Thursday, April 23, 2020

Introducing the NPH Open Home Series!


The “NPH Open Home Series” is inspired by the open house theme; a popular event in the United States that is a friendly, casual time when people are invited to come into your home. Home evokes the image of Family - a core NPH principle. For those of you that know us well, you're well-aware that NPH is a giant, international family. So, while the theme open house may be U.S. centric, the idea of opening one’s home to friends and family is global.

This live video series is an invitation for supporters, old and new, to come into the NPH world in more ways than one. Viewers will hear from personnel inside the NPH homes. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve had to cancel numerous trips and events. Still, amidst the global health crisis, families have found strength inside their homes. The NPH family is no different. We invite you to step inside our homes as well as our philosophy and values.

Take yourself virtually to Honduras on April 30th and join us for the launch of the Open Home Series! Episode 1 will feature NPH Honduras National Director, Stephen O’Mahony where he will address the challenges of the global health crisis and update you on the children and programs of NPH Honduras.


Wednesday, April 22, 2020

A Letter of Gratitude from NPH USA's International Volunteer Program Coordinator

Dear International Volunteers:

Every one of you has been through a lot in the past few weeks. It is a traumatic event to be torn away from the home and family you have made at NPH. It’s terrible to have worked so hard in your jobs and in relationships, only to abruptly leave with hardly a goodbye. Some of you may feel like you’ve broken a promise when you were required to leave—that you hadn’t done enough yet. But here I say to you: what you have already done (whether it was for 3 months or 2 years)—that work and the love you offered to the kids, staff, and fellow volunteers was indispensable, invaluable, and so very much appreciated.

It’s true: when you go back, NPH won’t be the same. But that’s NPH—it’s constantly changing and seeing good people come and go as they do their part. I remember returning to Honduras years after my service and so much had changed! There were new buildings, new programs, and new kids. A little selfishly, I was disappointed that my teenager “boys” weren’t kids anymore. Simply put, it wasn’t the same home that I had known from before. NPH is like a river that is constantly moving and you never stand in the same water twice. In truth, that’s what makes NPH so special—that it allows for that kind of growth so that the kids, staff, and leadership can adapt and constantly strive to be better, to do more, to reach so many individuals. You are an important part of the constantly moving river that represents NPH. Regardless of how much time you spent as a volunteer, you will forever be an integral part of the NPH family.

Thank you, volunteers, for the incredible sacrifices you’ve made as part of this family. Thank you for the unconditional love and care you have given (and continue to give) to our kids. Thank you for believing that we can make a difference when we work together and strive to put the needs of others first. You are all my heroes and I, personally, am honored to get to work with you all and get to know you better. Thank you, volunteers, for all that you do and all that you are. Although time was cut short for many of you—the selfless contributions you’ve made and the love you have shown have made NPH better. You should be very proud of that.

Un abrazo enorme,
Jen Foster






Sunday, April 19, 2020

I wanted something to last longer than my time here at NPH...

Sophie Herman has provided much help and support to our home in Honduras during her time volunteering there and she is a grateful recipient of our Hightower Kloos Legacy Fund for international volunteers. Below is a lovely reflection from Sophie that speaks to the true spirit of NPH - care and giving back. Thank you to Sophie and ALL our amazing international volunteers for being a part of the NPH family and for donating their time and energy to have such an incredible and positive impact on the lives of our children.

With the  Hightower Kloos Legacy Endowment I received, I have been able to greatly impact my hogar at the NPH home here in Honduras. With the money, I had many options and ideas of what I could do. I wanted something to benefit the children with disabilities and I wanted something to last longer than my time here at NPH. With many meetings with coordinators and fellow employees on the Ranch, I decided to start a caseta, or a little store, to help raise money for the special needs hogares, or homes. This way there is always a source of income for the hogares/homes which need money or donations, and it is something that could be continued on even after my year of service. Not only does the caseta provide funds for the hogares, but also it provides a work opportunity for the kids with disabilities who are able to participate and work. 
 
I was given an old, abandoned caseta-type building from the hogar coordinator and I got right to work to fill it with needed supplies and equipment. The biggest expense and where most of the money from the scholarship went was to buy a freezer. With the freezer, I am able to help the kids with special needs to make paletas, or popsicles, and charamuscas, which are little bags filled with juice that you freeze. I also bought kitchen supplies such as a blender, electric water heater, measuring cups, utensils and more little things that were needed to make all the treats that the caseta would sell. The last thing I bought with the scholarship money was products to fill the caseta, such as Pepsi products, popcorn, hot chocolate, coffee, chips, cookies, juice, lollipops, and other treats that the kids on the Ranch request. 
 
Just 4 months into the project, I was able to raise 7,000 Lempiras, which equals about $280 US. While this may not sound like a lot to make in 4 months, money here in Honduras is stretched a lot further and I have been able to buy many important and fun things for my hogar. With this money, I have been able to provide much needed shoes and shirts for the boys in my hogar, a water dispenser, a blender, and a hammock. As we continue to make more money and as my hogar´s needs are fulfilled, I will go to the other special needs hogars to ask them what kind of donations they are looking for and what will help the kids as well as the tios and tias. I am excited and super happy to be able to provide funds and donations to the kids on the Ranch who do not usually receive this kind of help, and I could not have done it without the money from the  Hightower Kloos Legacy Endowment. This money is really making a difference in the lives of the children with special needs and I am happy with the current success and the future progress of the caseta.




Friday, April 10, 2020

We wish for good health and safety for all during this trying time...

On behalf of everyone at NPH USA, we wish for good health and safety for you and your family during this trying time. You are an important part of our global NPH family, and are in our daily thoughts. And, you are in the thoughts of our NPH children, with many of them asking how their godparents are doing.

Below are brief updates from each of the NPH homes:

Bolivia

On March 22, the Bolivian government imposed a country-wide 14-day quarantine prohibiting people from leaving their homes except to buy groceries or receive medical care. The government hopes to slow the spread of COVID-19, which has reached a total of 40 confirmed cases as of 26 March. With no classes scheduled, our children have new-found free time and it is up to the remaining caregivers and volunteers to devise fun ways to keep them busy and constructively entertained. With a mixture of work, games, and homework, we fill the children’s schedule with a variety of fun and safe things to do. In the morning the children’s schedule can include chores and academic studies, which include cleaning their casita, working with our agronomist Hugo, helping in the clinic, working in the casita of our youngest children, and helping in the library.

Last weekend the older boys and girls worked with Hugo to harvest fish from the fish ponds for the home to eat. The boys used a large net and dredged the pond from one side to the other to catch the fish in their nets. Once collected the older girls helped clean and prep the fish for cooking. On Sunday, we cooked a large lunch for the entire home; each person got half a fish with rice, yucca, salad, and lemonade. “It was a lot of fun being able to go into the pond and fish for our lunch with the older kids,” Renzo explained. “Tío Hugo knows a lot and was teaching us how to clean and prep the fish for grilling.” After lunch the children chose their own activities. They can participate in planned activities or rest and relax. Choices range from table games, drawing, jigsaw puzzles, and writing cards to their godparents to sports like soccer, volleyball, and ping pong, and watching movies together at night.

Dominican Republic

Since the first case of COVID-19 in the Dominican Republic was detected on March 1, NPH Dominican Republic has been quick to implement precautionary measures and prepare the children to help prevent an outbreak inside the home. These measures included tutorials from NPH doctors ranging from raising awareness to handwashing, as well as talks about the impact of the pandemic. Caregivers constantly remind children to wash their hands and the children find different ways to greet one another without shaking or touching hands.

The children at NPH Dominican Republic have been doing their best to remain proactive and healthy. During this period, they do homework and reading assignments and do fun activities. The home has a psychologist who has stayed with us to collaborate and support the staff and children during these difficult times. NPH Dominican Republic also counts on hermanos mayores (older brothers and sisters) to assist caregivers with the care of the children and work in the kitchen. Since most of the staff has been sent home, the support of hermanos mayores helps to reduce the number of people entering and leaving the home, thus reducing risk of exposure for children and staff.

El Salvador

Dr. Monterrosa, the general practitioner at NPH El Salvador, who along with two nurses has moved into Casa Sagrada Familia for the duration of the pandemic, shares that as of March 31, there were 32 confirmed cases in El Salvador, a relatively low number compared to other countries in the region. The most important thing is to preserve the health of all children and prevent this virus from affecting the NPH family, and our home in El Salvador has taken a number of preventive measures, for example: suspending family visits (in concert with local judges, as needed); proactive outreach to medical specialists who provide treatment for existing complex medical cases in the home; close monitoring of children is in place and all specialists are on alert and accessible; strict policy of referring only emergency cases to the local hospital, which we have not needed to do so far; teaching children to wash their hands properly and give them constant encouragement to use the proper technique; implementing modified social distancing within NPH El Salvador, and providing instruction to staff about COVID-19 and proactively responding to staff questions and requests for additional support.



Guatemala

Spencer Cappelli, former Communications Officer at NPH Guatemala, recounts his experiences returning from the Central American country during lockdown due to COVID-19.



Meanwhile, NPH Guatemala has been taking care and busy working with local communities, One Family and Hermanos Mayores, around Itzapa, Guatemala, ensuring the most vulnerable members of society receive support in the face of COVID-19.

Haiti

Nos Petits Frères et Soeurs, (or NPFS, the French name for NPH Haiti) which has served vulnerable communities in Haiti since 1987, is working to ensure that our kids remain safe, whether they live in the flagship home St. Helene in Kenscoff, 25 miles outside Port-au-Prince, or in our special needs rehabilitation centers Kay St. Germaine, Kay Gabriel, and Kay Elaine supporting some of the most vulnerable people in the country—the very same population that is most vulnerable to COVID-19.

The homes have prepared ahead of time by taking decisive measures and implementing preventive protocols establish by NPHI Medical Services for all of NPH. Instructional posters have been hung around the schools and homes to remind everyone what to do and what not to do. Masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer have been stationed around the homes for easy access by staff and children.

Sanitation stations consisting of buckets with soap and diluted bleach solution have been placed around the homes; staff and children are encouraged to use them to clean their hands when access to a standard washroom is not available. Children have been taught to avoid close contact with other children. For St. Damien Pediatric Hospital, three sanitation stations have been set up at the entrance to the hospital for patients and visitors to wash their hands before entering.

Meanwhile in the current state of national lockdown, our caregivers organize activities to keep our children entertained and take their minds off the crisis. 

Honduras

Three weeks ago at Rancho Santo Fe, we already initiated phase two of our coronavirus preparedness plan where we invited all staff who is willing to stay at the Ranch until this is over to do so. Overall, we estimate a core team of 50 individuals who have agreed to stay, and we are hopeful that with locking down the Ranch to the point that very few come and go (some drivers, the security team), we have done all we can to prevent the virus from entering. Our high school and university students can also help out with the work, which is a huge relief. OWS has authorized us to use the Moscati Center as the isolation center in case we have suspected or positive cases and the surgery center overnight unit for more severe cases as it has oxygen connections next to the beds. Dr. Merlin has also offered to join us if it becomes necessary.

The demand of our work still only increases. We were able to bring most Pequeños (high school and university students) home but still need to care for many Hermanos Mayores. Simply getting food or medicines to them is already a challenge. Plus, more and more people living in poverty from our neighboring communities turn to us for food. Last week, we packed another 75 baskets with basic food staples. We will continue to do our best to help those around us, even if it is just a drop in the ocean of hunger. 


Mexico

The NPH Mexico family has been working closely with our medical staff to implement cleanliness and hygiene protocols and social distancing guidelines in each of the homes to ensure our children and employees safety.

First and foremost, the NPH Mexico medical team began by teaching everyone the correct way to wash their hands. Doctors have also given talks about how the virus spreads and the importance of remaining calm and not letting our guard down. Everyone is constantly cleaning the house, rooms, and offices. Anti-bacterial hand gel has become our closest friend, especially when we do not have immediate direct access to a bathroom to wash our hands.

Although traditional classes are suspended, children are not losing out on their education. Teachers have been working hard to prepare learning material for students to use to continue their studies in their homes. Children also have a daily routine that involves cleaning the house and doing their homework and some recreational activities, which the children enjoy the most, to keep hearts and minds fresh. Staff now eat lunch in a separate place from the children, an effort to reduce the risk of contagion.

In short, everyone in NPH Mexico is taking the prescribed preventive measures seriously. The NPH Mexico family understands everyday life cannot stop in the face of a pandemic. We must continue doing what we do best: creating a loving home and providing top quality care to vulnerable children, adolescents, and young adults. 

Nicaragua

The children at NPH Nicaragua send love to their Godparents and donors around the world. While in lock-down, children are ensuring they are doing their school homework, ensuring they wash their hands and their home is clean.

The medical teams and staff in our homes have implemented preventive measures so that our children and vulnerable communities do not contract or spread COVID-19.

Peru

NPH Peru has held talks with staff and children about the severity of the virus, and nurses have given talks on how to wash hands and take additional precautions regarding hygiene. The children are currently on summer break. The start of school has been postponed for two weeks and is likely to be delayed another 15 days, at the very least. Since March 22, outsiders no longer enter the home, and two university students have returned to help cook meals as a temporary measure. Our purchasing coordinator comes into the home only when absolutely necessary.

Caregivers who normally work five-day shifts agreed to remain for the 15-day government-imposed quarantine, with the likely possibility of a 15- to 20-day extension of the quarantine by officials. Currently, children and caregivers are under full quarantine and cannot leave their casitas. All the games, books, and coloring sheets we could find around the home were collected and divided among the casitas so all the kids would have materials to play with to help fight tedium in the coming days and weeks.  

Saturday, February 22, 2020

I felt blessed the day we were introduced to NPH...

Below is a Q+A with Michelle Lavelle, one of our amazing sponsors who is also a Mid-Atlantic/Northeast regional board member!  

How/When did you become involved with NPH USA?


In 2014, we were on our 25th wedding anniversary trip in Sedona, Arizona where we attended Sunday Mass. To our delight, the Pequenos of Mexico were visiting the local church; we were so impressed with the children at Mass. They were involved with the music and dance, which were both beautiful. One of the students gave his testimony of how he came to live at NPH. We were unfamiliar with the organization and were so moved by this young person’s testimony that we become involved to help the kids. As parents of five children ourselves, we are well aware that all children need love, education, and food to thrive. We felt drawn to sponsor children through NPH because God is at the core of the program’s mission. We also felt that the monetary commitment was reasonable and manageable; the Catholic Church has a good reputation for economic efficiency and quality, especially in relation to education and orphan care. In addition, we like the fact that NPH tries very diligently to keep families together. They want to avoid extra pain for these children – who already have had challenged pathways - and avoid separating siblings. We chose to sponsor 10 children after Mass from the Dominican Republic and Peru; we sponsored five children in each of those countries matching our family of five children in the USA.


Why do you chose to sponsor in a particular country?


We were Blessed by walking into Mass and having the opportunity to hear about NPH firsthand from the students. We were drawn to sponsor children from the countries that were needing help at the time. We were thoughtful to choose NPH homes that we may have an opportunity to visit in the future. It was especially important for me to become an active sponsor, as well as a donor. I have been fortunate to visit NPH DR twice and have formed some very special bonds with my Godchildren there and many other children as well. I look forward to the day I can visit the NPH home in Peru.


What do you enjoy most about sponsoring a child with NPH USA?


I think what I enjoy most about my sponsorships is the ability to be connected to the children. NPH does a wonderful job of keeping me informed about the children's schoolwork and overall wellness. It is important to me to feel connected to my Godchildren. I think it makes a real difference for the children to know I am involved, as I know they are so grateful for the sponsorship giving them their education.


Can you tell us a bit about your sponsored children and the evolution of your relationship? Why is being a Godparent so special to you?


I think being a Godparent is a wonderful way to serve. God asks us directly to care for the widows and the orphans in James 1:27. So many children are without parents or support; I felt blessed the day we were introduced to NPH in Sedona, more than 6 years ago. I think God exposes us at different times to stand up and help those in need, He asked and we answered.

I have gotten to know our kids in the DR; they are terrific kids. In particular, we have two girls and three boys there that I love to visit. I can see how important it is to all the children that Godmothers and Godfathers make a visit to the homes. It really does show them how much they are loved. In addition, letters from the Godparents makes a big impression on the children; they feel much appreciated and loved that way, and that is something we can do more frequently than visiting. It has also been wonderful to expose my five children as an example of love and charity to the less fortunate.

I have also exposed my Parish and Friends to NPH in hopes of broadening the awareness of this wonderful organization, so more children will gain a sponsorship.



Monday, January 6, 2020

Everyone in Haiti lost someone...

Below is a blog post by Rachel Prusynski, who in 2010, was visiting her friend Molly Hightower who was volunteering at the NPH Haiti home when the devastating earthquake hit. 

I was only supposed to visit my college friend Molly Hightower who was volunteering at NPH Haiti. On the 10th day of the trip, an earthquake of 7.0 Mw rocked the Caribbean country. It changed my life forever. 

My first trip to NPH Haiti: As well as visiting Molly Hightower, who was mid-way through her volunteer year at NPH Haiti, I was considering volunteering for NPH after finishing my doctorate in physical therapy and wanted to see what the volunteer experience was like. Molly and I became close friends while studying at the University of Portland in Oregon. After spending a lovely time in Haiti with Molly and her fellow volunteers through helping her at work at St. Damien’s hospital as well as spending some time traveling around Haiti, the earthquake struck. 

The moment it struck 

I was on the top floor of the Father Wasson Centre, a 6-story building in Petionvile where the volunteers lived and where NPH had offices, day programs for kids with disabilities from the community, and an event space. I was sitting in the lounge area next to Ryan Kloos, who was visiting his sister Erin, another volunteer. Erin and Molly were both downstairs in their rooms showering after our trip to the market. One minute, Ryan and I were checking e-mails, and the next I remember, I was on my feet scrambling as the floor tipped sideways. There was no time to react, and I was buried as the entire building crashed down, our top floor pancaking on top of the floors below. Unfortunately, both Ryan and Molly were killed. 

I was pulled from the Father Wasson Centre by strangers who I believe were involved with NPH who drove me to the US embassy that night. I was evacuated to Guantanamo Bay Navy Hospital due to my injuries, and was back in the US within a few days after negotiating a flight to Florida. I was injured and unable to help immediately in the aftermath, and as a visitor unfamiliar to Haiti I likely wouldn’t have been very helpful, but I ached to help and felt disconnected from everyone struggling in Haiti, especially considering my only connection to Haiti had died with Molly. 

Because of the strength and destruction of the earthquake, everyone in Haiti lost someone. 

Supporting NPH in the Aftermath 

I returned to Haiti for the one-year anniversary of the earthquake and was graciously hosted by Molly’s former boss and colleagues and have returned for multiple trips since, both training physical therapy technicians and nursing students at the St. Luke schools and hospital associated with NPH as well as the Kay Germaine program for youth and adults with disabilities. 

I also had the opportunity to establish a university scholarship in Molly’s honor at our alma mater. Two young adults who grew up at NPH Haiti have now successfully completed their bachelor’s degrees at the University of Portland on a full-ride scholarship. 

I have seen our NPH programs in Haiti go through many changes in recent years, with the initial Father Wasson Angels of Light program borne in acute response to the quake shifting to a more permanent program. I have continuously been impressed by the quality of care at St. Damien hospital, with the addition of the pediatric residency program and expanded oncology service lines, among other achievements. The Kay Germaine programs have expanded to serve adults with neurologic impairment, a huge gap in rehabilitative care present even before the earthquake. I also sponsored a young child who was left at the NPH home after the earthquake and he is now turning 18; we have communicated for almost 10 years and I am extremely proud of his compassionate nature and drive. 

10 Years Later 

Staying connected to NPH was essential for my personal recovery after the earthquake. Having an outlet for some of my survivor’s guilt and my desire to help as well as a connection to the NPH community makes me feel like part of a family and continues to give me purpose. I founded the first Associate Board of young professionals for NPH USA in the Northwest. Through the years, the Associate Board has been responsible for raising thousands of dollars and energizing young donors through many community events and child sponsorships. I now serve on the NPH USA Northwest regional board and continue to support NPH Haiti. In terms of the two university scholarships, I got to be a part of the students’ support team as they went through college here in the U.S. and am lucky to consider both of them as family. I know that when I look back on my life in years to come, my role in their journey and their place in my family will be one of the biggest points of pride and love in my life. 

I was hoping to be in Haiti with the NPH community for the 10th anniversary of the earthquake but cannot, in good conscience, be a burden to them at this time. NPH Haiti is struggling against the daily challenges of keeping the home and hospital running amidst gas and transportation shortages during the current political crisis. The NPH Haiti staff are competent and courageous people and I will continue to send them as much financial support as I can manage, especially during the worst crisis Haiti has faced since the earthquake. Considering they have faced the cholera outbreak and multiple hurricanes since 2010, the fact that this current systemic unrest has even more negative impacts on our operations and poses more uncertainty for the future is a testament to the massive challenges our staff face daily in order to provide care for the vulnerable families we support.