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.