Tuesday, March 27, 2012

President's Reception in Saint Paul

On the evening of February 28, 2012, not even freezing rain, flurries, and dangerous driving conditions could keep the close to 70 people from gathering at the Lexington in St. Paul for a night of celebration and recognition.

The President’s Reception is an event hosted by the Upper Midwest (UPM) Regional Board President to celebrate the successes of the previous year and to look forward with enthusiastic eyes to the many possibilities for growth in the year to come. At this time our dedicated volunteers are acknowledged and specially honored for the unwavering commitment and hard work that they tirelessly and generously give to help provide for the children of NPH.

This year we were grateful to be joined by Nestor Jaramillo (Interim Regional Board President), Sue Lovegreen (UPM Interim Regional Director), and John Iberle (Interim CEO). With many changes in the regional office, the UPM staff wishes to express its immense gratitude to those members of our board who have stepped up in a special way to fill necessary roles in this time of transition. It is because of this dedication that we are able to proceed forward under strong leadership.

Rose Schaffhausen and Nestor Jaramillo

The list of volunteers who deserve recognition within our region is extensive and seemingly endless! The Kautza family offered countless hours to help plan and run Faces of Hope in Iowa. Two of our volunteers, Andy Ottum and Rachel Olson, put on the Eau Claire triathlon. We would like to commend Vic Roers, for organizing the giving campaign that brought hundreds of stockings to brighten Christmas for the children of NPH Honduras. Another exciting initiative that began in 2011, and will continue in full force in 2012, is an increased presence on University campuses within the Twin Cities.

During the Fall of 2011 a group of pequeños from NPH Mexico traveled to Minnesota to share a little sliver of their lives with us. They traveled to many churches, schools, and businesses to promote ongoing support for their brothers and sisters. We would like to thank the Pequeño Tour co-chairs and Churches, so we extend our gratitude to Kathy and Richard Jordan and Fr. Steve Ulrick from Holy Name of Jesus as well as Mike Vievering and Fr. Tom Wilson from All Saints Catholic Church. Two other committee members that deserve special recognition for their outstanding efforts this past year are Anna Verhoye, Silent Auction chair for the Gala, and Kim Smith, a part of the Cinco de Mayo 5k committee.

We recognize all volunteers who offered 70 or more hours of their time to help in our office over the past year. Three people received this honor for the second year in a row: Larry Valley, Mary Kay O’Rourke, and Sylvia Harrington. Others who received the 70 Hours of Service Award for the first time are: John and Kathy Cleveland, Shannon Hollanitsch, Kate Romens, Jane Losasso, Cory Baird, D’Anne Briggs, Michael Rasley, LuLu and Dr. Peter Daly. Many of these volunteers have not only offered 70 hours of service, but their entire lives to supporting the children of NPH!

LuLu and Dr. Peter Daly

The Regional Above and Beyond Award is presented annually to a volunteer whose continued dedication and determination to transform lives goes above and beyond the call of duty. This year, we are giving this award to two individuals who have worked tirelessly to help us achieve our goal of raising children and transforming lives. The recipients of this award were: Deacon Larry and JoAnn Lawinger.

We recognize Mary Kasel for offering such acute attention to details, as she worked so hard to make the Angels of Light 25th Anniversary Gala a special occasion. In addition, Rose Schaffhausen was honored for 25 years of unwavering dedication to the children of NPH!
Over our 25 year history as an organization we have had such amazing volunteers. Many people who attended the President’s Reception were previously awarded Volunteer of the Year for their efforts, and are honored to still have them all actively working on behalf of the children of NPH. We would like to extend a special thanks to:
• JoAnne Zigman (1987)
• Mary Beth Mee (1992)
• Laurel Boerger (1993)
• Mary Kasel (1995)
• Jean Gray (1996)
• Gerald and Ginny L’Allier (1998)
• Gerald and Lucy Alfveby (1999)
• Larry and JoAnn Lawinger (2001)

Joanne Zigman and John Iberle

We are thrilled to honor Richard and Kathy Jordan as our 2011 Volunteers of the Year! Richard and Kathy are the epitome of volunteers who do it all and expect nothing in return. A big piece of each of their hearts is with the children of Miacatlan, Mexico. Richard has visited NPH Mexico multiple times with Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, and we are thrilled that this summer will be Kathy’s first trip to the home! Thanks to the Jordans and their efforts at Holy Name of Jesus church, over $20,000 was raised for the 2011 Holy Name of Jesus youth group trip to NPH Mexico and over $42,000 during the Pequeño Tour as a host parish. Kathy and Richard are also responsible for starting two Holy Name of Jesus school sponsorships, organizing fundraisers to support the sponsorships of David and Maria at the NPH Mexico home and coordinating correspondence between the classrooms and their godchildren. From walking taco sales after Masses to car wash fundraisers in the dead of winter, Kathy and Richard worked tirelessly to raise funds and awareness for Friends and NPH. In her limited spare time, Kathy came into our office in December of last year as a volunteer, making calls to lapsed sponsors and personally helping our office raise more sponsorship dollars in the month of Dec 2011 than any month in the past, ever. Richard was invited to join our local Board of Directors and has taken on various projects as a board member, consistently volunteering himself for different tasks before having to be asked. To know the Jordans is to know the meaning of humble, loyal, and supportive. They are beyond generous in giving their time, talent, and treasure to the children of NPH and the Upper Midwest office of Friends of the Orphans, and we are honored to know and work with them!

We would like to THANK YOU all so much for your immense generosity and the vital support that you offer to Friends and the children of NPH. Our office could not function without all of your hard work and determination to help our children. Because of your inspiring volunteer efforts in our office, on committees, at events, at the NPH homes, fundraising on your own, and many other ways we are able to continue raising funds and together transform thousands of lives!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

NDP Students from the Southwest Region Spend their Spring Break Helping our Kids!

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 NPH 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 as a Sponsor, 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 it has on the pequeños 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.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

NPH Peru in San Vicente de Cañete

On December 10th, 2004, our first two children arrived at NPH Peru, marking the birth of NPH International's eighth home. Since then, the NPH Peru home has grown and moved two times. NPH Peru is currently home to 101 children from all over Peru. Our family comprises children from less than one year to nineteen years old, speaking languages as diverse as Quechua and Aguaruna. Our family, currently the smallest of all the NPH homes, is rapidly growing and developing under the careful attention of our loving and dedicated staff of employees and volunteers. The seventh anniversary, which took place just this past December, was the first (of many) on our new property in San Vicente de Cañete.

Thanks to the support of all our Friends, we are gradually realizing our dream of completing this permanent home on our land in Cañete that will ultimately include a clinic, administrative offices, therapy center, sports center, communal kitchen and dining room and several family style homes designed to accommodate 16 children and two caregivers each. Building work will continue into the future to complete the complex that could house up to 500 staff and children.

On December 9th, 2012, in the afternoon, we began the celebration with a performance by cheerleaders. The groups practiced all week, and while some were nervous, all ended up doing very impressive choreography. The groups arrived carrying the flags of nine different countries that they represented and cheering their own teams. Even our youngest children and babies were able to participate in the routines. The children built human pyramids, jumped and tumbled; they also chanted and cheered calling out NPH and Father Wasson, our founder. Italy was the winner, followed by Ghana and The Dominican Republic.

The next morning on December 10th, on the official anniversary, the same groups participated in a set of games which included bobbing for apples, an obstacle course, a clown ball-toss game, and lots of water. The games were organized by the youth group. The children got wet, muddy and exhausted and were happily smiling. The last game was the tug of war. After making a big puddle, the place was ready for everyone to get dirty and all the teams wanted to win. It was a hard competition because no one wanted to let go of the rope. After the competition we enjoyed a delicious meal with a great banana split for everyone for dessert. During the meal the children talked about the games, the falls, the difficulties and the good moments. After lunch the NPH Peru family enjoyed a special mass to give thanks for all these years and remembered our founder, who is always with us.

This anniversary gave everyone the opportunity to get out of the daily routine and enjoy the seven years of life in Peru and show how grateful we are to be in our new permanent home. These activities teach the children the importance of teamwork, help to develop beautiful bonds and give the children the opportunity to spend a fantastic day with their brothers and sisters.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fr. Wasson Angels of Light St. Anne Baby House

Read this wonderful piece about the St. Anne Baby House at NPFS Haiti, one of the many shelters Friends of the Orphans and NPH is proud to support to help give a home to children in need.

Thelesa, a serious five-year-old, concentrates on making designs with her crayon. She intently completes her assignment and shows it to her kindergarten teacher and other classmates. Thelesa arrived at FWAL on September 19, 2011. Previously her life was not what a child should experience. With both of her parents deceased, she was living with her grandmother’s aunt who was unable to care for her. Acknowledging this fact, the aunt came to FWAL to ask for help. Kerline, head of the FWAL social work department, completed the investigation and found Thelesa to be malnourished. The family did not have enough food and Thelesa often went hungry. There was also no money to attend school.

“When Thelesa came to live with us she was quite sad, afraid and very malnourished. She displayed this through an attitude of distancing herself emotionally and physically from the other children and caregivers. It took Thelesa at least two months to feel more comfortable and then she started to show the funny, loving and affectionate personality that she has. Her strong character is still there and comes out at times, but it has served her well because she has been through many difficulties,” explained Joanne, assistant for FWAL.

Thelesa now lives at the FWAL St. Anne Baby house, home to 31 children six years and under. She receives an extra meal at 10 am each morning of soy protein and 21 essential vitamins and minerals to help combat her malnutrition and is enrolled in the FWAL onsite kindergarten. During the afternoons, she plays at the St. Anne home with her new friends and caregivers. There are daily organized activities such as, singing, dancing, coloring, playground time and games.

Madame Fortuna has been caring for Thelesa since she arrived. “Life is complicated. If you are a child you need people around you to make you feel important,” explained Fortuna. Before working at St. Anne’s, Fortuna worked for three years at the NPH home, St. Helene, in Kenscoff. She feels proud recognizing youths that she cared for who have now graduated from the St. Helene home.

Fortuna says that after the earthquake, there were many children that lost their parents and she wanted the opportunity to help. “This is how Haiti will change. When young children have the ability to come into a society with understanding. If the children learn that here, then they are ambassadors for change,” explains Fortuna.

Judeland, who also lives at the baby house, has experienced dramatic changes in just over one year. Arriving with severe malnutrition and neglect, she now is a vibrant, healthy, smiling 4-year old, who loves to be tickled and to color and dress up.

The St. Anne baby house has occupied a rented home in Tabarre, close to the St. Damien hospital and FWAL complex. This January, they broke ground on construction of the permanent site for the St. Anne home and kindergarten. The location is one block away from the FWAL campus and the entire FWAL kindergaten (200 students) will eventually be operating out of this new facility.