Monday, May 11, 2015

Eyes Wide Open: A Teen's Reflection on Her Wonderful Visit to NPH Dominican Republic

Lyons Township High School (LaGrange, IL) Junior MelRose Buckler shares this touching story of her extended family's recent visit to NPH Dominican Republic and how she was inspired by what she experienced while there.

When I first found out that I, along with my entire family (mom, brother, sister, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandmother and her husband!), was going to visit an orphanage while in the Dominican Republic, I didn’t know what to expect.  We were accompanying my grandma and her husband on a visit to meet Gastón* for the first time (the godchild that she was sponsoring).  But then, within minutes of walking with our tour guide and seeing “pequeños” run up to greet us, I saw just how welcoming and friendly NPH was. 

Our whole family—about 20 of us—received a tour of the Casa Santa Ana village.  We saw the kitchen, the therapy house, school, playground and soccer fields, and the houses where the children lived.  My cousin and I went to a house with 10- and 12-year-old girls and spent time with them, eating lunch and seeing their bedrooms and toys. 

The most memorable part for me was when the girls discovered Altoids.  While a few of the girls and I were kicking around a beach ball in the playground, one of our new friends saw Altoids in my aunt’s purse.  Being curious, she asked for one, received the tin and started to evenly distribute them to all her friends.  After they were all distributed, the girls excitedly tried what they anticipated was a bit of sweet candy. But, instead, they shuddered and cringed because of the “picante” flavor.  We all laughed as I tried to tell them that the spicy flavor was very strong peppermint. 

Although my experience at NPH was short, it still allowed me to see the great facilities and how the children were getting the help and love that every child needs—they gain possibilities for a better future.  Going in not sure what to expect, I came out with my eyes opened.  The facilities that the children have access to allow them to grow and learn, and small things, like “spicy” mints bring such big smiles to their faces. 

The brief experience that I had at NPH Dominican Republic was truly inspirational and made me realize that even with age differences, language differences and differences in life experiences, you can still make real connections. Sometimes it’s as simple as sharing mints.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

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