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

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