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.