Thursday, June 19, 2014

Glen Urqhuart School students visit NPH DR!

Each year the Glen Urqhuart School in Beverly, MA sends a group of 8th grade students on a 1-week service trip to NPH. This year they traveled to NPH Dominican Republic and worked to raise more than $8,600 leading up to the trip! Barbara Kelley, Regional Board Member and this year's group leader collected some short stories and photos from the students so that we could share with all of you! Enjoy!

"Carla" by Maggie Harrison

Walking away from Casa Santa Clara was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been forced to do, knowing I was leaving behind a little girl with an innocent face and a giant heart. Carla was the only girl in her house who wasn’t immediately extremely outgoing; she was a little bit shy, but once you got to know her, she was just as nutty and outgoing as the others. Once she broke out of her shell and became comfortable with me, I knew not only could she change me, but the entire world. The first time I talked to her without the chaos of the other girls, was a couple of days into my trip. She was one of the only girls going back to school. I remember her latching onto my arm as we walked down the road. As I talked to her in my not so perfect Spanish she gently corrected me and told me about school and her siblings. When we reached the school, she said goodbye and gave me a hug.

When it came time to write goodbye letters I knew instantly I had to write a special letter to Carla. I knew she needed the encouragement for her big dreams of being a doctor in the US because it’s not easy, but I could see the potential in her. As I wrote the letter all I could think was, I hope Carla loves this. I went to the house to find Carla the next day. She led me out onto the porch. I gave her the letter, and she crawled into my lap and asked me to read it to her. When I finished, she gave me a giant hug and whispered “gracias” in my ear. I thought she was going to cry as I said, “I am going to miss you,” and she said “Me too.” Seeing her face during that bittersweet moment verified something to me; it doesn’t take much to befriend someone or put a smile on their face or a tear in their eye.

The next morning when it was getting close to the time when we had to say goodbye, I remember walking into the house and explaining to the girls I had to leave in a couple minutes. Carla was outside hanging clothes on a clothesline; her smiling face took an abrupt turn to a frown when I told her. I started saying bye to other girls first, and as I walked back outside to say a final goodbye to little Carla she turned away from me, not wanting me to see a tear run down her cheek. She followed me back into the house as I said more final goodbyes. I knelt down to give her a real hug and wiped a small tear off of her face as I said adios and I am going to miss you. She smiled at me through her tears while I stood up, and I would have given anything thing in that moment to take her with me. Te amo y te extraño Carla.

"Marily" by McKenzie Perkins
I met Marily the first day that we had lunch in the homes. We didn’t have the immediate connection like some people did, but our special relationship surpassed the rest. She was quiet and shy, and not very talkative, but it didn’t matter. She picked me. We had barely talked except at the lunch table, but she chose to befriend me. We did talk a little bit when we were together, but mainly she just wanted to walk, hand in hand, around the park. She was one of those kids that you could tell by her eyes that she had been through a lot. But I hope that I really made a difference in her life. She had been living at NPH for less than a year, and she was 13 years old. The note that she gave me the night before we left made me want to cry because it was so sweet. It was probably the most thoughtful card that I have ever received. Soon I will be an official sponsor of Marily and to definitely keep in touch with her no matter what. She made me a bracelet after lunch one day, and I have kept it on and I don’t plan to take it off until it falls off!
In our hogar there was a little boy from Haiti who was staying at NPH with his mom so they could get cancer treatment for him in Santo Domingo. Almost every day Jennie and I arrived before the kids got home from school. We would see the kids come running towards the house. Every day, Marily would come in with the biggest smile and run to the little boy to give him the biggest hug and a huge kiss on his forehead. She gave him more attention than any other child in the home. It was one of my favorite parts of lunch time, that small, thoughtful action. Marily is truly one of the most considerate people that I have ever met.

"Alicia" by Lisa Owen

I was so nervous stepping out of the visitors’ home on Sunday morning. It was our first full day and the first time seeing the kids. All my worries vanished as a little girl ran up to me and asked me my name. I was immediately pulled over to the trampoline where we just jumped around. After, she continued to pull me around, talking in rapid Spanish. She noticed when I couldn’t understand a word, and then proceeded to act it out. I messed up constantly when I was talking, and every time I did, I’d say that I was sorry. Every time I apologized, she would shake her head and tell me that there was no reason to be sorry. We kept on talking and running around until the day was over. There was so much I learned from her even in the small time we had together, and I find it incredible how quickly we became best friends despite the language barrier.

Once the day was over, she made me promise that I would come back the next afternoon, after school. Every afternoon I came back, and every time her eyes would light up when she saw me. We talked, we danced together, we ate together, we played together, she did my hair, and that’s how I spent the best days of my life. Alicia intended to spend all of the time she possibly could with me, and I wanted to spend all of my time with her, and we did. When she walked past the visitors’ house in the morning on the way to school, I could always spot her immediately; I would wave and shout “Alicia!” and she would always wave back.

For lunch, I always got to her house before she did so I could help with the plates; every day she would run in and give me a big hug. After eating lunch right next to her, she would pull me outside and we would sit and talk. I would walk her back to school, and after school, she would meet up with me again and play or she would teach me how to dance. At the end of the day, she would accompany back me back to the visitors’ house, and tell me that she would wave to me the next morning, and so the cycle began again. 
I came back to the United States immediately wanting to sponsor Alicia, because I wanted her to still be in my life far after I left. I wanted to help her, to support her. She taught me how to let go and to focus on the present. She taught me how to be a good friend and how to be a good person. She taught me so much, and I taught her a lot also; she is the best friend I have ever had, and the entire trip was an experience that I wouldn’t have missed for the world. I miss the DR and the orphanage, but mostly I miss Alicia, feeling like I belong there.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Visiting the NPH Honduras home was life-changing and utterly rewarding...

Below is a blog post written by Lindsey Duff. Lindsey has been a Sponsor since 2011 and recently visited the NPH Honduras home! 

In my room, there are pictures of NPH kids—adorable, smiling, laughing kids. Most important to me is the one of myself with the girl my family sponsors. Her picture is there to keep her in my heart and mind, but it would not be easy to forget my NPH experience.

My family got involved with NPH after hearing about it from a friend and being thoroughly impressed. Soon after, we became godparents to a then 14-year old girl in the NPH Honduras home. Being close to her age, I was ecstatic to begin writing letters—fascinated to hear about her life and eager to share about mine.

I can still remember getting her first letter and crying as I read it. It was so full of love and gratitude, and there was something so incredible about reading her own hand-written Spanish. We continued corresponding for several years, sending letters and pictures and gradually learning more and more about her life. “Espero que algún día puedan visitarme en Honduras,” she’d write—I hope that someday you can visit me in Honduras—and finally we did.

It would be impossible to adequately describe our experience there. We went as a family of sponsors speaking little Spanish and knowing even less about the culture or lifestyle of the NPH homes, and yet the kids and workers there welcomed us into their family with no hesitation, and our visit was the most life-changing experience I’ve ever had.

By itself, the experience of meeting our goddaughter would have made the trip worthwhile. We bonded immediately with her—she was so sweet and funny and kind and above all, loving. She would never walk anywhere without an arm over our shoulders or a hand in one of ours, and I’ve never been hugged so much in my life as I was in that week at the NPH home, by our goddaughter but also by kids I’d only just befriended. That was the miracle of NPH: I’ve never once met a friendlier, more loving group of kids. This, I thought, is what makes NPH so incredible.

The kids we met there had once been some of the most disadvantaged and impoverished children in a country that was already struggling with crime and economic difficulties. But that’s not who they were anymore. They were a family of happy kids, kids who had three meals a day and a bed of their own and access to health care and an education. But that wasn’t the extent of what NPH provided. What made NPH so incredible were the values of the organization that were so clearly in action every day. It was no question why the kids were so loving when they had such fabulous examples in their caretakers and teachers and in the volunteers that worked there. I would never have believed without seeing with my own eyes that such an environment of unconditional love and respect was possible.

The kids went to school, learned a trade in the workshops, ate meals, went to mass, did chores, had time to play, and the home ran so smoothly that we were amazed by the lack of organizing or reprimanding. The fact that hundreds of kids could live in the same place with so little confusion and conflict was testament to NPH’s layout. We were impressed too by the kids’ participation in making the home run smoothly. We saw young boys in an electrician class parading into one of the buildings, presumably to fix something; the older girls worked in the afternoon in one of the gardens, and even the youngest pequeños watered plants and swept walkways.
Whether we were helping in the English classes or playing soccer or doing Zumba with the girls or enjoying ourselves at the Buen Pastor festival, my family and I were constantly being amazed by the kids and by their caretakers. Visiting the NPH Honduras home was life-changing and utterly rewarding.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ailene has felt truly lucky to gain the friendship and trust of the pequeños...

Below is a post written by Mid-Atlantic/Northeast intern, Lindsey Duff, about amazing volunteer, Ailene Orr who is currently halfway through her 13-month stay at NPH Honduras!

Ailene Orr has been visiting NPH Honduras ever since she was twelve, and it was through her annual trips as a visitor that she decided she wanted to make a bigger commitment and volunteer for a year at the ranch. While her yearly visits allowed her to make friends and connect with the home, she wanted to do more. So in 2013 she became a volunteer at the home teaching Spanish and Math to the newest kids on the ranch in order to help them transition to the classroom.

Ailene’s first impression of the ranch was that it was an “idyllic place, nothing like the typical idea of an orphanage.” While adjusting to certain things about life on the ranch was difficult—the busy schedule, her new job, and the cultural differences—and it took several months to settle in, she still feels that way about the ranch.

“I think it is impressive that NPH does everything in its power to treat each child as an individual and respond to their unique talents and needs, rather than treating them as only a member of the group,” says Ailene of NPH’s programs. This is especially evident in Ailene’s work as she helps individual children make the transition into the NPH family. As a transitional or “leveling” teacher, she is one of the first people the pequeños get to know when they arrive at the ranch and are in the progress of adjusting. It’s something that Ailene really enjoys because she can form close bonds with the kids and see a lot of progress both academically and behaviorally in the short time she works with them.

Although there is much to enjoy about her job, Ailene finds that there are many challenges as well, in particular helping kids who are having difficulty adjusting to their new lives. “When they arrive, they are scared and vulnerable; everything is new and it’s a lot to adjust to all at once. Often they take out their anger, sadness, or fear with bad behavior, and the first weeks or months can be difficult,” says Ailene. But as their teacher, she also has the opportunity to help them through this change and see remarkable progress, and she clarifies, “However, they are also very eager to form positive relationships and are often some of the most affectionate, sweet, and loyal kids. They are very grateful to the people who help make their adjustment easier. I love to watch the transformation as the kids adjust and even after my students move into their grades, they continue to come visit me and always greet me with a hug.” Ailene has felt truly lucky to gain the friendship and trust of the pequeños who were at first the most difficult and distant when they arrived at the home.

Beyond her work in the classroom, she has gotten the chance to interact with the kids during their leisure time as well, and she happily recalls one favorite event—the trip with the youngest pequeños to a beach house during Easter time where the tías made delicious food, and they all played in the sand and waves. It was, for many of the pequeños, their first time at the beach, and they were delighted to be there.

Back at the ranch, Ailene acknowledges that it is the little moments shared with the kids that keep her going. “When they run up and give me a hug just to say hi, when I see them for the fifth time that day, but they are still super excited to see me, when they get really excited about little things, when they ask me to sit with them at dinner or put them to sleep at night,” these are the things that she loves about volunteering. When she leaves Ailene knows that she will dearly miss being part of the everyday life at the ranch, being an integral part of her hogar, seeing the kids she’s grown so close to, and experiencing the sense of community that is so present in the NPH home.