Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The love that exists on the ranch is palpable, and I was lucky to have been there to experience it in person...

Below is a reflection written by Alec Helmke who volunteered at NPH Honduras earlier this year. Let's see what he has to say!

It’s been months since my unexpected departure from Honduras, which is truly hard to believe. Shortly after I returned, the idea of being “stuck” caught my attention. As I tried to stay up to date on news in Honduras, the same headlines seemed to pop up: “Massachusetts woman finally home after getting stuck in Honduras,” “Allen, Texas resident stuck in Honduras desperate to get out,” “Medical professionals back in U.S. after being stuck in Honduras.” As someone who faced an oncoming pandemic in Honduras and was aware of the under-resourced healthcare system in the country, I was certainly anxious to find a way back to the States. But was I “stuck?” And is this the type of language I want to use to describe my experience? Now, these may seem like unnecessary questions in a time where more pressing concerns abound, but the connotations of “stuck” are almost unquestionably negative: “My truck got stuck in the mud,” “She got stuck at a job she didn’t enjoy,” “He was stuck for hours in traffic.” Simply, people get stuck in bad places, and I want to change the narrative. Absolutely, I needed to leave Honduras—for the safety of the kids, my friends, and my loved ones back home. But I was never “stuck.” And now—in a time dominated by uncertainty and negativity—I want to focus on exactly the opposite. That is, rather than writing about the challenges, both physical and emotional, that I faced leaving early, I want to speak to the blessing it was to spend nine months in Honduras.

In hogar is where my NPH story must start. Spanish for “home,” hogares are groups of children who live together under one roof on the larger NPH ranch in Honduras. The hogar to which I was assigned, a group of boys between the ages of eight and fifteen, was named San Francisco. I may be biased, but I lived side-by-side with the best group of kids on the ranch and I cherish the connection I formed with each boy. My hogar became, fittingly, a new home for me—a place where I was able to center my experience at NPH. While the surgery center where I worked was a rapidly-changing environment, with new medical brigades arriving every week, San Francisco stayed the same: a place where I could go every night to spend time with the boys I cared about—playing games, joking, listening to music, working on homework, and so much more. The special moments we shared together have left an indelible mark on my heart. I’ll mention a couple that stand out to me. The pijamadas, or sleepovers, were always a great (although not exactly restful) time to share with the boys. The tios, or caretakers, would cook a special dinner, I would bring popcorn, and then we’d all spend the night on mattresses spread over the floor, watching movies until we fell asleep. It usually followed the same pattern too. First, within fifteen minutes, Teodor, the littlest boy in my hogar, would fall asleep. Then, the other younger boys. Then me. The older boys would wake up the next morning bragging about how late they stayed up, always making sure to mention the one or two movies they watched after I had fallen asleep. 

The work was hard, but, for some reason, I always enjoyed doing chores on Saturday mornings. Usually, we would spend a few hours using machetes to cut the grass around the ranch, and, let me tell you, learning to wield a machete is not easy! For the first few months, I would stand in awe as the boys, even the youngest ones, would whack at the grass for a couple hours, cutting huge swaths into the overgrown lawn. Meanwhile, I’d have to take a break after 30 minutes as blisters began to swell on my hand, barely having cut through a few feet. But, I always loved the chance to be with all the boys outside working together towards one goal. It was certainly a big change from what I was used to as a child, where Saturday mornings were reserved for cartoons and a nice, big breakfast! 

Memories abound. From trips to swim in the pond, to pizza nights, to simply the meals we shared—the time I spent with the boys in San Francisco will always stay with me. Nor will I be able to forget how I felt in the smaller moments: as the little boys sat nestled against my chest while watching a movie, as the older boys laughed with me during our conversations around the kitchen table, and as I walked home from San Francisco in the cool night air—absolutely drained of all energy, but filled with a sense of love and appreciation as I relived the joy I had shared with my little brothers that night. They say you can’t choose your family, and—although it may seem as though I chose to be a part of San Francisco by signing up to volunteer at NPH—that’s not the case. God put me in my hogar, and the boys welcomed me to be a part of their family, leaving me with a sense of gratitude I’ll never be able to fully express.

Honduras is an overwhelmingly beautiful country—from the pristine white-sand beaches and turquoise waters of Roatan, to the thick, verdant jungles surrounding Lago de Yojoa, to the roaring, orange-tinged waterfalls near Valle de los Angeles, to the simple, yet awe-inspiring vista from the peaks just above the ranch—but I digress… The most beautiful part of Honduras, and of the ranch itself, was the people I encountered. Of course, the boys in San Francisco are the cutest ones on the ranch, but there are a bunch of other great kids too!

I always had a lot of fun during activities, which brought together pequeños from different hogares so they could spend time with one another as brothers and sisters. There were movie nights, where I could usually expect one or two younger kids to use me as a pillow as they crowded around the projector screen in the brisk night air. There were dances, where—if I wasn’t showing off my killer moves—I was dancing with some of the pequeños or playing tag with the younger kids who didn’t want to dance. There were plenty of soccer games too, and—from my very first game on the ranch, where a girl kicked me square in the face with a soccer ball, to my last game, where the boys seemed to score on me effortlessly—I never seemed to get the hang of the game. Celebrating holidays together was a special treat, and I remember New Year’s Eve especially well. During the day, I made a new friend: a little seven-year-old girl, who—no matter how fast we had to run nor how long we spent searching for clues—held my hand for the entirety of the ranch-wide scavenger hunt. Later that night, as I sat near a crackling bonfire, I was surrounded by a group of some of the youngest boys on the ranch, and we laughed together right up until the fireworks were launched at midnight. Between the embers of the fire, the fireworks, and the smiles on the boys’ faces, I really can’t say which shone the brightest. 

And there were little joys of living with the kids on the ranch too. I always loved weekly mass with the pequeños, even though it might not have been the most solemn religious experience. In no other church have I felt the same spirit as I did sitting on the concrete pews among hundreds of kids. Sharing the sign of peace was an especially beautiful moment for me, as the hugs and smiles always filled me with a sense of happiness and belonging. The songs we shared were beautiful too. They weren’t always in tune, but they were always filled with a sense of joyful energy that was unique to the ranch. This same energy was infused in almost every conversation I had with pequeños, as the kids breathlessly shared their excitement about an upcoming activity, asked me about their friends and siblings on other sides of the home, or joked with me about daily life on the ranch. This spirit of excitement extended to even the youngest of the pequeños. As I walked home with another volunteer from a long day at work one afternoon, I recall passing by the chiquitos: the toddlers who lived on the ranch. When we turned the corner and came into view, a happy noise shot up among the little ones. And, before I knew it, one of the chiquitos was waddling towards us, his little belly bouncing as he awkwardly tried to navigate the bumpy path between us. He reached up, his arms extended towards me, and I wrapped him in a great big hug. As I joked about taking him with me back to the volunteer house, hoisted him over my shoulder, and took a few steps in that direction, I could hear his little laugh wash away all the challenges of my busy workday. 

The love that exists on the ranch is palpable, and I was lucky to have been there to experience it in person. The laughter, the smiles, the hugs, the hundreds of personal connections I’ve made with these kids—all of it has left a mark on my soul. So, what more can I say? I could continue reliving countless memories and describing more of the incredible people I had the privilege to meet in Honduras, but I think it’s time to get to the point of this story, that is, to say thank you. And since words will never do the sense of gratitude I feel justice, I’ll keep it simple. Thank you to every boy in my hogar for filling my time in Honduras with joy and for blessing me with a new family. Thank you to the children of NPH for welcoming me and for offering me memories that I will cherish for a lifetime. Thank you, Honduras, for letting me witness the beauty of your landscape and your people, and for letting a chele feel like a catracho for just a little while. And thank you God, for nine months that challenged me, shaped me, enlightened me, and filled me with an irreplaceable and unforgettable sense of joy. 

I was never “stuck” in Honduras, not even at the end. Every moment I spent in the country was a blessing, even the difficult ones. And the deep connections I have formed at NPH mean that the space Honduras fills in my heart certainly doesn’t match the space the country fills on a map. No, I was never stuck in Honduras, but Honduras will stick with me forever.





Thursday, October 15, 2020

NPH USA's National Virtual Gala is days away!!!

Since we cannot have in person events in our regions this year, we've all joined forces and are having a National Virtual Gala - this Saturday October 17th! 

Please join us as we celebrate our NPH Super Heroes, including YOU! RSVP here! There is no cost to attend this virtual gala, but RSVP is required.

Our emcee for the evening will be Clara Grove, Former Regional Board Member and NPH Mexico Pequeña! We'll also hear from John Deinhart, President and CEO, NPH USA and Victor Amable de los Santos Jimenez, University Pequeño, NPH Dominican Republic! And we've got three special guests: Bob Costas, Sportscaster and NPH Supporter, Bill Cummings, Philanthropist and Author, and Andrew Farrell, Major League Soccer Player!!! You don't want to miss this event! Virtual doors open at 6:45 p.m. CST. Be sure to adjust for your local time.

Learn more and check out the silent auction, which is now open (!), here: https://nphusa.org/2020gala/ 

Starting with basic needs and growing to community-wide services, your support empowers our children to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead. Your support will have a direct impact on caring for vulnerable children at NPH and breaking the cycle of poverty globally. You have the power to empower vulnerable children and make a difference in their lives! 



Monday, August 10, 2020

NPH USA Football Legends Classic goes VIRTUAL!


Join us for the NPH USA Football Legends Classic on August 31, 2020 at 6:00 PM CST for a virtual edition of our annual event, which has raised over $1.5 million to date! The event will feature an exclusive interview with legendary sportscaster and NPH supporter, Bob Costas and members of the Super Bowl winning 1985 Chicago Bears! The featured interview includes Coach Mike Ditka, Gary Fencik, Otis Wilson, and Jimbo Covert, along with other special guests and many opportunities to give in support of our mission.



ABOUT THE EVENT

 

In 1971, Michigan State University football teammates John Shinsky and NFL Hall of Fame member Joe DeLamielleure discussed their dreams for the future. It was at that time that John told Joe that one day he was going to build a home for orphaned and abandoned children. That dream became a reality with the building of the Shinsky Orphanage in Matamoros, Mexico. In 2009, John partnered with NPH and its’ American fundraising arm, NPH USA, to combine their unique resources and strengths for the shared mission of transforming the lives of children in need.

 

Each summer for the past seven years, good people with big hearts have gathered together to support the mission of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos with a day of golf in Chicago, shared with NFL legends from around the country. This event has continued for many years, thanks to Shinsky and his love of football, friendships, and supporting children in need. While we cannot gather this Summer physically due to pandemic restrictions, the important thing is that we do gather, because the children are depending on us.

 

This year, the Football Legends Classic will be a jam-packed, one-hour virtual extravaganza that brings all the excitement of our annual event right to your home. The feature presentation will include an NPH exclusive interview with Bob Costas and members of the ’85 Bears. There will be messages from our NPH USA family, information about this incredible organization and the children supported by our programs, and an auction to raise funds for our homes. This is truly an event you don’t want to miss!

 

 

MEET THE LEGENDS

Bob Costas is the voice of Major League Baseball for which he has won multiple Emmy’s, and has also been the prime-time host of 11 Olympic Games from 1992 until 2016. His rise to fame came in 1980 when he got hired by NBC sports but left the company after 40 years. His notable play-by-play calls include Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson's final game with the Chicago Bulls, Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals, and Derek Jeter's final game at Yankee Stadium, amongst others. Costas has some interesting ties with the city of Chicago. Costas was the play-by-play voice for the Bulls on WGN-9 during the 1979-80 season. He called several Bears games with Johnny Morris during a short stint with CBS in the late '70s. The first Super Bowl he hosted for NBC was the Bears-Patriots game in January of 1986. He called the famous Ryan Sandberg game for the Chicago Cubs where Sandberg hit game-tying homers in the ninth and 10th innings. He says people still bring that game up when he walks the streets of Chicago. He is also a legendary friend of NPH. Costas has visited NPH Guatemala with his daughter, sponsored several NPH children, and was the emcee for this event in 2018.

Arguably the most popular Super Bowl victors ever, the 1985 Chicago Bears were a legendary team that finished the regular season with a record of 15-1 and went on to dominate their playoff and Super Bowl opponents in the post season. NPH USA is excited to feature some of the instrumental individuals from that year during the 2020 Football Legends Classic!

 

You can't tell the history of football without mentioning this Hall of Fame coach. Mike Ditka coached the Bears for 11 seasons from 1982-1992, leading them to numerous division championships and most notably the '85 Super Bowl win. Before he coached, Ditka was a phenomenal tight end in the NFL for 12 seasons. Ditka has worked for many years in television for ESPN, and in 2016 they announced he would move to SportsCenter for remote-broadcasting analysis. Ditka has also done guest spots and cameos on shows from L.A. Law to Saturday Night Live, as well as the TV classic, Cheers. He helped produce a line of cigars called "The Mike Ditka Kickoff Series", a line of wines, and opened his namesake Gold Coast Chicago steakhouse in 1997. Ditka very recently became an owner of X League, a women's tackle football league. This will be Ditka’s first stint with NPH.

 

8-year Chicago Bear veteran Otis Wilson played an important role in making the '85 Bears defense one of the most notorious units in league history. A first-round pick to Chicago in 1980, he had a successful career in the NFL, being selected for the Pro-Bowl once in '85 and named "All-Pro" twice in his tenure with the Bears. He was also a featured star on the hit music video "Super Bowl Shuffle" in '85. He now focuses full-time on his nonprofit organization, "The Otis Wilson Charitable Association", which provides an all-inclusive health and fitness program for at risk youth. The organization sponsors many events to fund their programs and they are very active in the Chicago area. Wilson's book "If These Walls Could Talk: Chicago Bears" was published in 2017. He also appeared in the tv show "Hawaii Five-O" as himself in 2016. Otis is a friend of NPH, last attending our Football Legends Classic event in 2018.

 

A legend in his own right, born and raised in Chicago, named captain of the touted '85 Bears defense, Gary Fencik is the all-time leader in tackles and interceptions for the Bears franchise. In his 12 seasons with Chicago, Fencik was selected to the Pro-Bowl twice and nicknamed one of the "The Hit Men" along with teammate Doug Plank for their brutal hits on opposing players. Fencik lead a busy life outside of football as he graduated from Yale in 1976, was awarded a gold record and a platinum video award for the 1985 "Super Bowl Shuffle". Post NFL he has been outspoken in raising awareness for concussions and the long term affects they can have on a person. He has also pledged to donate his brain after he dies to the concussion legacy foundation to further study the effects of concussions and CTE. He joined Adams Street Partners in 1995 and currently works on investor relations for them. Fencik is a familiar friend of NPH and attended the Football Legend Classic event in 2019.

 

James "Jimbo" Covert, a lifetime Bear, played all 8 of his NFL seasons with Chicago, starting in 1983 where he was a top 10 draft pick. Covert was an important piece playing at the offensive tackle position, pushing them to be one of the most respected offensive lines in the league. In his 8 years, Covert was a 2-time Pro-Bowl selection and even earned the "Miller Lite Offensive Lineman of the Year" award in 1986. He played his last season in 1990 and announced his retirement a year later due to back injuries. Covert left a great legacy, as he was named to the 1980 "All-Decade team", enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003, and named an NFL Hall of Famer this year, in 2020. Covert found a life after football in the healthcare industry. In May 2007, he was named President of The Institute for Transfusion Medicine, a non-profit organization specializing in transfusion medicine and related services in the Chicago and Pittsburgh area. He also started Keystone Strategies, LLC, a healthcare consulting group in 2000. Covert has participated with NPH USA’s Football Legend Classic event in past years.

 

 

JOIN THE EVENT!

We encourage participants to safely be a part of this event from their homes, or host socially distanced watch parties. We are also providing Watch Party Packages for those who want to enjoy the event with their very own Football Legend, among other perks!

Visit 
www.nphusa.org/legendsclassic for registration and more information about the event.

Can't wait for you to join us!

 

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.