Monday, March 18, 2013

Midwest Young Professionals Board!

This past February, the Midwest Region launched its Young Professionals Board at Piece, a Chicago pizzeria and brewery! There was a great turnout – people in attendance ranged from past international volunteers, sponsors, event and office volunteers, and friends of friends. Old friends reconnected, new acquaintances were made and everyone enjoyed sharing Friends and NPH stories while devouring Piece’s delicious pizza and beer!

The mission of the new Midwest Young Professionals Board is to engage young people in the mission of Friends of the Orphans and Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, with the goal to increase our visibility among this audience, engage former and future international volunteers, and raise additional funds for Friends of the Orphans. The Young Professionals Board also connects young people who care about combating global poverty and helping children in need together in a fun and vibrant community of peers.

With a goal of $20,000 for 2013, the Midwest Young Professionals Board hopes to throw several fundraisers and networking opportunities throughout the year – bar events, 5K runs, social gatherings, supporting the International Volunteer program, etc. In a city as ambitious, vibrant and young as Chicago, the Board is bound to be both fun and successful!

SAVE THE DATE: The next Midwest Young Professionals Board gathering and meeting will take place on Thursday, April 25th. Location and time, TBD.

The Midwest Young Professionals Board is currently open to anyone between the ages of 21 and 35 who is interested in raising awareness and funds for Friends and NPH. Annual dues and registration forms are due by Friday, March 1st for 2013 membership. If you are interested in joining or would like more information, please contact Melissa Hoyt at or Gaby Driessen at

Erika Klotz (former International Volunteer), Jasmine Montiel (MW Office Admin/Volunteer Coordinator), and new friends enjoy Piece’s delicious brews and pizza.

Our lovely Faces of Hope and Gala volunteers enjoyed learning about other ways to support Friends of the Orphans!

Jeremy Edwards shares his Friends and NPH expertise with new friends.

Jasmine Montiel (MW Office Admin/Volunteer Coordinator), Gaby Driessen (MW Child Sponsorship Manager), and Melissa Hoyt (MW Special Events Manager)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

God loves you and there are people who don't even know you that want to help you achieve a better life...

Below is a testimonial from wonderful Friend and Godparent, Pat Henrickson. Enjoy!

Recently, my wife Maria and I got the opportunity to visit the NPH home in the Dominican Republic. Our extended family sponsors four children there and we were excited to get to meet them and see first hand the work being done. The trip was promoted through the Northwest office of Friends of the Orphans. It was expertly planned by Stacie Wallace and we were accompanied by our intrepid group leaders, Hailey Rademacher and Donna Egge. In all, eighteen of us attended from the Pacific Northwest. Anyone who wishes to take a similar trip can be confident that it will be safe and extremely well organized.

We arrived in the capitol city of Santo Domingo in the morning and were taken by bus one hour up the coast and then inland from the the City of San Pedro De Marcorís. I was surprised that the "home" is actually a sizeable community. Outside are tall walls that provide security for the children. Inside are dozens of acres with a school, a church, a clinic with a full-time volunteer nurse, a community kitchen, and a large garden. The children and staff were all very friendly and welcoming and our sponsored children were especially happy to meet us! More than two-hundred children reside here, living in small individual houses, arranged by age and gender. Up to twenty children live in each house. They are crowded, yet amazingly clean and neat. Each house has a live-in lady called a "tia", which is Spanish for aunt. The tias provide guidance and supervision.

On this trip we were volunteers as well as visitors. Keeping with the theme of the home, we were asked to help out, as is expected of the children. We painted buildings, worked in the community kitchen, helped in the school, and toiled in the garden. Of the work I did, I felt the most memorable was the day I helped build doors and shutters for a small house just outside the walls. Ten people lived there with no electricity or running water. Part of the NPH mission is to do outreach work in this nearby neighborhood. The poverty is unimaginable. Ultimately, though, it was a positive experience. It allowed me see the stark contrast between the neighborhoods that the NPH children come from and the life they have now.

Our most fun day was when we got to take our sponsored children to San Pedro for an ice cream outing. What American children take for granted was a momentous occasion for these kids. We also spent time during the evenings doing activities with the children and playing games. You quickly form a bond with them that makes it difficult to leave.

In the end, the thing that impressed me most about this home was the constant and consistent message being impressed on the children. It was handed down by the staff, by the tias, and by the priest. God loves you and there are people who don't even know you that want to help you achieve a better life. But with good fortune comes responsibility. You need to go to school. You need to do your chores and be respectful. You need to be a good citizen. Above all, when you have been given opportunity, you shouldn't take it for granted and you should give back. It was nice to be reminded of that message.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Way of the Cross by Father Rick Frechette, NPFS Haiti

It was a long, hard way that she walked, the mother of Ronel.

And like the long, hard walk of Christ, it started with a very bad verdict.
“Crucify him.”

Ronel, at 8 years old, had cancer of his kidney.

Marise was tormented, and pondered in her heart what this might mean for her little son.

So began her way of the cross.

Weeping came easy now, for this strong and weathered woman.
Like dewfall on her cheeks, and river mist shrouding her eyes.
Marise would become known for this sorrowful look.

Jeremy is very far from Port au Prince, by water or by land
(travel by air is not a choice for poor people).

Mother and Son travelled the long road, with other poor women who also hoped that Port au Prince might bring some kind of relief from their woes. 

It was a rough trip for Ronel, like being on a very bad road when your whole body aches with the flu. Christ was buffeted and stricken. Ronel was not without his literal hard knocks.  Hundreds of eyes gawked at his gaunt and pale smile . 

The journey ended, thank God, by an encounter with our team of good Samaritans at St Damien Hospital.

Help took a rough form. As Christ on the Cross was offered a sponge soaked in gall to quench his thirst, before long the bitter gall of chemotherapy became a staple for Ronel.

As Christ’s side was pierced by the sword, Ronel’s side was lanced by the surgeons spear, for the removal of the tumor.

As Christ anguished for many hours in the heat of the day, Ronel was blasted with the wild energy of radiation to burn the cancer away. 

“Thank you for helping my son,” said the bewildered Marise.

God be praised, Ronel seemed better.
And so, back to Jeremy went the world’s newest Lazarus.


Long, lazy days in the family “lakou” at Jeremy. 
New memories  of sunny days and balmy breezes, of grandma working hard in the fields, looking often to see if her precious young treasure was alright, as he lounged on a hammock, held up by two coconut trees, which shaded him and gave him drink.

Paradise regained!

As Marise started to recuperate her widows mite, to renew herself with the energy of her friends, both lost during her difficult months away from the marketplace in the face of tragic illness.

The sun rose and the sun set in Jeremy
For many months.

Ronel studied and worked,
Ronel laughed and played.
Ronel began to grow tired,
Ronel started to become pale.

Marise could not NOT notice,
Try as she might.

Back to Port au Prince, guided by hope. 
Battered again in crammed busses, walking through the hospital gates to the same good Samaritans,

But this time their jaws dropped and their hearts tightened.
It was too late. Very sadly, Ronel was beyond help and was going to die.

This is when I met Ronel. He was in agony.  His eyes were like deep lakes, trying to drink in understanding. His body was skeletal, his belly bloated. Marise held him in her arms, and the weight of his body on hers, and the weight of his illness on her heart were very obvious. She was the sorrowful mother. “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nourished you!” 

Heaven and earth were locked in an embrace, under the names of love and sorrow, under the names of Marise and Ronel. This was holy ground. Fools need not tread here.

The wish was to return to Jeremy. Marise was telling Ronel they would go back to the sunshine, to the cool breezes, to grandma and the shade of her trees. She pulled me aside to say that grandma’s hammock was the best place for Ronel to die, though she appreciated what we had done. She sobbed as she explained that if she went to Jeremy now she could start to save for a new shirt for Ronel’s burial, for a coffin to be made, for a grave to be dug.

I packed them some pain medicine. I packed some food and drink, I gave money for the tickets and to help later with the funeral. And they left after  we had a simple prayer together.

Marise had the idea, I discovered later, to be at Portail Leogane late at night, and be first in line for the morning bus. She would sleep in line, on the ground, holding her place, holding Ronel, so as to be sure of a seat on the first bus.

And so she did. She sat on the ground, against a tire, cradled her son, and fell asleep.
Marise slept lightly, but deep enough to dream. She dreamt she was flying a kite, in the calm blue sky with light winds. Birds were singing, children were laughing, an old, wizened women looking on smiled her approval and enjoyment of the scene.

The kite soared, and out-powered the string.
The string broke, and the kite was lifted by the spirit-wind higher and higher,
And became lost to her eyes in the strength of the brilliant light of the sun.

Marise woke up. Two hours to go until dawn.
Ronel was dead in her arms.

Stabat mater dolorosa, juxta crucem lacrimosa, dum pendabat filium.

Two hours to wait. Two hours to grieve, to ponder, to pray.
To grieve on public display in the streets.

Public transport would start up before sunrise, but would not accept a corpse.
Even if you paid two seats.

Marise made her way to us, for a third time since she began her way of the cross in Jeremy, nearly two years before. She arrived on foot, carrying the lifeless Ronel in her arms.

I was preparing for the morning mass as she walked into the chapel, and in wailing and grief, gave me her precious son, for the mass of the Resurrection, and burial.

HIS WAY was to walk our way.
He was born in a manger, on a bale of hay,
Noticed only by those who loved him
And by those others whom the Holy Word describes  as wise,
Who understood the language of  a rogue star.

HIS WAY was to walk our way,
And brighten it by the heroic witness and sacrifice,
Of mothers and of strangers,
And to quicken the way with many small resurrections
HIS WAY was to surrender to the tragedy he could not control
to conquer it, and ransom its energy, transforming its terror into healing,

HIS WAY was to be buried in a borrowed grave,
and to rise again quietly and unannounced,
leaving only the sign of the folded shroud that had covered his face….

…and when needed, for people like Marise,
the sign of the soaring kite with the broken string.


He has risen as he promised. God be praised.

Happy Easter to you, with shared faith!

And may God bless and reward you,
for all the Ronels and Marises who come to our doorstep
who have bee helped by your generosity.

Fr Rick Frechette CP
March 10, 2013
Port au Prince, Haiti   

Monday, March 4, 2013

New Years at NPH Honduras

Below is a story submitted by wonderful Friend and Sponsor, Marcia Van Vreede.

What? Celebrate New Year’s Eve with over 400 children... Where? In Honduras - you’ve got to be kidding! Nope, that’s what we did, and it was fabulous! The evening began with a special dinner prepared by the high school, university, and year of service students. In fact, all of the work on the Ranch at this time of year is done by them. After dinner there was a chocolate bar (they all seem to love chocolate!), time for photos, a dance, a huge bonfire (our godson helped build it), the traditional burning of the old man (an effigy for the old year), fireworks, lots and lots of firecrackers, and sparklers. The festivities last until 3:00 am if you can make it that long! Of course, all of this was accompanied by many smiles, hugs and wishes for a “Feliz Ano Nuevo”.

My name is Marcia Van Vreede, and my husband, Dale, and I have been fortunate enough to have made several trips to NPH Honduras since September 2010. That is when we finally made the trip to meet our godson, Bryan. We had been exchanging letters with Bryan since the year 2000. Our trip was a life changing experience and we decided that building this relationship with Bryan and NPH was something we wanted to do. What a rewarding journey this has been.

In his letters, our godson had told us how Christmas and New Years were celebrated at the Ranch. Last year (2011), his letters became real. In Bryan’s words, "It was the best Christmas ever!" Sharing this experience with Bryan, our new goddaughter, Estefany (we added another godchild in June 2011), their siblings, their friends and all of the children at the Ranch was truly remarkable.

Since I was a young girl, my cousin and I wanted to help orphaned children. We believed that every child deserved to be loved. (We might have been influenced by Shirley Temple movies!) Anyway, what a privilege and honor it is to be a part of Friends of the Orphans and NPH. They have made my dream come true - providing shelter, clothing, food, education, faith formation, family, and love to orphaned and abandoned children. Whether your special place is in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador or one of the other homes, it is the same in this way – the children are laughing, growing, learning and loving. God’s love is a powerful thing.

"To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there" – Barbara Bush. While we are at the Ranch, we share in the simple things that bond all families together – watching soccer games, playing water balloon toss, watching movies, sharing meals, attending Mass together, playing cards or Farkle, letting your goddaughter style your hair, making and eating cookies and bars. All simple yet profound!

The homes and children still need our help and support. There have been some huge budget cuts in the past couple of years. We can attest to some of those cuts in Honduras. They are eating less meat and more rice and beans! More budget cuts are impending in 2013 and although eating less meat is a hardship, having to cut staff and educational programs is worse. Our support is needed more than ever. While many of you may not be able to share the same experiences that Dale and I have, please be assured that your participation in this worthwhile endeavor is appreciated and put to its best use. May God continue to bless all of you in your generosity and support.