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.