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.

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