted to learn more about NPH joined us for a happy hour and Q&A session with NPH Honduras National Director and part-time NW resident, Stefan Feuerstein. 






Southwest Region

  • In the SW, we were excited to host an awesome spring Pequeño Tour featuring NPH Nicaragua this year - and with a brand new partner on the Phoenix portion of the tour, Fountain of Life Church. The tour went on to California, in partnership with Father Frank’s Kids where St. Isadore’s Catholic Church hosted the pequeños for a very successful visit. Before departing for home, the kids enjoyed a day in San Francisco with a boat tour around the bay!
  • We extend a very special thank you to each of our supporters who opened their homes this year by hosting an NPH House Party and allowing us to share our mission.  Whether it was California, Utah, Texas, Colorado, Arizona or New Mexico, the work and impact of NPH was shared with friends and family throughout the region to successfully inspire past donors, while also engaging new supporters.  
  • Sparked by NPH's 65th anniversary, what was previously the Faces of Hope Gala became a special 65th Anniversary Celebration for our region. The event included a new venue, Seventh and Union, with the whole evening themed around a celebration as attendees came from all over the region to celebrate with our special guest and speaker Christopher Hoyt, as well as Reinhart Koehler.  The evening included a special musical performance by Miguel Polo from NPH DR, successfully raising nearly $210,000!
  • In honor of the traditional Quinceanera celebrations, the Southwest Region hosted a trip to NPH Mexico with a group of 24 child sponsors and donors in 2019. The weekend was a wonderful celebration with so many festivities including a special ceremony where the girls wore beautiful gowns and completed a choreographed dance performance with the court. The weekend continued with quality time between godparents and their sponsored pequeños, sharing and catching up with each other. The trip ended with a visit to the Xochicalco pre-Columbian ruins where the group participated in a special hiking tour to learn the history of the site!
  • Wrapping up the year, the SW team thanks the McCauley’s for hosting a special New Year’s Eve Fundraiser to benefit the Southwest Region in Northern California!  We’re expecting over 80 guests to join us as we kick off the New Year!




St. Damien Fund
  • A major highlight of the SDPHF in 2019 was screening "The Land of High Mountains" in 7 cities and in the Napa Valley Film Festival in November, and the Palm Springs film festival in January!
  • This past year, we also had many donors go above and beyond their annual giving on the 10th Anniversary of the St. Damien Fund and at this very difficult time of political unrest and need in Haiti. 
  • We also initiated a new St. Damien Sustainers group and thank these individuals for providing monthly contributions that we can count on to support our work.
  • The St. Damien Fund also had many supporters who celebrated their birthdays and anniversaries with generous donations and/or fundraisers for the St. Damien Pediatric Hospital Fund this past year, and we are incredibly grateful for their support!




Monday, November 4, 2019

This trip opened our hearts in a whole new way...

Below is a reflection from Tomasina Lucchese who visited the NPH home in the Dominican Republic this past summer with St. Julia's Parish from Weston, Massachusetts. 

It’s hard to believe we’ve been home from the Dominican Republic for over a month now. As we continue with our summer activities, thoughts of our trip continue to pop into our minds. Often one of my kids will burst into laughter, recalling a funny story. A few times someone has made an astute observation or comparison, sparking a sometimes difficult, but always worthwhile conversation. And regularly, one of us will mention a child from the orphanage - somehow affirming our connectedness to him or her. These connections are now deep within our hearts. The friendships we made with these children are what will keep our experiences alive.

So many of our friends and family have asked us ‘how was the trip?’ It is just so hard for me to put it all into words, because there were so many experiences all rolled into that one week. But for me, the word that I go back to is “grateful”. I am first and foremost grateful that I had the opportunity to experience this as a family. Grateful that NPH exists – we were so impressed with this organization and the care they give to each and every one of their “pequeños”. Grateful that we were welcomed with wide-open arms, allowing us to become part of their family with such ease, if even for a short time. Grateful for the warm and exuberant Dominican culture and people. Grateful for the kind, optimistic and fun group of teens and adults we traveled, worked and played with – we now have an entirely new group of friends. And as a mother, I am grateful for my children’s curiosity and willingness. They were open to every experience put in front of them without hesitation (and for the most part without complaints!). They were all in. Jude, Anna and Violet each loved this trip for their own reasons … and are all asking when we can go back.

Much to our surprise, by the time we arrived in June the pequeños were already on summer break and we happened upon their graduation week. Therefor our chores were more sporadic than expected, so we could participate in the end-of-the-year festivities. I came to see this as a gift. Not because we’d forgo some of our very hot, outdoor chores, but because we really got to be a part of the family. Celebrating with them, allowed us to get to know the children better. We celebrated their achievements and milestones, the way we would at home with our own children. The older children (some of them young women and men now) informally mentor the younger ones in their casas and school – the NPH program is designed this way to build responsibility and unity. And this came alive during the graduation activities, where all ages were celebrated, teaching, building trust, and outlining the expectations and goals for achievement. The baccalaureate mass brought me to tears, as I was so touched by the depth of their relationships. It was easy to witness the love between the priest, teachers, sponsors, “aunties” (the women who live in the casas with the kids), and each of the children. Although a good majority of these children are growing from trauma-ridden pasts and are without families in the traditional sense, they are now fully embraced in a loving, encouraging and safe environment. It didn’t take long for Jude to comment that “these kids were the lucky ones, to be living at NPH.” They had what they needed and were well cared for. Each child had tasty, nutritious food, his or her own bed, clean clothing, means to solid healthcare and education. But just as important, each child now has a strong family, filled with love and security, predictable schedules, expected chores and behaviors … exactly the way Jim and I have tried to cultivate our own little unit here.

Now I’d be lying if I said it was all a breeze. The tarantulas and bugs definitely pushed us out of our comfort zone. The nights of unforgiving heat were like nothing we had ever experienced. But through it all, we were always able to find gratefulness; like how my and Jim’s bunk bed didn’t collapse, even though it was held together by a coat hanger. Recently while making a tomato salad, I thought about how in the garden for hours I peeled and prepped onions to be sold at the next market, and how my fingers smelled ripe for what seemed like days. I smile thinking of how a few bright-eyed boys showed Anna and Violet how to climb so far up, to score the cherries that were too high for anyone else to reach. And how Jim and Jude got the toughest job of moving rocks around the papaya and mango tree trunks for improved irrigation. None of these baby trees were tall enough to provide even an inch of shade and as a result, I have never seen a crew so sweaty! Every evening I went to bed content with a sense of amazement as I replayed the day’s activities in my head – in awe of our little group’s ability to blend so effortlessly with the Casa Santa Ana family. This was God’s hand at work. Exactly how our blended world should be. I loved how all the children, ours and theirs, connected over old-fashioned hand games. Some enjoyed soccer and sports to pass the steamy afternoons, while singing and drawing suited others. There was a lot of hair braiding and some card playing, lots of jokes and even some pranks. Nobody was ever bored. And it was this familiar play that broke down any language hiccups and cultural differences. Our play time spent with the children allowed the very busy “aunties” time to tend to the endless to-do list of any busy home - clean the casas, wash and hang clothes, tend to scraped knees and sibling squabbles. And the pequeños relished the attention. It was all beautifully genuine. We were one, there together, with the gift of time. Our shared joy came from simply spending time together. It reminded me of how simple life can be and my summers as a child spent in Italy. My heart will always swell with the images of Anna and Violet in the midst of post-lunch girl dance parties, Jude being followed by his two little buddies in hopes of a pick-up game of whatever their found ball-type would offer, and Jim’s shared drum session at the graduation dance. There are just too many great memories of the pequeños to list, all leaving imprints on my heart. I promise to always lift these kids up in prayer, as I do my own, and now including all the orphaned, abandoned and disadvantaged children both near and far.

I can’t end this without stating the obvious; I am feeling grateful too that I happened to be born on this little patch of earth and all the opportunities that come with it. I am grateful for the blessings I’ve had all my life, and for the opportunities I have to try to give back, even though my efforts are a mere drop in the sea of need. But it is experiences like this, that change our lives, open our minds and hopefully our attitudes as we go through our daily routines. In reality, the cost of our trip helped advance NPH’s efforts with the children’s homes, hospitals and programs. But now I see that a large part of their effort is bringing people and cultures together, making the world just a wee-bit smaller, shifting our lens from tolerating differences to experiencing our sameness – creating connectedness. To use the words my friend Mara offered me when I returned home, this trip “opened our hearts in a whole new way”. And for that, I am most grateful.