Friday, December 30, 2011

What YOU Helped to Accomplish this Past Year

2011 was a year full of successes! Thanks to YOU we were able to complete several different projects that benefit the children we support. Because of YOUR generosity the 3,700 children in the NPH homes throughout Latin America and the Caribbean have a loving and safe home, food, education, access to healthcare and a family that cares for them. Here are just a few highlights from the past year!

In the Family Services division, the International Leadership Institute Pilot Program was launched where five pequeños were able to begin studying English and leadership courses in Seattle, Washington.

Our Vaccine Catch Up program, part of our Medical Services division, was a huge success this year for our children in need.

At NPH Mexico we had our largest university group yet with 105 students and 18 graduates this year!

Construction on a new bakery, cheese making facility and greenhouse was completed this year at NPH Honduras to help make the home more sustainable.

Over 100 new children arrived at the St Helene and Fr. Wasson Angels of Light homes in Haiti, and the construction of a new housing complex for Don Bosco students was completed. We are also very happy to say we successfully treated  20,000 Cholera patients this year.

At NPH Nicaragua construction of a primary school, clinic, visitor house, and the National Director house was completed.

NPH Guatemala saw the construction of their Montessori school completed as well as their first solar panels installed.

El Salvador's brand new leadership group was formed this year, and we are excited to say this is one of the first groups from NPH ES that will engage in outreach with the surrounding community!

Everyone at NPH Dominican Republic is thrilled about our new speech therapy program, empowerment groups, sign language and pottery classes.

In Bolivia our family grew this year from 86 to 104 children.

In October the children and staff of NPH Peru finally moved to their brand new home in Cañete.

Everyone at the opening of the new NPH Peru home!

Thank you so very much for making 2011 a wonderful year! There is always more work to be done and children to support, and we are looking forward to another successful year in 2012. Happy New Year! Thank you for being a Friend!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 was a Wonderful Year!!!

This past year has been a truly great one for everyone at Friends of the Orphans and the children we support. Thanks to the hard work of Friends' staff, volunteers and supporters, there have been many wonderful things to highlight throughout the regions this year.

NPH Peru

As many of you know, in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast Region, Friends opened a brand new regional office just outside of Boston. Our MANE office officially opened its doors in June 2011, and we have been busy meeting with both new and familiar faces in the community. We've succeeded in creating a successful Regional Board with 10 active members including board chair, Dr. Brian Orr. Our 2nd Annual Irish Hearts for Haiti event held in April was (again) a great success raising $38,000. We also held an exciting Donor Appreciation Event at the historic Fenway Park in July. Likewise, our Faces of Hope events in November went splendidly and had nearly 150 attendees! We were so fortunate this year to welcome Elzer, a pequeño from NPH Honduras, who stayed from May until August. He participated in events, spoke at various churches, schools, and civic functions, and was able to work on perfecting his English while interning at a local elementary school. Our gratitude goes out to the Henry family for hosting Elzer!

NPH Dominican Republic

Our Northwest Region has had much to be proud of in 2011 including a group of interns who have been invaluable this year! Our two Development Interns planned a very successful Family Summer BBQ event with a great turnout, and our Salesforce Intern has been there giving us weekly database support. We also hosted another amazing trip to NPH Honduras (our 8th annual!) We made so many great new Friends, not only bringing in two new tables of people to our Gala (and all our desserts being donated), but also a new mission trip in collaboration with a Montessori school in the Midwest region. Our outreach in Portland, Oregon, and Spokane, Washington, keeps gaining momentum with Faces of Hope Portland being our biggest yet, and we had many new attendees in Spokane. Our open house FUNdraisers in Portland, Spokane and Boise, Idaho were also great times for everyone involved. In Seattle we had a very special event with Jean François Seide, pequeño and member of the newly launched NPH Leadership Program, along with Fr. Rick Frechette of NPFS Haiti allowed us to raise over $62,000 for our programs in Haiti!

NPH El Salvador

Down in the Southeast Region 2011 has been a truly blessed year. In April we moved in to our new office with a view of downtown Miami, the financial district, the water and the new Miami Marlins stadium. Our 5th Annual Faces of Hope Luncheon and our 2nd Annual All the World to One Child Gala were both generously sponsored by great Friend, Chevron. Over 300 guests were in attendance for the luncheon, and this “friendraising” event, featuring special guest Clara Grove, a former pequeña from NPH Mexico, raised more than $45,000! Our gala, which was held at Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Miami, had over 200 guests in attendance and raised over $50,000. We also had a particularly special accomplishment this year that directly affected 3 of our children at NPH Honduras. Thanks to the great connections and efforts of one of our board members, Aid for Aids continuous to donate ARV’s medications for these 3 children to keep them healthy and provide a HUGE savings for our home (about 30k a year). We've also been lucky enough to have wonderful volunteers this year such as Danixa Lopez who has not only helped with several translations, but has been instrumental in our branding and outreach to the Hispanic community. Finally, our total in kind donations this year added up to over $5.5 million, helping provide for countless individuals in need in mainly Haiti and Honduras. Similarly, in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala, our partnership with FedEx helped to provide over 15,000 books for the children we support.

NPH Guatemala

In the Upper Midwest Region we celebrated our 25th anniversary this year, and what a year it was! We welcomed over 230 new child sponsors to our family of nearly 2,000 total Upper Midwest child sponsors. Over $400,000 was raised through various events at churches as well as our annual Gala, run/walk and triathlon events. We also held our first ever fundraising event in Iowa, which brought in over $30,000. We had great volunteer involvement this year with a total contribution of over 2,000 hours. We also welcomed two new staff members, Sara Joyce and Sue Lovegreen, who have been wonderful additions to our team. Our team has had an incredible year celebrating welcoming a baby, a marriage and an engagement! We've also been so very proud of Sean Breininger, our Regional Director, who had his “second birthday” through a bone marrow transplant this December, praying that 2012 will boast a fully successful bone marrow transplant.

NPFS Haiti

In the Midwest Region we once again conducted a very successful Gala event, raising even more funds than the year before! Gala attendees were entertained by the music and dance group from NPH Mexico, and they also heard a compelling keynote speech from Aurora Zacarias, a former pequeña from NPH Mexico. Our 2011 Pequeño Tour also went fabulously, exceeding our revenue goal. We were so happy to have the sixteen pequeños from NPH Mexico perform at various venues in Chicago and throughout Indiana, including the University of Notre Dame. We also hosted an exciting and successful donor appreciation event this year in a donated skybox at a White Sox game. For the first time in several years we conducted a donor trip out of our region. Unlike most donor trips that visit a single NPH home, this trip visited NPH homes in two different countries – Guatemala and El Salvador! Juan Manuel Pineda, a pequeño from NPH El Salvador, performed a concert for almost 500 guests in our hometown of Chicago. We've also had great support this year from Friends in our region like John Shattuck, Vice Chair of the Midwest Region Board, who arranged for six shipping containers of donated medical equipment and other supplies valued at $1.425 million to be sent to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

NPH Honduras

Last but certainly not least, in the Southwest Region we have also had a tremendous year! We have a wonderful new donor who became involved during our Pequeño Tour and continued on to attend our Gala, sponsor a child, go on a donor tour, sponsor another child, organize a FUNdraiser for February 2012 and collect clothes and games to be sent to the homes! We are so very appreciative of all that our donors do. We also had over 150 teens and adults participate on our mission trips to Guatemala and Mexico to spend a week with their 128 Godchildren that they sponsor. In addition, we collected and delivered 104 boxes of new clothes, shoes, school supplies and sports equipment. We also had some awesome events this year including both of our Power of One events in April where Eligio Villegas Cruz, a  pequeño from NPH Mexico, was our guest speaker. Eligio graduated from the University of Monterrey in Mexico this June with a degree in International Marketing. The two events raised over $40,000 and was underwritten by Wells Fargo Private Client Services. We also secured 18 child sponsorships at these events. For our annual Pequeño Tour throughout Arizona and California, we hosted the dancers and musicians from NPH El Salvador, and as of October 19th, the event netted $281,850 and secured 101 new sponsorships with an annualized income of $52,680. These children left lasting memories with their host families and the communities they visited. We also conducted our 12th Annual Diocese of Phoenix Catholic School Mass and Cultural Day with the 11 schools that are part of our school sponsorship program and support over 70 godchildren.

NPH Mexico

It has truly been an amazing year, and we are so thankful for all our Friends like you who help us to raise children and transform lives. Thank you for all your generosity and support throughout 2011, and we look forward to 2012! Happy new year!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Stories from Honduras

Fatima (11 years old) 

Fatima and her younger sister Natalie were abandoned by both parents. They lived with their grandmother who was unable to properly feed them and care for them before coming to NPH. She says that what she remembers about Christmas before coming to NPH was food; they usually cooked special tamales and received gifts of chips or candy.

Christmas is an exciting time for Fatima at NPH with the goodie bags, parties, and Christmas tree. She especially loves Secret Santa. She loves talking about whom each girl has, and the secret gift exchange with her friends of hair ties and candies.

Marisol (13 years old) 

Marisol's mother left her family when Marisol was only one year old. Her father was not able to take care of Marisol and her two brothers so he left them with other family members. Every Christmas before coming to NPH Marisol remembers going with her cousins to get new clothing. Presents (usually clothing, chips, sweets) were placed under the Christmas tree for the children the night before Christmas. The next morning everyone would wish each other “Feliz Navidad” and open presents. She remembers spending the rest of the day with neighbors and family having a fiesta; cooking, eating, and spending time together.

If she could have one wish for Christmas, Marisol said she would wish for the ability to travel. She would go and visit her “Padrinos”.

Her favorite part about Christmas at NPH is sharing it with friends, caretakers and volunteers. "I love how everyone comes together during Christmas time to have fun."
Marisol (far left) with her friends.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Stories from Guatemala

Pablo (13 years old)

My name is Pablo. I am 13 years-old. I came to NPH Guatemala just over one year ago. Before moving to NPH, I lived with my mom and four siblings. I have two older sisters and two brothers who are younger than me. Each year we celebrated Christmas with a big family gathering. Everyone was there except my father. He disappeared from our lives when I was little. My mom, my aunts, my uncles and siblings always celebrated together. 

Each year, we ate tamales (a Latin American dish made from corn, wrapped in a leaf, and steamed). Tamales are a tradition here in Guatemala. For Christmas my brothers, sisters and I would receive gifts. Each year my mom gave us a box of fireworks that we would set off the night before Christmas. This is another tradition where I live. We also received a little box filled with grapes.

After living at NPH for a year, I’m happy. I feel welcome and safe here. I am grateful to attend school each day. I am learning a lot here. I am learning to read, to write and to respect. Although NPH is my new home, I still think about my mom a lot. She visits me during Visitor’s Days when she can. If I could have any wish granted, I would invite my mom to eat pizza; that’s what I’d do. I would make our pizza. If I could have any gift for Christmas, I would give it to my mom—a beautiful blouse, or a skirt, or a pair of earrings. She deserves it.

At NPH we give homes to children in need like Pablo, where they can feel loved and secure and grow into caring and productive members of their communities. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Stories from NPH Mexico

Daniel (8 years old)

NPH Mexico offered care and support to Daniel in 2009, when his mother was incarcerated and could no longer care for him. When Daniel arrived, he worried that he could no longer continue family traditions, such as celebrating Christmas with cake, piñatas, holiday movies and games. Fortunately, Daniel can still experience these Christmas festivities, and many more, at his new home, NPH Mexico’s Casa San Salvador

Daniel now has Godparents that donate funds so that he can receive his dream Christmas presents. When Christmas comes this winter, he hopes to receive a Max Steel action figure, candy, tennis shoes or clothes. If he could have one wish granted for Christmas, he said, “I would have my mom and my entire family live at my home here at NPH because I love them so much.” We are all so happy to hear that Daniel enjoys living at Casa San Salvador so much that he would invite his entire family to live with him if he could. 

This Christmas, thanks to Friends like you, Daniel will be provided with enough sweets and toys to keep him happy all year long, and more importantly, a safe and secure home where he can enjoy his life.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Stories from NPH El Salvador

Roberto (8 years old)

I don’t have any idea how Christmas outside NPH is since I only remember that all my Christmases have been at NPH. I can’t imagine how it's going to be one day when I'm outside of NPH.

When I think of Christmas time, I imagine all the fireworks, gifts, new clothes and the posadas with all my brothers and sisters.

I can’t wait every for Christmas morning when I receive my gift from Tio. I know that I already have all that I need, but this year I hope to get a big toy car into to play with my brothers at the babies’ house.

Martiza (12 years old)

I remember Christmas before arriving at NPH, they were different in two ways. When my mother was alive we shared a humble diner with all my siblings. We didn’t get gifts, but we were happy just to be with her. After my mom died, Christmas time was very sad. My dad didn’t care for us, and the memories from my mother on Christmas time were incomparable. When my siblings and I arrived at NPH, we had a different Christmas with so many people. The posadas and dinner at the basketball court are wonderful and makes me think of my mom.

I enjoy Christmas morning because we have the opportunity to get a big present with little ones inside. I like everything, and I am very thankful because I know it's the result of the effort of so many people who care about us. If I could have something else I think that it would be an extra pair of jeans, shirt and matching jewelry the same color as my shirt!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Christmas Story from NPH Peru

Silvia, 18 years old
NPH Peru

This December makes 7 years for me living at NPH. When I was twelve my mother passed away, and I lived with my father and my two siblings. We then entered NPH, and at that time the home was situated in the north of Peru close to my father´s home in beautiful Cajamarca.

However, we lived in poverty with my Father. When Christmas arrived I used to go to church with my friends and spend the day there because that's where I felt safe. When mass finished I waited until the end because they gave me a piece of panettone, a type of sweet bread loaf, and some sandwiches. Sometimes it was the only meal that we had during the day.

NPH change my life radically. At first I missed my father and my home, but after a while I realized that we have everything at NPH. There is nothing that we lack, and we are supported and helped in every aspect of life. I can’t think of any gift I received before I came to NPH. My house was little and never decorated, and my father couldn’t afford presents for us. If I had to choose a gift I would want a t-shirt, trousers or a pair of shoes.
I like Christmas at NPH because we decorate our rooms with snowflakes. I wish I could see snow sometimes. It has to be magical.

Sometimes life beyond NPH scares me. Here life is peaceful and secure, outside it is uncertain. I fear that I won’t be able to find work. My hope for Christmas is to be able to finish high school and start university so I can have a good profession. My dream is becoming a nurse to be able to help others.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Stories from the Dominican Republic

At NPH Dominican Republic, some of the children were asked questions about Christmas. Below are some of their honest and heartwarming answers.


How did you celebrate Christmas before arriving at NPH? (¿Cómo celebrar la Navidad antes de llegar a NPH?)

Christmas was nothing special, just a normal day. We lived in a really poor neighborhood; me, my brothers, my aunt and my mom. Usually my mom and aunt would go to the disco and leave me and my brothers home alone. This was normal though. We didn’t get any special food, and we rarely received gifts. When we did get gifts though, they were usually things we needed, like new clothes to replace the old, ruined ones.

What comes to mind when you think of gifts for Christmas? (Lo que viene a la mente cuando se piensa en regalos para Navidad?)

When I think about Christmas gifts I get really happy. I think about NPH and that also makes me happy.


How did you celebrate Christmas before arriving at NPH? 

Christmas before arriving to NPH was always nice. My aunt would join us, and we would have pig, which was not a normal dinner. Although we didn’t get gifts, because we didn’t have money, it was nice to be with each other.

What comes to mind when you think of gifts for Christmas? 

When I think about Christmas gifts I think about all the things I wanted when I was a little kid, before NPH. All of my toys before were broken. Now when I think about it, I am happy. I think of toys and video games and other things kids usually want for Christmas.


How did you celebrate Christmas before arriving at NPH? 

Christmas, I can’t remember it so clearly, but I know it was a special time for me and my family. We would eat nice chicken and be with each other. We sometimes got gifts, one time I even got a bicycle! Of course it was for me and my siblings to share, but it was still really cool.

What comes to mind when you think of gifts for Christmas?

I get happy and excited for Christmas time. I think about the presents I have gotten in the past, like that bike. Then I think about all the gifts we have gotten at NPH, like last year when we took all the pictures with the gifts.


How did you celebrate Christmas before arriving at NPH? 

We didn’t really celebrate Christmas. I wasn’t living with family before I arrived here, just me and a woman from my neighborhood. She was really nice, but we didn’t celebrate. It was just a normal day, and we were poor so we couldn’t make it special. I have only had one Christmas at NPH so far and it was really nice to be with so many people.

What comes to mind when you think of gifts for Christmas?

It makes me happy. I like opening presents, before you know what the present is. I also like seeing people react when they get a present.


How did you celebrate Christmas before arriving at NPH? 

It was always a really great day! We would eat so much, pig, rice, sweet beans and more. We were really lucky. We had a lot of family close so we would all walk together on Christmas and just spend time together as a family. We got some presents, new shoes and clothes. I liked Christmas before, and I like it here too.

What comes to mind when you think of gifts for Christmas?

When I think about Christmas presents I think about ones I have gotten from the past, who they were from, especially the things I still have with me. I feel happy when I think about it because it is always nice to get presents; it means someone is thinking of you.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Christmas Stories from the Pequeños

Jondra, 19 years old
NPH Nicaragua

Jondra was born on June 22nd 1992. She is a member of the Miskito tribe of Nicaragua who live in extreme poverty with no food, medicine or education. The government asked NPH to help improve the tribal children’s quality of life and Jondra joined the NPH family on February 16th, 2011.

Jondra is the daughter of a Honduran mother and a Nicaraguan father. She used to spend Christmas in either of these countries with her extended family. Back home Christmas was a time of sharing. She would go and bring some cake to another family, and they would send her's something else. There was even a Christmas tree at her grandmothers’ house, a plastic one, which one of her uncles had brought from the capital, and they would decorate in December. With her cousins she would play "Secret Santa", giving each other small gifts. She remembers one time some of the kids at the church were discussing Christmas gifts when one girl remarked, “What better gift than Christ?” This made them decide to go from house to house singing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve. Afterwards they went to church and gave the baby Jesus gifts, such as flowers and candles.

These Christmases are a fond memory for Jondra, but belong to her past now. Her mother is deceased and now, along with her younger sister Engy, she is part of the NPH family. Her biggest wish is to keep studying. Jondra is in her fourth year of secondary school and hopes to go on to study systematic engineering or law at the university. Her Christmas wish for this year is that all her family may be well.

Esmeralda, 10 yrs old
NPH Mexico

Esmeralda and her two brothers joined the NPH Mexico family only one year ago when they were abandoned by their parents. Esmeralda is happy to be living at her new home and is thankful that she can still be with her siblings. Her favorite thing about living at Casa San Salvador, our home for children in pre-school through middle school, is celebrating special events and holidays, especially Christmas. 

Before coming to NPH, the only thing she remembers about celebrating Christmas is eating Turkey dinners with her family. For Christmas at Casa San Salvador, she now enjoys a special meal, breaks open piñatas, plays with the other children and receives special presents from her Mexican Godparents. Her favorite gifts to receive are teddy bears and hair clips. When asked what she would ask for if she could have one wish granted as a Christmas gift, she said, “My wish would be to help the little children in the world that don't have a home.” 

NPH Mexico is delighted to know that Esmeralda´s deepest desire is to fulfill the mission of our beloved founder, Father William B. Wasson. One day she hopes to work at NPH to help make her dream a reality.

(Esmeralda on the right.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Until Monday...

Stacie Henrickson has been the Office Administrator/Volunteer Coordinator at Friends of the Orphans in the Northwest Region for just over a year. Below she reflects on her first trip to an NPH home, and meeting her godson for the first time, in the Dominican Republic.

Although I have visited and volunteered in several orphanages in Latin American and Africa, until last week I had never visited an NPH home. My fiancée, Cory, and I have been sponsoring a little boy in the Dominican Republic (Luis, age 6) for almost a year now. My parents, brother and sister-in-law, and four of our close friends also sponsor children in the DR. So when I said “I really want to visit NPH”, the DR was our obvious choice. My only hesitation was the thought of flying a combined total of 18 hours (thank you to my doctor for that nice little prescription). My fiancée on the other hand has not travelled much and definitely not to a developing country, but true to his easy-going self, he said “Alright.” And so, we booked our trip.

Ask my friends and family, or the staff in our Northwest office, and they will tell you the reason I fell so hard for helping orphans and at-risk children is: the babies. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the older children and young adults – the Leadership Participants we currently have studying in Seattle are amazing examples of what NPH can do and what we hope for all of our children. I love visiting with the older children and getting to know them, but what gets me in my gut, in my heart, and usually in my tear ducts, are the babies (at NPH, children ages 0-6 live in the “baby house”).

I could share a million stories with you from our trip: meeting our godson for the first time (we just happened to arrive on Visitor’s Day which takes place four times a year, where children who have family members can receive visitors – we found out upon arriving that Luis has never had a visitor, not one. The joy and pride he felt showing off his visitors to everyone was very apparent, and that alone was worth the flying). Or how we sat down in the babies house our first day and within minutes had five babies braiding my hair and ten babies crawling all over Cory. Two hours later my hair was in knots and Cory’s shirt was stretched to twice its original size. He looked at me and said “You really want to be in the baby house all day every day?” And I said “YES!!!”

But the story I most want to share with you is that of Johan. When he arrived at NPH, he was four years old but looked like he was two. He had been completely neglected and did not even know how to walk. Thanks to the amazing staff and volunteers at NPH, by the time we arrived for our visit he was walking (running) all over the place, with his adorable little fists thrown up in the air for balance. He repeats anything and everything you say, and with his huge smile and raspy little voice, he was a joy to be around. The thought that without NPH he might not be around at all makes me almost cry, and feel incredibly happy with my career choice all at the same time. To me, Johan is the reason NPH exists. Whenever I need motivation at work, I will think of Johan smiling at me as I held him on the last day of our visit.

NPH was exactly what I was expecting and hoping for. The stories are true – the homes really are clean and bright, the food really is delicious and comes in generous portions, and the kids really are happy. Also reassuring, the kids aren’t perfect – they have emotions, opinions, and occasional bad days, just like kids everywhere – which lets me know there’s no show being put on for visitors and the kids feel safe enough in their environment to be themselves. It is a wonderful place, and I left feeling reassured that all my hard work really counts for something great.

Of course, the hardest part of loving the babies (besides leaving) is that they don’t understand things like distance and time. They understood that we were leaving and going back to our country, but right after they asked “What time does your plane leave?” they asked, “And what time do you come back?” Maybe the hardest part was when our little boy Luis asked, “When are you coming to visit me again?”, and when I answered “I’m not sure yet”, he suggested, “How about Monday?” So for now, I will write and send pictures and read updates about all of our babies in the DR, with the hope that on some “Monday” in the future, we can visit again.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Stories from Honduras #2

Check out another volume of stories written by the students of Glen Urquhart School in Beverly, Massachusetts who visited Rancho Santa Fe at NPH Honduras and learned about the various facilities at the ranch and all the hard work that goes into making this a home for the children who need it most.

by Jack Hay

We walk down the never-ending rows and the dust springs up in our faces, as if to warn us. The plants are still; there is no wind to cool us. The sun beats down, and beads of sweat have already begun to form on my forehead. We walk through the fields of the hortaliza or gardens. An endless desert of rows awaits us as we put down our bags. We have to put the plants in the holes and then cover them up. Anything is easy in a small proportion. Transplanting these plants is no exception, but when you add the element of quantity, that changes everything. We are working for a good cause though, not for money. That seems to make it a bit easier for me. The orphanage is one big ecosystem. Everything makes something else work. That’s the beauty of a place like this. They don’t need outside food. They make it, and the other pro is that it’s fresh.

I begin work. The sun still lurks behind me, but also behind three layers of 50 SPF sunscreen. The plants that we are working with have been cut from the ground in another location, so we have to twist them in the holes so there is enough space. In some places the men have left more than one plant, which complicates things. As you try to hold several plants down and put dirt in the hole, there is a big margin for error.

We were given about 20 rows and we were halfway done. Katya and Cobo move toward the backpacks for a water break, and Sra. Kelley, Jenny, and I soon follow. “Can we eat these oranges?” questions Katya. “I suppose,” replies Sra. Kelley. “As long as you peel them.” The oranges in question look as if they came from a compost pile, but as Cobo and Katya peel them, they begin to look more inviting. Before I can join in, it’s back to work and the hot, blistering sun. We now plant in the rows that have been drowned by water. The holes are filled to the brim. This makes it much harder to fill them in. It makes a mud bath. I start draining the holes in an attempt to make the work more manageable and to save the plants from drowning, but the young men tell me to stop. There are about four of them helping us, the año familiares. They are the kids who will go into high school after their year of service.

We are almost done. There are only three more rows left. As we take a final water break, one of the young men runs down the field and the three others start throwing the hard, concrete-like chunks of soil at him. Luckily for him, they usually miss. We soon finish planting the rows. The sun has risen in the sky, and it will soon be time for lunch. We grab our bags, bid our fellow workers farewell, and take our leave of the fields. As we duck under the barbed wire fence near the road, I think about how muchwork goes into growing this food. The staff in the hortaliza is so dedicated. They work so hard for the orphans.

by Ra Gordon

I actually thought I already knew how to make tortillas before I went to Rancho Santa Fe. In fact, I had recently made them at home before the eighth grade trip to Honduras. Making them at the orphanage was certainly quite different than making them at home.

When we make tortillas at home, we start with something called “masa harina” that you get in little bags at the grocery store. It is a kind of prepared corn flour. We mix it into a batter with water and oil and roll out tortillas with a rolling pin. Then we cook them on a griddle, like pancakes. We usually make a batch of about eight at a time.

At Rancho Santa Fe it was somewhat different, although we did work with corn flour mixed with water, into a paste. There were four of us working together: Señora Cardona, Phoebe and Madison. We each took parts of the paste and would take small amounts of it, make it into the right shape, press it, and put it on the large grill. The tortillas had to be made flatter than I was used to. About six hundred tortillas had to be made, although there were other people working in the kitchen. Halfway through, we ran out of paste. We had to go back to the place where the kernels were ground. The corn kernels were in a big plastic tub and we had to wash them under an outdoor faucet. The tub then had to be carried to a small mill to grind them into flour, although we did not do that part. After that, we continued the repetitive process of making tortillas. We worked for about four hours altogether.

The next time I make tortillas at home with my family, I will remember my experience at Rancho Santa Fe. I will think of the people who make tortillas there every day, starting with the big yellow kernels from corn they grew themselves.

La Granja
by Madison Tremblay

Working on the farm was a very exciting experience. Although I was very sick that day, I still enjoyed collecting eggs, feeding chickens, and playing with the bunnies. The farm was one of my favorite workdays; it’s really cool that the Ranch sustains itself by growing and raising their own food. 

When we first arrived at the farm, we fed the chickens. Then we were able to hold the 2-week-old chicks, and they were adorable. The chicks were so soft and fun to hold, that is, if you could catch them. Next we began the never-ending task of collecting eggs. We each got a grey egg carton that held 30 eggs to fill. Each chicken coop had a different name after a certain country; one was called Honduras and another was called Alemania (Germany). When you first entered the chicken coop, it was like stepping into a room crammed with hundreds of people milling around, except instead of people these were chickens. The edge of the coop was lined with wooden boxes where the eggs were laid. Some boxes had up to 15 eggs while others had none. We went around the perimeter of the coop filling our cartons and clearing boxes. By the time we finished, however, there would be 20 new eggs laid. Those chickens can really pump out the eggs! After, we visited the bunnies, which was a lot of fun. We fed them left over cabbage from the garden and played with them. 

Finally we did one more round of egg collecting and then headed back to San Cristóbal. It was an exhausting day, but it never got boring.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Work of Love

Below is a story from dedicated Friend, Liz Wisnasky from Illinois, who has worked on a wonderful project benefiting the children in Haiti.

The burial cloth project was started before the earthquake in Haiti. I met Father Rick at the International Meeting in Mexico when Betty Gildae and I were helping Friends of the Orphans Midwest Region on their board. After a trip to Haiti, before the earthquake, John Shattuck came back and asked us if we could make burial cloths from pillowcases and sheets. We had made 5,000 and then the earthquake hit. We have 13 churches, schools and charity organizations helping us with the project, and we have expanded to also making reusable cloth diapers, little girls' dresses and boys' shorts. The Children of Abraham heard of this project and they so kindly sent our donations in containers down to Haiti and some recently to Peru. Father Rick has received over 25,850 burial cloths and a few thousand dresses for the orphans in Haiti. We made a beautiful banner for his church when we saw he used one of our burial cloths to cover a large crack in his church wall. An 86 year old angel from Incarnation Church has cut out over 45,000 crosses from material that we glue on to each burial cloth. The Sisters of Charity open our burial pall boxes when they arrive in Haiti, and they say you can feel the love in each one. At St. Dennis in Lockport, IL Father Justin Dike was deeply moved when he saw our work of love. He said, "Making these burial cloths is such a gift of love and corporal mercy for the parents who have nothing to bury their precious children in. I believe this project will go world wide as it is needed everywhere."

If you are interested in joining this project or learning more please contact Liz Wisnasky at 708-614-6475.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Little moments of generosity are powerful in that they are infectious.

Read this amazing blog post from Dani, a volunteer who is in the midst of her year helping at NPFS Haiti

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three months. It feels like I just got here- I’m still struggling to learn the language, still meeting new people every day, still doing something different at work every day, still figuring out how to fill up my free time. I don’t have a usual thing I do with any of my days which makes it all feel new and exciting. But I think that that’s a big part of why I came here. And Haiti definitely hasn’t disappointed. When you can’t even count on facts from one day to be true on the next, semblances of routine and monotony are nonexistent.

But in other ways, much more substantial ways, it feels like I can’t have only been here for three months. The friendships I’ve made here are so much deeper than any I’ve made in the states in just three months. The work we’ve accomplished as a team has been substantial and important. Although it can feel discouraging from day-to-day, when you look at where we started from, it makes me so proud. I’m proud of myself for learning and adapting to working in the developing world. I took a college class about teaching and we talked a lot about starting with the most basic knowledge with your student and going from there. When a teaching a computer program in the US, your first question would probably be, “have you used this particular program before?” In Haiti, it's not “have you ever used a computer before?” or even “do you know how to read?” but, “can you see the letters on the computer?” And although this reality is sad, I’m happy to have an understanding of Haiti’s circumstances that allows me to not make presumptions about people. I’ve learned, and am continuing to learn so much about the culture, that I know not to judge levels of understanding or methods of getting things done. I know that I am a visitor to this culture and that it is me that needs to be adapting, changing and learning to the way of life in Haiti. I am very thankful that those that I work most closely with, both Haitian and American, share many similar values and goals as me. It has made my transition into daily life here peaceful and rewarding.

This morning we had a mass to dedicate the new wing of St. Luc Hospital to Sister Philomena, a long-time NPFS volunteer. Father spoke about how we are able to accomplish so much because of the foundation that has been built from the love and sacrifice of those who worked before us. It was very meaningful to see so many of our long-term staff, volunteers and supporters there. He spoke about how all of these services we provide—a home for orphaned children, medical care for sick children, a home for disabled children, a hospital for adults, a hospital for disasters, another two homes for vulnerable children, a therapy school for disabled children—have all been created out of necessity, which is a tragedy. He spoke about that the criticism of our organizations, both internal and external, is valid and important, but that we have an organization that has been built on love for the children and love for the Haitian people. And as I reflect on his words and the work of the hundreds of people of NPFS, I am happy that we have an organization to be critical of. I am happy that people feel safe enough here to express their opinions and care enough to want to make it better. The day we take a look at our organization and say, “ok it looks like we’ve done enough” is the day we have stopped listening to and loving Haiti. The problems here are not ones that are going to be solved in my lifetime. But we are listening to the people of this country, by not only providing social services, but jobs and roles in leadership and management. We are not an organization of 20 blancs, who hire Haitian security and drivers for us to spend our days going from UN meetings to drinks in Petionville. We are a Haitian-run organization with international volunteers in advisor or training roles only. Haiti’s progress and development is going to be made by Haitians and I am happy to be a part of the empowerment and training to work towards our shared goals.

Although disappointment and devastation surrounds us all the time, for me, it’s more difficult to focus on the bad. But believe me, it’s here. Yesterday, walking into oncology as a mother cries over her three year olds body being taken out. Our cook being robbed of all the money to feed our children for the week. Patients dying because they didn’t have the money to physicall get to the hospital when they started getting sick. A university student having to fight for his right to a USB drive. Three children being abandoned at the cholera treatment center last week. Living and working in Haiti, you can’t dwell on the bad because it will pull you into a downward spiral of absolute devastation. You have to walk a fine line between listening and truly understanding other’s circumstances and not letting the overwhelming need get to you. And perhaps the hardest thing of all, is understanding that each of us has a different tipping point. Although I may be ready to hear about a great need and ready to fight to improve it, another volunteer, or my boss, or my family back home, may not be ready to hear about it. We all have our causes, our battles and whether they be self-interested or not, we have to respect each other’s work and dedication.

But what I’ve been learning to do here, is to keep a little ear open. I can’t solve our multi-million dollar budget crisis. But the babies in the abandoned room get very little attention? I have an hour to go play with them most evenings. A volunteer sees a mommy walking around the hospital with no shoes, so she gives her her flip-flips. Little moments of generosity are powerful in that they are infectious. These little gifts of time and things have expanded the hearts of our seasoned volunteers and I see that they now fight for big and difficult changes. Sending children to the US for surgeries requires medical clearances, partnerships with a donating hospital and enormous amounts of money, but they make it happen. Volunteering at a clinic in the slums on the weekend when you already spend 60 hours a week running a hospital takes a level of dedication that I can’t understand. But I can see people’s growth in the process and it makes me inspired. I hope that I too can grow in the process of my time here and learn to give more and more. So thank you to my friends and family who have been listening to me tell stories about babies, children, coworkers, patients and life in Haiti in general as I process everything I’m experiencing. I definitely could not do it without you.

Read more of Dani's post at her blog, here

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stories from Honduras

Enjoy these candid pieces written by students of Glen Urquhart School in Beverly, Massachusetts who visited Rancho Santa Fe at NPH Honduras and learned about the various facilities at the ranch and all the hard work that goes into making this a home for the children who need it most.

Rancho Santa Fe
By Cole Symes

As you drive through the gate of Rancho Santa Fe, there is a clinic, pharmacy and surgery center on the left. Most people would think of a surgery center in a Central American country as not the best, but when I had a tour it was as good as, or better, than some in the United States. Once you pass the clinic, you see a sign for the school and a walking path leading the other way. It is a small Montessori school for all of the kids at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH) Honduras and a couple of kids from a nearby village. It has classes up to eighth grade, and each kid can learn at their own pace. After eighth grade, NPH will pay for them to go to high school, but they have to do a year of work or año familiar first.

Soon after passing the school, you reach an intersection; one road goes to El Buen Pastor (the Good Shepherd, or the boys’ homes), while the other leads to Talleres (vocational workshops) and San Cristobal (the visitors’ home). After sixth grade, the kids learn a trade at talleres. They can learn metalworking, tailoring, woodworking, shoemaking, carpentry or electrical systems. The last path would bring you down to the farm were they raise bunnies, chickens, and cows.

After San Cristobal, there is the bodega where they keep all of the donations and clothes for NPH. Next to the bodega is the kitchen, where they cook all the food for 600 kids every day. Most days, the food is beans and rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Near the kitchen is the tortilla house where they make 2 tortillas for every child’s dinner. On the other side of the Ranch from the boys’ homes are the girls’ homes. 

Finally, between San Cristobal and the kitchen are the canchas, consisting of two cement basketball courts and a cement soccer field. Next to the canchas is Casa Suyapa, the coed home for children under six. Rancho Santa Fe is surrounded by mountains on three sides, and has trees and animals everywhere. If you climb one mountain, you can see the whole Ranch. It is one of the most beautiful landscapes you could see.

The Bodega
by Katya VanAnderlecht

The large steel door clangs shut behind us and we descend down the cement stairs into the bodega, temporarily feeling cooled by the slight drop of temperature in the basement. To my left I see almost half the room filled with black garbage bags, and to my right three mounds of shoes ranging in various sizes, baby, child and adult. The ground is littered with sneakers, sandals and the occasional fur-lined boot (Yes, because it's definitely going to snow in Honduras!), which leave only a small section of open floor for us to sit down and start sorting.

We commence searching for the long lost pairs in the stragglers left behind from yesterday’s work, excitedly calling out once we reunited a pair, followed by a chorus of under-enthusiastic cheers and weak clapping, for to be honest what’s so exciting about matching shoes? The matched shoes are either tied, velcroed, rubber banded or taped together and tossed into the corresponding pile. As we settle in, there is an ever-constant flow of talking, singing and occasional shoe pun made by Cobo or me in an attempt to keep up our ongoing pun battle throughout the week. Once it is clearly hopeless that another pair will be discovered, Señora Kelley tips over one of the bags, revealing what that half of the room was full of, bags upon bags of shoes. A layer about one foot high (haha) fills the remaining floor space with footwear and we go at it again, shoes flying every which way after we all claim a type of shoe, collect that type and sort through. I ended up with the task of matching girls dress shoes; you would be surprised at how many makes of practically the same shoe there were. Although it was nice to have so many shoe donations, it is amazing what you can find. There was this one pink snow boot that kept showing up, being a different size and for the same foot, none of them matched. Right on cue, as if he had been planning it the whole time (which he probably was), Cobo comments on how he is experiencing déjà shoe.

Many shoes were not even worth pairing and were thrown into the reject pile, destined for a dump. In some ways, I felt like people thought this was a way of justifying getting rid of something that was no longer usable, because of dirt, grime and heels separated (the poor little souls!) just because you were donating it. Giving up my position of dress shoe sorter to Jack, I make my way across to Jenny to aid her in untangling a mass of tennis shoes that were all tied together. There were probably seven pairs with very similar white laces all bound by the mother of all knots in the center. We successfully got a few pairs loose but it was obvious that no progress was being made and after spending at least 20 minutes on it, that was abandoned.

We probably paired more shoes than we will ever own in our lifetimes, but it still felt like we didn’t make a dent on what was left to come. We may have done a lot but I didn’t feel exactly fulfilled at the thought that I had played a big game of matching the whole morning while I could have been cooking a meal for the children or collecting eggs at the farm. If you take away something from this speech, just let it be to please, and I repeat please tie shoes together when you donate them!

La Cocina
by Orren Fox

Six-hundred hungry mouths needed to be fed each day. Not once or twice, but three times. The kitchen ladies wake up many hours before any of us would ever consider in order to cook breakfast. No days off, and three times a day. The least we could do would be help. If it involved chopping, sweeping, or scrubbing we would do it. It did not matter what task we were assigned, we would do it and we would do a good job.

With my work group of Chris, Cole and Steve, we headed up to la cocina on Friday to start our final work job. That day we would chop about 50 plátanos for the soup. We would make a shallow cut down the center of the banana, and use it to help us peel. After we peeled the plantains, we would chop them to a specific size and shape and then toss them in a large bowl of water. On the outside, they were a dirty green color and very tough. On the inside they were a beautiful color. A mixture of vanilla and peach, this banana-like formation was truly beautiful.

We also chopped many potatoes and luckily, did not have to peel them. Instead, all we had to do was select the rotten ones, throw them out and move on with the edible ones. We then took our huge bowl of potatoes and walked them over to the machine. This 40-inch- high, metal cylinder required a key to turn it on, but unfortunately, the woman with the key came to work around 8:00 a.m. and it was only 7:30. The nice young man who showed us how to do everything in the kitchen had an idea. He grabbed two knives, kneeled down behind the machine and jiggled the knives until the machine seized and turned on. He picked the lock with two kitchen knives! We only had to pour the potatoes in, wait a minute, and pull them out when ready. The machine turned and rumbled the potatoes around until they came out, scrubbed and peeled. The bi-product was a brown mush of potato skins oozing out the bottom into a large, square tub.

While shucking corn and inspecting the cob, it was terrifying to peel back one of the leaves and find an inch-long caterpillar squirming around inside. There were some terrifying moments and some mouth watering ones, but all together the kitchen receives five stars in my book for being a great place to work.