Wednesday, April 15, 2015

National Volunteer Week: A HUGE Thank You to Our International Volunteers!

For National Volunteer Week, as we continue recognizing and expressing gratitude to so many that make NPH's mission possible, we asked our International Volunteers what is special about serving at NPH. Please enjoy their wonderful and inspiring answers!

Kay Bodmer, NPH Nicaragua:

At NPH I like learning about new cultures and like helping people. NPH is a special place to volunteer because you are welcomed into the family and throughout your time you really do feel like a part of the family.  I have learned about another culture, that things hardly ever go as you expect them to and that’s ok, and that the most important thing about being here is the relationships you form, being present, and sharing love.

Claire Edelman, NPH Honduras:

Click here for Claire's blog entry:

Jennie Endersby, NPH Dominican Republic:

I like that NPH volunteers have the opportunity to wear lots of hats: in a given day, I can be a tutor, swimming coach, librarian, mentor and playmate. I know that many volunteers have similar experiences.

I have learned that it can be cheaper, healthier, and more fun to make food and other things from scratch with the kids. Some examples are birthday cake, kites, piñatas, and juice from fruit that you have walked a long way to pick and carry.

Anthony Guerra, NPH Nicaragua:

Volunteering at NPH is an amazing experience. You get the opportunity to work with amazing people that strive to provide the best environment for the kids. I've been in Nicaragua for a short time, and this experience is changing me in so many positive ways. It is truly a blessing to work with these kids. Every day they teach me so many valuable life lessons.

Anna Gunter, NPH Dominican Republic:

Here at NPH, there’s never a dull moment.  I love expressing the inner kid in me each and every day.  Volunteering at NPH makes me feel whole and loved, and the smiles and hugs from the kids make every moment worth it.
I have learned so much during my first nine months of service.  Whether it’s speaking a new language or living with 235 kids, I am constantly learning and developing new skills.

Anna Hanson, NPH Mexico:

My favorite time with the kids is when I'm with them in a one-on-one setting, like helping with and bedtime.  I will never leave my section after bedtime with less than 300 goodnight kisses from my 34 boys. 

The biggest lesson I've learned from being here is really how unconditional love works. I find myself putting the needs of others ahead of my own way more frequently than I'm used to, and still being head over heels in love with my boys when they upset me so much and bring me to tears. I am so excited to see what more this year brings.

Emily Harig, NPH Dominican Republic:

Every day I try to remind myself how lucky I am to be surrounded by our kids here. Even when something is difficult and things are not quite working out as expected, there are very few things a tiara, a dance party and a good princess movie cannot fix. It is so important to find joy in the positive things that are happening around us and inside of us. The ability and opportunity to think like is a child is an amazing gift. Thanks, NPH!

Eliza Hererro, Nicaragua:

One of my favorite parts of my job here is the constant focus on my relationships with Pequeños, particularly the boys in my section. I love being a part of their lives, whether it be helping out with daily chores, teaching them how to make oatmeal raisin cookies or learning from them how to cook and eat iguana. I consider myself blessed to "be there" when times are tough and often the best part about my day is getting one of them to change a downcast face into a cheek to cheek smile.

Khara Hesse, NPH Guatemala:

The volunteer experience is certainly an adventure, it is a roller coaster ride where the highs are extremely high and the lows are extremely low. You are regularly pushed to your limits emotionally, physically and mentally. It is exciting and challenging and extremely rewarding—truly a life-changing experience.

Anna Hester, NPH Peru:

These past three months at NPH Peru have been incredible and I feel truly blessed to be here. Something I have learned in the beginning stages of my year is the value and power of accompaniment. To me, that means being fully present with the children and not just taking their pictures or writing an article about them for my job as the communication officer. Volunteering here is an incredible adventure and I am excited for what is to come in these next few months.

Maryclaire Hillebrand, NPH Guatemala:

I love working with NPH because it is such a welcoming family-like environment, full of joy, laughter, challenges and life.  Whether working with my students, my section of boys, my colleagues, myself,  the entire community  - I've learned to be patient in an entirely new manner. Being here has also taught me how to truly enjoy the present and to take in the small moments of beauty that happen each day - there are many! 

Lena Mangin Hoeflich, NPH Guatemala:

What I love about my experience volunteering at NPH is getting to know a lot of really incredible kids.  When you come to an NPH home, you are really welcomed into the community with open arms.  I love that.  One of my favorite experiences at NPH was working as a caregiver to my section of girls in December.  A lot of kids leave for the holidays to go see family, but many stay at NPH because they do not have family to go home to.  NPH really is their only home and their family.  I loved being here with the kids and experiencing the holidays with them.  My bond really grew with a lot of kids.

Kristin Horning, NPH Mexico:

When I first learned about Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos I was intrigued by the organization and its history.  The woman who told me about her experience with NPH as a volunteer in the Guatemala home was so passionate about her time with the kids that I couldn't let go of the idea of getting involved.  I came to NPH Mexico in hopes of offering help where needed, sharing love and hope with those who have little, and giving all I can to help brighten the futures of the children in the home.  Instead I have received much more than I am capable of offering.  The children here continue to teach me the true meaning of unconditional love, forgiveness, trust, resilience, and much more. 

DJ Johnson, NPH Dominican Republic:

After 21 months of working with NPH, I'll say that what I like most about volunteering is building connections with my girls' house that I've been assigned to. Compared to the beginning of my first year, things are going a lot more smoothly. I crack jokes at them all the time and they do the same to me. They are mad at me sometimes and I get mad at them. They are really like the little (well, teenage) sisters I never had. I love them! I am glad that I decided to stay another year as a volunteer.

Griffin Jones, NPH Bolivia:

I love NPH because it makes me feel like the world is getting better. There are hundreds of millions of children in need in the world, and NPH only cares for a few thousand, so if you´re zoomed out, it seems like we haven´t even scratched the surface. But if you zoom in, and choose to look at the kids we do take care of, and you see in their faces and how they act with each other that they really are in a better place than they were, that they´re happier, that most of them will be good adults, you feel better about the world and its future. 

Claire Jordan, NPH Mexico:

Nine months ago I was an ordinary 23 year old, surrounded by friends and family, with access to fancy restaurants and large commercial shopping malls. Today, I am a teacher to 16 challenging but wonderful students and a caregiver to 34 adorably energetic boys. I no longer have access to my favorite American restaurants, large shopping malls, and high speed internet. But what I do have outweighs all of those materialistic things: I have 500 new loving brothers and sisters.  My experience as a volunteer at NPH Mexico has put me out of my comfort zone and has tested my patience, but most of all has taught me what is important in life, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Hannah Juricic, NPH Dominican Republic:

Every day at NPH, I get to see the kids learn and grow. I have learned (or, re-learned): to share, to be patient even when you are at your wits' end, and to be flexible.  If I can have a meaningful impact on the kids here, I will not have given as much to them as they have given to me. I want to help give them good opportunities more than anything else right now. 

Michael Kavanagh, NPH Honduras:

We recently celebrated Easter at Rancho Santa Fe: no better way to spend Easter morning than with the family of NPH Honduras.

Kathryn Kirkpatrick, NPH  Mexico:

Every day I am loved and hugged by more than 100 kids. I get to tuck 70 beautiful girls into bed each night, after hearing about their days, their woes and their celebrations. These past 9 months have been such a unique and beautiful experience. I feel so fortunate to have this time to get to know such bright, resilient, talented, open, and loving young people!

 Megan Landers, NPH Honduras:

Working as a nurse at NPH Honduras I get the unique opportunity to work with people from the surrounding community as well as with all of the children. Trying to sum up why I love being a part of NPH in a few sentences is impossible. The kids here are life changing, the other volunteers and staff are affirming and supportive and you know after being here only a short time that these people will be a part of you for the rest of your life. 

Kyle Lansden, NPH Dominican Republic:

I love being a volunteer for NPH in the Dominican Republic.  I love waking up every day and trying my best to respond to the call to selflessly give love to the kids here.  Not to mention, I receive so much from the kids in return.  There's never a dull moment here at NPH with all of the high energy and goofiness, and I can't wait to start my second year of volunteering.  I know that the best is yet to come!

Zena Lapp, NPH Bolivia:
Once during my year in Bolivia, one of the educators and I took some of the children to the airport.  They loved it! Really, most important parts of life are love-filled family gatherings and excursions. Experiences last much longer, and are often more important, than material objects. A toy will eventually break, but the children will never forget the first time they saw an airplane take off. And who knows, these small experiences might inspire them in ways that we can never imagine.

Katie Lawler, NPH Haiti:

“It isn’t enough to love, we must prove it.”
- St. Therese of Lisieux
Volunteering at NPH has been both one of the most challenging and one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  I am so grateful for the opportunity that working in Haiti has given me to learn and grow in ways I never imagined, and by far the best part has been the relationships I’ve been fortunate to form—with the children, with my Haitian coworkers and friends, and with other volunteers from all around the world.  I know that my work in Haiti and with NPH is only just beginning.

Jessica Leff, NPH Honduras:

As a volunteer Speech Language Pathologist, I have been keeping a blog here: It sums up my experiences and how much I love the NPH family.    

Haley Rapp, NPH Mexico:
There's nothing quite like living and working among 500 children at NPH! Of course there are difficult moments, but they often end up overshadowed by ones of love. It's just a joy to interact with them and discover who they are. I'm learning the importance of presence and that doing isn't always necessary. In being present, you can share meaningful moments and express interest. Those times are some of my favorite memories as they helped me connect with kids.  Serving is helping me develop into a more selfless, patient, and loving individual.

Kendra Rosario, NPH Honduras:

Working in the Holy Family Surgery Center, I've gained so much valuable experience; I've enjoyed scrubbing into surgeries, shadowing Dr. Antunez in clinic, and working with my co-coordinators to plan brigades. Still, after a day in the surgery center, I'm always thrilled to go spend time with the girls in my hogar (household) of girls from 12-20. One of our favorite things to do together is listen to music. After they're done with their homework, we like they dance, and they have even attempted to teach me some Bachata steps!

Emily Sandbo, NPH Mexico:

I have been at NPH Mexico for just over two months. Some days I still can’t believe I am living in another country, with hundreds of kids who crack me up, show me love and keep me on my toes. I love getting to develop relationships with my students, my girls and the other volunteers. During my time here I have realized that is what I can do best, spend time with people and be present with them. I do not understand 100% of everything that is said, or the best way to clean the floors, but I can sit with a kid and give them all of my attention or listen to them and make them feel important.

Erin Schumaker, NPH Guatemala:

I love that at NPH I have created great relationships with my kids, while working in therapy and in my section. While volunteering I have learned to live more in the moment, enjoy the little things that happen, and live more simply. The moment I will never forget is when one of the little ones in my section said my name for the first time. I was walking by and said hello, and he just answers back, "Hola Erin". It was a huge moment not only as a professional (because I am working with him increasing his communication) but also in our relationship.

Ben Shattuck, NPH Guatemala:

As an NPH volunteer, I’ve learned to celebrate the small gains. NPH is an extensive organization with an ambitious vision to assist children according to a long-term timeline. I’ve learned that if one doesn’t recognize and appreciate the small accomplishments – a hug, smile, or a conversation in passing with a Pequeño – then one is easily discouraged. It is important to recognize the centrality of small gains in fulfilling NPH’s ambitious vision to assist each Pequeño depending on his or her needs.

Emily Siegler, NPH Dominican Republic:

As a volunteer at NPH I like being able to have a working and personal relationship with the kids.  I like making the kids smile!  I like working in community with fellow volunteers.  I like receiving and giving about 80 hugs a day.  

I have learned that a lot is out of my control and that is okay. There is a lot of things I wish I could change, but I don't have the capacity to change all of them, nor is it even my job to do so a majority of the time.  All I can do is just love on kids, and do it to my best ability.

Valerie Sis, NPH Honduras:

What I like most about working at NPH is that all the work I do and the love I give is multiplied and given back to me through smiles and hugs.  I’ve learned that no matter how far from home I am, the children here are the same as anywhere else in the world.  All they really want is to be taken care of, played with, and loved.  I’ve also learned the value of the volunteer community, as it makes a world of difference when you have others around that are experiencing the same things as you.  While I have many good memories here, the best ones consist rocking the babies and watching them walk and say their first words.  They seem to be growing up so fast already!

Bridget Springer, NPH Guatemala:

At the start of my service, I was often frustrated by the time “wasted” in meetings, activities, and interruptions.  I’ll always remember the Friday morning in September when that changed.  One of my second graders stayed in the library after not winning bingo, and I sat next to him on the bench as he cried and stared out the open door.  After a few minutes of silence, I asked him if he wanted to be alone or with me.  He answered “with you.”  As I sat there, I thought of my unplanned lessons and ungraded papers, but it occurred to me that I didn’t feel like I was wasting time.  He walked back to class – “with me” – a half hour later, unaware that he had taught me one of the most valuable lessons of my service: the importance of just being there.

Carson Stevens, NPH Honduras:

I love the opportunity to work with adorable kids because I get to be myself (a kid, though not as cute as the Pequeños).  I have learned a tremendous amount about respect, patience, and doing what I want to do, not what others expect me to.  The last time I spoke with my dear former volunteer coordinator, Miriam Streit she told me to never give up on what I want in life.  She was an amazing support before, during, and after her time as my volunteer coordinator.

Ilyssa Tamler, NPH Mexico:

As my time as a volunteer at NPH Mexico is nearing an end, I have been reflecting a lot on how incredible my experience has been. I have absolutely loved spending time with the kids in this house. They have changed my life by welcoming me with open arms and showing me unconditional love, and for that I will be forever grateful. I have learned so much from them, as well. They have taught me about hard-work and discipline, the importance of family and friendship, living life to the fullest, and most importantly about the true meaning of love.

Kim Wassil, NPH Mexico:

At NPH Mexico we have a vibrant dance group.   To me, being involved with the dance group represents different aspects of what it means to be a volunteer for NPH: spending time with and getting to know the children, participating in cultural experiences, and putting yourself out of your comfort zone. I am so happy that I have gotten to work with so many amazing children and participate in this experience with some of them.  I am sure these next 9 months at NPH will be full of experiences and challenges that I cannot even imagine, but by keeping an open mind to different perspectives I will be ready for them.

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