Tuesday, September 27, 2011

“Something about this place grabs your heart and does not let go.”

Below is a post contributed by Friend and past mission trip participant, Richard Jordan. Enjoy!

August 2011 and another trip to Casa San Salvador in Miacatlan, Mexico, the location of what most of us Holy Namers simply call NPH. When my daughter, Claire was planning to go on her second of her three trips to NPH after her senior year in high school, I was lucky enough to go along as a chaperone. Having never done any sort of “mission” trip before, I was not sure what I was getting into. What I did know was the Claire had fallen in love with the home on her first trip in 2007 and so had friends of ours whose high school kids had been on the trip.

Within days of arriving at NPH, I too fell in love with the home. As a priest told me at the end of that week there, “Something about this place grabs your heart and does not let go”. How right he was. I had the privilege in August to make my fourth trip to NPH as a Holy Name chaperone and I feel more strongly about supporting NPH than ever before. I would go back tomorrow if I could.

I have been able to meet and hang out with our Godson, Alex, who Claire met on her first trip to NPH. He had just arrived at NPH and was a skinny, malnourished nine-year old. Over these last several years, I have had the opportunity to see Alex grow into a healthy, polite 13 year old who is an excellent student in school. I have gotten to know Raul, Gill, Ivan, Daniel, Carmen, Geraldo, Rodrigo and many others year after year. My son Andrew traveled to NPH for the first time on this year’s trip and I saw him make an immediate bond with Jordi, who we now sponsor. My wife Kathy is heavily involved with fundraising for NPH and has worked to spread the word about NPH. I know our 9 year old, Matt can’t wait to make the trip, and I have a feeling that we will be doing that as a family one day because I don’t think he can wait until he is 16, the earliest that he would be eligible to go through Holy Name. NPH has truly become a family cause that has touched all of us, and I know many others where the whole family has been touched as well.

The NPH organization still follows the vision laid out by Father Wasson 57 years ago in his tiny church in Cuernavaca. God’s will is truly being done for thousands and thousands of children who have grown up in an NPH home and gone on to lead successful lives after being given the opportunity to escape a life of little or no hope.

I hope you will take the opportunity to come to the Fiesta at Holy Name on Sunday, October 9 in Wayzata, Minnesota to meet some of the children from NPH Mexico and open your heart to be grabbed by these children.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gifts of Love: Meaningful Gift-Giving

Below is an article shared by Marcia Mendola, who has helped head up the Haiti Initiative at St. Louis Church in Pittsford, NY for over 20 years. Please read to learn about the amazing relationship between St. Louis, Friends of the Orphans and NPFS Haiti and the great work they are doing together to help children in need.

Over the past 20 years, St. Louis Catholic Church in Pittsford has enjoyed a special relationship with Fr. Rick and his staff. They say he is a “real saint in the making” and appreciate his incredible work for the betterment of mankind. They are especially grateful to him for providing a direct route of service to the suffering in Haiti, and have complete confidence in his work knowing that every cent is put to the best possible use. When the 2010 earthquake hit last year, St. Louis Parish was poised to help with several fundraisers (in addition to the regular tithing commitment to Friends of the Orphans): the 39th Annual Corn Sale, St. Louis School’s Dress-Down and Bake Sale days, a World Hunger Banquet event, the Sunday Stroll for Haiti and the famous annual Christmas Ornament Sale. In addition, the church committee manned a fundraising and informational booth at the fall and spring town celebrations; a local musician tied to the committee created, performed and sold a song about Haiti (http://www.mangotreeforhaiti.com/); and a local restaurant owner and parishioner offered Italian sauce for the cause.

This September, St. Louis celebrated its 40th Annual Corn Sale. For forty years the Powers Family, who run an area farm market, have planted, harvested and delivered wagon loads of fresh corn for parishioners to sell before and after masses on the weekend after Labor Day.

During the coming Holiday Season, St. Louis will conduct its 30th Annual Ornament Sale. Over the past 20 years the money raised has been sent to Fr. Rick’s efforts with the Haiti Initiative. From Halloween until New Year’s Day the beautiful, uniquely different every year, white ceramic ornaments will be available at 4 area churches and 26 merchants around the Greater Rochester area. (Donations of $6 each are requested). Purchase sites, pictures of the ornaments, and more information is available on the parish website: http://www.stlouischurch.org/.

The story behind this Ornament Sale is a wonderful one! These works of art are made by the “Special People” at the School of the Holy Childhood (http://www.holychildhood.org/). Throughout the school year, these developmentally challenged students work as part of their curriculum to create 2,600 masterpieces. In the summer months, the school’s workshop students gift-package the ornaments for St. Louis. Holy Childhood students, despite their personal life challenges, are proud and happy to be of help to children not as fortunate as they. This year, in 2011, the 30th edition proudly features the “Angel of Music” and “Peace Doves.” This project is aptly named “Works of Love”. From the creation of the ornament to its packaging, the children’s love is plainly evident. The purchasers buy the gift out of love for the recipient, and the recipient loves to be remembered in such a thoughtful, meaningful way. All involved find this a way to show their love for the beneficiaries: the poor of Haiti.

Kathleen McMahon (Pastoral Associate of the Social Ministry and Justice at St. Louis Church in Pittsford, NY) adds: It is only within the last eighteen months that I have had the privilege of working with Marcia Mendola, Bob McNamara and Jennifer Rayno to assist with their amazing efforts on behalf of Fr. Rick, Our Little Brothers and Sisters organization in Haiti (NPFS Haiti) and Friends of the Orphans.  It is an honor to be involved with their devoted labors.  

Monday, September 12, 2011

They've all captured my heart...

Below you will find a wonderful update from Allison, a volunteer physical therapist at NPH Dominican Republic.

Dear Friend,

Maybe you know what it’s like to feel called to do something. Ever since I graduated as a physical therapist, I dreamt about donating my time to help the underserved. One day I finally took the plunge…

I left behind a great job and wonderful friends in Atlanta – everything I knew. And I began an eye-opening volunteer year in the Dominican Republic. So here I am now, providing physical therapy for children with special needs at the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH) orphanage.

I’m almost finished with an amazing year and I want to share what I’ve learned with you … because you share so much with the children of NPH!

I work with the children you support with your donations. I see firsthand what a difference your kindness makes in the lives of kids who’ve known desperate hunger. Kids who’ve lost their parents to violence. Kids who’ve found themselves horribly alone in the streets.

… Children like 8-year-old Massiel who uses a wheelchair. Despite her physical challenges, she has the biggest smile that seems to spread through her entire little body.

… Or 11-year-old Moises. Even though he can’t walk very well, he loves physical play. If I ask him, “What do you want to do today Moises?” He says, “Play!” He challenges me to keep up with him!

When I’m not working, I spend mealtimes and after school time with the pequeños hermanos – the “little brothers and sisters.” I live at is Casa San Miguel, home to a great group of 16 boys, all eager to teach me words in Spanish and impress me with their English. They each have different chores every day of the week. And they keep their home in wonderful shape!

Sometimes it gets really noisy, but as soon as someone starts the dinner prayer, all 16 boys start to sing.

It's hard to think of how sad and scary their previous lives may have been.
But coming here, I was so excited about what I could help the children accomplish during my time with them. I just wanted to give them the best therapy and care possible, because it had been almost a year since they had received any.

I work with 18 to 20 pequeños and I reach out to other kids in the community as well. Some are severely disabled. Others are more independent. And some only need a bit of help.

They’ve all captured my heart with their strength and joy. But I’d like to tell you more about Massiel and Moises, because I know they’ll capture your heart too.

Moises has poor vision and cerebral palsy affects his legs. I fell in love with him immediately. How could I help it? Every time I see him he says, "Me toma," - take me! And he talks so fast I can barely keep up!

Moises is so smart. He can identify someone across the yard by hearing their voice.
A few years back, Moises had surgery to lengthen the muscles in his legs. But now they are almost too long. As a result, he is constantly moving back and forth between bending his legs and hyperextending them.

In physical therapy school we learned that walking is something like a controlled fall. Well, my friend Moises has no control. So he falls all of the time. His poor scratched-up legs are proof of that. That’s why we're working on strengthening his muscles to improve his stability. We’ve been able to do some fun things that may not seem like therapy to him, but have really helped with his walking.

You should see the pride in Moises’ face when he does something well. We've been working on how to stand and he gets so excited when he does it right, he almost falls over again!

Then there’s Massiel. She is so glad to see me when I come to her house in the morning. Massiel makes the sweetest little sounds. It feels like I can have a conversation with her even though she can’t talk. She laughs at my best jokes. And she even laughs at my bad jokes too.

Massiel uses a wheelchair. I'm working with her to improve her head and upper body control. She’s making slow but steady progress keeping her body upright and strong.

I think she will be one of those little sisters who will be hardest to leave. She’s always so happy to see me, and then cries whenever I go.

When I finish my year, there is no therapist to replace me, yet. So I’ve been working on the special needs program as a whole. My priority is to educate the older pequeños and their caretakers so that they may help the children do their exercises until another therapist arrives.

I wish you could meet these children. They’re so loving. And they’ve accomplished so much for kids who’ve come from utter poverty. It’s a testament to the care they receive from NPH – and you.

So thank you, for thinking of the little brothers and sisters in all of our nine homes who would have no home if it weren’t for NPH, for you, and for the gifts you give to Friends of the Orphans.

I’ve learned so much. I hope I’ve given so much too. I really want to continue to support the pequeños from afar, just like you do.

I hoped to make lasting change and allow myself to be forever changed … and that’s just what happened. I realize how much I’ve become invested in these kids. I feel proud when I see them working together. I feel hopeful when we talk about their futures.

I know that I would not be where I am in my life without the abundant love and support of my incredible family and friends.

And these kids would not be facing their futures with so much hope without you … and your support for them through Friends of the Orphans.

Thanks to you, they have families for life with NPH. And a sense of belonging.
They are loved unconditionally. And though many have been through terrible hardships before, they now feel safe and secure. They are learning to share responsibility. And they are gaining education, acquiring jobs, and contributing to society across nine countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Your support helps kids who would have suffered even more and lost their way if not for the love they’ve found in NPH homes. Please do whatever you can for them today!

With much thankfulness,

Allison Clark
Physical Therapist, NPH Volunteer, Dominican Republic

In addition to making a gift to help our disabled children face the future with hope, you can also transform the life of a child by becoming a sponsor.

• NPH has welcomed 135 new children so far this year. Become a Sponsor for $30/month or more and you will have the opportunity to personally connect with a child and see your generosity in action.

For more information click here or call 1-888-201-8880.

Thank you!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Students in Miami making a difference!

Below is a piece shared by Arleen Rosenthal, Guidance and College Counselor and a great Friend who has helped the Southeast Friends of the Orphans office in Miami, Florida connect with many high school students who are passionate about making a difference. 

Several years ago, I read about Friends of the Orphans in a feature article in my local neighbor’s section of the Miami Herald. I was struck by the organization’s mission, particularly in sending orphans who have grown up in one of the homes to college, thus opening a world of opportunity for them. This resonated with me because I have spent the majority of my professional life working with high school students as a Guidance and College Counselor. What I have noticed throughout the years is that volunteer work is perhaps one of the most significant ways that a student can begin to feel empowered and see themselves in the adult world, use their talents to enrich the lives of others and find a venue to explore their own interests and passions. And so, I began referring some of my students to our local Friends office to see how they could help this worthy cause, and in turn, grow from the experience. I must say that the devotion, creativity and enthusiasm of Sherman Humphreys, the Regional Manager of Child Sponsorship has been contagious and that each student I have referred has benefited from their volunteer efforts. Like ripples in a pond, the impact of their projects on behalf of Friends of the Orphans has involved others in our community from the home schools of the students to their own circles of family and friends. For example, the very first student I sent to Mr. Humphreys ended up involving the Language Department Chair of her high school in a letter translation project. Several orphans were sponsored by students at her school and her parents became donors as well. There are all kinds of ways to help Friends of the Orphans and volunteering provides a wonderful experience for personal growth and self-fulfillment for the volunteers while contributing to a very admirale cause.