Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Recipes from all the NPH homes!

Christmas Recipes

Tamales Recipe:
 • 7 cups fresh corn kernels, from 7 ears
• 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1 egg
• 1/2 tablespoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 cup harina de maiz (dried corn flour) 
• 20 dried corn husks, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes
• Working in batches, add the corn kernels to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
• In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale. Add the egg, salt, and baking powder. Mix to incorporate. Add the flour and pureed corn and mix until blended and forms a loose, smooth dough.
• Put a corn husk lengthwise in front of you with the wide side closest to you. Spread 3 tablespoons of the dough all over the bottom half (wide side) of the corn husk, leaving about a 1-inch-wide border on the left and right sides. Pick up the 2 long sides of the corn husk and bring them together. Roll both sides of the corn husks in the same direction over the filling.
• Repeat with remaining corn husks and dough. Arrange the tamales, seam side down, in a steamer and add 1/2-inch of water. Cover with a tight fitting lid, bring to a simmer and steam for 1 hour, adding additional water, as needed to maintain 1/2-inch of water in the pan. Remove the tamales from the steamer to a serving platter and serve.
"The tamales we eat at Christmas time taste great, and they make it with love. All of us look forward to it!”

For Christmas, the meal served at the FWAL home of Kay St. Louis is “diri djon djon cole ak poi congo” or rice with pigeon peas with a mushroom base; “poul fri en sauce” or fried chicken in a sòs; and “salad wous” or Russian salad. This salad is a mixture of 3 key root vegetables – potatoes, carrots and beets. To drink, the children are served orange juice or lemonade. 
Rice with Pigeon Peas in Mushroom Base:
• 2 cups of white rice
• 1 cup of pigeon peas
• 1 cup of dried black mushrooms
• 1 finely chopped onion or finely chopped leek
• 1 chopped sweet green bell pepper
• 1 tbsp of butter (cooking butter)
• 2 chopped cloves of garlic
• 2 tbsp of vegetable oil
• salt and black pepper to taste
• 1 bouquet of parsley
• 3 sprigs of thyme
1. Cook the beans, bouquet of parsley, garlic, salt and pepper in 4 cups of water for 2 hours or until peas are tender in a medium pot
2. Drain the beans but keep the water which will be used to cook the rice; put the peas aside.
3. Check the mushrooms for small rocks and sediments. Boil mushrooms in small pot for 10 minutes or until water turns black. Drain the mushrooms and discard. Keep the water to be used to cook the rice.
4. In large pot which will be used to cook and simmer the rice, sautee the onion (or leek) and green pepper in the oil.
5. Add the beans along with salt and pepper to taste. Add 2/4 of the water used to cook the beans and all the water from the mushroom and bring to a boil
6. Add the rice and thyme and allow mixture to come to a full boil cook for 15-20 minutes or until all water is absorbed.
7. Uncover pot and sprinkle with oil, sprinkle with some of the remaining water used to cook the beans and simmer for 15 minutes.
8. Remove thyme and serve.

Fried Chicken In Sauce (Poul fri an sòs)
• 8 Medium sized fryer chicken drumsticks
• 1 large onion sliced in rounds or crescents for cooking and garnish
• 1 leek mashed
• 1 large minced pepper (mild or hot depending on your taste)
• several cloves of garlic, smashed or minced
• 3/4 cups of tomato paste
• Pinch or two of brown sugar
• generous pinch of salt or a ground chicken bouillon cube
• black pepper
• 1 cup of lime or lemon juice or sour (green) orange juice
• ¼ cup of oil
• 3 tablespoons of mustard (yellow or brown)
• 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette salad dressing
• 2 cups of water
1. In a bowl combine salt, pepper, mustard, vinaigrette, garlic and leek and 2 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice. Combine mixture well to create a marinade. Cover and set aside.
2. Wash chicken well with rest of the lime or lemon juice and pat dry. Rub each piece with the mixture in the bowl.
3. Heat oil in a heavy pan (cast iron is best as the heat is distributed evenly).
4. Fry the chicken pieces in hot oil turning periodically to brown on all sides (a few minutes at each turn)
5. Chicken may stick to pan. Use spatula to turn so as not to remove skin.
6. When fully brown, add the onion rounds and minced pepper to the pan, stir well. (Save a handful for use as garnish).
7. To lift sticky pieces, add a few teaspoons of water and cover immediately. Remove from fire for 30-40 seconds.
8. The chicken should be well browned. Drain excess oil.
9. Combine the tomato paste with 2 cups of water and stir into the chicken. Stir frequently to lift the browning at the bottom of the pan.
10. Bring to a slow boil until sauce thickens.
11. Transfer cooked chicken to a platter and garnish with rounds of raw onion or crescent pieces of onions.
12. Tomato sauce can be substituted for the tomato paste. Use 1 cup if tomato sauce and ½ cup of water.
13. This dish goes well with diri blan (plain white rice) -- the sauce at the bottom of the pan can be poured on top of the rice. Enjoy!

Haitian Russian Salad (Salad wous)
• 4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
• 1 carrot, peeled and minced
• 1 small beet
• 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
• 2 eggs
• 1/2 cup sweet peas
• 1/2 onion, minced
• 1/3 cup red or green bell pepper diced
• 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1. Boil potatoes and carrot in water with 1 teaspoon salt for 10 minutes or until tender.
2. Boil beet separately in water with 1 teaspoon salt until tender, then peel and mince. Boil eggs separately in water with 1/4 teaspoon salt until hard then remove shell and mince.
 3. In a bowl, place potatoes, beets, carrots, onion, red or green bell peppers and mix with mayonnaise. Add black pepper. Enjoy!

Dominican Republic
At Christmas, although we don’t have a traditional recipe to share, we serve a special meal to the children and entire NPH-DR family. The plate consists of pork, chicken, Russian salad and spaghetti. The pig is marinated in a soup like mix with garlic, peppers, other vegetables, oregano, basil and other spices for several hours. These vegetables and spices are all homegrown at our home. After the marinating process is done we send the pig to the nearby city of San Pedro de Macoris to have the pig roasted. Our oven is not large enough for an entire pig so we outsource a bakery in the city. The pig roasts for another several hours and is then brought home to be sliced up. For a similar recipe like our pig roast, please visit http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-live/roast-suckling-pig-recipe/index.html.  For a similar chicken recipe please visit http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/perfect-roast-chicken-recipe/index.html.  For a recipe similar to our Russian salad, please visit http://www.foodnetwork.co.uk/recipes/russian-salad-ru305910.html. The spaghetti is simple with spaghetti pasta and a simple red sauce. Our kids look forward to this meal every year and always leave satsified and full. Sandy, 10, commented, “I can barely move after all of the food, but it is so good and I can’t not eat everything on my plate!”

Marinated Pork with rice and sweet potato (camote):
Basic ingredients: pork, onions, hot chili, garlic, caraway, salt, pepper, oil, sugar.
Blend garlic, caraway, pepper, salt, chili and oil and put the pork steaks inside and leave it for one hour. Then you fry the steaks in a pot. Once they are fried you put the marinade on. Cut the onions in strips and add the sugar. Put everything on the pork and mix it. Put the lid on the pot and cook on low heat until the onions get dissolved. You serve it with rice and camote (sweet potato).

For Christmas Eve dinner we´re planning to eat a simple T-bone fried and flavored to taste with salt, pepper, minced onion and oil. It is accompanied by rice seasoned to taste with minced garlic, minced carrots, minced onions, oil and salt. We also have a salad of shredded lettuce, carrots, onion, tomato and vinegar. We drink fruit punch made with one part apple juice, one part mocochinchi juice (a fruit native to Bolivia), two parts water, and cinnamon and sugar cane to taste. 

For our Christmas Eve dinner we serve nacatamales. The ingredients for our nacatamales are the following: corn, lard, rice, potatoes, raisins, salsa (tomato, chile peppers, cilantro), chicken or pork meat, banana leafs
Here is a recipe you can use that is very similar to the way we prepare our nacatamales. http://www.whats4eats.com/breads/nacatamales-recipe 

Friday, December 14, 2012


Blanca is 15 years old. She has two older brothers and two sisters at the home at NPH Mexico. What she likes most about Christmas is the candy and Posadas. She can't wait to break the piñata this year!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Josue is 4 years old and has two older brothers and two older sisters along with him at NPH Mexico. What he likes about Christmas are the presents and Santa Claus! He loves to draw and paint for and always enjoys helping with decorations during the holidays. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Esteban is 11 years old, and has one younger brother in the NPH Mexico home. What he likes about Christmas is the gift-giving! Every Chistmas he plays with his friends and has lots of fun. All he wants is for everyone to be happy!

Monday, December 3, 2012


10 year old Diego lives at NPH Mexico. What he likes about Christmas is the toys, Christmas Eve, and the festivities. He likes going to mass also. To celebrate Chistmas he loves decorating the tree! His wish is for next year to be another happy one. He says, "Christmas is very pretty! I like it so much!"

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

A message from A. Frank Donaghue, Friends' Chief Executive Officer: 

I recently returned from my trip to El Salvador and Honduras on Thanksgiving Morning. Needless to say my experience was utterly inspiring. The kids and young adults we all work to support are worthy of every effort given to our mission. What was most noticeable to me, especially from the students attending the  leadership training  from all our homes in Central and South America in Honduras, was the depth of spirituality and gratitude that our future leaders possess.  At every Liturgy, a student prayed for blessings on our donors, volunteers and staff. 

From a beautiful Quinceañera, to a graduation of kindergarten and grade school children, to a training, to dinner in the baby house, gratitude and faith was the most prevailing feeling.

Gratitude; I want to express to you in the deepest sincerity with the words of Paul.  "I give thanks to God for the gift of you".  I extend that to you on behalf of the children you help, give a home, feed, educate, shower with joy and provide with safety.

It is such a privilege  for me to work with everyone at Friends and NPH and share our commitment and passion. 

Happy Thanksgiving,


P.S.  Meet my newest Godchild, Darling.  She is 5 and lives at the home in Honduras. This picture is from her recent Baptism.  She is absolutely awesome. That smile alone gives you a reason to be Thankful.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I learned how very simple it is with some generous, helping hands to help out those in need...

Hey! I am Connor Van Ribbink, and I am a senior at Brophy College Prep in Phoenix, AZ. I have been involved with Friends of the Orphans for the majority of my life. I love everything about Friends of the Orphans. I love the commitment everyone in this organization has to bettering the lives of orphaned and abandoned children all across Latin America, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. I love the countless volunteers who have answered Father Wasson’s call to serve. Above all, I love and admire the pure and untouched happiness of the children of Friends of the Orphans. 

I have had the incredible privilege to witness this inspiring happiness many times, but most notably on my trip to the home in Mexico and my two trips to the home in Guatemala. Upon my latest trip to Guatemala I felt a calling to make a greater impact within my community for Friends of the Orphans. I answered this call in two ways. First of all, I made some changes to the Friends of the Orphans club within my high school with the goal of making our club more active. Our club of high school students now meets during a school break to write letters to our Godchildren. The second change I made was to create a fundraising event that would bring both our NPH club as well as other supporters of Friends of the Orphans in our community together to raise money for the kids of NPH. I thought of the idea to create a fundraiser held at Flip Dunk Sports for students all around the Phoenix and Scottsdale area. 

Flip Dunk Sports is an indoor trampoline park owned by Mrs. Lori Price whose son, Zach, has traveled to Guatemala with me twice. Thanks to her generosity the fundraiser was held November 2nd and half the admission cost was donated to Friends of the Orphans. In total, I am proud to say we raised $400 for all the kids of Friends of the Orphans. My goal is to pass this fundraising event on to my younger brothers to manage next year following my graduation from high school. I further intend to continue fundraising for Friends of the Orphans while I am in college. I learned how very simple it is with some generous, helping hands to help out those in need. I have an incredible passion for the cause, and I am confident this passion will continue for the remainder of my life.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Long-time sponsors, the Hundt's, receive the annual Humanitarian Award!

Friends is pleased to announce we gave our annual Humanitarian Award to the Leo and Mary Lou Hundt, longtime Sponsors and great Friends! Mary Lou and Leo Hundt have been involved with NPH and Friends of the Orphans for over 25 years. They are Godparents to nine children and are in contact with 17. In the last 15 years, they have visited five NPH homes a total of 24 times. Leo served on the Friends of the Orphans National Board of Directors and was Chair of the Southeast Regional Board of Directors. They recently initiated an eye glasses mission, testing the vision of 215 children at NPH Honduras and delivering 109 pairs of glasses. They hope to expand the mission to NPH Mexico in 2013. We are eternally grateful to Mary Lou and Leo for their dedication and generosity. They have truly transformed the lives of our children and are making the world a better place. Below is a picture, Mary Lou shared with us of Farid, her godchild, that is currently finishing his year of service in Haiti.

The Hundt's with  Art Massolo, Southeast Regional Board Chair

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Domingo and I

2012 Southwest Pequeño Tour 
"Domingo and I" by T.J. Decker 

Hello. Good morning Bishop Nevares, clergy, family, friends, and guests. I am T.J. Decker, a senior at Brophy College Prep, and I am honored to speak in front of such wonderful people this morning. I have been a part of Friends of the Orphans and Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos since Kindergarten here at OLPH. Every year, our class sponsored a pequeña named Karen from Mexico, and we donated monthly to help support her. This was a great experience at such a young age, and we even got to exchange letters back and forth, which helped us to learn our Spanish. When I started as a Freshman at Brophy, I signed up for NPH club at the club fair because it was familiar to me. That year, I talked to fellow Brophy brothers who had gone on the mission trip previously, and they highly recommended the trek to NPH Guatemala in Central America. The next year I wanted to go on an immersion trip so I planned it out with a few friends that we would go to Guatemala and visit the awesome kids at Casa San Andres. The experiences on this trip opened my eyes and heart to what NPH is all about – love. 

Last year, I got selected again to attend the trip and this time was truly special because I spent an entire week with the pequeño I sponsor, Domingo. My experiences in Guatemala have been a blessing to me. My first trip was a wonderful surprise. I showed up at Casa San Andres and quickly whipped up my soccer skills and tried to keep up with what seemed to be the Guatemalan National soccer team. As a group, we visited the old capital of Guatemala, Antigua, and explored this ancient city with the pequeños. We also had an opportunity to take a boat on Lake Atitlan, which is a huge lake with three volcanoes jetting out of it. I had never seen anything like that in my life. The week-long trip went by so fast, and at the end I was wondering about the service component of the trip. We did spend time painting murals on the walls in the Casa de los Especiales (the special needs dorm), working on the farm and in the kitchen. However, I began to realize that the pequeños gave more to us through their smiles and cheerfulness than we gave to them. You could make errors while speaking in Spanish and they would just grin at you, help you and proceed giving you a hug. You could give them a piece of candy and they would be grateful and would do back flips. They just loved us. 

On my second trip, friends kept asking me why I had 10 pound weights in my luggage. Once we got to the orphanage, they figured it out. In one of Domingo's letters to me, he wrote that the doctor told him he needed to stop doing pull-ups because his shoulders were too big so I brought him dumbbells. Domingo had never used weights before, so I taught him how to do a simple curl. I believe that I learned more about Spanish and myself in small conversations like this. Whenever I tried to buy Domingo shoes or a new soccer jersey, Domingo always said no and told me to save my money. Smart kid! He always insisted on buying food or candy for us to share. It was hard to leave Guatemala because Domingo and all of the other pequeños became my family. I still email Domingo frequently, and he always apologizes if he cannot reply back to me in less than a day! I keep telling him no problem, but I guess he misses me that much. I know I miss him. 

I encourage each and every one of you to get involved with Friends of the Orphans and Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos. My experience of sponsoring Domingo has been life-changing nonetheless. These children have never had the opportunities that we receive daily, but they continue to have a great outlook on life. They all have a dream – to become a doctor, teacher, soccer player or musician. So please consider sponsoring the dreams of these children and watch them thrive. It is incredible how much of a difference any one of us can make for a child by sponsoring a pequeño at $30.00 per month and sending them loving and supportive emails. I hope that very soon, you too can all have a picture of your own pequeño on your refrigerator as a constant reminder that you are changing their life.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NDP Students Spend Spring Break Helping Orphans

Submitted by Joseph Fagan, Theology/ Friends of the Orphans Club Moderator 

If there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13), then in the life of a high school student, “laying down one’s Spring Break for one’s friends” must be a close second, and fourteen members of NDP’s Friends of the Orphans Club did just that. 

While many of their friends spent their Spring vacation on the ski slopes or the beach, DJ Seamans, Maura Kelly, Rhett Johnston, Maddie Frazier, Douglas Wong, Patrick Reilly, Allie York, Heather Huennekens, Natalie Wojtanowski, Edmund Wong, Annie Kaiser, Will Seamans, Francesca Decastell, and Daniela Cuellar, spent their Spring vacation at the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (Our Little Brothers and Sisters) orphanage in central Mexico. Part service trip, part cultural immersion experience, each of our students takes something different from the experience, but they all describe the trip as life changing. Throughout the week, we help the NDP children with their chores; do arts-and-crafts projects and other fun activities with the special education students; play sports with the older kids, especially soccer; we take some of the pequeños (little ones) out for pizza and a trip to a local water park; but most of all, the participants in this mission trip provide a level of one-on-one love and attention that just isn’t possible for the staff in a home of over 800 children. 

The Friends of the Orphans Club prepares for the trip each year with a supply drive here on campus and this year we delivered fifteen large boxes of clothing and school supplies when we arrived at NPH Mexico in Miacatlan, Mexico. Some of our students who go on the trip (and their families) support a pequeño at NPH with letters of support and financial help through Friends of the Orphans, and this trip allows them to meet and really get to know that child. While this financial and material support is essential to breaking the cycle of poverty in which the pequeños would otherwise be trapped, it is impossible to express the emotional impact on the pequeños that knowing that they have padrinos (Godparents/patrons) who care about them, love them, pray for them, who will write to them, and who may visit them. 

Midway through our day at the water park, after Rhett Johnston (NDP ’12) had spent three or four hours taking care of his seven-year-old pequeño, I asked Fernando who Rhett was to him. He beamed as he said, “My friend, my padrino, my daddy!” I don’t think that Rhett or Fernando will ever see themselves – or the world – in the same way again. 

Both of Will Seamans (NDP ’15) brothers (Graham, NDP ’09 and D.J., NDP ’12) have been on the trip multiple times, but even so, Will says that it was a different experience than he expected. “I knew what we were going to do; that I would make new friends and that the trip would be fun,” he said, “but no one can really describe the relationships. You just have to experience that for yourself.” 

Our students are right. This trip is life changing. For them AND for the pequeños.

Mr. Joseph Fagan, NDP students and their pequenos at Our lady of Guadalupe basilica in Mexico City.

Monday, October 22, 2012

October Homes Update!

We'd love to share with you just a few great and wonderful things happening in our homes. 

In Mexico we had a new group arrive just a few weeks ago, including a baby, just 1 year old, with his brother and sister, along with another set of siblings. In Miacatlán we have a new sustainable project called Biobolsa, which is a “biodigestive” system. It uses the pig manure to create gas in the kitchen. 

In Haiti at St. Helene, we once again opened our doors to 26 new children, and twenty of our oldest children moved to the Don Bosco program to continue their studies. There are plans underway to drill a water-well on the St. Helene campus, and in addition there will be a water purification system put in place so that our 410 children will all benefit from clean drinking water. We'll no longer have to buy water and wait for it to be brought up the mountain by truck. At the Father Wasson Angels of Light (FWAL) program we held a great  summer camp where we had many activities for the children including basketball, volleyball and soccer. The St. Anne Baby House accepted 7 new toddlers and infants and has a solar project on the way to provide electricity in the new house for its 37 children. Also, construction of the FWAL Preschool is almost finished!

In Nicaragua our dance and music team is currently touring throughout the US sharing with everyone about Nicaragua, NPH and our culture by showing off their talents! The Samaritan Project continues to provide physical and occupational therapy to patients on Ometepe Island, and the construction at Casa Padre Wasson are going well. 

In El Salvador, Elena, one of our youths just graduated from nursing school, and is eager and able to begin her professional life! We have also had 10 successful months of supporting two of our children most in need, Manuel and Wendy, and their healthcare needs. 

In Guatemala we just celebrated our 16th Anniversary!  

In the DR we recently welcomed five new children (3 girls and 2 boys) into our home, and we also began our first year of 10th grade in our on-site school. 

In Bolivia we had 21 sheep arrive at our home this month to begin the new farming project. This project not only allows a new vocational workshop for our students but also a sustainable program to provide food for our home. The construction of our clinic and 4 classrooms is advancing quickly and should be completely finished around the spring of 2013. 

Thank you for all your support to help build our facilities into homes for the children who rely on us.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pure water for Peru

Below is a news story about a wonderful recent development at NPH Peru reported by Monika Babski, Communications Officer. 

At the end of this summer, everyone at NPH Peru was proud to say we were able to solve one of our biggest concerns. Thanks to the support of donors like you, we were able to provide access to clean and potable water for all at our home. We installed a water filtration system that allows everyone to drink water right from the tap. 

Water is a huge issue in Peru, and the country is called South America´s most water stressed country. On average, surface water in Peru is abundant. Nevertheless, it is unequally distributed. This is especially true in the coastal area where our home and the country´s major cities are located. The land where our home lies is very dry. The capital, Lima, is more than nine times bigger than Peru´s next largest city. It's also the second largest city located in a desert after Cairo. 

Another big problem in Peru is that water treatment is rare, and most of the water is contaminated with parasites putting the population´s health at risk. In Peru drinking water does not meet WHO standards, and unfortunately, there is no national movement to improve the quality of the drinking water. Everybody is used to buying bottled water or boiling it before consuming it. We all did too before this important project was materialized. Our water´s level of hardness was way too high for human consumption. It was also contaminated by bacteria and parasites because the source for our water stems from the Rio Cañete, which is a polluted river. 

After the disinfection, painting of the water tower and the cistern, the equipment was finally installed. It includes a chlorine filter, an active carbon water filter, a sand trap and water softener equipment. Once the water goes through the whole filtration process it becomes free of bacteria and any other contaminants. At the same time, the water hardness goes down to 250, which is the required value for potable water. This project has been a fundamental improvement in the quality of life for our children, staff and volunteers. Now our whole family can drink water from the tap without being worried.

Thank you to all our Friends!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The word "bittersweet" has never had more meaning...

Below is a blog post from great Friend, Tom Bongi. He shares about his trip to NPH Guatemala this past summer and the children he met there. Thank you Tom!

Our last full day in at the NPH home in Guatemala. We all know the end is near and now the word "bittersweet" has never had more meaning. We are dreading having to say goodbye to all our friends, new and old. But we also miss our families and our homes.

The teens were quizzing one another about the first thing they are going to do when they get home. Some said they are going to take a two hour hot shower. Dinner at In-And-Out was a popular one.

We got to sleep in a bit because of our late arrival back at the home last night. Breakfast was quesedillas, frijoles refrito, cereal, milk and juice.

We had work assignments after breakfast. I took a group out to the fields to get our work assignment from Eric, a pequenos in his second year of service. The pequenos give a year of service back to the home after the 10th grade and another year back before they head off to the university.

Eric gave us the assignment of harvesting carrots from the fields. I would like to say we worked really hard but have you ever picked a carrot? You give it a gentle tug and it slips out of the ground. Some of the carrots were massive, others deformed. So we had a contest to find the biggest and the ugliest. The winner of the ugliest contest looked line a lobster.

After carrying the carrots in sacks from the field, we had to wash them, count them and bring them in clean sacks to the cold storage next to the kitchen.

The carrots that were too deformed to peel were set aside for the rabbits. We asked if we could feed the rabbits and Eric agreed to bring us down to the rabbit hutch. This led to a tour of the goat pen and the pig pen. Very interesting but also very offensive to the nose.

After the field work and animal pen tour, we got back together with the other groups and had a wrap session with Deacon Jim Hoyt. Jim asked a few of the pequenos to talk to us about their background and how they ended up at NPH.

Eduardo spoke to us first. He is paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. He graduated from high school a year ago and now in his second year of service before he starts at the university in Guatemala City where he will study business administration.

Eduardo, his brother and his sister were abandoned by their father when Eduardo was three. He and his siblings were raised by their grandparents. While living with his grandparents, Eduardo was somehow shot in the neck and instantly paralyzed. It wasn't clear how he got shot but he kept referring to the incident as "the accident."

A social worker for NPH found Eduardo in the hospital and eventually he and his siblings came to the home. Eduardo indicated that he and his siblings have had the opportunity to develop socially, emotionally and academically at NPH. He said that if he continued to live with his grandparents, they would not have had the opportunities they have now. Eduardo said that, in a strange way, the accident that caused him to be paralyzed actually created the opportunities for him and his siblings.

Cesare is 16 years old and lives at the NPH home in El Salvador. He "believes" he came to NPH when he was four years old but he really isn't sure. What he does is that he arrived at the home because both his parents died.

Cesare's first memory of NPH was when he arrived on the first day as a very shy boy. He recalls kids coming right up to him and asking him to play. He is currently in the 9th grade and has one more year of studies before he has his year of service. He wants to attend the university and study hospitality and hotel management.

Alexander is another pequeno from NPH El Salvador. He came to NPH when he was eight but has been in some type of institution since he was one after he was abandoned by his mother.

Sadly, Alexander was at another orphanage in 2001 when he went with a group of kids for a day at the beach. There was a massive earthquake and when they got back to the orphanage, they found it destroyed. 

He then was placed in the NPH home and although he missed his friends, is happy he has had the opportunities afforded by NPH. He plans on attending the university after his second year of service.

I missed lunch because I had to head into Pastores to pick up my newly made cowboy boots. By the way, they are awesome.

In the afternoon, we had free time with the pequenos. I spent the time hanging out with Paulo. Paulo was a little down because knew our time together was coming to an end. He asked me a question but I couldn't understand. I asked him to say it again slowly. Still, no comprende. Finally I had an idea. I pulled out my Ipad, obtained a wireless signal and went to Google Translate. I had Paulo type his question.

"Are you leaving tomorrow morning?"
"How long is your trip back to California?"
About seven hours. Hey, this Google Translate thing is pretty cool.
"Someone stole the flashlight you gave me the other day."
I have another one I can give you.
"When are you coming back here again?"

Wham. I guess I should have expected a question like this but I was totally unprepared to answer it. It would be easy to lie and say I'd see him really soon or that I'd be here next August for sure but I can't say that for sure.

These kids have experienced so much pain and disappointment in their lives that the last thing I wanted to do was make a promise I couldn't keep. So after some thought, I decided to be completely honest with Paulo.

"I will try to see you next year."
What I didn't list for him is all the "ifs" that come with that statement: - if our group even has a trip to NPH Guatemala next year - if my work schedule permits it - if I have enough vacation time - if I can stand to be away from my family for nine days again.

Paulo seemed satisfied but I have a feeling that the only thing he took away from my answer was "next year." Paulo started typing again on my Ipad. I braced myself for the next probing question; the next inquiry that would put me on the spot and make me squirm.

"Can I have some candy?" I laughed out loud. Partly out of relief. And partly because Paulo's mind had already moved on to the here-and-now rather that discussing the future. Yes Paulo, you can have some candy.

The home threw us a going away party that evening. Our group arrived at the dining hall to find it packed with every pequeno and the best seats in the house reserved for us. There was dancing and singing. One group did a folk dance in traditional Guatemalan costumes. A boy sang a pop song and a group of the teen boys did a dance that was obviously meant to impress the girls in our group.

Rather than eat dinner in the dining hall, we ate our meal (black beans and tortillas) around a bonfire. The staff passed out bags of popcorn (a HUGE treat for the pequenos). I gave mine to Paulo. He ate his and saved mine for later.

Before we knew it, the party was over. The pequenos had to get to bed (remember they get up at about 4:00 AM) and we had to pack. I walked Paulo back to his dorm. I went in and hung around as Paulo and his dorm-mates made their beds. The tia led the boys in a prayer and everyone headed for bed. I gave Paulo a hug and told him I'd see him in the morning.

Back in our dorm, people were packing up. It was obvious that we brought a lot of "stuff." One of the teens asked if he could leave his shoes for the kids. I told him to put them over in the corner. Another teen wanted to leave some shirts. They went over in the corner too. In no time at all, we had a pile of donated "stuff" that was three feet high.

When we turned out the lights, there was not the usual chatter in the dark. Everyone was tired and we all knew we had to get up early. The party was almost over.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Always a child showing the way, always a child brightening your day.

by Gena Heraty

Always a child showing the way
always a child brightening your day.
Always a smile shining on you
always a child there loving you.
The years come and go
grey hairs replace brown,
so many problems around
easy to feel down.
But you stop for a while
and you look all around
and you see all that love
waiting to be found.
Its there in the kids
whole fountains of hope
these innocent children
how do they cope?
No mothers and fathers
to hold them at night,
no cuddles and kisses
no arms holding them tight.
Bright shining eyes
look straight to your soul,
dare you open your heart
dare you become whole?
For these kids are your teachers
they have so much to say
they’ll mold and they’ll shape you
til you find a new way.
They may not say a word
but their message is clear
just open your heart
you have nothing to fear.
These kids will see through you
through the masks that you wear
they will reach right to your center
Listen to them if you dare.
Here in these mountains
where the air is so clear
hundreds of children
so cute and so dear.
Hundreds of children
reaching out to you in love
wrapping their arms about you,
like angels from above.
They don’t care about your profession,
or if you drive a fancy car,
they don’t care where you come from
be it from near or afar.
They just want to sit and touch you,
run their fingers through your hair.
Tell you that your are beautiful
or maybe you are hairy as a bear.
“Your nose is oh so pretty
but really it is so long
and your belly is very big
and sure let us entertain you with a song.
Will you please take our photo
sand show us how we look?
Next time you visit
will you bring me a present – even a book?
Will you tell me about your life
and the world where you live?
will you ask about mine
will you receive what I give?
Will you be a part of my life
even though you are not here?
will you spare me a thought
when I am far and you’re not near?
Will you help me grow up
help me survive in my life?
help me see many tomorrows
despite the troubles and strife?
You see I am your family
I just need a chance
I will make you so proud
so happy you will dance.
I will reach for the stars
and say hi to the moon
I will be a witness to your friendship
morning night and noon.
O what is their future
in this troubled land?
who will walk the way with them?
Who will lend a helping hand?
I look at their laughing faces
watch them as they play
and I thank God for NPFS
for the joy they know today.
And I try not to worry
about what tomorrow has in store
some things are out of our control
But I will always wish for more.
I will always wish for these children
that they have a chance in life
to enjoy this time of childhood
before the world unloads its strife.
I pray people will stand behind us
support us every day
help us help these children.
Educate them and guide the way.
I thank god for all the donors
that support us through the years.
Without them we can do nothing
we’d never move beyond the tears.
And life is surely a mystery
some things just make no sense
and yet helping little children
Is for sure a good defense.
Defense against the injustice
that sure likes to have its way.
Defense against the darkness
that could pervade each day.
So as we think of these wonderful children
entrusted in our care.
Lets pray for strength and guidance
lets offer up our worries in prayer.
Lets keep our hearts so open
and our minds full of hope.
Though the budgets are causing us stress
lets believe we will cope.
Lets keep our faith firmly planted
in the arms of God above
Lets continue in our mission
as we try to be a people of love.
Lets listen to the children
as they smile through every day.
In their smiles are valuable lessons
a smile lights up the darkest way.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Below is the story of Gabriela, a little girl at NPH Mexico reported by Erika Klotz, Project Coordinator.

Gabriela is a nine-year-old girl who came to NPH with her older siblings in October 2011. Gabriela and her 3 siblings lived in a very small village in a rural area of the neighboring state of Guerrero. The siblings came to our home as a result of extreme poverty. Gabriela’s parents are illiterate. Her father is a farmer, however the soil of the farm is very poor, and he was unable to provide his family with nutritious meals or proper clothing. It was difficult for Gabriela and her siblings to attend school on a regular basis due to the distance along with the cost of travel. The state of Guerrero is the most poverty-stricken state in Mexico, and many of our children come from this area due to poverty and the violence. 

Gabriela and her three siblings have received a new start at NPH where they have proper nutrition and attend school every day. Gabriela’s new start has involved a lot of changes in her life, but she is learning a lot and doing very well at NPH. Her caregivers all agree that Gabriela is kind and extremely helpful. “She likes to help put things away and is always offering to help with chores,” says one of her caregivers. 

Not only is Gabriela eager to help others, she is also hard working in school. Gabriela comes from an indigenous community in Guerrero where the language Mixteco is spoken. She did not speak Spanish when she arrived at NPH. However, despite the challenges that come with moving to a new home, starting a new school, and making new friends, this dedicated nine-year-old is learning Spanish quickly and thriving in school! “There are still words that I sometimes do not know, but I like school a lot,” says Gabriela while seated with her friends at lunchtime. 

When asked about her new home at NPH, Gabriela responds, “I like it here a lot because I have a lot of new friends who are like sisters.” As active as any young child, Gabriela stays busy between school, homework, and participating in her favorite activities. She really enjoys playing soccer, learning to swim in the pool, and spending time reading princess books in the library. 

Gabriela’s siblings are also doing very well at NPH. She has two siblings who are at our home for younger children where she is, and one older sister who is completing her first year of high school at our high school home. Although she misses seeing her sister, the two pass notes back and forth with volunteers who travel between the homes. When a volunteer from the high school home sees Gabriela, she gets a big smile on her face and eagerly asks how her sister is doing, how she spends her time, and what she did the previous night. The volunteers happily relay stories and after hearing them. Gabriela is content that her sister is doing well and enjoying NPH just as she is. 

Gabriela also has three cousins at our home for younger children and one cousin who is in the same grade as her sister at the high school. These eight children’s lives have all been filled with opportunity upon arriving at NPH, and they are really enjoying it. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

If someone asked me to sum up this entire year, I would describe it as falling in love...

Below is a blog post from Kristi, one of our amazing volunteers who spent her past year at NPH Guatemala. Read more about how she fell in love...

If someone asked me to sum up this entire year, I would describe it as falling in love. In the country where trash is tossed to the ground without a second thought, where stray dogs are as common as tortilla shops, and where "cat calls" aren't intended for felines, I fell in love. You see, those aren't the bits and pieces of my year I'll remember. It is oh so much more. 

I fell in love with the lifestyle.. the "Buenas tardes!" I received from complete strangers on my walk to Parramos, the hours upon hours spent around the dinner table, the guarantee that a bar always turns into a dance club at night. I fell in love with the mentality.. the idea of family being the most important, the easygoing approach of doing things mañana. I fell in love with mi Guate.. the sound of rain hitting the tin roof as I fell asleep, waking up to the sight of humbling volcanoes, the luscious greenery that is present year-round. But, most of all, I fell in love with the people. 

I fell in love with my Tercero Básico English class.. the way Domingo left class saying "See you never!" with the biggest smile on his face, the way Iris and I came to have a close outside-of-class relationship, the way all my externos loved shouting "Teacher!" from afar. 

I fell in love with my fellow librarians.. the way Stephanie would go crazy for Taylor Swift songs, the way Flori and I would laugh over silly jokes before lunch, the way Glenda would walk into the library and kid, "Matame Kristina, matame." during a busy Tuesday morning. 

I fell in love with the año girls.. the way Suyapa always greeted me with an enthusiastic "Hey girl! How you doin' girl? What's up girl?", the way Yeimy teased me with Patito, the way Astrid and I pretended to be upper class French women, the way they turned into my younger sisters. 

I fell in love with my boys.. the way sweet little Kevin brought me a chair while watching a movie, the way Jhustin pretended to be a mosca simply to annoy me at dinner, the way Jayron hugged me until he couldn't any longer. 

I fell in love with the volunteers who became my best friends.. the way Mark cleverly inserted puns into everyday conversation, the way Sam could get you to dance (anywhere!) with her, the way Erika could bring a smile to your face even after the toughest of days, the way Nathan had you laughing until your stomach hurt while boogying to "Rack City." 

So Guatemala, our year together has come to an end. Thank you. Thank you for providing me the setting in which to meet such beautiful individuals. Thank you for the opportunity to grow and to come to know myself in so many different ways. Thank you for the laughs, smiles, and even tears. Thank you for all the memories I will carry in my heart para siempre. Although we say goodbye to one another for now, don't think I will be forgetting about you anytime soon. 

Hasta Pronto, Kristi :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The road I traveled at NPH was the best road I have traveled in my life.

Below is a testimonial from a volunteer English teacher, Thayer Lawson, who helped at NPH Guatemala for over a year!

To sit down and sum up my year at NPH Guatemala, the feelings, the experiences, the challenges, the celebrations and the memories, is next to impossible. Fifteen months ago when I set off for my year adventure to teach English at NPHG, in a country that I had never traveled to, where a language was spoken that was not my own, far away from family and friends, I did not know what to expect. Though I was scared and nervous, I was excited. Little did I know that this much anticipated year would be the best thirteen months I have experienced yet. Though life-changing, the thirteen months were not easy, and there were bumps in the road. Even with bumps, the road I traveled at NPH was the best road I have traveled in my life. 

Each day I spent at NPH brought new excitement and new challenges; from the moment I woke up. Every morning at 6:00am my alarm went off, and I never had much interest in getting out of bed; it was too cold. As breathtaking as the mountains surrounding Casa San Andres are, they cause for very cold mornings and nights. I rolled out of bed and threw on my NPH uniform: black pants, my gray polo shirt, black shoes and of course my signature red or pink sunglasses. Once dressed in my usual attire, I grabbed something for breakfast and headed out the door. I was at school every morning by 6:45am for formation, before the school day began. By the time 7:00am hit, the kids began to file into their classrooms, laughing and chatting away, and I greeted each student with a smile and a good morning as we started our day. 

Teaching at NPH was one of the hardest, yet most rewarding and fulfilling experiences I have ever had. First, I had to balance teaching kids from preschool through ninth grade with different learning styles, different levels of English and very different attitudes. Some were so eager to learn and others had to be pushed. Some could speak English very well, and others had never taken an English class before. Each day brought something new, and my students and I learned together, had a lot of fun, and made great gains. After a day full of very energetic (and not always well behaved) classes, correcting papers and preparing lessons for the days to come, I headed down to spend the evening with my section of girls. 

My girls (a group of twenty), between the ages of 11-15, were the highlight of my year at NPHG. Working as a volunteer in the section was the most challenging aspect of the year, but by far the best. There were moments with these girls that pushed me to extremes emotionally that I never knew were possible. The time I put in, the relationships I made, and the memories that will last forever made every second worth it. I quickly grew to love this group of girls, and looked forward to walking in each night to find that they were always up to something different. Some evenings I would walk into a dance party complete with twenty girls singing at the top of their lungs (which of course I would quickly join in on), sometimes an indoor soccer game would be in the making, and sometimes they would all be spread out around the room working on homework and assignments for the upcoming week. There was never a dull moment in the section in the evenings, and I loved being able to be part of it—from soccer referee, to tutor, to friend, or just a listener. The relationships I formed with these girls were the foundation of my year at NPH. 

After an evening in the section I headed home to my little volunteer house on the other side of the NPHG. I always walked across the soccer field where there is an amazing view of the surrounding mountains, volcanoes and stars. The other volunteers, who were making similar treks back to the volunteer homes after a visit to their section or a late night soccer game, played a large role in my year at NPH. We were together all the time and I quickly formed relationships that I know will last a lifetime. Having the support and friendship of the other volunteers was important—we were there for each other and picked each other up when we were down, and celebrated in each other’s successes and gains. 

Now, the thirteen months in Guatemala have come and gone and I am back in the states. The much-awaited moments of seeing friends and family, applying for jobs and looking for a place to live has been a blur. I am realizing that I am not just back for vacation, but here to stay. Things are different here, and I notice it every day; everyone is speaking English, my Quetzales are not worth anything, people don’t find the need to say “buenas tardes” (good afternoon) when they pass me on the street, and I am not surrounded by the comforting laughter of the children and the familiar landscape that I had been calling home. I miss Guatemala and NPH every day, and I can't believe it is time for this chapter of my life to come to an end. I know that the memories I have made, the experiences I have had, and the people that I have met will be in my heart forever.