Monday, April 30, 2018

It was amazing to hear what some of them had been through and yet, at NPH, they were able to just be kids...

Below is a post from supporter Victoria Fortune who recently visited NPH Dominican Republic! Here's what she had to say:
Four years ago, my daughter’s eighth grade Spanish teacher led a group of students on an immersion trip to the NPH (Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos) home in the Dominican Republic. This year, on my daughter’s fourth trip back, she invited me along. I got to meet her adorable godchild who we’ve sponsored since her first trip, and to experience firsthand the place that has had such an impact on her. It was clear to see why. NPH is a special place, where adults and children alike are quick to greet you with a smile and a hug. Their warmth and friendliness are infectious. 

The facilities at Casa Santa Ana are quite impressive, including a large greenhouse, a medical clinic, two separate school buildings, and family-style homes where the children live in groups of up to 20, with a Tia to look after them. We spent mornings working in the kitchen, the gardens, with the disabled children, or helping build a house in one of the nearby bateys, which gave us an opportunity to interact with adults and learn more about their lives. But my favorite part of the day was the afternoons when school let out and we got to play with the children in the beautifully landscaped park that runs down the center of the compound. I loved listening to their joyful voices and laughter as they danced and sang, colored and made bracelets, played basketball or cards. 

It was amazing to hear what some of them had been through and yet, at NPH, they were able to just be kids. Watching the teenagers chip in to look out for the younger ones and hearing about their dreams for the future was a testament to NPH’s success in instilling positive values such as respect and responsibility. 

I was impressed by NPH’s commitment not only to the children and community within their walls, but to the community outside their walls as well. They are remarkably nimble in their community outreach, from doing medical, education and social work in the surrounding bateys, to helping build homes for locals, to offering families assistance to enable children to return home when circumstances allow. Being able to contribute to an organization like NPH, that is so dedicated to lifting people up in whatever way it can, is truly uplifting.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Not by chance...

Below is a blog post by Laretia Williams an international volunteer who helped at NPH Dominican Republic. Check out what she had to say!

After working in volunteer and human resources management for a refugee resettlement nonprofit for six years, I decided that I wanted to serve abroad. My career has been shaped by interactions within very diverse settings, and one of my long-term goals is to become the HR director of an international nonprofit. In 2015, I knew that to advance towards that goal, I needed direct experience living abroad.

I thought I came across NPH by chance. NPH came up during my Google search of service opportunities in Latin America. But, now I know that the discovery was divine. When I entered the puerta of the NPH Dominican Republic home, the day after I learned my grandfather passed away back home in South Carolina, I felt a sense of calm. The tranquility I felt upon arrival assured me that I made the right decision of resigning from a job I loved with a steady income, putting my student loan repayments on hold, and moving just months after my niece’s birth.

I served as the visitor coordinator and the volunteer of the house of the oldest girls- San Esteban. I was able to hone my planning and logistics skills, improve my Spanish language, interact with people from all over the world, and establish life-long relationships with the children, fellow volunteers, and local Dominican staff. Also, during my year at NPH DR, I experienced firsthand the challenges and idiosyncrasies of navigating and adapting to another culture. For example, I reluctantly learned how to adjust my expectations of time. While in town or traveling the country, I also experienced the varying degrees of acceptance and assistance offered once someone figured out from my accent that I was not Dominican. My time at NPH DR revealed to me that a nurturing environment can motivate anyone to display their strengths and give them the courage to develop their skills.  

The NPH discovery was not by chance. My family has grown- my girls are forever my little sisters, the caregivers and staff are forever my aunties and uncles, and my fellow volunteers are forever my friends. I continue to apply the cultural competency lessons while working in human resources for a company that employs many former refugees. As I recruit, hire, and engage employees originally from all parts of the world, I tap into my time at NPH to continue to develop a welcoming and nurturing place of work.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Celebrating Our International Volunteers!

Below is a post by Vicky Medley, our International Volunteer Program Coordinator at NPH USA!

In 2017 we had another great group of US volunteers join the NPH family by serving for a year or more! Overall, we had 37 volunteers serving at least 6 months during 2017. That number includes volunteers who began in July 2016 (20), January 2017 (5) and July 2017 (12). It’s always hard to capture the number, it’s more like a snapshot at times! We had about 25 International Volunteers from the U.S. serving at any time during 2017.

Two of my favorite parts of my job are getting to visit our volunteers at NPH, and hosting our post service reflection weekends. In 2017, I was lucky to visit our volunteer communities in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. We also hosted a volunteer reflection weekend in the Seattle area, where recent former volunteers gathered to process and reflect upon their time at NPH. 
While our program continues to be solid, international volunteerism has been criticized over the last few years, often with good reason. Google “voluntourism” and you will find a laundry list of critical articles and opinions. You may have seen the “How to Get More Likes on Social Media” video created by Radi-Aid, and Barbie Savior, an Instagram parody account about volunteering in Africa. The majority of the criticism in most of the articles is based on foreigners disregarding local talent, local customs, and adopting a “savior” mentality towards those they serve. 

As an international Volunteer program, we are always looking to improve, and to check our work against ethical international development practices. We have more to learn, but I want to share some of our guidelines and thinking about the role of international volunteers at NPH, and why I believe NPH is a solid organization in terms of international service:

We require volunteers to serve for a year. That allows time for volunteers to form healthy relationships with the kids and the staff, and gives volunteers the opportunity really experience and understand the NPH mission. Most NPH volunteers stay involved far beyond their year. They return to NPH
for the celebration of sacraments, for graduations, and weddings; they keep in touch with the children they served. In addition, many of them remain involved with NPH USA on an Associate Board, as sponsors, with volunteer recruitment, or at special events.  

Volunteers do not replace local staff. Volunteers enhance the lives of the children at NPH by providing services and support that are hard to find in Latin America. Volunteers do not replace staff, but instead work alongside local staff.  

Volunteers work in areas in which they have received training and education. We do not believe that just because you speak English you can teach English, nor should you be medicating children unless you are an MD, or providing therapies unless you are a certified therapist. For the most part, trained volunteer teachers
are in our classrooms (and not teaching core subjects; mostly ESL, working as classroom assistants and sometimes PE); licensed volunteer nurses are in our clinics; licensed volunteer Speech Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, and Art Therapists provide services. Many recent college graduates who have valuable previous experience working with kids serve in tutoring, in administrative roles, or offering programming like youth empowerment or youth ministry. We try to match a volunteer’s strengths and skills with NPH’s needs.

We do not require that volunteers pay to serve. NPH does not view volunteers as a source of revenue. Instead, NPH provides volunteers a stipend, room and board, and access to basic medical care. NPH USA covers the cost of medical insurance in case of hospitalization or evacuation. Volunteers do have some costs: they must cover their airfare, and any language classes
they may need.

We prepare our volunteers in the areas of intercultural communication and an immersion in partnership based service. Our volunteers all complete the Impact Abroad Toolkit, created by Serve Smart
It’s an online interactive course that dives deeply into exploring and coaching on partnership based (rather than charity based) service. Most of our volunteers also take the Intercultural Effectiveness Survey, “an instrument used by profit and non-profit organizations, including companies, government agencies and educational institutions. It was developed specifically to evaluate the competencies critical to interacting effectively with people who are from different cultures.”

NPH provides volunteers with guidelines about using photos, and sharing their experience online. NPH holds the dignity of the children central in their Child Media Policy. During orientation, volunteers are trained on the country specific policies about posting photos of children living at NPH. Volunteers are asked to share their blogs, and when necessary (rarely!) we do ask volunteers to edit content
to adjust or remove a photo or change some wording.  

We welcome any discussion about our International Volunteer Program, and invite you to celebrate the accomplishments of our talented International Volunteers. Their passion, dedication, and love for NPH is inspiring to us all!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Volunteering Comes Full Circle

The 2018 Midwest Pequeño Tour was amazing again this year! We welcomed 12 pequeños from NPH Guatemala, mostly university students or those completing their year of service at the home, and for three weeks they traveled throughout the greater Chicago area to perform traditional music and dance from their country at various churches, schools, and businesses, helping our Midwest Region to raise funds and awareness for NPH!

About two weeks in, we decided to schedule a morning at Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) in Libertyville, IL. We wanted to switch things up for the group from the daily venue visit. We thought we could all do something to help others together and give back because after all, many hands make light work! What better place to do so than at FMSC, which has set out to feed God’s starving children hungry in body and spirit. Little did they know, better yet, little did WE know, that we were bringing twelve individuals from Guatemala who’d been served by the kind graces of the hard-working hands behind FMSC.

It wasn’t until the group spotted the MannaPack meal that they realized they were helping those who’d provided some of their meals as children growing up at NPH Guatemala! 
“Seeing it firsthand at the place they made it for us was such an amazing experience,” David (left) said. “Just the way they prepare it is great to see. I can see the hard work they do and all the passion behind it.”

This moment of realization set in for the whole group and gave everyone a little extra fire in their heart that morning to create as many meals for starving children as they could in two hours. By the time the session ended, enough meals were made to feed 44 kids daily for an entire year! FMSC has a tradition of blessing the food before it is shipped off to countries around the world. The Pequeños took part in this as well before declaring it ready to ship.
“I was working really hard and tried to pack as many boxes as I could,” Jacinto (third from the left) said. “For me, it was a great experience because I could help an organization that helped me before and is still helping my little brothers and sisters at NPH."

Needless to say, our Guatemalan visitors had a wonderful experience volunteering with FMSC in Libertyville. Seeing the impact that they had on the employees of FMSC was also quite powerful. Seeing the joy in their faces and the tears in their eyes was just an added testament to the hard work that is put into this organization and the care they have for feeding the hungry. 

It was really a beautiful coincidence that we brought our Guatemalan visitors to volunteer at FMSC that morning. Thank you to FMSC for all that you do to help serve the children of NPH and to feed the hungry all over the world!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

We feel we left NPH with so much more than we gave...

Below is a reflection from Joanie and Norah Sullivan from the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast region who recently visited NPH DR!
Our trip to NPH in the Dominican Republic was a life-changing and heartwarming experience for us. Before we got to NPH we were excited and a little nervous about being in a new culture and having to speak a new language. Immediately, we realized that the language barrier and the cultural differences would not be an issue. 

On our first day there, children would come up to us and start conversations, want a hug or ask to play. As the week continued, we came to know many individual children and often heard right from them how NPH had affected their lives. We developed friendships with them: after school we would play games with the younger children and have conversations with the older kids about school and sports. They were so much friendlier than we were used to. For example, when we were playing cards or talking, someone would come over just to say “hi” and give us hugs. Even though sometimes we couldn't understand what the children were saying, we still were able to communicate with each other. This experience was so different from our lives in Boston that we feel we left NPH with so much more than we gave. Our visit taught us many important things that we will never forget.

When we arrived back in Boston we were much more aware of wasting food, electricity, and water. We were also so touched by the friendliness of the children at NPH that we have tried to continue to go out of our way to act the same for people here. We also learned to appreciate our education. Many of the children outside NPH did not attend school at all, and many more received a very poor education. Arriving back in the U.S, we are determined to take advantage of all the opportunities provided to us.

Although we came to NPH in the Dominican Republic so we could give back to the children there, we are so grateful because the children gave us something much more important instead. We left with new friendships, an understanding of what is important in life, and many amazing memories. We were so sad to leave NPH at the end of the week, but we are already planning our next visit to come and to see all our new friends again.