Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Their passion for Friends of the Orphans and NPH is infectious...

Below is a post contributed by Chloe Kinsey, the Summer Development Intern from the Northwest Regional Office of Friends. Enjoy!

This last Sunday, the day of the Friends of the Orphans Northwest region’s Summer Family BBQ, was also the last day of my wonderful summer internship with Friends here in Bellevue. My co-intern Claire Baron and I are both heading into our junior year at Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA and both have an interest in continuing on in the nonprofit sector, a field into which our internship with Friends gave us great insight. One thing that is immediately apparent when working in a Friends office is how much everyone there is involved in the Friends and NPH community. Every person Claire and I met, whether employee, board member, or volunteer, was incredibly passionate about the mission of NPH and had an amazing commitment to Friends beyond their work or volunteer duties. Friends employees are donors and sponsors themselves, have visited NPH homes, and some are even former international volunteers. Their passion for Friends of the Orphans and NPH is infectious, and I am so glad to have been able to spend the summer with such a committed group of individuals.

Claire and I worked on two main projects throughout our summer internship. For the first, we worked with Laura Useche, the Northwest Regional Manager for Child Sponsorship to thank the sponsors in our region. Along with the help of a wonderful volunteer, Caitlin Plummer, we made over a thousand calls to godparents to let them know how much their support is appreciated. Along with encountering our fair share of answering machines and busy signals, we also spoke to a number of sponsors, who made clear their passion for Friends with their excitement over receiving a call and their willingness to share stories about their wonderful godchildren.

Our second project, which required most of our time, was planning a Summer Family BBQ in August to be a community-building event for Friends in the Northwest region. With support from Kristen Bagley, the Northwest region’s Special Events Manager, we planned the event from start to finish. We picked the location, created invitations, procured donations of food and raffle prizes, made decorations, and coordinated volunteers. And in addition to teaching us a great deal about the process of event planning and, more generally, the mechanisms of nonprofit work, our efforts on the BBQ once again demonstrated how significant Friends and NPH are in the lives of those who work with them. We had a wonderful response from volunteers, who helped us from the planning stages through the day of the event itself. Even with their incredibly busy schedules, Stacie, Laura, Kristen, and Katie in the NW Friends office helped us enormously with aspects ranging from finalizing the invitations to locating the serving dishes needed for the event. And though we initially worried that no one would come to the event we had spent the summer planning, we had a fantastic turnout from the Friends community here in the Northwest. On Sunday, Claire and I were able to step back and watch everyone at the BBQ come together and enjoy the event. It was so rewarding to watch employees, volunteers, donors, and sponsors, many of whom already knew each other through the strong Friends community, talking, eating, and enjoying the event together. I’m so glad to have been involved with an organization that inspires such passionate support and encourages a strong community, even at such a distance from the homes where its children live. And I can’t wait to stay involved with Friends and NPH in the future!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The pequeños showed a generosity and openness of spirit which encouraged our young people to do the same.

Below is a post from Shawn Phillips, long-time Friend and dedicated supporter. In 1991 Shawn was able to get approval from Fr. Wasson for the first ever youth group to visit NPH Mexico at Casa San Salvador. He has continued to sponsor a child since that first year, and he currently sponsors a youth that is in school at NPH Mexico in Cuernavaca.

I joined the Staff of Holy Name as the Youth Minister in 1993. That spring, before I came on the team, Holy Name had hosted a Fiesta for Minnesota Friends of the Orphans. In the first months we began to set up a plan for the Youth Ministry, which included an integrated social justice component. Part of our hope and dream was to have service that was in our local community, in the broader community and in the global community. Instead of having projects in which we would come in and leave, we wanted to develop significant relationships with the communities that we were developing service with.

One of the goals was to take a group of young people to NPH Casa San Salvador to deepen the relationship that Holy Name had already begun with NPH by hosting a mini-fiesta and a full fiesta. We approached Fr. Phil when the Ballet Folklorico returned to Holy Name in the spring. Fr. Phil said that we needed to get approval for such a venture from Fr. Wasson who happened to be visiting the people of Holy Name with the young people from Casa San Salvador.

The intimidation of Fr. Wasson’s reputation as a great man soon evaporated, as we began to talk about the possibility of bringing high school youth to live with and share with his family. My initial reaction was the greatness of Fr. Wasson’s vision for the children of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, and he seemed to be delighted about the possibility of introducing his family to the young people.

Much preparation brought us to Casa San Salvador in Miacatlan, Mexico over spring break. We had a mix of work and relationship-building projects with the children. Our group, as much as possible, tried to fit into the schedule of the house from the morning work projects in the field to the evening reading stories in the children’s rooms.

The transformation quickly became apparent as the Pequeños captured the hearts of the young people. The Pequeños showed a generosity and openness of spirit which encouraged our young people to do the same. The children showed each of our young people the face of Christ and created in them a desire to serve through service.

Today, Holy Name is still providing this experience for the young people to be transformed, and there are multiple groups of high school youth that visit the homes of NPH in Latin America because of this partnership that started over a decade ago. It has been my experience that the young people continue their relationship through sponsorship, and some even later volunteer for a year or more in one of the homes. The love that transforms the Pequeños' lives through NPH also transforms the lives of the young people that visit.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

All of This Really Works

Hi, I’m Carrie. Last year (January 2010 – January 2011), I served as an international volunteer at the NPH Guatemala home. Surrounded by a ring of breathtaking volcanoes, I spent my days working as the Home Correspondent, and I spent my nights and weekends unleashing my inner 12 year-old as the volunteer in a section of preteen girls. Oh, and I blogged about the entire thing. Literally, the entire thing. :)

So when I saw that Friends of the Orphans had started this new blog, I knew I wanted to contribute. However, as I said in an email to the blog gurus over at Friends, “Do you have any certain ideas about what you want in a post? My NPH experience feels so gigantic; I guess I feel like I need a way to narrow it down.”

To help me find a place to start, they suggested, “Why don’t you talk about one or two of your favorite experiences?” Hmm. My favorite experiences.

And while I loved those moments, I kept coming back to two other moments. Neither involved the kids at NPH, the staff, or even my fellow volunteers exactly. Confused? Actually, they both involved you.

Moment #1:

In July of last year, I was asked to write a profile of a child at NPH Guatemala who was either in university or about to begin. Friends was putting together a wonderful back-to-school newsletter, so they wanted to feature kids pursuing higher education. I wrote about Pedro Pablo, a 19 year-old who was always super helpful to me in the bodega (the on-site store) and who I’d heard great things about from my housemate who led Guatemala’s leadership group.

I interviewed Pedro Pablo one day, snapped a photo, strung together some sentences, and uploaded it to the website. And then I moved on to the next project.

A few weeks later, I received this email from a Friends Regional Sponsorship Manager:

Hey Carrie!

I wanted to thank you for your AWESOME article about Pedro Pablo! Because of it a man here would like to sponsor Pedro Pablo through university! I just wanted to confirm that this is the correct person and to remind that you all those silly articles that you write down there really do make a difference. By the time Pedro Pablo graduates from University, the sponsor will have donated thousands of dollars to NPH Guatemala all because of you! Great article.

Moment #2:

Later in the year, as part of my work on the 2010 Annual Report, I was asked to write a profile of a new child at the home. I wrote about Melany, the newest giggly addition to my giggly section of preteen girls. Again, I asked her a few questions one day, took her out on a photo shoot, strung together some sentences, and uploaded it to the website. And then I moved on to the next project.

(Of course, I showed Melany when the article went live on the site. Twelve year-olds love that kind of stuff!)

Several months later, when my year had ended and I was back in the States, I got a letter from Melany in response to a letter I had written my entire section. She wrote me:

Dear Carrie,

Thank you for the letter that you sent us. We miss you. And thanks to your article and interview with me, I have 5 padrinos (godparents) now!!! They all told me they chose me because they saw the article on the website.


Pedro Pablo didn’t receive money for university because I wrote an article. I was just doing my job. It happened (yes, he’s currently attending university in Antigua, Guatemala as I write this) because a Friends supporter – one of you out there – read that article and chose to act.

And Melany didn’t go from zero godparents to five just because I put her picture on the website. Again, just my job. It’s because you – yes, you – saw those pictures and made the decision to do something about it. (P.S. Melany will graduate primary school in just a few months, and I’m told she talks about her new godparents all the time.)

These moments were my favorite ones. It’s because they were bigger than my volunteer year and bigger than my relationships with my girls and basically…just bigger than me. They were the moments when I realized, that at the end of the day, whether I’m even in Guatemala or not, all of this really works. This entire organization, its staff, its supporters around the globe: it all really works.

So thanks for reading – for reading this post, my old articles, this year’s new articles not by me, and all articles to come. But mostly, thanks for reading…and then doing. Because it works. :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

NPH Nicaragua

On a recent all-staff call, Friends of the Orphans was able to speak with Marlon Velasquez, the Home Director of NPH Nicaragua, ask questions and get some updated information straight from him! We thought we would share some of this information with all of you as well.

1. Could you please talk about some of the new programs that have been started in Nicaragua as a result of emerging government policies?

We have a new program call the Good Samaritan Program, which is a program that works with children with special needs living at the home. This program is run by volunteers who offer physical therapy and special assistance for these children.

In Managua we just started a new program called San Judas Tadeo. It is an after school program which we are working on in conjunction with the government.

We’ve also started to develop a special document that has to be signed by children’s parents and tutors. The government refers to it as temporal custody, and it stipulates that children have to visit their relatives more often we well as go home for the New Year’s celebration.

2. Is the home using this period as a time of reflection, and what are the results?

We have definitely taken this time to brainstorm and develop new strategies and programs we can execute next year.

We are trying to get approval to be recognized as a catholic community so our work could partner with the diocese of Granada.

We are also thinking of starting a program such as the one in Milpillas Mexico.

We are also looking into our legal documentation to change our title instead of calling the home an orphanage, we could change the official title to a school that offers room and board in hopes to keep more children at the home.

3. How many different facilities are there in Nicaragua and how many children reside at each? Also, what are the plans for the Ometepe property? Who, if anyone, is living there now?

Casa Asis, Casa San Jorge, Casa Padre Wasson, Casa San Judas Tadeo, Casa Santa Clara, Casa Santa Rosa de Lima make up the 6 facilities in Nicaragua. There are over 256 children residing at these facilities, with the majority (210) at Cada Padre Wasson. There are an additional 90 external children who come to NPH facilities for various programs and/or schooling.

4. Has visitor housing been constructed at Casa Padre Wasson yet?

Though construction is not yet complete, we will have a complex of seven rooms completed by the end of 2011. We approximate that these rooms will be able to accommodate 30 people.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

All The World to One Child

Here is a blog post from dedicated Friend, Rebecca Kollaras. She ceaselessly supports Friends of the Orphans and contributes to the "Unofficial Friends of the Orphans Miami" facebook fan page, UFO Miami, completely made and managed by volunteers. 

As you may or may not know, I volunteer with the Friends of the Orphans. My daughter Zoe and I sponsor an eight year-old girl, Jaydy, in the Dominican Republic. She and her younger sister Paola, were abused and neglected to the point of danger, by their mother. Neighbors took them in and cared for them until the father could get custody. Unfortunately, he also was unable to care for these girls because he works at a farm, a great distance away. He decided to send the girls to the Friends of the Orphans supported home in the Dominican Republic just over a year ago. They are now cared for, happy and being educated by this 100% volunteer organization which receives no public funding.  My daughter and I write letters back and forth with Jaydy, and my father and step-mother are now sponsoring Paola, the younger sister. We plan to make a family trip to meet the girls soon.

Zoe's penpal Jaydy

I am blogging today to  request any sort of donation for the silent auction in the Friends of the Orphans 2nd annual All the World to One Child fundraising gala.  Friends of the Orphans is an international non-profit 501(c)(3) dedicated to improving the lives of orphaned and abandoned children through the support of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH), a network of orphanages, hospitals and community outreach programs in nine countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
On Friday October 21, Friends of the Orphans (Southeast region) will hold its 2nd annual fundraising gala, All the World to One Child, at Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami, FL. The evening, which will feature an unbelievable array of gourmet delicacies created by the chefs at A Joy Wallace Catering, an open premium bar by Bacardi, lively music by our host DJ, an inspirational story by our special guest Aurora Zacarias from NPH Mexico and phenomenal silent auction, will attract over 250 guests.
By donating an auction item or gift certificate, you will be making a tax-deductible contribution that will help Friends of the Orphans in its mission to provide hope to the children we serve.

Furthermore, by supporting the 2nd annual All the World to One Child, you/your business will strengthen its recognition as a philanthropic leader in our community and throughout South Florida, as our database encompasses an array of professional, diplomatic, press, entertainment, arts and community leaders.  All silent auction sponsors will have the opportunity for direct exposure at the event in the form of an item display and bid sheet, as well as recognition on a slideshow that will be looping throughout the evening. 
Happy boys

In addition, I would consider it a very important personal favor if you would consider donating to this cause. It can really be anything – trips, dinners, gift certs, books, services, jewelry, parade floats…anything that will help raise money for the charity. I appreciate your support immensely and so do the 3,700+ orphaned/abandoned kids Friends of the Orphans cares for in the Caribbean, Latin America and Mexico.
With gratitude,