Thursday, June 23, 2016

Siblings Beyond Borders

Ashley, a former volunteer at NPH El Salvador, never imagined she was going to find the brother she always wanted so far away from home.

For as long as I can remember, I had always wanted a brother in my life and it didn’t matter if they were older or younger. I didn't care which. However, I'm the oldest of three sisters so I had long ago accepted my reality, that is, until I came to NPH El Salvador as a volunteer and met Jameson* in 2013.

Though Jameson appears in many photos from my previous visits to the home, I didn't get to know him until I moved to El Salvador. We bonded over washing dishes after dinner, or when we would tell jokes and talk about our lives while leaving the office for the day. One time, Jameson convinced me to try a pepper that he picked from a nearby tree. "I promise it's not hot! Try it. You'll like it." Well, it was the hottest and spiciest thing I have ever eaten, and I had to chug water to relieve the misery. He's never let me forget that moment.

He's one of the few pequeños who told me his story, about his life before NPH. He knows about my life and the personal struggles I have faced. Our mutual trust is something I've never taken for granted, as I know how hard it can be to share. We offer one another counsel and advice, share our hopes and dreams, and laugh like there's no tomorrow. I can't say that enough, we laugh so much when we are together.

When Jameson graduated high school I made him a small collage of a picture of us and pictures of his biological sisters (who are no longer with NPH). I found them when I was archiving old NPH El Salvador pictures for the home. He didn't have any pictures of his sisters until then. Jameson told me it was the best gift he had ever received. I went back to my room later that day and cried. I thought it was just a piece of paper with a few pictures, but it meant more to him than I ever expected.

There is this connection between Jameson and I that I've never been able to explain. We just clicked one day and started calling each other brother and sister. He is a very special person in my life, and I always tell people about my two sisters (he also calls them his own sisters) and my brother.

A few months before I moved back to the U.S., I asked Jameson if I could sponsor him. He said ‘yes,’ and from that point on, he started calling me his "hermadrina." This is a word he made up that is a combination of the Spanish words for ‘sister’ and ‘godmother.’

To me, hermadrina is one of the highest honors a person can hold. Getting to know Jameson over the years and to have him in my life is one of the greatest blessings. He is in college now, and I am so proud! Jameson is a wonderful person, and I know he will change the lives of everyone he meets.”

*Name changed to protect privacy

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I became a sponsor because Kendra, Madelin, Lily, and Livia changed my world...

My name is Anna Ricci from Renton, Washington.  I want to share a bit about why I became an NPH sponsor.  I had the privilege of traveling to the home in Honduras and becoming more involved with NPH last year.  While in Honduras, I met my adorable and fantastic Goddaughter Livia.  While there are many reasons that I could share about why I felt compelled to sponsor Livia, the most impactful of these occurred during my visit to Honduras. To try and give you the best image of my experience I would like to introduce you to a couple of people who I had the blessing of spending time with while I was there….

First is Kendra.  Kendra is a feisty, strong-willed 10 year old who grabbed my hand one evening and insisted that I sit next to her during dinner.  Kendra’s house eats in silence, so we didn’t have much time to get to know one another.  Instead we broke bread together without words.  Kendra held my hand, taught me the norms of her family with grace and compassion, and laid her head in my lap when she finished eating.  The innocence that Kendra accepted me with was truly moving.  She didn’t need to know anything about me to invite me into her home, her family, and to care for me.  She accepted me without conditions and without question.  I did not have to do anything to be worthy of her praise, I just was. Kendra embodied Christ’s grace in the most raw form.

Next we have Madelin and Lily.  These two highschool girls walked into a space in my heart that my own students at Eastside Catholic School also occupy and made an ordinary evening truly sacred. Immediately after being welcomed into their home, Lily was braiding my hair, showing me her uniform, commenting on how long her skirt was, and telling me all about the boy she was interested in.  Madelin was my dancing queen.  She danced the night away with me despite my lack of coordination or rhythm, and my frequent eruption into odd American dance moves.  She was willing to be silly with me, we laughed constantly and ended up sweating profusely-but that still didn’t stop us. At the end of the evening the girls gave me hugs and said that I wasn’t old enough to be a teacher, but they would believe me when I came back with my students.  I still feel the vulnerability of this moment.  The honesty, joy, and authenticity of our evening is what I will continue to strive to create with my own students in the U.S.  They were my teachers and I their student.

And lastly for Livia. Livia was one of the first girls I met when we got to the home.  I brought a coloring book over to color with her, but she was not interested in coloring.  I asked her questions, and yet she didn’t seem to want to chat either.  I was about to get up and leave, thinking maybe she didn’t want to play with me, when she got up and sat in my lap.  She played with my bracelet and sat in silence for about 30 minutes.  I continued to try to make conversation in my broken Spanish, but slowly realized that she was content in the silence. Maybe it is my own hidden introverted tendencies, but something about us clicked.  Throughout the week we went on several walks together.  Always me commenting on the cows, the garden, or the other kids, and her content just to accompany me along the journey.  Sharing with me God’s presence in the silence and simplicity. 

On one of our final evenings in Honduras, Stefan, one of the directors of the home told us “We might not change the world, but we may change their world and that is something.”  I became a sponsor because Kendra, Madelin, Lily, and Livia changed my world.  Now I am looking forward to getting more involved with the Associate Board for young professionals here in Seattle, and I am excited to lead a trip with my students from Eastside Catholic to visit NPH Nicaragua this summer. 

I hope you too will consider and experience the incredible blessing that it is to be invited into the NPH family with these children. 

Thank you.

*Children's names changed to protect privacy.

Monday, June 13, 2016

I support NPH because they are my family and my home…

Below is a reflection written by sponsor and Mid-Atlantic/Northeast Junior Board member Caroline Swenson.
I love to travel, but for some reason whenever I leave home there is always a lingering sense of homesickness in the pit of my stomach. The feeling lasts throughout the plane ride, and usually the first few days of any trip. However, traveling to NPH DR is different. The instant I step onto the grounds, through the blue painted gates, I feel like I am home. Each year I am humbled by every single kid I share a smile with. The amount of love encompassed in that one home is incredible. Words will never be able to describe the feeling you get when a kid sprints up to you, shouting your name with the biggest smile on their face after a year of separation. Or the feeling of the tightest, warmest, most loving hug you get before you are forced to drag your feet back into the visitor house for the night. The feeling of knowing that you are unconditionally loved by this enormous family is a feeling I never want to lose.
There are so many reasons why I support NPH. I support NPH because of these memories, and millions of others. I support NPH because I support opportunities, and that is exactly what NPH gives to deserving kids. I support NPH because I believe in the smiles and giggles and genuine happiness I see when I visit the Dominican Republic every year. I support NPH because they are my family and my home, and I know for a fact that every time I am dragged onto the plane back to the US, the homesickness is a thousand times worse than before.