Wednesday, April 13, 2016

National Volunteer Week: THANK YOU / GRACIAS / MESI to our International Volunteers

It's National Volunteer Week and we are pleased to introduce the 29 people from the U.S. who are serving at the NPH homes.

Allie Goldberg, NPH Honduras
Began volunteering in July 2015

Allie is from Redondo Beach, CA. She is serving as a P.E. Teacher.

Amanda Gingras, NPH DR
Began volunteering in June 2015

To be loved by a child is possibly one of the greatest feelings in the world. Every day as I walk down the streets of NPH, I am greeted by a dozen or more voices calling out my name and countless hugs, even if I've only been away at the house or the office for no more than thirty minutes. Children don't need you to be perfect, they just want you to spend time with them and show them you care, even if it means making a total fool of yourself learning a last minute dance routine or singing the same song you only know half the words to over and over for a week.

I've gotten to be involved in a wide variety of activities here in the home, but my favorite part of life here is the one on one time I have with some of the children. Whether it is a solo game of cards where not a word is said, a brief hug on the return walk from school, or a half hour long heart to heart, these are the moments I treasure most. Being a part of this NPH family has been a gift and blessing, and I love each and every one of the many hearts I have had the joy of meeting and getting to know this year.

Anna Hester, NPH Peru
Began volunteering in January 2015

Just a few months into my second year at NPH Peru, I am constantly reminded that I made the right decision to extend. Whether it is listening the voices of the children as they sing during mass, or having longer and more extensive conversations with the some of the young adults. I love being Tía Anna! My heart is full and I am so thankful to have had this opportunity to become apart of the NPH Peru family. As Father Pedro Arrupe said, "Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything."

Anna Gunter, NPH Dominican Republic
Began volunteering in June 2014
After 20 months of being at NPH, I have to say that extending my time was one of the best choices I’ve made. I have become a true older sister to the girls in my house and formed bonds that will last a lifetime. They’ve taught me that simply being present is one of the most valuable things in life. A favorite quote of mine that explains my relationship to the kids, NPH, and the DR is, “Family isn't always blood. It's the people in your life who want you in theirs. The ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what.”

Elizabeth Lanham, NPH Guatemala
Began volunteering in January 2016

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
-Dr. Seuss

Emma Lane, NPH Honduras
Began volunteering in July 2015

Emma is from Lake Forest, IL, and is serving as a Caregiver and Coordinator of the Women's Empowerment Group.

Emily Poynton, NPH Mexico
Began volunteering in July 2015

Coming up quickly on the end of my time at NPH Mexico, the lesson I will take home with me is that it is the little things that let someone know you care: When you get or give an unexpected hug. When someone tells you that they don't want to lie to you because they respect you. When you ask the siblings how their trip home went. When you sit making faces and animal noises with a girl in an acting competition for an hour because she is looking for a distraction from her broken heart.

I've always known that it is the little things that count, because without the little things big displays of affection are just that: displays. But I will never again take for granted the impact a smile paired with your name can make. And I will never forget that I want to be a person who gives to others the joy and consolation of being known and appreciated, rather than someone who makes others feel unseen, even by accident or through carelessness. It has meant the world to me on hard days. It has meant the world to me on wonderful days. And that is just the impact of greeting someone by name. Imagine the possibilities when you dare to be bigger and more intentional in showing your love! But always, always with the consistency of the little, daily things to back it up.

Emily Siegler, NPH Dominican Republic
Began volunteering in January 2015

As a speech and language therapist here in the Dominican Republic, I have seen my fair share students struggling in school, a lot of which is due to their ability to pay attention in class. One boy I have worked with for the past year, struggles exactly in this way. However, I proudly will say that he has been my biggest success! Several months ago I was helping him with his homework, he could not even begin to write the numbers 1-100. After some focused attention and explanation in therapy, and of course with some practice, he independently now can reach 100, and even more so he can name all the numbers correctly! This may seem like a small feat but in reality it will affect most of his math skills from here on out and absolutely has affected his confidence. Moments like these, where I see the real fruit of my work here keep me going for weeks. I am reminded that these children have a great capacity to learn and when we give them the focused attention and explanation they need big changes happen. This is what I live for here at NPH.

Jaclyn Sisto, NPH Mexico
Began volunteering in July 2015

Jaclyn is from Carlton, OR, and is serving as a Caregiver/Special Education Teacher’s Assistant.

Jason Abbott, NPH Honduras
Began volunteering in January 2016

I'm so grateful to have become a part of the NPH community. I went on two NPH trips to the Mexico and Guatemala homes while in high school and now have returned to work as a volunteer in Honduras. Recently, the Honduran home celebrated Father's Day and along with the tios (caregivers) and other men on the ranch, I was included in the celebration. It means so much to these children to have compassionate and loving volunteers in their lives. I continue to be amazed each day by these boys and girls and am excited for the things they will teach me.

Karl Groneman, NPH Bolivia
Began volunteering in November 2014 at NPH Honduras

Katherine Theis, NPH Mexico
Began volunteering in January 2016

“Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words!” - Pope Francis. I have only been at NPH for a few months, but my favorite part of the day is interacting with the children. Even if we don't always understand each other we still manage to have a great time playing a game, watching a movie, working on homework, or having a conversation. I also love how helpful and patient they have been with helping me learning Spanish. Overall, the hugs, the smiles, and the relationships built so far have made all my days here. I am really looking forward to what the next several months bring.

Kevin Mee, NPH Mexico
Began volunteering in July 2015

What I like about being a volunteer is the glow on the kids from another section when we are playing with each other, the only words that I can think of for this is pure joy. I’ve had to learn how to be more organized in my planning, be more of an authority figure, not always laid back, and obviously learn more Spanish.

My favorite story happened right before Christmas: It was Christmas Eve and I was getting ready to leave my section for the night and go back to the States the next morning for a couple of weeks. I just finished yelling, "Good night and Merry Christmas" to my boys (aged 11-17) as they were watching a movie; this kid came up to me and said, "Kevin, you know we love you right?" He gave me a hug and said, "Merry Christmas. See you in January after your vacation. We will miss you.”

Kyle Lansden, NPH Dominican Republic
Began volunteering in June 2014

As my time here is coming to a close, I'm quickly realizing how grateful I am to have spent nearly two years with the kids here at NPH Dominican Republic. The laughs, the tears, the successes, and the struggles have all contributed to a transforming and life-changing experience. I have learned just as much, if not more, from the kids as they have hopefully learned from me. My work here has even helped me decide to pursue education as a career, and I'll be starting grad school this summer. Without a doubt, I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for my time here in the DR.

Laretia Williams, NPH Dominican Republic
Began volunteering in June 2015

Coming into NPH and into the house of 16 uniquely beautiful teenage and 20 something year olds, I told myself, "give what you can, when you can, while you can." Give the time you can, the advice you can, the hugs you can, the love you can. And that's what I've been doing. But receiving their time, their advice, their hugs, their love have been even more marvelous.

Lauren Dominguez, NPH Guatemala
Began volunteering in July 2015

My experience at NPH Guatemala has been amazing. I am now part of a family that used to be 300 strangers. Some of my favorite times are spend in my section of 14 girls ages 9-11. They are so sweet and caring. Little things like walking around holding hands, or making sure no one gets left out of goodnight hugs, are a few of my favorite moments here. For me it is those constant little things that make my experience here so wonderful.

Leah Yode, NPH Guatemala
Began volunteering in July 2015

Nothing gives me more joy than to be around the kids and volunteers and hear their stories. I consider myself very lucky to be part of such a loving and caring team of volunteers who seek to become global citizens.

Maggie Edlebeck, NPH Honduras
Began volunteering in July 2015

NPH Honduras has completely ruined my life in the best way possible. A piece of my heart will always belong to my students, chicas ponderosas (the “Powerful Girls” program) and my household of girls called Hermanas de Jesus. I am thankful for nights spent dancing to Bruno Mars, straightening hair for quinceaneras, studying for English tests, and making cookies.

Margaret McIntee, NPH Honduras
Began volunteering in July 2014

Over the past two years I have volunteered on the ranch at NPH Honduras working in the surgery center. I really get the best of both worlds, serving the people of the surrounding community and making strong bonds with the kids on the ranch! Although the surgery center transforms many lives through surgeries and follow-up care, I think the best impact it has is inspiring the kids. Our medical director, Dr. Merlin Antúnez was one of the first pequeños to grow up in NPH Honduras and now he's a great surgeon. The kids see him and think to themselves "Maybe I can do that too if I work hard enough and focus in school." It helps show that kids that greatness lies within all of them, they just have to have faith, work hard, and know that we all have faith in them.

Mark Miller, NPH Honduras
Began volunteering in January 2016

I love that I've had the opportunity at NPH Honduras to work and interact with such a huge variety of kids. I spend my days with the oldest students here on the ranch as the English teacher for grades 7-9, and my evenings and weekends are spent with the boys of Casa Suyapa, ranging in age from about five to eight. It's so much fun to get to know each individual kid and learn how they're unique--their interests, their personalities, their senses of humor, their needs, their past experiences, their goals, and so on. This photo was taken on Casa Suyapa's recent 5-day trip to the beach, and that was such a great bonding experience for all of us!

Megan Landers, NPH Honduras
Began volunteering in January 2015

NPH creates a safe space for kids to be kids, to grow and learn, to make mistakes, to love and be loved. It really is an indescribable experience to be a part of the day-to-day lives of the children here. To understand what it is to be a part of NPH is to experience the beauty of our homes, the warmth and love of a hug, the magnitude of a simple conversation about the day. Every day brings new frustrations and difficulties but it also brings new opportunities and the chance to make a difference.

Michael and Kara Lyons, NPH Guatemala
Began volunteering in January 2016

Volunteering at NPH Guatemala has been an incredible experience. The past few months have been challenging at times but it has been exciting, full of positive life changes, and most definitely rewarding. The staff and children have made us feel like part of the family from day one. The best part of our day is when we can take a break from work and interact with the children. One thing you learn quickly is that the easiest remedy for a slow day is to go visit the baby house.

Michael Wechter, NPH Bolivia
Began volunteering in August 2015

Mike is from Saginaw, MI, and is serving as a Music Teacher and in Maintenance.

Monica Meeks, NPH Honduras
Began volunteering in January 2016

My life as a volunteer at NPH Honduras is crazy, busy, and beautiful. At 9 am, I might be scrubbing in on a surgery as part of my job as the coordinator of the Holy Family Surgery Center, snipping stitches for Dr. Antunez as he sings "Hello" by Adele. At 2 pm, I'll be calling a patient who's been waiting for a very long time to be seen by an orthopedic specialist - even with my imperfect Spanish, I can understand the gratitude in his voice. At 6 pm I'll go hang out with the girls in my “household” - the only thing they'll want more than for me to draw them a picture of the "Minions" cartoons is to have a dance party to the tunes of Justin Bieber and Enrique Iglesias. That night I'll come home to my fellow volunteers, feeling exhausted, fulfilled, and insanely lucky to have the opportunity to be here. And at 6 am the next morning I'll be ready to do it all over again and enjoy another day in my lovely “vida catracha”, or “Honduran Life.”

Patrick Laird, NPH Honduras
Began volunteering in July 2015

Patrick is from West Bend, WI, and is serving as the Surgery Center Coordinator.

The Gomez Family, NPH Nicaragua
Began volunteering at NPH Nicaragua in January 2016 after having spent a year at NPH Honduras from July 2013 to July 2014.

Vanessa Gates, NPH Peru
Began volunteering in February 2016

Vanessa is from Englewood, CO, and is serving as a Medical Assistant.

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