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.”