Monday, December 30, 2019

2019 Highlights from NPH USA!

2019 was another fantastic year at NPH USA where, thanks to the support of our dedicated staff, board members, volunteers, sponsors, and donors, there is much to celebrate! See highlights from each region, plus the St. Damien Pediatric Hospital Fund in Haiti, below!

Mid-Atlantic/Northeast Region

  • We are so grateful for the continued support of our individual volunteers and ambassadors throughout the MA-NE region, including our Youth Ambassadors group and Associate Board members. As participation of our YA group expands, we have more Youth Ambassadors traveling and creating clubs at their own schools. Growth of our South Shore Youth Ambassadors has flourished at Hingham High School, Milton Academy and Duxbury High School while the initiatives of our North Shore Youth Ambassadors has grown at Beverly High School and Landmark School. In 2019, we also welcomed eight new Associate Board members and celebrated our 5th Annual Pints for Pequeños. The board also planned a new Trivia Night event.
  • In the MA-NE region, we enjoyed visits from pequeños Victor (Dominican Republic) & Jean-Francois (Haiti) who helped us create new relationships in the community and shine light on the accomplishments of our pequeños and the University program.
  • In 2019, thanks to the dedication of new Regional Board member Michelle Lavelle, we were able to expand our outreach into southern Connecticut.Thank you and welcome to the Board, Michelle!
  • Our Hingham, Duxbury, and Wayland councils each worked tirelessly to plan fun and successful events in their communities this past year. We hosted our second annual Trivia Night in Wayland and our third annual Love Without Limits and Oysters for Orphans events! And our annual event, Irish Hearts, was held on April 7 - what made this year unique was that we celebrated its 10th anniversary milestone. Irish Hearts began after the 2010 earthquake that devastated the small country of Haiti. In response to this disaster, the Irish community in Boston took notice, mobilized family, friends, and local business and held the first annual Irish Hearts. Now, in our 10th year, we are so very proud of all we have accomplished.
  • Our homes welcomed more travelers from the MA-NE region this year with fourteen Immersion trips traveling to NPH Honduras, NPH Guatemala, NPH Dominican Republic, and NPH Mexico. We are so grateful to our many new travelers this past year and to local schools and parishes including Rockport, Saint Paul School, BC High School, the Hingham Collaborative, and St. Joseph’s Church who have continued their annual trips. We are looking forward to even more growth in 2020!

Midwest Region
  • The MW Region's 2019 NPH USA Football Legends Classic Golf Outing was a major success! As guests arrived, they were greeted by our volunteers and received a complimentary Weatherman Umbrella. These umbrellas were kindly donated to the event from our emcee Rick Reichmuth, the Chief Meteorologist on Fox News Channel and the CEO and founder of the Weatherman Umbrella. Also, he is a former international volunteer at the NPH Mexico home in Miacatlán back in the 1990s. As the event’s emcee, Rick started off by expressing the reward that came with spending a year of his life at NPH Mexico. Serving as our auctioneer, Rick’s efforts contributed to bringing in a total raised of over $290,000 -- the most ever raised at this event.
  • Our Viva La Familia Gala was also a major success this past year. Many thanks go out to all who helped make it so successful this year, raising $238,000 (7% more than last year)! Our keynote speaker was the awesome Aurora Zacarias, an hermana mayor from NPH Mexico.  Aurora spoke to a spellbound audience about her difficult life growing up before NPH, the opportunities she took advantage of as a pequeña at NPH, the rewarding relationships she had with two of her sponsored godparents that continued long after she began her independent life, and her exciting professional career. At the event, John Iberle received the Midwest Region’s Corazón Award for his many years of volunteer leadership and generous philanthropy to the NPH mission.    
  • This past year, the Midwest Region conducted ten trips to NPH homes in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador with a total of 225 participants. That’s three more trips and 67 more participants than 2018! Special thanks to Near North Montessori School in Chicago for organizing at least one trip (usually two) every year since 2011. We now have a trip for Near North Montessori alumni of past trips! We also conducted our very first women’s trip that focused on the Chicas Podersosas (powerful girls) program at NPH Honduras.

Upper Midwest Region
  • The Upper Midwest Region's 13th Annual Cinco de Mayo 5k run/walk moved to a great new location this year and raised over $18,800 for our special needs home at NPH Guatemala. We also launched our virtual 5K option allowing 49 people to participate from afar.
  • 2019 marked the first Pequeño tour in recent history in Milwaukee. Students from Mexico were hosted by local families and participated in activities like touring the Brewers stadium and visiting the Mexican consulate. The trip wrapped up with an evening performance and fundraiser. In October, a supporter hosted a fundraiser for Haiti and St. Damien’s Pediatric Hospital in a private penthouse suite in Milwaukee with an impressive art collection. Another first took place in Milwaukee with the first annual MKE pub crawl this past year. More money was raised for NPH children and more locals heard about NPH’s work for the first time!
  • Thanks to our generous supporters, our Celebrando a los Niños Gala had a record-breaking year raising over $500,000! Over $260,000 was raised during Fund-A-Need alone. Rose Schaffhausen received the Fr. William Wasson Humanitarian Award in recognition of over 35 years serving as the Minnesota Friends of the Orphans Executive Director and raising over 25 million for NPH. 
  • Our UPMW Region's Young Professionals board continues to set high standards, surpassing their $33,000 fundraising goal for the year by almost $2,000! Their second annual masquerade fundraiser, Dance Your Masque Off, was another great success and was held at a local Latin brewery.
  • Upper Midwest Region staff and volunteers traveled to 8 out of the 9 homes in 2019 with first-time trips to Bolivia and Peru in 2019! On our Peru vision trip, 10 people spent time with the children and also experienced the local culture with experiences like dining in a local home and visiting Machu Picchu. Many of the participants had never visited a NPH home until this trip and were touched by the warm welcome and excitement of the children. 

Northwest Region
  • 2019 was an exciting year for events in the Northwest! Our Golf Classic hit a hole in one in May partnering with Cauze, a giving platform all about “unleashing your good" and local sports radio show “Cliff and Puck” on 950 AM KJR, hosted by former Seattle Seahawk Cliff Avril and local radio personality Jason Puckett, joined us live from the tournament. The annual NW Gala in November welcomed special guest speakers Miriam, Edwin, and Ana Karina Vallecillo-Betancourth, who grew up at NPH Honduras with their four other siblings. They inspired us with their story of joining the NPH family, feeling rooted in love and support, and shared their gratitude for the many opportunities to spread their wings towards their personal dreams and goals. 
  • In July, we were thrilled to have 24 donors visit NPH Honduras with the NW office. It was a wonderful, immersive opportunity to meet the children and families we support. NW Regional Board Chair, Gail Taylor, was excited for her first visit to an NPH home and found joy in spending time with a group of first graders in their Montessori class. Edwin Vallecillo, the new NPH International Director of Medical Services, led a tour of the internal clinic and answered questions about the facilities and care provided. Two of our trip members who play for the University of Washington women’s soccer team spent many fun afternoons and evenings playing with the kids. And local supporters and former Seattle Institute host family members, Tom and Katherine Boysen, delivered a large number of useful power tools for the talleres/workshops at the home!
  • We are very lucky to have welcomed our first NW Development Officer, Abbey Laninga, to NPH. Abbey is a brilliant addition to the Northwest team, bringing her fabulous energy, innovative ideas, and sheer determination to the table!
  • We are so grateful to have continued financial support from Fundación MAPFRE and other local sponsors who make the Seattle Institute program possible. This year, we welcome Abigail (NPH Nicaragua), Alexis (NPH Guatemala), David (NPH Mexico), and Jazmín (NPH El Salvador) to the NW region! We look forward to seeing the students continue to work hard, share their stories, and develop their skills throughout the coming year.
  • 2019 came to a close with a “Fireside Chat” in the NW region. It was a fun, casual evening where supporters and those who wanted to learn more about NPH joined us for a happy hour and Q&A session with NPH Honduras National Director and part-time NW resident, Stefan Feuerstein. 

Southwest Region

  • In the SW, we were excited to host an awesome spring Pequeño Tour featuring NPH Nicaragua this year - and with a brand new partner on the Phoenix portion of the tour, Fountain of Life Church. The tour went on to California, in partnership with Father Frank’s Kids where St. Isadore’s Catholic Church hosted the pequeños for a very successful visit. Before departing for home, the kids enjoyed a day in San Francisco with a boat tour around the bay!
  • We extend a very special thank you to each of our supporters who opened their homes this year by hosting an NPH House Party and allowing us to share our mission.  Whether it was California, Utah, Texas, Colorado, Arizona or New Mexico, the work and impact of NPH was shared with friends and family throughout the region to successfully inspire past donors, while also engaging new supporters.  
  • Sparked by NPH's 65th anniversary, what was previously the Faces of Hope Gala became a special 65th Anniversary Celebration for our region. The event included a new venue, Seventh and Union, with the whole evening themed around a celebration as attendees came from all over the region to celebrate with our special guest and speaker Christopher Hoyt, as well as Reinhart Koehler.  The evening included a special musical performance by Miguel Polo from NPH DR, successfully raising nearly $210,000!
  • In honor of the traditional Quinceanera celebrations, the Southwest Region hosted a trip to NPH Mexico with a group of 24 child sponsors and donors in 2019. The weekend was a wonderful celebration with so many festivities including a special ceremony where the girls wore beautiful gowns and completed a choreographed dance performance with the court. The weekend continued with quality time between godparents and their sponsored pequeños, sharing and catching up with each other. The trip ended with a visit to the Xochicalco pre-Columbian ruins where the group participated in a special hiking tour to learn the history of the site!
  • Wrapping up the year, the SW team thanks the McCauley’s for hosting a special New Year’s Eve Fundraiser to benefit the Southwest Region in Northern California!  We’re expecting over 80 guests to join us as we kick off the New Year!

St. Damien Fund
  • A major highlight of the SDPHF in 2019 was screening "The Land of High Mountains" in 7 cities and in the Napa Valley Film Festival in November, and the Palm Springs film festival in January!
  • This past year, we also had many donors go above and beyond their annual giving on the 10th Anniversary of the St. Damien Fund and at this very difficult time of political unrest and need in Haiti. 
  • We also initiated a new St. Damien Sustainers group and thank these individuals for providing monthly contributions that we can count on to support our work.
  • The St. Damien Fund also had many supporters who celebrated their birthdays and anniversaries with generous donations and/or fundraisers for the St. Damien Pediatric Hospital Fund this past year, and we are incredibly grateful for their support!

Monday, November 4, 2019

This trip opened our hearts in a whole new way...

Below is a reflection from Tomasina Lucchese who visited the NPH home in the Dominican Republic this past summer with St. Julia's Parish from Weston, Massachusetts. 

It’s hard to believe we’ve been home from the Dominican Republic for over a month now. As we continue with our summer activities, thoughts of our trip continue to pop into our minds. Often one of my kids will burst into laughter, recalling a funny story. A few times someone has made an astute observation or comparison, sparking a sometimes difficult, but always worthwhile conversation. And regularly, one of us will mention a child from the orphanage - somehow affirming our connectedness to him or her. These connections are now deep within our hearts. The friendships we made with these children are what will keep our experiences alive.

So many of our friends and family have asked us ‘how was the trip?’ It is just so hard for me to put it all into words, because there were so many experiences all rolled into that one week. But for me, the word that I go back to is “grateful”. I am first and foremost grateful that I had the opportunity to experience this as a family. Grateful that NPH exists – we were so impressed with this organization and the care they give to each and every one of their “pequeños”. Grateful that we were welcomed with wide-open arms, allowing us to become part of their family with such ease, if even for a short time. Grateful for the warm and exuberant Dominican culture and people. Grateful for the kind, optimistic and fun group of teens and adults we traveled, worked and played with – we now have an entirely new group of friends. And as a mother, I am grateful for my children’s curiosity and willingness. They were open to every experience put in front of them without hesitation (and for the most part without complaints!). They were all in. Jude, Anna and Violet each loved this trip for their own reasons … and are all asking when we can go back.

Much to our surprise, by the time we arrived in June the pequeños were already on summer break and we happened upon their graduation week. Therefor our chores were more sporadic than expected, so we could participate in the end-of-the-year festivities. I came to see this as a gift. Not because we’d forgo some of our very hot, outdoor chores, but because we really got to be a part of the family. Celebrating with them, allowed us to get to know the children better. We celebrated their achievements and milestones, the way we would at home with our own children. The older children (some of them young women and men now) informally mentor the younger ones in their casas and school – the NPH program is designed this way to build responsibility and unity. And this came alive during the graduation activities, where all ages were celebrated, teaching, building trust, and outlining the expectations and goals for achievement. The baccalaureate mass brought me to tears, as I was so touched by the depth of their relationships. It was easy to witness the love between the priest, teachers, sponsors, “aunties” (the women who live in the casas with the kids), and each of the children. Although a good majority of these children are growing from trauma-ridden pasts and are without families in the traditional sense, they are now fully embraced in a loving, encouraging and safe environment. It didn’t take long for Jude to comment that “these kids were the lucky ones, to be living at NPH.” They had what they needed and were well cared for. Each child had tasty, nutritious food, his or her own bed, clean clothing, means to solid healthcare and education. But just as important, each child now has a strong family, filled with love and security, predictable schedules, expected chores and behaviors … exactly the way Jim and I have tried to cultivate our own little unit here.

Now I’d be lying if I said it was all a breeze. The tarantulas and bugs definitely pushed us out of our comfort zone. The nights of unforgiving heat were like nothing we had ever experienced. But through it all, we were always able to find gratefulness; like how my and Jim’s bunk bed didn’t collapse, even though it was held together by a coat hanger. Recently while making a tomato salad, I thought about how in the garden for hours I peeled and prepped onions to be sold at the next market, and how my fingers smelled ripe for what seemed like days. I smile thinking of how a few bright-eyed boys showed Anna and Violet how to climb so far up, to score the cherries that were too high for anyone else to reach. And how Jim and Jude got the toughest job of moving rocks around the papaya and mango tree trunks for improved irrigation. None of these baby trees were tall enough to provide even an inch of shade and as a result, I have never seen a crew so sweaty! Every evening I went to bed content with a sense of amazement as I replayed the day’s activities in my head – in awe of our little group’s ability to blend so effortlessly with the Casa Santa Ana family. This was God’s hand at work. Exactly how our blended world should be. I loved how all the children, ours and theirs, connected over old-fashioned hand games. Some enjoyed soccer and sports to pass the steamy afternoons, while singing and drawing suited others. There was a lot of hair braiding and some card playing, lots of jokes and even some pranks. Nobody was ever bored. And it was this familiar play that broke down any language hiccups and cultural differences. Our play time spent with the children allowed the very busy “aunties” time to tend to the endless to-do list of any busy home - clean the casas, wash and hang clothes, tend to scraped knees and sibling squabbles. And the pequeños relished the attention. It was all beautifully genuine. We were one, there together, with the gift of time. Our shared joy came from simply spending time together. It reminded me of how simple life can be and my summers as a child spent in Italy. My heart will always swell with the images of Anna and Violet in the midst of post-lunch girl dance parties, Jude being followed by his two little buddies in hopes of a pick-up game of whatever their found ball-type would offer, and Jim’s shared drum session at the graduation dance. There are just too many great memories of the pequeños to list, all leaving imprints on my heart. I promise to always lift these kids up in prayer, as I do my own, and now including all the orphaned, abandoned and disadvantaged children both near and far.

I can’t end this without stating the obvious; I am feeling grateful too that I happened to be born on this little patch of earth and all the opportunities that come with it. I am grateful for the blessings I’ve had all my life, and for the opportunities I have to try to give back, even though my efforts are a mere drop in the sea of need. But it is experiences like this, that change our lives, open our minds and hopefully our attitudes as we go through our daily routines. In reality, the cost of our trip helped advance NPH’s efforts with the children’s homes, hospitals and programs. But now I see that a large part of their effort is bringing people and cultures together, making the world just a wee-bit smaller, shifting our lens from tolerating differences to experiencing our sameness – creating connectedness. To use the words my friend Mara offered me when I returned home, this trip “opened our hearts in a whole new way”. And for that, I am most grateful.

Monday, October 7, 2019

"I am in awe!"

Below is a post written by Stephanie Pommier, Regional Director of NPH USA's Upper Midwest office!

On Saturday, October 5, 2019 500 guests and volunteers filled the Intercontinental St. Paul Riverfront Ballroom to celebrate the 65th anniversary of NPH! The evening included a special honor to recognize Rose Schaffhausen, 2019 recipient of the Fr. William Wasson Humanitarian Award, and we met our fundraising goal of $500,000!

I am in awe! 

I hope everyone is energized to continue spreading the NPH message. We cannot remain silent - we must share the NPH story and our remain steadfast in our mission of seeking financial support for and meeting the needs of the NPH children. 

What an amazing, fun, and inspiring evening! 

And, don’t let the fun stop – we have several upcoming fundraising events throughout our region in the time to come. Please join us at upcoming events or consider hosting your own holiday fundraising gathering to raise the critical funds needed to transform the lives of thousands of children in Latin America and the Caribbean. You can learn more by contacting your regional office

Monday, September 30, 2019

"Lessons Learned During My Visit to NPH Honduras"

Below is a blog post written by Gail Taylor, NPH USA's Northwest Regional Board Chair!

I was fortunate to visit the NPH Honduras ranch for the first time with 22 children and adults from the Northwest this past July. Before the trip, I’d heard dozens of first-hand accounts that NPH changed their lives. I had high expectations.

My favorite morning was spent with first graders in Montessori class. We attended open air PE class, where they laughed at my limbo efforts. We snacked on oranges, then went inside. The pequeños kept quiet and knew what to expect. At tables, the assistant teacher handpicked flash card sets, tailoring the exercise to fit each student’s reading level. They wanted me to watch them read their flash cards. One boy began writing in his writing book. I sat with this precious boy as he wrote. Next, the teacher gathered the pequeños by the bulletin board where she taught Spanish.

The first moment I decided NPH Honduras is better than advertised was when I was looking around the perimeter of the classroom and I saw a red concrete-like floor, faint green walls and high ceilings. I focused on the Montessori style stations, equipped with wooden shelves of library books, blocks, abacuses, flags, flashcards, writing books. Maps, posters and children’s art hung on the walls. The variety of materials appealed to sensory, visual and auditory learning styles. The stations incorporated math, Spanish, English, reading, writing, religion, geography, history and biology. This classroom wasn’t as pretty or new as the Bellevue classrooms I’ve seen. But it functioned effectively. This classroom was equipped to help these pequeños develop order, concentration, coordination and independence. Both teachers had a tighter grip on the pequeños’ attention than I saw in classrooms at home. That was the moment I realized my high expectations of NPH were exceeded. These pequeños are getting a good education that will serve them years after they depart the ranch.

Other lessons I learned:

  • It is possible for hundreds of children to be happy and well behaved at one time. I saw the effects that love, caring and acceptance have on children who once struggled to survive. I saw children play, study and do chores. It was heart-warming to give hugs and watch youngsters jockey to hold my hand, ask me to blow up their balloons and give high fives. 
  • NPH always has a good reason. Our travel group did not always understand a few shortcomings and rules at first. But NPH staff answered our questions and justified their priorities and allocation of resources. The extra services we wished could be offered were unavailable because of financial constraints. 
  • NPH’s programs have a deeper and more lasting impact than I had understood. Every NPH graduate gives back through a year of volunteer service. But I did not realize 20% of the current staff grew up at NPH because of donations during the 1980s and 1990s. I met an impressive sample: the head Montessori teacher, her husband, another teacher, a lawyer, 2 doctors and 2 alumnae from our Seattle Leadership Institute Program. 
  • Daily operations and programs allow each of the pequeños an opportunity to achieve his/her potential. Preschoolers and elementary students learn the Montessori method. All pequeños lead an orderly life with responsibilities of homework and twice daily chores. Children receive vocational training that will lead to a well paying job. Those who are capable can attend a university. Medical needs are met with a state of the art medical clinic and surgery center affiliated with NPH. Special needs pequeños receive individualized attention. NPH offers an alumnae network office where alumnae seek practical job-hunting help and emotional support.
  • Vocational training programs and resources do double duty by fulfilling current needs. Pequeños from the NPH cobbler shop make all school shoes, and the shoes are impressive. Pequeños from the tailor shop create all school uniforms. Workshop trainees help maintain the facilities. Animals on the ranch provide dairy and meat.
  • NPH is well respected in Honduras and has earned multiple awards. The government relies upon NPH to help vulnerable children and their families.
Thank you to our NW staff (Ross, Glory, Anna and Abbey) and Donna Egge for ensuring that our group had an exceptional visit.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

No matter age or native language, the pequeños and host families always connect in an extraordinary way that will never be forgotten...

The below blog post is written by Olivia Stephani​, a high school student in Chicago who spent the summer interning at our Midwest Regional Office!

At the height of the Windy City’s unpredictable, frigid weather, 13 pequeños from NPH Mexico flew into Chicago for their musical pequeño tour. Chaperoned by a former pequeño, they were ready for 3 weeks of singing and dancing performances at various locations, including Jones College Prep: a high school located right in the heart of downtown Chicago. 

Soon after they arrived, the pequeños were whisked from the airport to meet up with their first of three different host families. It is with these host families that they would be staying with throughout their visit; the pequeños are temporarily taken into the homes of generous host families and treated as part of that family.

Opening the doors of her home to the pequeños for the second year in a row, Janet Pasquesi was ecstatic “to be around the life” that the girls and boys bring. While hosting during this musical pequeño tour in spring 2019, Janet had many fun activities planned. Together with the girls she hosted during the first week of the tour, she visited The Art Institute of Chicago, looked at Lake Michigan, and went out to dinner in the near suburbs. However, it was at this dinner--among other places--where they ran smack into what may seem to be a daunting obstacle: the language barrier. Most host families, including Janet, do not speak Spanish, and the pequeños speak little to no English; despite this, new ways to communicate are always formed. Whether it was sign language or online resources, there was always a way to talk. At this particular dinner, Janet requested a waiter that spoke Spanish and found herself and her daughter relying on Google translate.

Commenting on the closeness of all the pequeños, Janet explains how she had two separate rooms for the two girls she hosted, yet by the morning they were in the same bed. During her second week, she hosted three boys who she saw “picked up bits of English quickly.” One of these pequeños fell sick, and Janet’s son immediately set the sick boy up with some food and a television show to keep him occupied. Even with one of the boys feeling under the weather, this allowed them to bond even more. 

In addition to their own fun, all the host families and pequeños went to fun events as a group. They held a lively pizza party where Janet says, “Everybody had a great time.” With phrases like “full of life,” “extremely organized,” and “appreciative,” Janet paints the picture of the fun, polite guests that added an extra level of soul to her home for two weeks that sped by. During the third week of their tour, Janet was not hosting; however, she found herself requesting to spend even more time with the pequeños.

No matter age or native language, the pequeños and host families always connect in an extraordinary way that will never be forgotten. In the words of host Tricia Dill, “Learning their [the pequeños’] stories and spending time with them touched our hearts in a way that will make us forever supporters of NPH.”

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

What does it mean to be called?

Below is a post written by Jennifer Turner, NPH USA Southwest Region Development Officer!

I just received my Advancing Philanthropy magazine, July issue and was headed out to meet up with a long-time friend and colleague in the nonprofit sector.  The timing couldn’t have been more perfect!

I arrived early for our visit so I began to look through the issue and came upon an article about our profession, Called to Do Well and Be Good by Paul C. Pribbenow, Ph.D., CFRE.

That’s when I read a passage that resonated with me, perfectly describing how I felt having built a career within the nonprofit sector and especially my work with Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH) USA.

In 1998 I started my service as a Youth at Risk Business Advisor in the US Peace Corp.  I served in Jamaica and upon completing my two years, relocated back to the US to continue in the nonprofit sector focusing on development and philanthropy.  

I’ve been fortunate to work with some incredible organizations and generous individuals over the years.  However, my heart was always with the needs of youth abroad… so when the opportunity came along that allowed me to pair my skills in fundraising with my passion for international youth work, my heart leapt!

For almost two years I wake up every day grateful. Why?  The kids of NPH, no matter the age, the country or the circumstance are inspirational to the point where it’s an honor to share their stories and successes.  What they accomplish with the support of NPH embodies the essence of success.  And my work is to share their stories.  This work is my passion, which drives my happiness, which humbles me with gratitude.  And the donors and funders of NPH are just as incredible. 

Reading this passage was an eloquent reminder…

I’m so blessed to be in a profession where I love what I do, meet incredible people who become meaningful friends and despite any negative elements that surround me - I’m pulled towards inspiration that introduces me to yet more incredible people.

And for those who know me well, having the opportunity to become a part of the NPH family has been described by them as “Jenn found her dream job!” – a sentiment I resoundingly second.

So… yes, I have been called.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Fiercely Loving: the job description of no one, the responsibility of everyone

Volunteer Katie Johnson puts her all into her work: teaching English and music at the primary school, giving piano lessons in the afternoon, and leading Chicas Poderosas, a girls’ empowerment group. Below is a post by her.

When I first received my job offer from NPH Bolivia, it seemed that most of my time would be spent teaching children new subjects and skills, something that I was happy to do; however, one misconception that I had was that the people I would be serving would be uneducated.

Well, imagine my surprise when one of the kids here, Maximiliano, explained that he knew much more than I. “Usted no sabe nada,” which literally translates to “You do not know anything.” While it comes off a bit rude, it was actually quite true.

He would use this phrase for anything: a word I didn’t know in Spanish, a Bolivian holiday that I didn’t know existed, or ways to butcher pigs, kill snakes, and hand-cut grass. All of which were things he knew, and I did not.

It took me almost four months to realize that fulfilling my job description, teaching English and music, not only wasn’t enough for the kids, but it wasn’t enough for me either. I eventually realized that the best way I can help the children that I work and live with is to love them as powerfully as I can every single day.

It is the job description of no one here at our home, but at the same time it is the responsibility of every staff member and volunteer.

Many of our kids come from abused or neglected backgrounds. To show them what true love looks like has been my greatest challenge. Love starts with a connection, like kicking around a soccer ball or helping with math homework, and advances toward empowerment and support.

It is an incredible feeling when one of my students is giving up on a piano piece because it’s too difficult and my words are the ones that encourage them to keep trying. Experiences like this, albeit small, teach me how impactful my support can be on the children here at NPH.

The hardest part of loving our children unconditionally, however, is when I need to show them tough love. When a child calls me a bad word, cheats during an exam, or refuses to do their chores, I have to sit them down and explain to them why their behavior is unacceptable. This can be difficult, uncomfortable, and even awkward, but I do it because truly loving someone means wanting them to be the best possible person that they can be.

While I knew I was capable of loving the children here, I certainly wasn´t expecting to fall in love. Every volunteer has a house of kids that they spend most of their time with. My house is San Francisco, filled with 10 to 12-year-old boys. It took a while for them to trust me, and even longer to respect me, but every moment with them is one that I cherish.

With nine months under my belt, and eight months left in my service, a part of me is excited to go home to Chicago, sleep in my own bed, pig out on American food, and be with family and friends; however, there is a bigger part of me that is devastated to leave and explain to my boys why I won´t be tucking them in every night anymore. It will be one of the hardest things I will have to do.

The role of the volunteer is ever changing, flexible, challenging, and certainly not for everyone. But the goal of the volunteer is to love fiercely and powerfully for the short time that they are present in these kids’ lives. I hope that I will have accomplished that goal by the time I leave.

(Children’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.)

Friday, August 9, 2019

NPH USA Midwest Celebrates Supporter Rick Reichmuth

As our Midwest Region gears up for the Football Legends Classic 2019 at the Biltmore Country Club in North Barrington, Illinois, we would like to take some time to highlight this year’s Emcee: Rick Reichmuth. Rick, an AMS Seal-certified meteorologist, is the Chief Meteorologist at FOX News and FOX & Friends. After originally pursuing a career in banking, Rick decided to follow his dream and has now been working in the meteorology industry for over 17 years.

In 2017, Rick launched the Weatherman Umbrella, a one-of-a-kind umbrella that can withstand anything. It can endure winds up to 55 mph and effectively repels all water. Additionally, there is an app that allows users to locate their umbrella via Bluetooth and get morning notifications about if their Weatherman Umbrella is needed. The Weatherman Umbrella is currently available in three different styles: collapsible, stick, and golf. Thanks to the hard work of its founder and CEO—Rick, himself--Weatherman Umbrella has taken off.

Before Rick was a nationally recognized meteorologist and CEO, he served as an international volunteer at the NPH Mexico Miacatlán home in the early 90’s. After receiving a degree in Spanish Literature from Arizona State University, Rick headed down to NPH Mexico. Once there, he spent a little over a year focusing on active physical therapy for the home’s special needs children. Currently, our Mexico home supports 719 children and provides 1,677 services.

Rick is generously donating his time and his Weatherman Umbrellas to the Football Legends Classic. Rick, thank you for your continued support of NPH’s mission, and see you on the green! 

Thursday, April 4, 2019

I am filled with and surrounded by more love than I could have ever imagined...

Alaina Hall is a volunteer at our NPH Mexico home who did something truly incredible for the children that we support. Read her piece below to learn more!

During my junior year of high school I experienced my first great rejection. I had applied to go on a summer trip to Peru with the American Youth Leadership Program. I made it to the interview round and was so excited to possibly be able to participate in this amazing program. A few weeks after the interview, I got the disappointing email that I was not chosen to go on the trip.

While upset about the rejection, I was still committed to the idea of traveling abroad and experiencing a new culture. I remembered that my church did a service trip to Mexico each summer, which seemed like a good alternative, so I signed up. I didn’t know then that this trip would change the course of my life.

When I got to NPH Mexico that summer, I found one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. The kids were so generous, welcoming, and radiated pure love and light. Their smiles were infectious and even though my Spanish was pretty minimal, we could somehow communicate so easily without words. I went back home from that trip thankful that I had been able to experience something so amazing. The following summer I returned on the same trip, and that is when I decided I wanted to return to NPH as a volunteer after graduating from University.

During the fall of 2014, I began nursing school at the University of Pennsylvania. That same year, ‘Penn’ developed an award called the “President’s Engagement Prizes.” The prize is a $100,000 grant for graduating Penn seniors to design and implement a global, national, or local civic engagement project. When I heard about this award, I immediately thought of NPH and I became determined to apply for it when I became a senior.

Over the next years, I began reaching out to NPH, university professors, and anyone else who I thought could advise me on this project. With the support of so many people - my advisors Cindy and Nancy, Corinna and Pilar from NPH International Medical services, and my family and friends - the idea of “Healthy Pequeños” was formed.

Healthy Pequeños is a nurse-led, holistic infection prevention program aimed at addressing the global problem of pediatric infectious disease. Infectious diseases are the leading cause of pediatric morbidity and mortality around the world and are the primary health concern among the children at NPH Mexico.

The program consists of three parts: pathogen-exposure reduction through environmental changes, such as access to adequate sanitation facilities and clean water; health promotion and education aimed at children and their caregivers; and community infection surveillance by medical personnel.

During January of my senior year, I submitted the application. In April, I got a call from the University President telling me I had won. I immediately began to cry because I couldn’t believe that I would be able to return to NPH and contribute to the already amazing place that it is.

I have now been at NPH Mexico for almost 6 months. My mornings are spent in the clinic working on the project – writing the curriculum and giving the education lessons, collaborating with NPH staff to design and implement pathogen reduction repair projects, designing health promotion interventions, and working with the staff in the clinic on a variety of tasks. My afternoons and evenings consist of helping care for the "chicos" section of boys, ages 7-10.

The days can be long but they are filled with so much learning, laughing, and love. I am learning more than I ever thought possible in my first year as a nurse – how to manage a budget of $100,000, how to collaborate with different teams of people, how to learn from other cultures and communities, and ultimately how to turn a project idea into action.

I am also filled with and surrounded by more love than I could have ever imagined – the children, caregivers, other volunteers, and staff at NPH, as well as the Mexican people, have made a place that is very far and different from my home feel comfortable and familiar.

Looking back, I now realize that the rejection letter that hurt so much in the moment, would be what lead me to where I was meant to be. I have never been so sure of what I am meant to be doing and where I am meant to be doing it. NPH has given me so much – from igniting my initial passion in global health to welcoming me into a beautiful and loving family; I couldn’t be more grateful. I am so glad that through Healthy Pequeños I am able to give something back to an organization that has given me so much.