Many people who have visited Rancho Santa Fe say that it reminds them of a summer camp: homes that resemble small cabins, pine trees in every direction, hiking trails and kids playing all around. While the purpose of NPH Honduras is fundamentally different than that of a summer camp, it is still seems fitting that YMCA campers would feel right at home on the ranch.
This sense of home could also be from the common ground that the YMCA and NPH share; they both strive to improve the lives of youth and create opportunity for their personal and leadership development.
This past March, a group of fifteen high school youth from Pennsylvania and four YMCA staff members traveled down to stay at the ranch for a week. They did team-building activities and campfires, but came for a few unique reasons: to do service work for the home, to learn about NPH, to form relationships with the NPH kids, and to organize fun, entertaining activities and sing-along songs for the home.
Eight youth from NPH Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua were part of the core group for the week. And so it was a week of cultural exchange, with both the YMCA and NPH youth sharing in the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone and put the leadership skills they acquired in their home countries to practice.
Shannon McAdoo is a senior in high school, and one of the YMCA campers that visited NPH Rancho Santa Fe in Honduras. She shares a glimpse of her week with us.
What did you expect to experience at NPH Honduras? I am not quite sure what I expected going into the trip. I thought there would be a general sadness about the children, given their backgrounds.
Did your experience match your expectations? Why or why not? I experienced just the opposite. The children had a sparkle in their eyes of hope and love. I was absolutely astounded to see how NPH was able to take children out of the most desperate situations and give them love, support, and stability, and watch them flourish. I was also amazed at the organization of the home. With 400 plus children, one would expect chaos, but the home in Honduras was wonderfully put together and efficient.
How did you prepare for your trip? Prior to going on the trip we broke up into small groups, consisting of four or five people with one trip leader. Within those small groups we were assigned an activity and told to gather supplies for and learn instructions. We also were given the lyrics to memorize a few campfire songs. My activity was making key-chain animals out of pearl beads and string. We met several times to touch base a few months leading up to our trip so that we could be prepared for our time in Honduras.
What was your greatest takeaway from the experience? As cliché of an answer as this may be, I have to say that it put my life into perspective. I realize the problems that I would dwell over for days became irrelevant after my experience at NPH as well as made me realize the things I take for granted.
What was your most memorable moment? The most memorable moment was going into the special needs home on the last day of our time in Honduras. Erin Stuckey took me and another girl from our group to the girl’s special need home. I do a good bit of work with kids and teenagers with autism and other disorders which is why I was interested in meeting some of the kids there. I loved getting to play hand games with the girls and bond over small things, like drawing and coloring, even though there was a large language barrier. I will never forget the time I spent with them.
What do you wish to share about NPH with others, just from the brief time that you were here? Our group had the unique opportunity to grow close with eight leaders within the NPH community coming from homes in Mexico, Nicaragua and Honduras. Getting to meet them and become so close with them throughout the week, it really made the trip have a stronger impact on me. Seeing these eight amazing humans and knowing that somewhere in their life they experienced traumatic family issues that caused them to be placed in an NPH home, and seeing how well rounded and joyful they are astounded me. It put so much of my faith into the NPH organization because I got to see the little children running around and having fun and it was like seeing a flash-forward of their lives. The eight leaders we met were the products of NPH love and support, and it is absolutely amazing to me that even the most broken children can become such loving, caring and admirable people.