Thursday, April 27, 2017

Current International Volunteers!

It’s time to highlight our current International Volunteers! Meet the 28 wonderful contributors to our NPH USA mission. SO MANY thanks to everyone!
Danica Sanders, Nurse, NPH Mexico
My experience volunteering at NPH Mexico is difficult to put into words. Every day is filled with hugs, laughs, talks, play, many chores (at times cries and tantrums), but most importantly love. I think before I came I didn't realize the impact I could have on the kids, or the impact they could have on me. I truly cherish every moment with the them, whether it be a one on one talk with one of the girls in my section before bed, making goofy videos, helping with homework, hanging out in patio on the weekends, braiding hair (mainly them braiding mine or teaching me), or snuggling up and watching a movie. They are so open, honest, accepting and loving. I know I am going to miss the million "holas" while walking through the home. I am going to miss hearing my nickname Danicoco (which has spread throughout house) shouted from all different directions. I am going to miss the special moments of watching siblings hang out and play together during their free time. And above all, I'm going to miss the endless beautiful smiles and hugs. I am lucky to have been able to be present in a small, but meaningful part in their lives. They inspire me every day and this experience will forever be with me. I have heard once you are part of the NPH family, you always stay. I feel lucky to now be a member and be able to watch my family here in Mexico grow.
Kaleigh Barret, Women’s Empowerment, NPH Mexico
If I had to pick one word to describe my experience as the Girls Empowerment Coordinator, I would choose transformative! I could never have imagined just how much my views would be challenged, broadened, and transformed to include the perspectives of these amazing young women. These girls are so wise and talented, and I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to help them find their inner greatness. I am so proud of who these girls were, who they are today, and who they will be in the future!
Aaron Ruder, Caregiver and Communication Officer, NPH Mexico
My time at NPH has definitely been challenging to say the least. But when I look back at all the amazing memories I have made, I know it has all been worth it. From jumping into the pool fully clothed with my section to helping create a terrifically spooky haunted house, these are the times I will remember far into the future when I'm asked how I spent my twenties. Though my time here is wrapping up quickly, I still am eager to see what surprises the next few months have in store and how I can attempt to make my mark at NPH México.

Katrina Christian, Librarian/Caretaker, NPH Mexico
NPH is a place in which I have experienced more emotions than I ever thought possible. The contrast between utter exhaustion and frustration of a long day followed by the pure joy and overwhelming excitement of a sweet hug and giggle has become my norm over the past year, and I couldn’t be more content. At this place in the middle of rural Mexico, I have found new friends, true happiness, boundless love, and have come to know a more profound sense of myself. Reflecting on the past months and the few weeks I have left, I am filled with love for the messy, giggly, crazy little ones I have spent the better part of a year with, and although I might not miss the surprise cockroach, this place and these people, both little and big, will always have a huge chunk of my heart.
Sierra Kaptain, Caregiver, NPH Mexico
No matter how horrible they may have misbehaved during the day, my girls always give me a goodnight hug that is guaranteed to be bigger than the tantrum they had thrown earlier. And the hugs are always accompanied by 'I love you. Please don't go. Dream with your family. See you tomorrow.' Moments like those show me that all the children want here is to love and be loved. I had never imagined I would receive just as much of it as I give back to them, nor did I think I would be called mommy hundreds of times a day. We, as volunteers, may not be a biological parent, grandparent, or sibling to any of the kids, but we love and treat every one of them as if they were our own - and that to me makes NPH a pretty special place. 
Joey Schiappa, Swim Lesson Instructor & Photographer, NPH Mexico

Whitney Janicki, Caregiver, NPH Mexico

Katie Nelson, SLP Assistant, NPH Guatemala
I am working as the speech therapist in Guatemala. I could make a long list of the incredible moments I've had in the past 8 months here. There are little moments every day I look forward to like walking lazily arm in arm with a couple of the girls and chatting, passing the littlest kids every morning on the way to school and saying good morning to each one, and hugging goodnight to the girls in my home every night before I head back. These are the moments that make the feeling of this being home undeniable.
Brittney Byrd, Nurse, NPH Guatemala
I am three months into my year as a volunteer nurse at NPH-Guatemala and I feel confident saying volunteering with NPH is the hardest thing and the best thing I've ever done. Being a volunteer is tough; there are countless challenges that accompany learning a new language, and living in a culture and country that is not your own. But these challenges pale in comparison to the joy that the children have brought into my life. I have realized it is the small moments with the children, that is what makes it all worth it. These little moments are by far the best. When a child runs up to give me a hug, shouts my name from across the soccer field or waves to me at mass to come sit with them; holding a child's hand as they have stitches removed, or reading bedtime stories with a sick child spending the night in the clinic; these are the moments that fill my heart and make me overjoyed to be a part of the NPH family.
Willis Allen, Activities Coordinator, NPH Guatemala
Matthew Callans, Montessori ESL teacher, NPH Guatemala

Claire Magnuson, Women’s Empowerment, NPH Honduras
NPH has turned me into a person I would not have recognized a year ago. In all the best ways. This complicated, frustrating, loving, and incredibly strong family has shown me what it means to be human, and they’ve accepted me unconditionally as a human and as a new part of their family. Whether it’s from my Chicas Poderosas, my Hijas in hogar (household), or my fellow volunteers, I feel as though I’m always learning: about society, about love, and about myself. I am so grateful to NPH for the unconditional love it’s given me and taught me to give, and for introducing me to another side of myself.

Monica Meeks, Holy Family Surgery Center, NPH Honduras
15 months later, I am still in Honduras! I decided to extend my service at NPH in order to help start a surgical outcomes research program at the Surgery Center. I also am enjoying having a few more months with the lovely ladies of Hogar Guadalupe. It's sad to think that my time to return home is drawing near, but I'm so grateful for the wonderful experience I've had volunteering at NPH. It truly has been the best year and a half of my life.
Alex Hanel, Communication Officer, NPH Honduras
As the Communication Officer in Honduras, I am lucky to have the opportunity to work and spend time with both children and staff from all areas of the home. I found out about NPH through high school trips to Guatemala, and jumped at the opportunity to spend a full year after college. I get to spend my nights with the oldest boys, 15-18 years old, and still am continuously learning from them and the rest of the kids about how important and beautiful family can be, biological or otherwise. It has been a great but challenging nine months so far, and I'm looking forward to what's to come as I wrap up my year. 
Lauren Pach, Caregiver, NPH Honduras
As a tía for the babies of NPH Honduras, my days are always filled with laughter, tears, stories, songs, hugs, and kisses. It has been so rewarding to watch the children grow and learn over the last nine months of my service. I have watched kids take their first steps, say their first words, and go to school for the first time. I am thankful for every single one of them and the love and friendship that they give me. 
Alexandra Hickman, Holy Family Surgery Center Brigade Coordinator, NPH Honduras
My time spent at NPH so far has been the most amazing experience of my life. Though I am still young, I hope that I will take with me for the rest of my life what I have learned from these kids: to love without fear, to be happy with what you have, and to realize that life itself is a blessing. The kids love in unexplainable ways, they are happy even though they are from backgrounds and situations that children should never even know about, and they live life like it is a blessing. Every day here is a reminder of why NPH is such an important and special place.
Josh Pfau, Tutor, NPH Honduras
A quote from our director, Stefan Feuerstein, my first week at NPH describes how I wish to spend my time here: "If you allow your heart to open fully... you will experience love." This has become a mantra I use when spending time with our kids. Making an effort to be open means becoming incredibly vulnerable but it is necessary for developing deep and lasting relationships. When he said "allow your heart to open" it implies that it takes a constant and conscious effort. This effort yields the fruits of our labor; love.
Erin Comber, Teacher, NPH Honduras
If you told me that I would live in Tegucigalpa, Honduras for over a year awhile back, I would probably tell you that you are crazy. Yet, moving to Honduras and working with Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos has been an amazing experience for me. My days are always filled with excitement: teaching English in the Montessori school, tutoring 10 to 15 year olds, and working in an hogar for adults with special needs. I have fallen in love with the culture, country, and people here. I treasure every hug, every time I hear “Teacher!” screamed from across the ranch, all the dance/ Zumba parties, and each great conversation. I am really excited to continue to grow, learn, and love as I continue my time here.
Katie Kaiser, Holy Family Surgery Center, NPH Honduras
The days here are full but life overall is simple and really sweet. I walk a mile to and from work, past cows and horses. I take cold showers and kill cockroaches daily. I sometimes start work before dawn (or right after), but the stars and the birdsongs at that time of day make it worth it. I get a lot of hugs and I learn a TON every day. The days consist of three main things: time with my fellow volunteers and housemates, my job in the surgery center (aka the “quirofano”) and hogar (Spanish for home) with the 4-8 year old girls. We spend 6-8 pm each night and every other weekend in hogar. Mine is with the 4-8 year-old girls in Casa Suyapa, the house with the youngest kiddos on the ranch. Each night, we eat dinner together and help them get ready for bed. As my parent friends can imagine, it gets pretty chaotic sometimes trying to get 16 girls in (and out) of the shower, jammies on, teeth and hair brushed and in to bed. But the reward for all the chaos are the little voices coming out of the dark asking --"Duermeme?" or essentially "will you cuddle with me while I fall asleep?" Having a six year fall asleep in your arms while you sing to them is pretty much the best feeling in the world. I don't know much yet about where the girls came from or their lives before NPH, but I am grateful for that ignorance. It gives me the opportunity to know them for who they are now and not what has happened to them. I can already tell they will be the hardest part about leaving this place.
Jason Abbott, Holy Family Surgery Center, NPH Honduras

Grace Callow, Nurse, NPH Honduras

Noah Forrest, Tutor (7th – 9th grade), NPH Honduras
Morgan Gagnon, Nurse, NPH Honduras
Lauren Nun, P.E Teacher, NPH Honduras
Kelsey Agather, Sponsorship and Communications Assistant, NPH Dominican Republic
It is very hard to summarize being a volunteer for NPH into only a few words; however, being surrounded by so many open, accepting, and loving children teaches us many things. We learn our flaws do not matter as much as we think because everyone has flaws. We learn to laugh and seize the moment. We learn to dance like no one is watching. It is marvelous to walk outside and hear a child scream your name or your nickname (mine’s crazy), turn your head and watch as one, two or three children race toward you to give you a hug, nothing, absolutely nothing beats this moment. You have a rough day at work, or you are feeling homesick, the children here always have the remedy. 
Alexa Bryan-Capellas, ESL teacher, NPH Dominican Republic
I'm currently serving at NPH Dominican Republic as a primary school English language teacher. Along with working in the school, I am also offering classes in the neighboring bateyes and starting a few outreach projects there. My house placement is with the ingresos (the newest boys coming into the NPH family) and while we are a full house, we are a very happy one!
Hannah Mulhausen,Visitor Coordinator, NPH Dominican Republic
Emily Doyle, Communication Officer, NPH Nicaragua
My time as an NPH volunteer has been the most challenging and the most rewarding experience of my life. From getting to know all my coworkers, to holding every conversation in Spanish, and especially to starting and ending my days with "my" 5- to 10-year-old boy, I know that this is something unique and wonderful that I will never forget! I'm so grateful to be a part of the NPH family.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Give a year, gain a lifetime of love...

2016 International Volunteer program recap. by Vicky Medley, NPH USA International Volunteer Program Coordinator
Happy volunteer appreciation week; I love this week! Each year we take the time to recognize our volunteers who help in our offices with events, fundraising, translations and lots of other behind the scenes contribution. We also recognize and celebrate our International Volunteers, who live and serve at NPH for a year or more.
In 2016 we were lucky to have 43 volunteers serve for 6 months or more, totaling $100,980 in salary savings to NPH. Together, those 43 volunteers worked in Sponsorship, Communications, as Visitor or Volunteer Coordinators to provide information for the NPH network of websites, assist donors and visitors and volunteers find their place at NPH. Volunteers worked in education and kept the libraries running smoothly, taught ESL classes, and tutored hundreds of pequeños. Our volunteers provided occupational and speech therapy, on site medical care and coordination in the Holy Family Surgery Center. Volunteer caregivers helped the pequeños get up each morning, assisted them with homework and chores and discipline, and tucked them into bed each night. Volunteers at NPH work long, hard days with rugged conditions. They must be flexible, patient, have strong intercultural skills and most importantly love children.
And while this week is about expressing our gratitude to NPH, it’s also an opportunity for former volunteers to express THEIR gratitude to NPH. To volunteer at NPH is to offer your heart to be broken open, filled with love and challenges and growth. That heart will never be the same. Some of our current volunteers have this to say:
I hope that I will take with me for the rest of my life what I have learned from these kids: to love without fear, to be happy with what you have, and to realize that life itself is a blessing. -Ali Hickman, Visitor Coordinator NPH Honduras.
NPH has turned me into a person I would not have recognized a year ago. In all the best ways. This complicated, frustrating, loving, and incredibly strong family has shown me what it means to be human, and they’ve accepted me unconditionally as a human and as a new part of their family. …I feel as though I’m always learning: about society, about love, and about myself. I am so grateful to NPH for the unconditional love it’s given me and taught me to give, and for introducing me to another side of myself. -Claire Magnuson, Women’s Empowerment NPH Honduras.
In my 17 years of being involved with NPH, I’ve had the pleasure of building friendships and professional relationships with many other former volunteers. This year I reached out to ask former volunteers how NPH has changed THEIR lives:
Nine years later, NPH continues to touch and impact every part of my life. When returning from NPH, it was hard to find my place in the U.S. I longed to be back with my friends at the ranch. I immersed myself in the local NPH office only to meet the three women who I now call my best friends- one a former volunteer herself. The idea of volunteering is to give, to serve others; but volunteering at NPH is so much more than that. I am forever indebted to Fr. Wasson and the NPH family for not only two years of kindness and support, but also a lifetime of unconditional love. -Annemarie Hansen, NPH Honduras.
NPH changed my entire life! After graduating, I was intent on only filling a 2-month volunteer position at NPH Mexico. They were looking for someone to coordinate the summer activities. Growing to know the children and values of NPH not only made it impossible to leave, but gave me a sense of real purpose. After three years, I was sure that I was called to a career in service. The NPH experience served as the backdrop in my post-graduate studies. Even though my subsequent experiences in non-profits were formative and valuable, no place felt like NPH. The sense of family always made the really challenging work worthwhile. Developing trust that allows us to really support our children in their development is a true gift. The people at NPH have become lifelong friends, and I was lucky enough to meet my wife during our time as volunteers. We now have two children who are growing up at NPH and could not feel more grateful. We will be eternally grateful for this amazing family that Fr. Wasson began! -Christopher Hoyt, NPH Mexico, NPH Guatemala and now NPH International. 
It’s been over 18 years since I arrived in Honduras as an NPH volunteer. There is no question that NPH has made a profound, lasting impact on my life. There are the obvious impacts: I fell in love and had my wedding on the Ranch, my oldest son was baptized at the Ranch, and I now work at another children’s home in Honduras and on a daily basis implement the many lessons learned at NPH to improve lives and provide love to over 120 orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children. But to only focus on that would neglect the story of transformation. At NPH I learned to love. I learned that unconditional love doesn’t mean being blind to the flaws of others, but loving them truly and deeply because and in spite of those flaws. How did I learn that lesson? It wasn’t because I was so good at loving my girls and all the kids unconditionally, but it was because I received immeasurable amounts of unconditional love from the children. They tried to fix how I dress and encourage me to style my hair, and still loved me when I never quite got it. They loved me and my imperfect Spanish and my endless cultural gaffes. They loved me and my gringa ideals that made me think I was going to fix them, fix NPH (which only needed fixing in my idealistic and inexperienced mind), and fix Honduras…. all in 13 months. They loved me for staying longer than planned and they loved me after I left. They loved me when we picked lice out of each other’s hair, when my English classes didn’t go as planned, and when the volunteers’ needs took priority over time with the kids. I chose to serve with NPH because I was committed to sharing unconditional love with the children. Instead the gift of unconditional love that I received has been something I’ve carried with me throughout life. I’m still not as good at it as the children are, but I am still trying. -Amy Escoto, NPH Honduras
Oliver Wendell Holmes said “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions”. I think that is true for our hearts. I would say “A heart that is stretched by NPH can never go back to its old dimensions”. We former volunteers will forever be grateful to NPH for stretching our hearts and minds and showing us unconditional love.

Monday, April 10, 2017

NPH is a big and great family! It is where the impossible is made possible...

Below is the testimonial speech Roxana, a pequena from NPH El Salvador and current Seattle Institute participant, gave at the recent Faces of Hope in Bellevue, WA, along with the testimonial her host mom then gave.

Hello!  My name is Roxana.  I’m from El Salvador.  Thank you for coming.  Today, I would like to share about my life.

June 15, 2004. What were YOU doing?  Me?  That was the day I went from being an adult, back to being a kid again.  Being an adult?  What a bummer…I was only 10!

My mom just died from cancer, and Papa?  Well…he just fell apart. My sister and I became in charge of my other brothers and sisters. You see, I am one of 7…I have (Manuel, Joaquin, Serguio) brothers, and (Sulma, Gloria, Maritza) sisters.  I am the second oldest.

Now, you are probably thinking “Roxana must have been scared.” Or, “She was probably worried about what she would do.”  Actually, I was not thinking any of that.  I just did what I had to do for my family.  There really was no alternative.

But, if it weren’t for Rubia, my godmother who was always taking care of us, June 15 would never have been. Rubia knew that we needed help – and she introduced us to NPH.  And I feel like I was born again.  I became part of a bigger miracle with even MORE brothers and sisters.  My brothers, sisters and I were now home.  Because, NPH had taken ALL of us.

I started school again.  Ah-I was SO far behind.  I was only at a third grade level!  After being at NPH, I was so dedicated to school, that I went from grade five to grade seven.  I skipped a WHOLE grade level!

And, I had SO MANY other things I could do:  choir, dancing, riding a bike, swimming. I was SO excited.  And….the FOOOOOOOD!

I joined the dance group at fourteen.  Out of many girls, Rebeca and I were selected to travel to the US to dance and perform.  We went to Arizona, Seattle, Minnesota and Chicago! It was SUCH an experience! Maybe I even met some of you back then…?

In 2009, I did my first year of service by taking care of the two to six year-olds and working in the sponsorship office. My second year of service, I was in charge of the six to seven year-old girls.  Then, I moved on to the sixteen to eighteen year-olds.  During this ALL this time, I was working on my high school degree! I received my high school degree in two thousand eleven. I was SO proud of myself for finishing.

Currently, given my past experiences, I found my passion in psychology.  Which is what I am studying  in university. So far, thru my studies I have discovered more about myself, and I know that I have grown as a person.  Before getting an education, I didn’t think anything was possible.  Now, thru NPH and my university, I know MANY things are possible. When I finish my studies, I want to take what I learned in school to help other people discover more about themselves, so they can overcome the difficulties in their lives and a achieve their dreams.

Except for my older sister, who has a family of her own now, my other brothers and sisters still live in the home in El Salvador.  They are going to school, doing their years of service, and enjoying all the other things I did when I was there, like dancing, singing, swimming and learning.

And for me?  I am here in Seattle, studying English and leadership this year. It has been amazing so far!  And I can only imagine what the rest of the year has in store for me. This summer I will return home to El Salvador to finish my studies.  My hope is to surpass all your expectations for me, and to become the person I was meant to be.

NPH is a big and great family!  It is where the impossible is made possible. Where dreams can become real. When I talk about NPH, I say “It is MY family”.  That we always help each other. It is not just about each person; it is about ALL of us. For me, NPH is MY everything.

Before I go, I would like to thank Father Wasson for his vision of NPH. It is the best thing I have experienced.

Do you want to learn more about NPH and others like me? I want to invite all of you to please come visit us!  See for yourself what your support can do. COME! Make memories with us!

Thank you for all you do.


Good afternoon!  I’m Christina Buchholz, and our family has the honor of being Roxy’s host family this year.  There are so many reasons why it’s been such an amazing experience for all of us.  The best part is having another female in a house full of guys!

Our family’s NPH story is a short one so far.  Short but sweet. A short while ago, our youth minister at St. James, Joe Cotton, introduced our Youth Group to NPH.  Joe inspired our Youth Group to take a trip to Nicaragua.  So, off our family went with the group: my husband, our two teenaged sons and myself. We weren’t sure what to expect.  Well, in just 10 days, our family was transformed…it was both eye opening and heart opening.

When we got to Nicaragua, here’s what we discovered: We weren’t visitors.  We became part of the NPH family.  The pequeños made sure we knew this. We also got to meet and get to know the two children, a boy and a girl, that our Youth Group had been sponsoring. They braved sharing not only their haunting stories, but also how they, and their siblings, came to be at NPH. These two children had such desperate backgrounds and yet they, and the other pequeños had clearly come to know a place where they knew they could love and be loved.  Where they were part of a community, rather, a family. A place to trust, to laugh, to learn, to grow, to have hope. That place was NPH. 

With each “hola”, each hug, each memory made together, we sensed the peace and security these children experienced in this NPH home. The volunteers and faculty we met as we visited the casas, classrooms and the clinic were incredible. The dedication and care they shared as they served this community really highlighted how every donation, every sponsor, was being leveraged in the best ways possible for the pequeños.

At the end of our 10 day visit, it was really hard to leave.  It was like leaving home after a family visit. Upon our return to the States, our family couldn’t stop talking about our trip. After only a few months, and countless hugs, unbelievable memories, we decided we needed “more NPH” in our lives.  We had already decided that we needed to go back, and found other ways to stay connected. This summer we will meet another child we sponsor.  We are a home stay family for the NPH students studying in Seattle.  We plan on visiting El Salvador, because if we don’t Roxy might disown us! And we are now part of the NPH NW Regional Board, sharing with anyone who will listen the amazing accomplishments of this tremendous organization and inspiring others to participate.

I’d like to ask you to do me a favor. Today we are learning about and supporting the schools and education programs of NPH.  Now think of your own classroom experiences.  Was it learning to write your name and read in kindergarten?  Was it playing at recess with your friends?  Maybe it was the walk to get your diploma on graduation day? 

Now imagine that instead of being in the classroom every day, you wander the streets.  That instead of playing at recess, you are six, working for a small nibble to eat.  That learning to write or read is not even a remote possibility because the only thing you can hope to learn is where a safe place might be to lay your head down tonight.

I’ll end with one of those transforming moments for our family from our trip.  Our group had just finished an exercise where we were rewarded with pieces of candy.  My husband Dave had his candy in his hands, which did not go unnoticed by one of the pequeños.  He pried Dave’s hand open and boy, did his face light up! Dave handed the two pieces of candy to him.  The pequeño noticed that Dave didn’t have any candy left for himself.  That little boy gave one back to Dave so he too would have a piece. What a generous little heart!

Today, I ask that you show the same generosity as that pequeño. Give so that little boy, and all the other children in the 9 NPH homes, can have a childhood, full of days in classrooms and recesses, too. Give that they may discover that many things are possible, and that they seize those possibilities because of NPH, and because of YOU. I would like to end by saying thank you. It is inspiring to me to be in a room with so many generous hearts. My family and I are thankful that you join us in supporting the mission of NPH.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Amidst the chaos, fractured housing and penetrating unknowns, St. Damien Children’s Hospital is an oasis...

Angelo Rose is an attorney and musician from Rochester, NY. Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, he wrote a song to raise funds for St. Damien Hospital there. He released a second song last year in response to Hurricane Matthew: He recently visited St. Damien in January 2017, and below is his reflection. Click here to make a gift and support the life-saving work of St. Damien Hospital today!
Le gen lanmou, gen doule'
Somewhat ironically, I will start this brief reflection where physically my journey to Haiti ended…
Dazed and tired, I shuffled into my Ft. Lauderdale hotel and took my first shower in days. There, under the warm embrace of pulsing jets, I was overcome: The thundering guilt of having a home, a bed, clean water to bathe in and my God, the seemingly infinite power to turn the faucet to quench my thirst were collectively just too much to own. Haiti suffers at the most base levels of existence and until I experienced it first hand, its devastation remained an abstract truth. Now, there is not a day I don’t recall a face, or silently chant, “Thank you” when I drink a glass of water or sit down for dinner. It is the difference between watching a video clip of someone on a roller coaster and actually sitting in the first car of an old, wooden Skyliner as it claps along tired rails. I knew, however, that ride was going to end for me, that I would fly out and leave behind the countless children I met, the selfless people giving so much to change the norm there. They remain, twisting and turning in markedly inadequate shelter and structure, exposed to the raging elements of nature and consequence of desperation. Children and adults alike are in critical need of nutrition, education and water. The country as a whole flounders in political corruption, unknowns and hypocrisies. The weight of it all was too much and I collapsed to the perfectly tiled shower floor. Sobbing and shaking, I tried to make sense of it all…
Le gen lanmou, gen doule’
When our small group landed in Port au Prince, it was readily apparent that Haiti was strung together by the thinnest of threads. Amidst the chaos, fractured housing and penetrating unknowns, St. Damien Children’s Hospital is an oasis. The doctors, nurses, employees, volunteers and Fathers Rick Frechette and Enzo Del Brocco, tirelessly devote each day to saving lives. The hospital is a clean, incredibly well run sanctuary for an endless sea of children in dire need of medical care. Father Rick and Phadool, the Human Resources Director at St. Damien, provided a vast amount of information during daily visits to the hospital.  Clean, potable water is infinitely sparse. Quality medicines are desperately needed at St. Damien, as are funds to acquire vital medical equipment.  
I was awed by doctors and nurses who repeatedly, selflessly and unconditionally gave all they had. Each morning, mothers line up outside the gates to seek ambulatory medical care for their babies. As this group patiently waits to be seen, the more serious cases are evaluated and treated on the other side of St. Damien. Mothers of children who are required to have lengthy stays are relegated to sleeping in upright metal chairs or on a concrete floor underneath their cribs. Jacqueline Gautier, National Director of St. Damien, confirmed that hospital grade reclining chairs are among the vital equipment needed. The children I met radiated with love, for in the arms of St. Damien they were fed, given medicine and genuine opportunity to heal. Though I am now several weeks removed from my trip, the penetrating eyes of hope travel thousands of miles daily to visit me. A musician often moonlighting as a trial attorney, admittedly I had limited medical skills to offer. This glaring deficiency seemed to matter very little at St. Damien. What the children sought from me, I could aptly provide. Often it was simply a smile, or a hug, or a fingertip-to-fingertip touch that calmed and soothed. The doctors superbly managed the medical needs and I was at-home simply being there for anything else. My ego was consumed. Gone were daily worries about email and developing trends in recent case law. The next life-or-death argument concerning which divorcee would get the engraved soap dish took its proper place in oblivion.  
Le gen lanmou, gen doule'  
Adjacent to the hospital is the beautiful and rustic Chapel of St. Philomena, where a daily morning mass is assembled. I discovered that most of these early masses are tragically, in fact, vigils for children who died in the preceding days. The first such mass I attended was before the bodies of seven children, wrapped in light-blue paper and gently placed in reusable cardboard coffins. Of the four caskets laid before us, three contained not one, but two tiny bodies. I was overcome. Life and death in Haiti are perpetually at odds and sometimes there is simply nothing that can be done. That reality, amidst some of the finest medical professionals the world has to offer, was immeasurably painful. And yet, as mass concluded, the small congregation (often comprised of the aforementioned doctors, nurses, employees, volunteers and Phadool) breathed life into an old Creole Hymn and ferried the coffins from the Chapel to an awaiting flatbed. The bodies were then transported to a spot beyond the hospital for cremation. No family members were there to say goodbye, but there was little doubt about the reverberating weight of each loss. These daily masses are a divine opportunity to reflect upon the immense need in Haiti, the tragedy of such profound poverty and the senseless deaths of innocent children. I saw no greater demonstration of love than during the masses, where the forgotten are remembered and hearts are torn open in the remembrance of the gift and fragility of life.  
Le gen lanmou, gen doule’    
When there is love, there is pain.