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.