Friday, December 11, 2015

Poem Wins Writing Competition in UPMW Region!

The Upper Midwest Region hosted our inaugural Photo Gallery Opening on December 3rd at the NPH USA Office in Minneapolis.  We had nearly 80 entries for the photography and writing competition.  The gallery was curated by a committee made up of Pequeñas who grew up in our NPH Mexico home and members of our Associate Board.  The following poem that won our writing competition was read by author Bridgette Springer at the event!

We hope you enjoy the small glimpses into life at our NPH homes as much as we do!

See our previous post to view the winner of the photography competition or stop by our office in Minneapolis to see them on display.

As we walked to her section,

she asked me

“Do you ever look up at the stars

and think that we all see the same ones?”


“Yes,” I want to tell her, a year later.

I think it every night that I come back

to my parents’ house

from a life that’s so different

from mine in Guatemala.

As I walk to the garage,

I whisper “noches” to the stars,

in hopes that my boys,

looking up at them from their bunkbeds,

will hear it

and know that I’m thinking of them.


-Bridgette Springer, 2015


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Upper Midwest Photo Gallery and Competition!

The Upper Midwest Region hosted our inaugural Photo Gallery Opening on December 3rd at the NPH USA Office in Minneapolis.  We had nearly 80 entries for the photography and writing competition.  The gallery was curated by a committee made up of Pequeñas who grew up in our NPH Mexico home and members of our Associate Board.  The following photos each won their category.  Local friends, please stop by our office in the next year to see the photos on display. 
We hope you enjoy the small glimpses into life at our NPH homes as much as we do!
Check back for our next post to read the poem by the winner of the writing competition. 
Overall Winner (as chosen by Gallery Opening attendees)
Photographer: Kyra Knoff
Category: Food | Guatemala | 2014
“Let me help you out there”

Photographer: Sarah Cerkvenik
Category: Artistic | Nicaragua | 2014

Photographer: Martha Driessen
Category: Culture | Guatemala | 2015

Photographer: Steve Bernstein
Category: Home | Honduras | 2015

Photographer: Catherine Deeney
Category: Love | Mexico | 2015
“After sponsoring a Godchild for 16 years, I finally was able to visit his Mexican NPH home, and received bountiful amounts of love”

Photographer: Martha Driessen
Category: Nature | Guatemala | 2015

Photographer: Gaby Driessen
Category: Play | Honduras | 2014

Photographer: Max Bernstein
Category: Portrait of a Pequeño | Honduras | 2015

Photographer: Mary Clare LeFevour
Category: Selfie | Mexico | 2015

Photographer: Gina Reis
Category: Judges’ Choice | Mexico | 2014

Photographer: Beth Gillaspey
Category: Faith and Festivities | Nicaragua | 2008 

Photographer: Brook Ament
Category: Judges’ Choice | Mexico | 2015


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Your home is where your heart is...

Written by Communications Officer, Konstantin Bilozertsev, a heartfelt piece on a volunteer named Claire and her experience living with the pequenos for a year at NPH Mexico.

On our big patio, in the middle of its choir of excitement, surrounded by all of the children playing together, Claire was playing soccer with some of her boys. During this joyful night, a thought suddenly came to her mind. It was a thought as clear as the water of love and as warm as a mother’s hug. "How could I ever not extend?" she asked herself surprisingly. With sudden clarity, Claire could not see herself leaving this place. NPH Mexico had become her home, and over a year later she is still here. "I can’t imagine my life without this place; it's my second home," says Claire. What makes a home? What has tied this ribbon so gently? In the beginning, it didn’t wasn’t as easy with all the changes and challenges of the first months as a volunteer. It was when she got to know her boys, with all of their faults and unique personalities, that she felt that indescribable feeling of unconditional love.

Claire’s boys are sweet and a bit mischievous. Having already worked as a school and preschool teacher in the US, she was prepared for "the tattling and fighting, which any other kids do at their age." But here there was a lot more waiting for her. The more time passed, the more intensely she became involved with all of the children individually, with their little quirks and colorful personalities. "There are always both good and crazy days, but I know them too well to ever stay mad at them. I’m not just a teacher here; I’m their support." Over the last one and a half years Claire has changed. With the challenges of being a caretaker for thirty attention-seeking children, she has learned a lot from: lessons on discipline; teaching social skills when it may be hard to show patience at times; listening to them when they need someone to lend an ear; and to answer all kinds of questions. "We are here so they feel trust and not abandonment," she says with quiet passion. "We are their source of love and attention. Through all of the changes and uncertainty, we are the constants for at least a year. We are whom they can turn to and lean on."

In her time here she has learned to be more flexible and to go with the flow, how happy it makes one to appreciate the relationships with the people around you, and that what you share is more important than what you have. "My way of life," she reflects, "has become richer, and that’s all because of the intense involvement with the home and the wonderful people who work together to make something fun and significant happen." Claire is assured she gained much more than she possibly could give. Every time she visits her home in the US it feels like leaving behind her other life in Mexico.
To see her teaching the children in special education at school with loving patience, to see her motivating her kids doing chores with animating warmth, to see the anticipation in the eyes of bigger kids from other dorms when they are coming over to talk or even just for a hug, just makes you smile and think she must be very happy here. She weaves her work by heart, and its beauty is visible. Proudly, with a bittersweet and loving sadness in her voice she adds, "Since I arrived, they have already have grown up so much." And obviously her heart has, too.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

NPH Honduras – a place I feel so at home

Below is a testimonial written by Noel, a sponsor from our Northwest Region!
If you ask my tween and teenage daughters what was the highlight of their summer they will instantly and without a moment’s hesitation reply “the week we spent in Honduras at the Ranch.” But I’m getting ahead of myself because this wasn’t our first trip to Rancho Santa Fe.  NPH Honduras is so special that this was a repeat visit for us!

Three years ago I heard about NPH and that there were trips to the homes in the different countries and thought “that would be a neat thing to do.” Little did I know that I would end up opening my heart to children thousands of miles away, develop a relationship with two children there, sponsor them, and eagerly look forward to their letters updating me on their lives.

Recently my daughters and I had the opportunity to return to Rancho Santa Fe; our experience the summer of 2013 was so amazing that we couldn’t wait to go back; it had just taken us two years to do it!  So on July 17th we settled into our red eye flight eager to land the next morning in Tegucigalpa and get back to the Ranch.  We knew we would have a great week, but would either of the girls we sponsored remember us like we remembered them?

When we arrived at the Ranch it was a Saturday and after quickly unpacking in the guest house, San Cristobal, we headed off to mass.  What a wonderful way to start our week at NPH with Father Reynaldo, the uplifting music, and the beauty of the outdoor chapel.  My girls quickly scanned the crowd and picked out one of “our girls”.  We had several occasions to see Sarah* over that week.  We had dinner with her and her hermanas in their hogare (the building on the ranch where the 20 or so girls that age live), we saw her perform in an evening of cultural dances, we went to the school and were treated to an assembly full of Honduran traditions that she was a part of, and she and her two younger sisters visited the guest house one afternoon and we got to play cards, blow bubbles, and color.  But my most special time with Sarah was one afternoon when I visited her after school.  She could have easily played with my two daughters who speak Spanish (I don’t) and all of the girls in their hogare, but instead she took me by the hand and the two of us went out to the swing set and monkey bars near Hija Maria, where she lived.   We swung on the swings, went down the slide, and finally just sat, perched atop the monkey bars enjoying each other’s company.  While Sarah always welcomed me warmly whenever I saw her by giving me a hug, the fact that she chose to hang out with me when I could barely communicate because my Spanish was from so long ago – that meant the world to me.  As the saying goes, “your presence is your present” and Sarah didn’t care that I couldn’t speak her language, she valued me being there. 

The week was full of special times like the evening our group was invited to Father Reynaldo’s home and sat out on his porch in the evening with candles lit and had the opportunity to talk with him and some of the leadership students; students selected to come to Seattle to study for a year’s time.  Then there was the afternoon we went for a hike and got to cool off in a watering hole after our steep climb through the woods and hills that make up the Ranch.  A few days later I cooled off in La Posa (the watering hole) behind the farm.  The farm is home to the four-legged critters on the ranch; there are cows, chickens, and rabbits.  One of the great things about visiting an NPH home is in addition to spending time with the kids, you get to actually help out – whether that be with maintenance around the home, chopping up vegetables in the kitchen for that evening’s supper, weeding in the garden, or helping Donya Gloria make tortillas – they estimate she has made millions of tortillas over her 28 years working at the Ranch.  So this day we were to go to the farm and collect the eggs.  While my kids were excited to do this, I was a city girl and not so sure about hoisting up a chicken to search for eggs underneath!  While it was a bit unnerving – I was worried about getting pecked, the chickens were very used to it and obliged my prodding good-naturedly!

One afternoon during some down time I went with another woman in our group to Casa Eva, the home for elderly people who had no one to care for them and had come to live at the Ranch.  I recognized some of the residents from our prior visit and we were warmly welcomed into their beautiful courtyard.  I met a younger woman who was staying there while she recuperated from surgery she had had at the clinic.  She was appreciative of the medical care she’d received and passed the time waiting for her next surgery by crocheting.  Before I left she had given me a pair of booties, the perfect size for my daughter’s doll back home!

Touring the clinic and meeting the orthopedic doctor there, a former Pequeno (boy who grew up at the ranch) was a highlight. The waiting room was packed when we got there; we were treated to a tour of their state of the art operating room, and saw the dental clinic that is being built.  The clinic hosts medical brigades monthly and offers needed care to those at the Ranch as well as surrounding areas/towns; care that wouldn’t be available otherwise. What a gift and how special that a boy who grew up at the Ranch came back to serve as one of their doctors.  We saw this too when we toured the workshops where all the kids learn a vocation.  A couple of the instructors grew up on the Ranch and came back there to teach; I tell you it is a special place!

One evening we were treated to dinner and conversation with the Volunteers.  Every year people come from around the world (quite literally, we met volunteers from Germany, Australia, Spain, the United States) and spend a year (or more) working at the Ranch.  Through an interactive game of bingo we got to know these special young people and I could see the wheels turning in my older daughter’s head as she took all this in.  From her visit to NPH Honduras in 2013 to her visit to NPH Guatemala in 2014 and then on this return visit to NPH Honduras in 2015 she has consistently said that she wants to volunteer at a NPH home when she’s older – the challenge is going to be which of these special homes to go to!

Before our first trip to an NPH home, I was nervous.  I had traveled to Europe but never to Central America and I had lots of questions.  Also as a single mom I thought do I really want to spend my one week of summer vacation at a home for kids where I’d be doing some work – was that what I needed to recharge? Wouldn’t lying on a beach be more the ticket?  There was nothing more restorative for my spirit than a week with the amazing kids and staff at NPH. Everyone told me “you will get so much more back from this trip than you give” and boy were they right.

If you’re thinking about visiting NPH, as Nike says, “Just do it” I guarantee you that it will forever change you bringing much love and happiness into your life.  The world now seems a little smaller with part of my heart residing in these two girls who live in a different country but who I consider to be part of my family. In this fast-paced society where finding connection can be hard, NPH is an oasis. If you take the time to learn about NPH and visit one of their homes where amazing transformations happen, you will have had a positive impact on a child’s life; what a neat remembrance of your summer vacation.  And who knows? Like us, maybe you will make a forever connection that will enrich your life on a daily basis and bring you coming back for more.  I can think of no better wish for you! 
*Name changed to protect privacy.



Monday, September 14, 2015

The window that we share into each other’s world...

International volunteer Zena Lapp puts you in our kids shoes with this story!

There are so many facets of life at NPH Bolivia that it is impossible to capture my volunteer experience with any one story. So instead of telling you a story, I’m going to have you imagine something.

Imagine that, at the age of two, the government decided that your parents didn’t have the resources to take care of you and your two older siblings. They put you in a home with children who come from similar situations. You don’t remember much about your first few years in the home, but you do remember that there were always people taking care of you, holding you, hugging you. You remember playing with the other children, going to birthday parties, drawing pictures, and eventually starting school. You moved into a different house with a new caregiver and children similar to you in age. You began doing chores, you got to eat meals with your biological siblings on the weekends, you started playing football regularly, and you realized that many of those pictures you drew as a child were for your godparents from other countries. You also began to realize that some of the people you interact with are volunteers and visitors who are there to get to know you and to work at the home alongside the local staff. In addition to your caregivers, you began to have meaningful relationships with some of your godparents and some of the volunteers. Your godparents are one of the only constants in your life. They write regularly, they ask you how you are, and they teach you about life in their country. On the other hand, the volunteers and visitors come and go, but you still learn a lot from them. You see how people from other places and backgrounds may be different in some ways, but that in many ways they are similar to you. They like to play, laugh, and tell stories. They teach you, without you realizing it, important lessons about cultural diversity. You understand, years later, that because of those collective experiences, you have gained a cultural awareness that you wouldn’t otherwise have had.

One of the questions that I have struggled with in my time here is, “Are all the resources that I have spent just to be here offset by the difference that I have made in the lives of the children?” The simplest answer may be that the cost of a volunteer is much less than the cost of an employee, signifying that NPH saves a lot of money by having volunteers. Or it is possible that something I said or did might have had a direct impact on one or some of the children; I try to be a good role model for them. But I think what may be even more important is the window that we share into each other’s world.

Maya Angelou, a poet and award-winning author, once said: “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” NPH is doing just that by exposing our children to people from cultures that are vastly different from their own. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Reflection on Trust

Below is a piece written by former volunteer and current Upper Midwest Associate Board Member, Hunter Johnson.

Gaining the trust of a child at NPH isn’t always easy. While some kids run to you with open arms, becoming your best friend from day one, others don’t. For some it takes a consistent presence for them to confide in you, especially for older children.


This was one of the reasons moving back to the US was challenging for me. I felt that in my two years living at NPH, I’d invested so much time and energy into the formation of deep relationships with the children - children that I truly love - and now I was far away, no longer a part of their daily lives. It hurt. There was no way I could remain close to the children and be seen as a trustworthy presence while I was exactly not that - present. I thought my relationships would fade because I wasn’t living there and that there would be no chance for me to get to know new children.


But I was wrong.


Last March I returned to NPH Honduras for a short visit. During my stay, I spent many evenings with the same home where I had volunteered when living at NPH: a group 14-18 year-old boys. Many of the ones I knew well had gone on to high school, so the group had changed. It now consisted of different boys. I didn't know these ones nearly as well.


One particular night I spent with this group, a boy in the home was quite sick. He said he had trouble keeping his food down and felt pain in his stomach. He asked if I would accompany him to the on-site clinic. I went with him.


We walked to the clinic and he was given medication. He told me he was hungry since he had not eaten. Knowing by now that he had missed dinner in the home, I grabbed some cereal from my room and we sat outside and talked as he ate several bowls.


He opened up.


He told me about his abusive household prior to NPH and the death of his parents. He told me about how things were going in the home at NPH. He told me about how he was doing in school. He told me about who he was dating.


I was never close to this boy before.


By the time I walked him back to the home several hours later, I felt connected to him. And for the remainder of my visit in Honduras, we were close. I could tell the way his eyes lit up when he saw me that he greatly valued our quality time together, as did I. It’s amazing that this connection was made in just a fraction of one night.


So what has this taught me? My relationship with the NPH community did not stop growing when I returned to the states.

As I had previously thought, building relationships through consistent presence and familiarity is certainly an effective approach. But through my experience with this boy, I now know a new way: Gaining trust by responding to a specific person’s call for help and listening when they most want to be heard. This is equally, if not more important. And you don’t need two years to do it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

However, as many people told me, it wasn’t an adios (goodbye), but rather an hasta luego (see you later)...

Below is a testimonial written by Upper Midwest Associate Board Member Kristen Mages.
Three and a half years ago, I graduated from college, packed my bags and hopped on a plane for the Dominican Republic en route to a home called Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos. I knew I wanted to do volunteer work, but I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had found the organization online about six months earlier and thought it sounded like a good fit. It met my three simple requirements for the service year I planned on doing: working with children in a Spanish-speaking country and a faith-filled environment.

Before long, I was hooked. I remember my very first day at the home and how one of the special needs girls ran up to me giggling away as she lovingly tackled me with a bear hug. Since I was walking into a life where not even one face was familiar to me, I vividly remember how welcoming that hug felt. I also recall my second day there, Three Kings Day, and how I was allowed to choose the house I would get to work with (although looking back, it was actually them who chose me). I ended up in Casa Santa Ana, a house of twenty rambunctious teenage girls all hitting the age of puberty. After about six months of my patience being constantly tested by these girls, they started to trust me and open up. I sat by these girls’ sides for hours as they talked about their boy crushes, their absent family members, their plans for the future and many other things; as they opened their hearts to me, I found myself doing the same with them. Before long, the thought of leaving after a year became unbearable, and I decided to extend my time there for another eight months.

As my second Three Kings Day with the girls came and went, I realized just how hooked I had become. What had felt foreign in every sense of the word just 365 days earlier, now felt familiar, comfortable and most importantly, right. I had twenty new hermanitas who meant the world to me. Months later, as my time abroad came to an end, I was forced to do the hardest thing I have done yet in life – say goodbye to these newfound family members. I am usually a person who keeps her emotions in check, but with this life event, I wasn’t able to. Even reflecting on those goodbyes a couple years later gets me choked up once again.

However, as many people told me, it wasn’t an adios (goodbye), but rather an hasta luego (see you later). And that was true. Since that difficult departure, I have been blessed to be able to go back and visit once or twice a year. I send letters to Casa Santa Ana every month, and I’m now sponsoring one of those twenty girls who hold such special spots in my heart. I’m also an active member on the NPH Upper Midwest Associate’s Board where I get to spend time with other young adults who possess the same strong connection I feel towards NPH. We host fundraising events and find every means possible to share this piece of our hearts with friends and family in Minnesota.

When I think of how important NPH is to me, a million different faces, moments, and memories come to mind. I remember things from my first day in the Dominican Republic three and a half years ago all the way to the conversation I had with my parents’ NPH godchild yesterday, on the day of his graduation from high school. In the end, I realize that NPH has not only changed me, it is me.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

"Padre Tortilla" Makes Special Contribution to NPH Honduras

For more than 15 years, Fr. Ken Hume (affectionately known as “Padre Tortilla”) has been making NPH Honduras his second home, spending several weeks every year living at Rancho Santa Fe and building strong friendships with many of our staff, volunteers, and pequeños in Honduras.  Fr. Ken first met Fr. William Wasson, the founder of NPH, more than 50 years ago.  Since then he has served in the U.S. Navy, become a Catholic priest, and served in many communities around the world, including his current home of Oregon City, OR.  But it is at NPH Honduras that Fr. Ken has found true inspiration, happiness, and family.
Fr. Ken first became a godparent to Marta, an NPH Honduras pequeña, 13 years ago.  Since then he has supported Marta all the way through medical school and become a child sponsor to 17 other children in Honduras!  Through the years, “Padre Tortilla” has watched many of our students grow up, and although he doesn’t speak Spanish, the children flock to his humor and attention, making it clear that Fr. Ken is part of the family.  His mantra is “people with a good heart speak the same language,” and you can tell that Fr. Ken is as proud of the children he sponsors as if they were his own grandchildren. 
In addition to the children he sponsors, Fr. Ken helps out at the Ranch saying Mass, presiding over baptisms, and helping in the kitchen during mealtimes.  His support has also grown over the years to help NPH with many important projects, such as solar water-heaters, lockers, and printing.  Over the years Fr. Ken has generously donated more than $375,000 to NPH Honduras – an unbelievable commitment that has had a deep impact on the lives of our children there. 
Most recently, Fr. Ken decided to make a special contribution of $25,000 to NPH Honduras in honor of NPH President Reinhart Koehler.  Fr. Ken shared that he has been so moved by Reinhart’s total dedication to the children of NPH and his leadership in Honduras and beyond through the years.  He told us, “I just want Reinhart to know how much I appreciate his devotion, and I hope everyone in the NPH family will join me in appreciating Reinhart’s impact and contributions.”  Fr. Ken’s gift will go to support three programs that are important to Reinhart and the Ranch: 1) Casa Eva, the home for the elderly at NPH Honduras; 2) the Hermanos Mayores program, which sustains connections with, and supports our older brothers and sisters (NPH graduates); and 3) Education at the Ranch, especially the vocational workshops, which always need funding.  After learning of the gift, Reinhart shared, “I am very honored and humbled by this gift, and by Fr. Ken’s generosity over the years.  We are so lucky to have him as a friend and part of the NPH family.”
We were excited to welcome Fr. Ken and his sister to Seattle a few weeks ago, as he was able to concelebrate the graduation Mass for our Seattle Leadership Institute students and see several of the students from NPH Honduras with whom he has built lasting friendships.  Padre Tortilla, we are so grateful for your unfaltering support and unconditional love and service to NPH and our children!

Monday, July 13, 2015

It was hard for me to fathom how so much compassion and humility could fit inside such small bodies...

Below is a blog post written by Upper Midwest Associate Board Member Katie Lawler.

Silvia told me that earlier in the day, every few hours Claude would ask her how long it would be until we got to Kenscoff.  When she and I were walking out of the hospital with him, she had to tell him three times to slow down so that we could keep up. His excitement was palpable, and it was a happy ride out of the heat of Tabarre and up into the fresh air of the mountains.

Arriving to find a home of twenty running shouting little boys was a rude awakening, however. Overwhelmed by the disorder, he shrank back in apprehension and pressed himself into us as if trying to disappear. When Silvia and I took him to the clinic to get his medications organized with the nurse, he fell apart completely and melted into my lap, crying in despair. The next day, I could see the salt marks from his tears on my black skirt. We tried our best to distract and console him, but it was no use - his shrieks when they finally peeled him away from us were heart-wrenching.
Later that night when the younger boys were getting ready for bed, we went back to check on him. He was calm, subdued. When his caretaker told him that it was time to bathe and put on his pajamas, he stood motionless, small head hanging, and frail shoulders hunched. I was about to move to help him start undressing when I saw another little boy already in motion. He knelt down in front of Claude and started patiently taking off his shoes. When he got down to the socks, he folded each one neatly and placed it inside the shoe. When Claude got back from the shower and stood shivering in front of his bed, a second little boy arrived with a towel and gently patted Claude dry.  He then helped Claude put on his new pajamas, taking care to button each button and to straighten Claude's collar when he was done.

I stood frozen, speechless, and was hard for me to fathom how so much compassion and humility could fit inside such small bodies. To me, this is a testament to the fact that this is a home where love is.

Monday, July 6, 2015

NPH has given me more than I can ever "repay"!

Below is a reflection written by Upper Midwest Associate Board member Kyra Knoff. 

It's been almost a year since I returned from a year of volunteering at the NPH Guatemala home. Even though I don't live at the home any more, I am still active with NPH: I sponsor a child, volunteer in the office, and am on the Associate Board of the Upper Midwest Region. 

There are a lot of reasons that people get involved with NPH in the first place. Ultimately though, I believe that everyone's heart is in it for the kids of NPH, whether someone has a personal connection with a child or just hears their stories from afar. I recently re-read the testimonial that I wrote before leaving Guatemala and found a piece that I wrote about my section of boys. It's a reminder to me of what makes NPH exactly what it is.

"...I accompanied a section of 13 boys ages 9-12. At first, I could hardly tell them apart, but they soon became dear to me - I learned their quirks, favorite foods and games, and how to make each one laugh. These were the boys I sat next to every Sunday at mass. They’re the ones who never failed to prolong bedtime by giving me hug after hug and insisting on pillow talk. They ate up my scary 'brains' (aka cold spaghetti) within the first 10 minutes of the haunted house we volunteers put on for Halloween. They’re the boys who wrestled me, purposefully messing up my hair so I’d have to walk all the way home looking like I don’t own a comb. It’s them who begged me to teach them how to make s’mores, knot friendship bracelets, and play Crazy 8's. They’re the boys that captured my heart this year, and they are the ones who make it so hard to say goodbye."

NPH has given me more than I can ever "repay"!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I have been searching for a community for many years like NPH Honduras...

Below is a testimonial from sponsor Patty Tarpey about her involvement with NPH. Check it out!

What do I experience while I’m visiting NPH Honduras?  I feel profound love for the children and staff, and that love is returned. It’s wonderful to walk into the babies’ room and see the children smile and get hugs from the Tias. It’s wonderful to walk around the ranch and get hugs from the children, and it’s wonderful to meet the volunteers from all over the world who are working at the Ranch.
Words seem inadequate to communicate my experiences volunteering with NPH Honduras. I have been searching for a community for many years like NPH Honduras that I could volunteer with, so during my first visit in November 2014, I felt my search had ended.
My first visit to NPH Honduras was 10 days long. I spent the majority of my time with the babies, who ranged in age from six weeks to under two years. I wasn’t prepared for the weeping I experienced on my trip home. I so profoundly missed everyone at the Ranch, and I missed being there. I knew I had to plan my next trip, which ended up being a 12 day trip in March 2015. When I arrived I felt I returned home. 

During this trip I also spent my time with the babies. I was privileged to unexpectedly go on their annual beach trip. How wonderful it was to be able to spend time with the children, Tias, and staff again. I knew before I left I needed to plan my next trip, which I did for later this year. However, after a couple of weeks at home, I knew I needed to plan an earlier trip to visit, which I have also scheduled. At the end of 2015 I will have visited NPH Honduras four times!
All the children touch my heart at the Ranch. I'm so blessed to know one child in particular, Cristofer, who has touched my heart deeply. Cristofer is such a gracious child who gives me gifts while we are together, like seashells from the beach. On my last trip the Tias knew it was my last night with him so they let me spend more time with him that evening. As he was falling asleep in my arms Sister Kolby sat next to me and shared, "Isn't it wonderful God has someone to love for everyone?" How true. As he was falling asleep in my arms, I was weeping knowing I was leaving him the next day.

I can’t recommend enough how wonderful a community NPH Honduras is to visit. If you schedule a trip to visit, be prepared to plan future trips.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Message of Gratitude from a Pequeño Who Grew Up at NPH Mexico

Dear Friends:

Let me introduce myself, my name is Gustavo de Jesus Ramirez Rodriguez, I was born in Mexico, and I am now 23, and soon will be 24. I am a medical student in one of the most prestigious medical schools in northern Mexico.

Let me offer my most sincere thanks for everything that this great family has done for me, which I have the honor of being part of - Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH).

If I may, I will try to summarize how amazing it has been to be a part of this family for over 18 years. I mean, I'll try, because I know that words are not enough to describe the difference they have made in my life and the lives of thousands of children and youth throughout the 9 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Everything started out on September 5, 1996, when I was five years old and accompanied by my four brothers and three sisters, after a period of domestic violence, alcohol problems with my father and his abusiveness in our family, we had the amazing opportunity to be part of this amazing family, where, from the first day we had the opportunity to get access to medical and dental services, education, psychological support, services that we never believed we would have access to. At NPH we belonged to an environment full of love, service, solidarity, trust, fun, friendliness and safety, where everyone around us greeted us with an amazing smile and made us feel part of one big family.

For 18 years I had no problem feeling part of a family at NPH; my family is like any other family in the world, I think the only difference is the number of brothers and sisters, as we have hundreds or thousands, and over time more and more come. With the support of this great family, I can say that my greatest success has been in academics. With access to a quality education, good values, and my own personal growth, I received my primary education, high school education, and eventually college education. During the course of my studies, I was always taught a very simple philosophy that shaped my future… to serve my fellow man. So it was that which I studied toward in high school, a technical career directed to biological science, with the aim to help prepare me for medical school.

Upon finishing my upper secondary education, I was required to perform two years of service to NPH as a way of giving thanks for all I had received. I took care of younger siblings, and it's a way to continue sharing and communicating the importance of serving others - that's how I got the opportunity to start a project on the border between Mexico and the United States in Matamoros; Tamaulipas, one of the states with the highest social disintegration in Mexico.

With this project I learned many things during those two years and had the opportunity to share with the children and youth in the hacienda of Miacatlan, Morelos. What I learned: the value of responsibility, understanding, support; and many other things. These years of service were a time of great reflection through which I made the most important decision in my life. It was a time when I realized many of the lessons of life that our father and founder; Father William Bryce Wasson wanted to convey. During this time, I had the opportunity to prepare to take my entrance examination to college, which I passed successfully, and gave me the opportunity choose between attending two very prestigious universities in Monterrey, Mexico with a full scholarship to complete my studies. It was one of the greatest satisfactions that I personally have had, but I think it's the least I could do to make all those who have made this possible for me feel proud.

Currently, I am in the eighth semester of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Monterrey (UDEM), on full scholarship. I must admit that it has not been an easy road, but this is what I am really passionate about, and it gives me great satisfaction to serve those most in need of my services. Most likely we will not be able to change the health system in my country completely, but I'm quite sure that I will strive to give the best of myself every day to those in need.

During my time at NPH, I have had the opportunity to meet many people who help make the dreams of me and my brothers and sisters come true; people without self-interest are able to give the best of themselves for us, like receiving a letter of congratulations on a birthday, spending time with us on important celebrations such as graduations, or perhaps through financial contributions, they have managed to create an atmosphere of security and love, for thousands and thousands of children and young people. We can never thank them for as much as they have given us, but I guarantee that the seed is being planted now, and will provide very good results.

Friends, thank you for all you do for us. We sincerely appreciate the opportunity you give us to gain access to a better future for our lives. Without you this would not be possible. You are loved and appreciated.