Wednesday, April 24, 2013

We are already planning our return...

Below is a blog post written by Chris Ambroso, a staff member from Near North Montessori School in Chicago, that recently visited the NPH home in Honduras with some of our Midwest Friends staff! 

Near North Montessori School has formed a special friendship with Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos Honduras. In March, for the second year in a row, NNMS students, parents and staff traveled down to NPH Honduras to spend a week volunteering, working and visiting with the pequeños. 

The group consisted of 16 junior high students, 9 parents and 3 staff members. Each participant in the group was a sponsor, making the visit very special for the group and the pequeños. We spent our time visiting with our godchildren, working on the farm, cutting vegetables in the kitchen, making tortillas, sanding down tables and helping in the Montessori school there. The two Spanish teachers from NNMS arranged with the English teacher at NPH to mix their students together so they could each practice their second language. One parent spent a part of each afternoon doing yoga and breathing exercises with her godchild and his housemates in Casa Emmanuel, the home for special needs boys. They loved the exercises and sense of community. 

The trip was inspirational and amazing, and we are already planning our return in 2014!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Two Families Unite!

The Mages family of Minnesota and the N.P.H. family of the Dominican Republic unite!  

My name is Suzanne Mages and I am a relatively new volunteer at the Friends of the Orphans office in St. Paul, MN. I originally got involved with Friends of the Orphans after visiting the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos site in the Dominican Republic in July 2012, where my older sister, Kristen, has been volunteering for over a year now. This past January, I was fortunate enough to make a second visit to N.P.H, but this time, my whole family went down as well as two of friends! 

Being that Michelle, my younger sister, Becca, my best friend, and I were on break from college for the entire month of January, we ventured down a week before my parents, giving us a full two weeks in the Dominican Republic. In that first week of the trip, we spent the majority of our days at N.P.H., developing friendships with kids of all ages. 

Becca and me with some of the girls! 

In the mornings, we would see the kids off to school. At noon, we would walk with them back to their houses and join them for lunch. When the school day was over, we would spend a few hours in the park, listening to music, playing on the playground, or helping with chores. On Wednesday evening, we, along with the entire N.P.H. community, attended church. It was during these times that the kids and volunteers, without realizing it, reminded me what it looked like to selflessly love and serve others. For example, in their few hours of free time after school and before dinner, I could look around the park and see the older boys teaching the younger ones how to play baseball. If a little kid started crying, it wouldn’t take long before he/she was scooped up and comforted by a volunteer or older kid. No child ever seemed to be left out. Everyone was always welcome, even an outsider like me! 

Before we knew it, the week had passed and it was time to pick up my parents and Kristen’s high school friend, Abby, from the Santo Domingo airport. We spent the first couple days after their arrival at a nearby resort, giving Kristen a chance to relax after the busyness of the holiday season. We then headed back to N.P.H., where our family of 7 (at this point we considered Becca and Abby a part of the family, with my dad calling them his “second daughters”) was warmly welcomed by the N.P.H family of over 200, uniting our two families together as one. 

Our ever-expanding family! 

The day of our return to N.P.H. happened to be the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Dominican Republic site, so we had the opportunity to be a part of the celebration. The day began with Mass, and lunch in the park followed. In the afternoon, we watched a program that some of the older kids put on for all of the visitors that came to partake in the festivities. The dancing and loud music made it such a fun atmosphere to be a part of! 

It was so fun to watch some of our new friends perform in the program- they did a great job! 

Amidst the blaring music, little Saul managed to fall asleep in Kristen’s arms! 

In the final days of our trip, my family was entirely immersed in the N.P.H. family that the kids, employees, and volunteers so welcomingly made us feel a part of. We played bingo with some of the older girls, spent more time in the park, visited the baby house, played basketball, walked to the nearby batey for soda with the girls in Kristen’s house, watched the older boys play baseball… the list goes on and on. We were even able to eat lunch with the kids in their houses, thanks to the hospitality of the tías (caregivers). 

 Michelle and Dad having a grand ol’ time with some of the younger boys! 

The days at N.P.H. allowed my dad to spend some quality time with our family’s sponsored child, Wilson (age 16), which I think meant a lot to the both of them. My dad is the lucky father of three girls and because of this, I think he considers Wilson the son he never had. And much to my mother’s surprise, this trip included a complementary manicure. Twelve-year old Anita pulled out her cherished Christmas presents, a nail file and nail polish, one afternoon and set to work on my mom’s fingernails. I think my mom was more than pleased with Anita’s skill and color choice of alternating lime green and pink. 

Dad and Wilson! 

Mom getting her nails done by Anita. 

Although we dreaded its arrival, eventually the time came to say goodbye and return to Minnesota, an especially difficult task for Michelle, Becca, and I, who had been there the longest. To leave a place where love and happiness was so abundant was almost impossible. It was incredible to be so accepted by a community that knew we would only be with them for a matter of days. The kids were inspiring in that despite the countless tragedies of loss and abandonment that so many had experienced in their pasts, their ability and willingness to love was fearless. 

Little did I know before leaving that this trip to the Dominican Republic would have such a great impact on me. Spending time at N.P.H. has not only brought about many new friendships and cherished memories, but it has provided me with inspiration to love more fully and be of greater service to those around me. And for that, I am forever grateful!  

 Family photo :)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

It could not happen if it were not for you.

A message of good news from Frank Donaghue, Chief Executive Officer:

Just recently we celebrated the feast of Easter, and like most feasts we celebrate in the Church, or even holidays we celebrate within the secular community, they are very planned and structured with every detailed prepared. In the church, the music is practiced, the special flowers arranged, the ritual unique, and so too is the way we celebrate Christmas, Mother's Day or Father's Day with our families. We have special traditions and customs that make up these annual planned events.

However, the real events of Easter and Christmas and Pentecost were not like our current celebrations; they were unexpected, kind of scary, almost rough, and yet they are the very events through which God made himself known to us. 

For our kids their stories are also often rough, scary, and unexpected, but once at NPH something happens; their lives are changed, and for most of our children they experience family for the first time. This is the good news of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos.

James Joyce, the Irish writer, describes “Epiphany” as a quick sudden discovery of "whatness", and that is what happens at NPH. And it could not happen if it were not for you. 

It happens through your generosity of resources and even your love by becoming part of our children’s lives. Every time I visit a home I seem to connect with a child and decide to sponsor a new child: one who never knew his parents; one the son of parents who left him at NPH because they had HIV, were alcoholics, and the mother a prostitute and knew that they could never take care of him; a little girl and her 5 brothers and sisters whose mother died; a boy who started his life in a trash dumpster. Each story more tragic, scary, unexpected, and rough than the previous. In a short time, I have had an epiphany, perhaps they have had one too. My small gift is little compared to the gift they have given me. 

It costs about $5,000 a year to give a child that life, that hope, that opportunity. It is their food, their medical care, their education. 

NPH is their home, their family, you have a chance to bring provide that for them, and they have the ability to give you a gift beyond measure…take it from one who had an epiphany. 

This is an invitation to truly change the life of a child and transform your life at the same time; now that is good news.

Click here to learn more here.