Wednesday, October 28, 2020
The love that exists on the ranch is palpable, and I was lucky to have been there to experience it in person...
Thursday, October 15, 2020
Since we cannot have in person events in our regions this year, we've all joined forces and are having a National Virtual Gala - this Saturday October 17th!
Please join us as we celebrate our NPH Super Heroes, including YOU!
John Deinhart, President and CEO, NPH USA and Victor Amable de los Santos Jimenez, University Pequeño, NPH Dominican Republic! And we've got three special guests: Bob Costas, Sportscaster and NPH Supporter, Bill Cummings, Philanthropist and Author, and Andrew Farrell, Major League Soccer Player!!! You don't want to miss this event! Virtual doors open at 6:45 p.m. CST. Be sure to adjust for your local time.
Learn more and check out the silent auction, which is now open (!), here: https://nphusa.org/2020gala/
Monday, August 10, 2020
Join us for the NPH USA Football Legends Classic on August 31, 2020 at 6:00 PM CST for a virtual edition of our annual event, which has raised over $1.5 million to date! The event will feature an exclusive interview with legendary sportscaster and NPH supporter, Bob Costas and members of the Super Bowl winning 1985 Chicago Bears! The featured interview includes Coach Mike Ditka, Gary Fencik, Otis Wilson, and Jimbo Covert, along with other special guests and many opportunities to give in support of our mission.
ABOUT THE EVENT
In 1971, Michigan State University football teammates John Shinsky and NFL Hall of Fame member Joe DeLamielleure discussed their dreams for the future. It was at that time that John told Joe that one day he was going to build a home for orphaned and abandoned children. That dream became a reality with the building of the Shinsky Orphanage in Matamoros, Mexico. In 2009, John partnered with NPH and its’ American fundraising arm, NPH USA, to combine their unique resources and strengths for the shared mission of transforming the lives of children in need.
Each summer for the past seven years, good people with big hearts have gathered together to support the mission of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos with a day of golf in Chicago, shared with NFL legends from around the country. This event has continued for many years, thanks to Shinsky and his love of football, friendships, and supporting children in need. While we cannot gather this Summer physically due to pandemic restrictions, the important thing is that we do gather, because the children are depending on us.
This year, the Football Legends Classic will be a jam-packed, one-hour virtual extravaganza that brings all the excitement of our annual event right to your home. The feature presentation will include an NPH exclusive interview with Bob Costas and members of the ’85 Bears. There will be messages from our NPH USA family, information about this incredible organization and the children supported by our programs, and an auction to raise funds for our homes. This is truly an event you don’t want to miss!
MEET THE LEGENDS
Bob Costas is the voice of Major League Baseball for which he has won multiple Emmy’s, and has also been the prime-time host of 11 Olympic Games from 1992 until 2016. His rise to fame came in 1980 when he got hired by NBC sports but left the company after 40 years. His notable play-by-play calls include Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson's final game with the Chicago Bulls, Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals, and Derek Jeter's final game at Yankee Stadium, amongst others. Costas has some interesting ties with the city of Chicago. Costas was the play-by-play voice for the Bulls on WGN-9 during the 1979-80 season. He called several Bears games with Johnny Morris during a short stint with CBS in the late '70s. The first Super Bowl he hosted for NBC was the Bears-Patriots game in January of 1986. He called the famous Ryan Sandberg game for the Chicago Cubs where Sandberg hit game-tying homers in the ninth and 10th innings. He says people still bring that game up when he walks the streets of Chicago. He is also a legendary friend of NPH. Costas has visited NPH Guatemala with his daughter, sponsored several NPH children, and was the emcee for this event in 2018.
Arguably the most popular Super Bowl victors ever, the 1985 Chicago Bears were a legendary team that finished the regular season with a record of 15-1 and went on to dominate their playoff and Super Bowl opponents in the post season. NPH USA is excited to feature some of the instrumental individuals from that year during the 2020 Football Legends Classic!
You can't tell the history of football without mentioning this Hall of Fame coach. Mike Ditka coached the Bears for 11 seasons from 1982-1992, leading them to numerous division championships and most notably the '85 Super Bowl win. Before he coached, Ditka was a phenomenal tight end in the NFL for 12 seasons. Ditka has worked for many years in television for ESPN, and in 2016 they announced he would move to SportsCenter for remote-broadcasting analysis. Ditka has also done guest spots and cameos on shows from L.A. Law to Saturday Night Live, as well as the TV classic, Cheers. He helped produce a line of cigars called "The Mike Ditka Kickoff Series", a line of wines, and opened his namesake Gold Coast Chicago steakhouse in 1997. Ditka very recently became an owner of X League, a women's tackle football league. This will be Ditka’s first stint with NPH.
8-year Chicago Bear veteran Otis Wilson played an important role in making the '85 Bears defense one of the most notorious units in league history. A first-round pick to Chicago in 1980, he had a successful career in the NFL, being selected for the Pro-Bowl once in '85 and named "All-Pro" twice in his tenure with the Bears. He was also a featured star on the hit music video "Super Bowl Shuffle" in '85. He now focuses full-time on his nonprofit organization, "The Otis Wilson Charitable Association", which provides an all-inclusive health and fitness program for at risk youth. The organization sponsors many events to fund their programs and they are very active in the Chicago area. Wilson's book "If These Walls Could Talk: Chicago Bears" was published in 2017. He also appeared in the tv show "Hawaii Five-O" as himself in 2016. Otis is a friend of NPH, last attending our Football Legends Classic event in 2018.
A legend in his own right, born and raised in Chicago, named captain of the touted '85 Bears defense, Gary Fencik is the all-time leader in tackles and interceptions for the Bears franchise. In his 12 seasons with Chicago, Fencik was selected to the Pro-Bowl twice and nicknamed one of the "The Hit Men" along with teammate Doug Plank for their brutal hits on opposing players. Fencik lead a busy life outside of football as he graduated from Yale in 1976, was awarded a gold record and a platinum video award for the 1985 "Super Bowl Shuffle". Post NFL he has been outspoken in raising awareness for concussions and the long term affects they can have on a person. He has also pledged to donate his brain after he dies to the concussion legacy foundation to further study the effects of concussions and CTE. He joined Adams Street Partners in 1995 and currently works on investor relations for them. Fencik is a familiar friend of NPH and attended the Football Legend Classic event in 2019.
James "Jimbo" Covert, a lifetime Bear, played all 8 of his NFL seasons with Chicago, starting in 1983 where he was a top 10 draft pick. Covert was an important piece playing at the offensive tackle position, pushing them to be one of the most respected offensive lines in the league. In his 8 years, Covert was a 2-time Pro-Bowl selection and even earned the "Miller Lite Offensive Lineman of the Year" award in 1986. He played his last season in 1990 and announced his retirement a year later due to back injuries. Covert left a great legacy, as he was named to the 1980 "All-Decade team", enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003, and named an NFL Hall of Famer this year, in 2020. Covert found a life after football in the healthcare industry. In May 2007, he was named President of The Institute for Transfusion Medicine, a non-profit organization specializing in transfusion medicine and related services in the Chicago and Pittsburgh area. He also started Keystone Strategies, LLC, a healthcare consulting group in 2000. Covert has participated with NPH USA’s Football Legend Classic event in past years.
JOIN THE EVENT!
We encourage participants to safely be a part of this event from their homes, or host socially distanced watch parties. We are also providing Watch Party Packages for those who want to enjoy the event with their very own Football Legend, among other perks!
Visit www.nphusa.org/legendsclassic for registration and more information about the event.
Can't wait for you to join us!
Sunday, August 2, 2020
NPH Participates in United Nations Panel: “Inspiring Global Action: Reframing Responsibilities to One Another and Our Communities During the COVID-19 Pandemic”
Below is a post written by Gillian Garvey, NPH USA Summer Intern.
On Wednesday, June 24th, Dr. Edwin Vallecillo, the Director of Medical Services for Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos International (NPH), spoke alongside three other international organization leaders on a panel for the first event of the United Nations (UN) Civil Society Chat Series titled “Inspiring Global Action: Reframing Responsibilities to One Another and Our Communities During the COVID-19 Pandemic”. NPH has recently been recognized by the UN Department of Global Communications as a Civil Society Organization. This recognition is extremely significant because it reinforces NPH’s continuing commitment to pursuing multiple Sustainable Development Goals promoted by the UN.
Dr. Vallecillo began his presentation by providing background information about NPH. Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, which translates to “Our Little Brothers and Sisters,” raises children, supports families, and transforms lives in nine countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. NPH provides a safe home, food, clothing, education, and healthcare to over 6,100 vulnerable, disadvantaged, and at-risk children.
This panel focused on how NPH has been serving as a role model for the best practices in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak in their countries. The first step NPH took to limit exposure to the virus was to create an Action Plan that outlined and implemented new protocols for the COVID-19 response along with the Pandemic Team. Examples of some of the protocols put in place included: limiting staff changes and large gatherings within the home, regular staff COVID-19 screenings, temporary school closings, and the additional purchases of PPE, vitamins, medication, thermometers, and more.
Educating the children and staff at NPH homes about the pandemic was crucial in order to keep them safe and aware of the health risks COVID-19 could bring. Everyone was taught about social distancing, no-contact greetings, and proper hand-washing techniques to use at the additional hand-washing stations.
In addition to caring for the children and staff at the homes, NPH continues to pursue outreach for areas surrounding the homes. NPH has provided donations of face masks, food, medication, and has also created plans for working families that have children with disabilities. To educate the community, NPH staff members have been going out to perform educational talks and training while also providing needed services.
NPH also operates the St. Damien Pediatric Hospital, which is the only pediatric hospital in Haiti. St. Damien’s staff has had to interact with many people in Haiti who don’t understand the virus or are unable to take the appropriate precautions to keep themselves and others safe. Unfortunately, many of the people who do recognize that the pandemic is a threat can’t afford medical supplies and can’t miss work to quarantine themselves. Since being selected by the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population to receive and treat all pediatric patients with COVID-19, St. Damien’s has purchased additional PPE, created new protocols, and held additional training for staff.
Other U.N. panelists included Victoria Edmonds, a representative for the Salvation Army, an organization that operates in 131 nations. Edmonds spoke about the numerous states and countries where the Salvation Army is currently providing medical supplies, food, shelter, COVID-19 testing, and many more services to people in need.
Muzaffer Baca, the Vice President of International Blue Crescent (IBC), an organization operating in the Middle East, Caucasus, Balkans and Horn of Africa with the goal to provide emergency services, educational opportunities, and community building discussed how his organization is providing emergency teams, medical supplies, and test kits to people in Syria, Yemen, and Libya.
Bimpe Bamgbose-Martins, the founder of the Strategy for Mentoring Initiative and Leadership Empowerment (S.M.I.L.E), an organization in Nigeria and the United States, explained the difficulties in running its youth empowerment programs due to physical distancing. All of the in-person programs that shape young people to become leaders and agents of change in their own societies were halted and suspended indefinitely. The programs were unable to transition to an online platform due to a large number of youth who don’t have access to the internet or internet-capable devices.
In case you missed the event, click here to view the recorded episode on YouTube.
Sunday, July 26, 2020
Below is a blog post written in June 2020 by Brittni Palkert, the Volunteer and Projects Coordinator at NPH Bolivia.
Who would have thought back in February how the world would look now? I can certainly say that when I arrived to NPH Bolivia on February 1st 2020, I had no idea what would transpire over the coming 5 months and how much my volunteer experience would dramatically shift.
My first month at the home looked like a typical NPH volunteer experience: meeting staff and children, traveling to the nearby town on Sundays for mass, off-weekend trips into the city of Santa Cruz, and planning for all the exciting holidays and events that would take place over the coming months, like our home’s 15th anniversary. Then the weekend of March 13th arrived, turning our volunteer experience on its head. Seemingly overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic became truly ‘real’ in Bolivia and within days – which felt like months at the time – the majority of our staff left the home, including my direct manager, without a specific return date in mind. The kids underwent a series of handwashing workshops and were no longer allowed to eat nor pick up food in our food hall, everyone received facemasks, and we were no longer permitted to leave the home nor receive outside visitors unless absolutely necessary. Expected visitors from NPHI cancelled their flights, and we as volunteers had to have difficult conversations with NPH Bolivia and NPH USA leadership to determine whether it was safe and appropriate to stay in the home. Ultimately, the four American volunteers decided to stay, but our greatest challenge as a community was having to say goodbye to our German volunteer who was required by his government to return home.
We’ve undergone significant changes and restrictions to keep all of our staff and children safe, but through it all we’ve managed to remain positive and see the rainbow peeking through the clouds. We’ve taken on new responsibilities and roles most volunteers have never nor will ever experience. For example, every 1-2 months when one caretaker shift leaves and another enters, all the volunteers have been asked to serve as ‘tios’ in the homes while the newly entered shift spends a week or two in quarantine. This new challenge has given us a fresh perspective on the home and the daily lives of our children, as well as the joy that comes with being closer than ever with our beautiful children. For me, one of my proudest moments as a volunteer was using my limited high school chemistry knowledge to help a few of the girls complete their 150-question chemistry homework!
On the weekends, especially if our kids are in the middle of a 2-week quarantine because the new shift of caretakers has entered, I enjoy baking or making my Grandma’s pierogi recipe. While there are many weekends where we long to take a trip to Santa Cruz, we strive to keep in mind that this is the reality for our children most of the year; they are at the home nearly 24/7 without access to stores or restaurants. Even without school, our children remain as happy as ever with the necessities provided to them at the home. This kind of inner peace and minimalism is something I hope to take with me into the future. Honestly, most days it feels like the kids are teaching me just as much as I am teaching them!
Here at NPH Bolivia, I am very lucky to be surrounded by supportive local staff and an incredible group of volunteers that are helping me remain positive. I am truly grateful to still be living in the home, particularly because our presence is needed now more than ever. In addition to being caretakers in the children’s homes, we are supporting enrichment activities in the absence of formal schooling nationwide. Our volunteer English teacher has been leading homework sessions in our computer lab, running our library and reading classes, and supporting piano practice. Two volunteers and I are working on a local fundraising campaign called #VenceAlCoronavirus to cover the cost of rising food prices, facemasks, hand sanitizer, and other unforeseen expenditures that protect the well-being of our children.
Through these triumphs and heartaches, we’ve remained centered on NPH’s mission: providing a loving and safe environment for children living in extreme conditions. Although the coronavirus pandemic is putting pressure on this mission, we have not and will not fail to continue providing safety and love to our children. NPH volunteers live and breathe this mission day in and day out, now more than ever.
Thursday, April 23, 2020
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
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,
Sunday, April 19, 2020
Friday, April 10, 2020
Below are brief updates from each of the NPH homes:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.