Monday, December 29, 2014

Our First Trip to NPH Honduras

Below is a beautiful reflection written by Sue Bumagin, a NPH supporter, regarding her first trip to NPH Honduras.

My husband, Paul, and I had been supporting a now-fourteen year old girl for three years and we were finally going to meet her!  We chose to go the week before Thanksgiving because there was to be a huge Quinceanera celebration.  On our first night, we watched some celebrants busily prepare party decorations as we were shown the glittery and strappy shoes that each had chosen for the festivities as well as an enormous cake.  Sadly, a boy who had been quite ill died the day before all this was to occur so instead of celebrating, we went to a funeral Mass attended by the entire community.  Each child had an opportunity to say good-bye by the open casket (face only) and many little ones took it.  While such a process helps to define death as a natural part of the life cycle, these children have already known more than their share of sorrow and loss.  

During our stay, there were big moments – like the funeral; and meeting our godchild and her delightful younger sister.  Despite language differences, our goddaughter worked as hard to communicate with us as we did with her – and that’s saying a lot for a 14-year old!  We had a good time baking together after which, she brought the cake back to her residence to share, saving one piece for her best friend and another for her sister – but not one for herself.

There were also many little moments that touched our hearts - like sitting in a big circle with the three to nine year-olds amazed that not a word was spoken while the children ate their lunch.   They may have been taught to be quiet for the sake of minimizing chaos but the silence seemed almost reverential.  Food is such a precious commodity.   I exchanged a smile and eye contact with a young boy who had chosen to sit outside of the circle.  After a brief conversation with our eyes, the boy moved in to sit next to me.  It was such a sweet moment.   Other lovely experiences included watching Paul swing a tiny girl who’d clearly wanted to be on the actual swing with the bigger kids but was too small to do so; or a boy proudly reading aloud to Paul from the English/Spanish storybook that we’d brought with us.  These were lovely moments.  

One day, we accompanied the children to an event sponsored by Tom’s Shoes and UNICEF at a military base about an hour away.  There we were joined by hundreds more children from all over the country for a day of fun, food and most importantly, new shoes (Tom’s is an American shoe company that donates a pair of shoes to someone in need for each pair sold – support Tom’s!).  When cotton candy was distributed, a boy of around eight years old accidentally swiped past Paul, leaving a yellow mark on his T-shirt.  Thinking nothing of it, Paul rubbed it off with some water.  Hours later as the busses were loading, Monica (who’d been trying to get the kids onto the bus) approached us with this boy and his brother or friend in tow.  He was practically in tears.  Refusing to board, he kept saying that he had to apologize.  He thought that he’d ruined Paul’s T-shirt.  I can’t describe the lump in my throat as I thought about this boy worrying all afternoon and insisting on ‘making it right.’  We told him that it was ‘absolutamente no problemo!’

In the course of our brief stay, we experienced sadness; and joy (dancing with Yami); the enjoyment of meeting volunteers from different parts of the world; and the triumph of flipping all the tortillas in time at least once under Dona Gloria’s watchful eyes.  I have to believe that such experiences - enhanced by about a thousand hugs - keep our hearts more open to letting in the good and doing good. 

Thank you, NPH. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"I Found a New Family - NPH"

The below entry was written by NPH Leadership Student Nelson Alvarez about the emotional experience of meeting Pulitzer Prize-winner Sonia Nazario at an NPH event in Seattle.
Written In English By Nelson

What can I say? This experience started in one of our leadership meetings.  I said something about an article that I read on Univision, and it talks about a social issue, migration.  I was surprised by this article because this media shows quite relevant numbers about migration especially highlighting the children that every year cross the borders to find their mother that left them when they were 5 years old or less.  So when Kara asked me if I wanted introduce a writer, the main question that I had in my mind was “who is Sonia Nazario?”  And immediately I said yes.

Then my host family gave me a brief biography on Sonia Nazario.  A few days later my host family bought me “Enrique’s Journey.”  When I started reading the book I did not want to stop reading this wonderful book. My experience reading Enrique’s Journey has been one of the most important in my life because this book talks about a reality that we are living now in our Central American countries, where thousands of children are traveling every year, crossing the borders to find their mother in the U.S., and we see that our governments do not do anything for these people, but I know that people from other countries are working hard for us.

I will never forget the day when I met Sonia Nazario on December 4.  When I met her I remember that I was reading my speech and she came in front of me and I said, “I cannot believe it.”  I could not believe what was happening in this moment because it was all so fast, but then I realized that I was talking with Sonia Nazario. Something that I always remember is a question that she asked me when we were talking before the conference. The question was: “Are you an orphan?”  And at the beginning I was laughing because of the directness of her question.  But my answer for her was, so I do not have mother and father, but I found a new family and this family is NPH. I think that NPH is my family because it always has supported me, always been there in my difficult and in my happy moments, and given me so many opportunities.

When I was at the podium introducing her, my first three minutes I felt nervous but then I felt comfortable because meeting her before the conference helped me a lot. This experience for me is one of the most important in my life, because I met a brave, courageous woman who is fighting for the people who do not have A VOICE IN THIS SYSTEM, and the poorest people, and I realize that there are people working for those people.

I learned that all the pain these people suffer to get to the USA is priceless, just because in our countries people do not have an opportunity to have their basic needs met, so this is the main reason why people have to emigrate to provide the best for their children, such as education, healthcare and food.

The experience of reading “Enrique’s Journey” definitely changed my way of thinking about this problem, and I realized the poorest people who do not have a lot are often the people who share the little that they have with each other.

This book connects to my life in many ways, first because the boy who she talks about is Honduran. Second because since he was a little boy his father abandoned him besides his mother. My case was the same  because my father abandoned me and my mother died when I was two years old, so both of us were abandoned by our fathers. It is why I say I, like Enrique, could have been one of the thousands children traveling every year crossing the borders.

I liked Sonia when I met her before the conference because she looks friendly, and I could talk about topics that I like to talk about. I really enjoyed having a conversation with Sonia Nazario especially because she knows the reality of my country.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Message From Fr. Rick Frechette

The below is a powerful Christmas message from Fr. Rick Frechette, National Director, NPH Haiti

Only two weeks ago, on a cold and wet night, at this time of the year when the darkness of solstice heralds the birth of the Savior, a mother with nowhere to go, hovered timidly near our gate.

The night was pregnant with both danger and destiny, as was the night when Jesus was born. We ourselves were as unaware of what was happening, as was the world of 2000 years ago. In the darkness and quiet of night, God shapes the life of a new day, and God’s instruments are dreams, inspirations, intuitions, deep rest, and silent growth as we sleep.

In vain is your earlier rising, you’re going later to rest, you who toil for the bread you eat, when he pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber (Ps 127:2).

But the shadows of night can also torment the weak and innocent, and lead one down dark paths of despair and destruction. The young mother at our gate was confused, weak and innocent, and in danger.

She was only a teenager. Her pregnancy was a scandal. She didn’t know where to go. There was no room for her at any Inn.

Her story was, once again, the story of Mary, lived out so many times throughout history.

It wasn’t a jealous king that didn’t want her child to live: it was her father and her boyfriend. It wasn’t by the teeth of the dragon of Revelations, nor the sword that brutalized the holy innocents, that her child was to die, but by the instruments of abortion.

This is what was ordered for her by the men in her life, and this is what she fearfully promised to do.
It is also why she hid from them for these last few months, until she quietly had her baby.

She could not end the life of her child. She was sure she could find a way for her child to live. Now the baby was born, but found no welcome in the world. For this woman to reclaim her own place in the world, it must be without her little girl.

She hovered by our gate, as the mother of Moses had hovered over the basket holding her son, in the river.

She watched for who and how and when her baby might be saved, as Moses mother had kept her eyes downstream, on the daughter of the king, bathing in the river. She chose carefully the moment when to release the basket, letting the river carry Moses to new life.

It was different for the mother at our gate. Her choices were poor, with grave error in her calculations.

She had not considered the time between her leaving the tiny child in the brush, and us finding the child at sunrise. She had not considered that the cold and the rain would drain all the heat from her baby. She had not considered the ants. The fire ants. The terrible fire ants.

And so the sunrise brought not the joy and promise of new life wrought by God during the night, but rather agony and death.

As Moses mother had later offered herself to the king’s court as a wet nurse for her own son, so this young mother returned later in the morning to discretely take news of her baby.

The news was terrible. The child was dead. There was lamenting and wailing in the street.

“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matt 2:18).

This story tormented me for days. I was a witness to the short life and sufferings of this baby, whose life we tried impossibly to save.

I am sure this story torments you. Our sadness would be multiplied if we knew how often this happens, if we knew how tough the world still is for young women of poverty and their children.

The birth of Christ is not a story oblivious to suffering and danger. Christ was born into this suffering, as light in the midst of suffering. At first His light was a tiny infant light, which God augmented and multiplied by a dancing star and legions of angels.

In time, his light would grow, as He grew in wisdom and grace. The darkness also grew darker, and the cold grew colder, but his light would become deep and invincible.

Let us thank God together that this is the heritage given us by the Christ Child. We are the bearers of light, holding high the bright lights of faith, of hope, of love.

This is our heritage, that by each of us offering our light, we have made the darkness of night as luminous as the Milky Way.

And even more, when we ask God to bless the light we all hold up together, God augments and multiplies our light, until even the darkness is radiant.

“even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you, and the darkness is radiant in your sight” (Ps 139:12).

Let’s thank God together that for 60 years, we at Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos have built homes with this marvelous light, that we have been a beacon of hope for children in sorrow, distress and illness, and a safe haven for countless children over these decades, and their way to a stronger and happier future. Our homes are as needed today as they ever have been in our history.

But let’s also not let our guard down. While the vast majority of the children who come to us for help do not suffer tragedy at our very gate, as did the baby girl of whom I write, the forces of darkness and destruction are not at all far from the doors of our homes.

With prayers for struggling mothers and anguished children all around the world at Christmas, let us hold our lights high and together, as one light, begging for and counting on God’s blessing, as we always have.

Thank you for being light for the children of Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos! Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and every blessing in the new year of grace, 2015. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

*Manuel’s New Home

The below entry was written by Stefan Feuerstein, National Director of NPH Honduras. Stefan reflects on the emotional experience of bringing eight-year-old Manuel permanently into the NPH family due to the closing of the home where he had lived.

I don’t know if I will ever really understand this world, where small children can be so totally lost and desperate that they will happily get in a car and drive away to a new place to live with complete strangers, while smiling and laughing.  I don’t know if I will ever understand how children can become so disappointed by those who should love them, that they find hope in those they don’t yet know.

But today reminded me of the role that we can all play in the lives of the lost to make things just a little bit better, and it reminded me of the huge responsibility that we all bear together as we embark to do just that. 

Today I felt my heart get ripped to tiny shreds and stitched together again a thousand times as we drove back from San Pedro Sula to the Ranch with Nidia, our Social Worker, and Manuel*, a child of eight years, in the back seat of my car.  A small, innocent boy with a sweet laugh, missing front teeth and a lisp, Manuel talked and talked and laughed and talked as Nidia laughed and listened. He talked of his favorite foods that he had not yet eaten, and compared in great detail the hamburger that we bought for him, to the previous one, the first hamburger he had ever had. He tried for a while to count the stars through the window as we drove on winding roads through the mountains once it got dark. He explained to us which robots are the strongest, and why. But in his stories, so sweetly told, you could also find bits and pieces that reminded us over and over again how broken we have let the world become. He proudly told us that he is never afraid of the dark, not even when he sleeps outside in the grass at night to avoid beatings from his step-father. He spoke of his dreams of becoming a soldier, because they have bigger guns than the murderers who walk the streets. In childish pragmatism, he tried to figure out how many pizzas you would need to take with you if you tried to walk to the United States in three days from Honduras.

But watching Nidia and Manuel in my mirror as they talked and laughed together, I saw how one broken little piece of this world can maybe fix another broken little piece. Nidia came to NPH when she was nine. She worked hard, studied well, and graduated from university as a Social Worker a few years ago.  And here she is today, negotiating with politicians, arguing with government social workers, formalizing the legal guardianship of NPH for 20 children from a closing government home, and laughing with a lost little boy in the back seat of a car as she takes him to the place that will be the foundation for his future.
It’s been a long, tiring day, with long tiring drives to and from the murder capital of the world. But it’s been a truly beautiful day.

I am so proud and grateful to be part of this amazing endeavor that Father Wasson started so many years ago. There is so much that we will never understand, and there is so much that is broken, but there is also so much that is good in the people around us.

Tonight I go to bed thinking of broken pasts and promising futures, and thinking of those little things that might mean that some little worlds and some little lives just might be ok soon. 

Tonight is Manuel’s first night of many on the Ranch.

Good night, and God Bless,

*names have been changed to protect the privacy of children 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Volunteers Are The Backbone Of NPH

Volunteers have been supporting the wonderful work of NPH since we first opened our doors. Their vital contributions enable NPH to transform the lives of orphaned, abandoned and disadvantaged children. Our international volunteers’ caring and generous spirits make a difference every day – one child at a time.

Click here to read a blog entry from one of our international volunteers, Shana Van Valkenburg. We are thrilled that Shana was one of the 2014 recipients of the Hightower and Kloos Legacy Fund endowment, created after the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake to honor those killed, including international volunteer Molly Hightower and visitor Ryan Kloos.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

NPH USA: Ross Egge Shares His Experience in Honduras

Here is a touching video featuring Ross Egge, Assistant Director of NPH Honduras, about what NPH means to him and how getting involved in transforming the lives of orphaned, abandoned and disadvantaged children is the most important work he can do. Enjoy!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Growing Up In The NPH Family

Stefan Feuerstein, National Director of NPH Honduras, shares his insight on what it means to grow up in the NPH family and how the experience provides children the basis from which to build their lives and become successful adults who are able to give back to their communities. Enjoy!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Top 10 Things I Will Remember from My Trip to NPH Honduras

The below observations were written by Kim Dumke, National Manager, Marketing at NPH USA about her trip to NPH Honduras for a NPH communications officers meeting.

1. The Ranch is famous!
Before landing in Tegucigalpa, I told a flight attendant that I would be visiting Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos. That did not ring a bell with him, nor did “Rancho Santa Fe.” But then I told him that people call it “the Ranch.” He replied, “Oh, the Ranch! I’ve heard of that!” 

2. NPH = safe haven.
There are beautiful mountains and lots of trees on the route to the Ranch, but there are also streets in disrepair, piles of trash along the road, and shelters made of scrap metal and wood. Just as in Mexico and Nicaragua, which I had previously visited, the NPH site is a sanctuary that feels far removed from its third world surroundings. The property extends as far as you can see and is peaceful, despite the fact that it is home to more than 400 children, and has a medical clinic and surgery center that are bustling with people who come from far and wide for help.

3. The children welcomed me with open arms – literally.
As I walked around the grounds, random children I had never met ran over to hug me and exchange a few words. One little boy wrapped his arms around me tightly, pressed his head against my ribs and refused to let go, even when other kids lightly swatted him on the head and ran away giggling. He eventually released me because it was almost dinner time.

4. Eating local – mostly.
Meals are simple but nourishing, with various combinations of rice, beans, vegetables, eggs and cheese. Because of an ongoing drought, they are currently getting their beans from Ethiopia. However, the eggs come from the home’s farm, as does the milk for the chees, which is made on-site, along with tortillas and bread.

5. “Snack” is in the eye of the beholder.
During a tour of the school, I saw kids contentedly snacking on whole cucumbers from the farm as if they were candy bars.

6. An old tire makes a great planter.
They practice Reduce, Reuse, Recycle on the Ranch. Trash is separated. Fallen branches and live trees are used for fence posts and dead trees are used for fire wood. They avoid cutting down trees if possible, and even build around them in some cases. Thanks to solar water heaters, you can take a hot shower, which is surprising in a country that lacks the infrastructure and public services we take for granted in the U.S.

7. Everything in its place.
At the storeroom, there is a place for everything, and everything is in its place, or signed out in a record book.

8. Adult supervision is not always required.
At one of the houses, I saw a boy go down a slide on top of a tall plastic crate. I was sure this would result in a trip to the clinic, but before I could say anything and before the next boy got his turn, a girl no more than 8 years old took the crate and set it out of reach. To my surprise, there was no screaming or whining; the boys just resumed sliding.

9. The children love their sponsors.
I have sponsored a boy at NPH Guatemala for 12 years so I know how important godparents are to the children, but this visit reinforced it. Some children asked me if I was their “Madrina” (Godmother) or if I would be, and everywhere I went, I heard kids – even those who have just started talking – calling, “Madrina!” I am still not sure how I escaped without having another dozen Godchildren!

10. Everyone loves the babies’ house.

It is no surprise that visitors love to spend time at the babies’ house where children up to age 7 live. However, I was surprised to see a sheep roaming freely along the courtyard! “Sheep” as it is called is no visitor, though; it lives there and never has to go far to find someone to pet it.

Photo credit: Iris Vanessa Salinas Castellanos, Coordinator of the Babies' House

Often when people hear the word “orphanage,” they think of a dismal place full of skinny, dirty children hoping to be adopted. If you visit an NPH home, you will see the term does not apply. Instead you will meet healthy children who are content knowing that they have a “forever” home, a loving family and the chance to transcend poverty to become productive citizens. This is only possible because of our caring supporters from around the world. I hope you know that you are making a difference for thousands of boys and girls.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Volunteers Run for NPH!

Below is a beautiful reflection from Hailey Rademacher about volunteers running to support NPH 

It only takes a small group of people to make a big difference! Eight former NPH International Volunteers raced a half-marathon in Seattle on August 9th to raise money and awareness for NPH. The group rallied friends and family to support the cause, and raised over $9,500 to provide food, education and healthcare to the 3,200  children that they know and love at NPH!

A big thank you to Sally Weigel, Alana Glanell, Alissa White, Doug Orofino, Kate Dorman, Lauren Eaton, Angela Klaassen, and Bryan Joneswho each spent over one year working at various NPH homes.  Led by Weigel who volunteered at NPH Honduras, the former volunteers saw an incredible opportunity to get more people connected to NPH locally, and meet the needs of the children. Alana Glanell finished the first for women in the race, and Kate Dorman completed the entire run while juggling! The runners cheered each other on throughout the race saying “Por los ninos” or “for the kids”- an inspiring shout out to remind themselves why they ran the half-marathon.

The spirit of the volunteer community continues even after they leave the NPH homes. Most volunteers go back to visit the kids and employees, and stay in touch with volunteers they met abroad. Thank you to each volunteer who has committed their time, talents, and energy to the NPH children. Your passion and experience has an incredible ongoing impact. The growing former volunteer communities across the United States demonstrate incredible opportunities for getting involved locally and continuing to improve the lives of the children together.

Thank you to everyone who ran and supported the NPH USA half-marathon team!

Friday, September 26, 2014

High Schoolers Host Fundraiser to Support Sponsorship

Below is a reflection written by high school student Danielle Stone from Glenview, IL, who organized a fundraiser to help support Johana* at NPH Guatemala. 

Recently, my tennis team and I decided to have a bake sale at our school. We wanted to have a team bonding experience and be able to help others at the same time. When we were trying to decide what organization the money should go to I suggested NPH. I told them all about the organization and about how I sponsor a child from Guatemala. They thought it sounded like a great cause and so we set a date for the bake sale. Everyone on our team made 3-4 dozen baked goods that we sold during lunch hours at our school. We sold cupcakes, brownies, cookies, lemon bars, pumpkin bread, and donuts. Everyone signed up for a shift time when they could work the table and sell our goods.

It was so incredible to see how many people wanted to learn more about NPH and how everyone was so supportive. Our goal was to raise around $300 and we ended up raising $400.66. We sold out of all our baked goods in 5 periods, which is very fast. It was such an amazing experience for me to be able to teach my peers and teachers about the mission of NPH.

*names have been changed to protect the privacy of children 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sponsors Meet Godchild After 12 Years!

Below is a reflection written by Mary Waldmann regarding the impact meeting her godchild had on her life

In 2002, we began sponsoring four-year-old Boris at NPH Guatemala. Over the next 12 years we exchanged drawings (his), photos and letters. Sometimes it was a little frustrating when letters weren’t very detailed or responsive to questions, but we kept at it. In July 2014 we were fortunate enough to travel to NPH Guatemala with a Seattle group, with the primary goal of meeting Boris. I was prepared for him to be a little standoffish since he’d never met us and and was now a 16-year-old teenager...and I’ll admit I was a little nervous. The first afternoon we arrived, Donna Egge was giving us a brief familiarization tour of the grounds when she spotted Boris on a balcony and called to him. In a flash, he was down the stairs wrapping his arms around me. As he planted a big kiss on my cheek, it really hit me just what a significant role godparents play in the lives of the pequenos. At that moment I was so glad I’d kept up our correspondence, even when it was challenging. And I was so grateful to finally meet the wonderful young man that little Boris has become. Over the next week we were able to spend a lot of time with him and learned much, much more about him. With his smattering of English, our smattering of Spanish, some help in translation and a lot of smiles and gestures, we were able to communicate pretty well and our correspondence will be much richer for it.

To those who are not yet sponsors, I can tell you what a difference you can make in a child’s life—please consider becoming a godparent. If you already sponsor a child, please consider visiting your godchild—it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life!

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Grateful Heart for NPH

Below is a letter written by visitor Claire Krummenacher to her parents and aunt who introduced her to NPH

Dear Mom, Dad, and Auntie Randy,

Thanks so much for this wonderful opportunity.  I’ve had a lot of fun with the pequeños but also learned a lot of valuable lessons.
1.       It’s okay to accept help with things you don’t know, even if it’s a six year old correcting your Spanish grammar.
3.       Be willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
4.       It’s good to meet new people but remember the ones you came with too.

I’m not doing a very good job of explaining the experiences that really made this trip special for me, but it’s hard to put into words because they can’t really describe the sound of Levi’s* laugh or Mackenson’s* smile or the sunlight on the mountains in the early morning or how Concha wanted me to sit with her at Mass and how Zolia* couldn’t talk but still held my hand and those are just a few of the beautiful moments.

But thank you for giving me good reasons to come home: a loving family that has always supported me, delicious food, a comfortable bed, the opportunity to go to school. Thanks for working so hard and for teaching me good values.

And thanks so much Auntie Randy, for introducing us to NPH in the first place. I am so happy we came and feel so lucky to have had an experience like this that changed my life.

If NPH has taught me one thing, it’s that it takes a village to raise a child. Thanks for being my village, and for giving me roots and wings.


*names have been changed to protect the privacy of children 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Year Spent at NPH Mexico

Below is a reflection written by volunteer Leslie Ford after serving at NPH Mexico about how the NPH family impacted her life  

Words fall short of describing an entire year of life, especially one which so profoundly touched my heart, opened my eyes, molded my perspectives, changed my values and lifestyle, and left me with hundreds of new brothers and sisters and a new place to call ¨home.¨

NPH Mexico has over 700 children and 200 employees, and we were a team of 10 international volunteers working as teachers, caregivers, and clinic staff. I experienced some of the hardest moments of my life there, but every single one of those moments was quickly and completely overshadowed by the opposite: some of the most extreme, pure, genuine moments of happiness I have ever felt. I spent my mornings working as a nurse in our on-site clinic, which mainly involved giving health education chats and providing primary nursing care to children who came as "walk-ins" for minor injuries and sicknesses. In the evenings, I worked as a caregiver for 21 amazing, bright, joyful, absolutely wonderful kindergartners, which is where I learned about unconditional love and the importance of patience, laughter, and the small things. Being able to share love and happiness with those kindergartners (as well as with all the other children, employees, and volunteers in the home) is something I will forever be thankful for and will never, ever forget.

Although it´s time for me to continue on a new path, my actions, perspectives and heart will now always reflect the lessons I learned and the love that was shared together as a part of the NPH family.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bringing “First Moments” to Donors and Sponsors as They Visit NPH Homes

Below is a reflection written by Gaby Driessen, Regional Manager of Child Sponsorship in NPH USA’s Midwest office, about the wonders of introducing new visitors to NPH homes for the first time. 

I directed my first trip to NPH nearly three years ago, so my first NPH visit experiences are long gone.  I don’t feel the nervousness of driving into NPH for the first time; rather, I feel comfort and familiarity.  I do not get anxious about meeting the pequeños for the first time; rather, I feel excited to see them again and pick up right where we left off a few months ago.  I do not get to fall in love with NPH for the first time; rather, I continue to fall more and more in love with the organization and its people.  Since I no longer have those “first moments” when I visit a NPH home, bringing new donors and sponsors to visit one of the NPH homes is, in my opinion, the best part of working for NPH USA.  To witness someone step onto NPH grounds for their first time, build meaningful relationships with the pequeños, and feel so at ease and at home is so remarkable.  With each trip that I lead, I am given the unique opportunity to see the light flicker in someone else’s eyes when they realize that by visiting NPH they are helping break the cycle of poverty.

In a recent trip to NPH Guatemala, I asked the trip participants to share their “aha!” moments.  What about NPH has surprised you the most?  What has made you realize the importance of you visiting NPH?  What has been your favorite moment thus far?  One participant, who was visiting NPH for his first time, shared that his “aha!” moment was when he realized that NPH is the Kingdom of God.  His answer left me speechless.  My entire education, kindergarten all the way through college, had been in Catholic schools, so at a remarkably young age I had been taught that the Kingdom of God was Heaven.  One high school religion teacher liked to say for those of different faiths, “The Kingdom of God is a place where love is all around.”  The trip participant went on to explain his reasoning for believing that NPH is the Kingdom of God – he witnessed Fr. Wasson’s pillars of unconditional love, shared responsibility and helping others in every child, caregiver, teacher, nurse, gardener, international volunteer, visitor, donor, and sponsor.  He explained that he had never seen so much love in one place, and, in his opinion, all this love could only mean that NPH is the Kingdom of God.  Throughout the rest of the week, I kept an eye out for Kingdom of God moments. 

On the last day of the trip, the youngest boys section walked past me, each boy carrying a large garbage bag filled with folded clothes.  When I asked where they were going with all the bags of clothes, they explained that they were walking into town to donate the clothes to those in need.  All of sudden that lesson from my sophomore high school religion class of love being all around made sense, as did the trip participant’s “aha!” moment; there, in the midst of the Guatemalan highlands, with a volcanic and mountainous background, on the grounds of a place that provides a home, healthcare and education for approximately 300 children, I was standing amongst a group of nine-year-old boys who were, and are, living the Kingdom of God.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Eyes Open

Below is a reflection written by Kevin Mee who has visited the home at NPH Mexico several times and will soon be visiting the home in the DR. Kevin is a Sponsor, UPM Associate Board Member & Co-President of University of St. Thomas NPH USA club!

When I was in high school, Deacon Jim Hoyt, Regional Director in the Southwest NPH USA Office, brought a group to NPH Mexico from my church. Every year, he would try to get me to go down to Mexico. I finally made it down to Mexico for the first time in the summer of 2011. I was hesitant on my way down for multiple of reasons: I spoke absolutely no Spanish, had never traveled abroad without my parents, and I only knew three people out of the 20 on the trip. After going down, my life was changed forever. Growing up in North Scottsdale I was very privileged. But I saw that the children in NPH were happy with the very basic needs of life; they did not need the Xbox, PlayStation, or television to keep them happy and busy. The true love from the children I experienced down there was the hook that captured my heart forever. I have since been down to the Mexico home five times and will visit the Dominican Republic home this summer!  I currently sponsor three children at NPH Mexico.

I stay involved by interning and volunteering in the NPH offices and events in Arizona and Minnesota. I stay involved because the children made such a positive impact on my life that I want to be able to spread the word about the joy and love of the homes here in the US. I try to get other people involved to improve the lives of the children at the NPH Homes. A few months ago, I joined the NPH Upper Midwest Associate Board (our new young professionals board). I joined this group because I saw the opportunity to have a connection with other young people who have a connection with NPH. I also want to work with others to get my generation involved in NPH. We had our first event last week and raised almost $2,000! 

While I am not in the offices, at an event, or at a home, I am a student finishing up my degree at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota (yes I’m from Arizona and study in Minnesota, and yes I hate winter). I am currently studying Business Leadership and Management. Post college, I hope to be an international volunteer at an NPH Home and after that open my own restaurant.

What I find most rewarding about being involved with NPH is that the children not only bring joy in my life, but I am able to bring so much joy to theirs. The day I left NPH Mexico on my first visit was heart wrenching. My Godson (at the time he was 13 years old), was in tears. That was the first time in my life that someone cried because I was leaving. That feeling has stuck in my mind since that day. It made me realize that the work I had done up to that point and have continued to do is truly making a difference in the life of another. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

In the midst of the impenetrable darkness, there is indeed light...

Below is a reflection written by Upper Midwest staff member, Robert Sevenich, after visiting NPFS Haiti.

Haiti has faced indescribable political and environmental devastation resulting in abject poverty and myriad deaths. It’s easy to believe that there is irrevocable damage in Haiti when visiting areas of Port-au-Prince, namely Cité Soleil. Some criticize groups within the population for their lack of emphasis on commonality in the community in the wake of desolation. The need to survive often cripples the ability to mobilize for social change.

In the midst of the impenetrable darkness, there is indeed light. In the communities surrounding Kenscoff, a town located in the mountains 15 miles south of Port-au-Prince, hundreds of children and their parents rise long before the break of day to make the long trek up the mountain’s steep incline to attend NPH’s Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH) primary school. Often mothers will wake in the middle of the night, ignite a small fire to cook the only daily meal for her family – a meal that will help sustain the children during the long journey and day at school. Families make this quotidian sacrifice to secure the opportunity for their children to learn.

St. Helene Foyer is home to 376 orphaned, abandoned and disadvantaged children, and it also provides a primary education to nearly 484 external youths while employing numerous local people to run its programs. As an enthusiastic community center for learning and employment, St. Helene’s home and school are a true testament of the Haitians’ shared desire for knowledge and communal sustainability. For example, after the school day, children will study on the side of the streets at night to glean enough muted light to study. This is one of the many practices people prioritize to improve their education.

NPH’s programs, along with many others, challenges the notion that Haitians lack the foresight to create systematic change. There indeed exists a blazing yearning for education and societal advancement within the Haitian community. One of the key pillars of NPH’s mission is to teach children the importance of shared responsibility. More appropriately, however, NPH teaches Haiti – and every other nation it where works – the necessity and urgency of community engagement and noble leadership.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A safe home...

Below is an excerpt from a blog post by Fr. Christian Mathis, Chaplain at East Tennessee State University, reflecting on his experience visiting the NPH homes in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.

My experience with NPH has shown me that despite the fact that the majority of orphaned and abandoned children in these countries continue to live on the streets, there is something that is being done for the ones who are fortunate enough to find their way to these houses where they are cared for. One such example is a young man described to us by Fr. Ron. This pequeño began his life abandoned by his mother to die in a heap of garbage in El Salvador. Fortunately he was found by the man who worked at the dump who adopted him and cared for him as his own child. He grew up only to meet with tragedy once again when his foster father was later shot and killed in their home. Finding himself alone once more, he got a job riding on a banana truck, hired to guard the produce as the truck made its daily deliveries. Eventually he was lucky enough to be taken in to the NPH house in El Salvador. There he was given a safe home where he received food, shelter and education. He finished high school and college and has plans to attend medical school.

Read the full post on Fr. Christian's blog here.

Monday, July 14, 2014

This whole 'mom' thing is no easy feat! But boy, is it rewarding...

Below is a reflection from Gina Reis who has volunteered at NPH Mexico. Thank you to Gina and ALL our volunteers for your support!
What a difference a few months can make; from living with one roommate in a quaint yet comfortable apartment in Minneapolis, to sharing simple living quarters with ten others in a small town in central Mexico. From eating a variety of different types of cuisine to a steady diet of beans, rice, and tortillas. From working as a video editor, spending a steady 40 hours a week alone in a dark, chilly editing suite, to working roughly 70 hours a week as a caregiver to 32 girls, constantly surrounded by children at every point in my day.

I started my yearlong adventure as a caregiver at Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, an orphanage in Miacatlan, Mexico, in the beginning of January, completely excited for this new experience and yet utterly terrified for this complete change ahead of me. As a caregiver, I help watch over a section of 32 girls, ages 9 to 12. I wake them up in the morning, serve them food, help with homework, check chores, teach I guess you could say I am like a mom to these girls!
One of my girls took me aside this past May to wish me a happy Mother's Day - saying that she was thankful for all that I do for her and that she loved me so much. She also sang me "Las Mañanitas", the traditional tune they sing here on birthdays and special celebrations. This kind gesture, along with a dinner planned by the male employees of the house AND a special program put on by the kids, really had me stop and realize just what it is I really do here at the home. Yes, I am here to help with homework and check chores, but as a volunteer here my main job is to give love to the girls - let them know they are appreciated and special, and to be that loving mother figure that many of them do not have. 

My life has done a 180 since moving here to NPH. The food isn't the same and the culture is different in so many ways, but what has changed the most is who I center my life around. It's no longer about me; what am I going to do today? What do I need? No. Now, my life is completely centered around my girls. I've had some of the best days of my life here, and some of the most challenging ones. This whole 'mom' thing is no easy feat! But boy, is it rewarding. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Life and Love

Below is a beautiful reflection from Ed and Wanda Sweeney, long-time parishioners and NPH supporters.

The massive front doors to the hacienda in Miacatlan opened, and we were greeted by 20-30 bubbly young children and welcomed to their home - Fr Wasson's Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos home, for over 800 orphaned children. Their smiles were so full of happiness, their faces so full of life - we were immediately struck by the joy and love that lived in this special place.

It was early December of 1992, so that afternoon we were treated to the traditional Posada, the re-enactment of Joseph & Mary's search for lodging in Bethlehem and afterwards we celebrated with the breaking of a pinata. One has to be impressed by this wonderful facility - its dorm rooms, the chapel, the fish farm, the tortilla "factory" and kids everywhere supporting and caring for each other, studying, working, cavorting as kids do. They marveled at my Polaroid camera and 15mm videocam - I had my own film crew!!

We have since served as "godparents" for several of the children and returned again years later to visit them. Some have grown up and one has gone on to the University in Monterey. Fr Wasson has provided life and love for these children. In fact, that best describes NPH - "life and love". It's one of those "you have to experience it" places!