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.