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.