Bringing the YMCA to NPH Honduras

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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.

Training Staff to Prevent and Navigate Crisis Situations

Part of the NPHI Family Services’ mission is to “promote a loving, respectful, secure, non-violent and threat-free home environment that honors and fosters the child’s dignity as the highest principle”.

CPI Participants doing group work during a training

CPI Participants doing group work during a training

Our entire NPH family works to make this possible in many different ways, toward the end goal that each child feels loved and secure in a safe home environment and can develop his or her full potential.

This past February, twenty-eight staff members representing all nine of our NPH home countries arrived in Honduras to participate in the ‘Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® Instructor’ training from CPI (Crisis Prevention Institute).

Using a hands-on and interactive approach, CPI Instructors Matt Peot and Alyssa Nogaski taught how to prevent and manage difficult crisis situations and respond to disruptive behaviors that could happen in the home. Just a few training topics included understanding the factors and behavior that could lead to a crisis and learning nonviolent techniques to keep the kids and staff safe.

CPI Participant from NPH Mexico and Donna Egge, Director of Family Services

CPI Participant from NPH Mexico and Donna Egge, Director of Family Services

One of the principle themes of the week was how to stop crisis situations before they start. Donna Egge, Director of Family Services, comments, “The more we can reduce the likelihood of escalating behaviors through effective prevention models, the more we can focus on the important relational aspect of our work, which is caring for our children and youth.”

All of the themes discussed during the week align with the core philosophy of the CPI organization: Care, Welfare, Safety, and Security℠.

Matt was a volunteer in NPH Mexico years before he became a Global Professional Instructor with CPI.

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CPI Instructors Matt and Alyssa

He describes the importance of the training for NPH, “It provides essential skills for the most difficult moments that caregivers might encounter. It offers a framework for decision-making that is rooted in a philosophy that dovetails flawlessly with Father Wasson’s (founder of NPH), and it helps staff understand how to live that philosophy when pequeños engage in disruptive, challenging, or even dangerous behavior.”

The reality is that NPH serves children who have unfortunately experienced traumatic events in their young lives, and that crisis situations and difficult behavior may have been commonplace before NPH.

CPI participants from NPH Honduras (left) and NPH El Salvador (right)

CPI participants from NPH Honduras (left) and NPH El Salvador (right)

Mercedes Montes, the Psychology Department Coordinator in the NPH Honduras home, shares why the training is important for the NPH employees, “…we (the NPH staff) will be able to use same language, it will reinforce the importance of teamwork and we will decrease the risk of traumatic experiences for the kids in crisis situations.”

At the end of the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® course on February 27th, participants were certified as instructors, and are now called to share their knowledge and train more staff in the homes. This way the skills and information shared in Honduras in February will stay alive in the homes and help NPH caregivers and staff maintain a safe, secure and loving place for the kids to live.

CPI Group Participants from the NPH Homes

CPI Group Participants from the NPH Homes

Inspiring Change at the 6th Annual NPH Youth Development Conference

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This past January 17th through the 24th, over 40 NPH student guests from eight different countries participated in the 6th Annual NPHI ‘Paz y Bien’ Youth Development Conference.

Youth from the Dominican Republic, Peru, Haiti, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador spent eight full, memorable days learning about leadership and putting their skills into practice in the NPH El Salvador home.

The theme of the week was ‘Together, we make the change!’ A variety of topics were explored, from teamwork, to the ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens’ by Sean Covey, to listening with the mind and heart. The youth were empowered by exchanging ideas with a guest panel of NPH leaders and discussing how to improve the homes’ academic and formation programs. Every day began with a prayer and ended with a reflection led by the youth.

‘The call to serve’ was an integral part of the workshop, and the participants took action by working in the fields, taking care of the elderly in a local nursing home, and preparing and serving food at a nearby soup kitchen for the community.

The youth also had the opportunity to learn more about Oscar Romero, a past archbishop of San Salvador who lived out his life fighting for social justice and serving the poor. He is a hero to many of our kids. To learn more about Oscar Romero’s mission, the kids took a daylong excursion to tour the Hospital Divina Providencia Chapel and to the ‘UCA’ (‘Central American University’), both of which commemorate his life of service.

Guest visitors enriched the workshop with their insight, and among many included Reinhart Koehler, Miguel Venegas, Dr. Michael Maccoby, Kara King, the students from the NPH Seattle Institute program, Olegario Campos, Brenda Mendez, John Deblasio and Father Reynaldo. The conference was led by the Family Service team members Donna Egge, Markus Streit and Erin Stuckey.

The youth participants share a glimpse of their takeaways from the week:

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Mireya (2nd from right)

 

 

“There is always someone out there in need of my help, and I need to offer it.”

~Mireya, Dominican Republic home, 19 years old

 

 

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“I learned that when helping other people, one feels a peace within, and it makes you grow as a person.”

~Mirna, Nicaragua home, 25 years old

 

 

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“I must first make a change in my life to be able to change something in my NPH home. And I must listen with the heart.”

~Andrea, Guatemala home, 19 years old

 

 

 

Daniel (far right)

Daniel (far right)

 

 

“I learned that a person cannot make important decisions with only the mind, or only the heart, but that both need to be used.”

~Daniel, México home, 18 years old

 

 

As one can quickly see, our youth are reflective individuals and motivated to lead by serving others. The goal of these conferences is to provide them with a platform for personal and professional development, and for the participants to continue growing and apply what they learned to make an impact within their NPH home and the outside community.

 

See the Impact – NPH Youth Development Programs

We believe that all children deserve the chance to reach their full potential and lead the best lives possible, both personally and professionally. Our nine NPH homes provide a variety of development opportunities for our youth to help make this possible. Our programs span the areas of leadership, young women empowerment, spiritual formation and a variety of extracurricular activities so that they can develop their talents and creativity.

Watch our latest video to learn more about youth development at NPH!

Read more about our NPH programs supported by Family Services here. If you’d like to get involved and support any of these programs, feel free to contact us at fs.int@nph.org.

Grateful for Family

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As we reflect on this past year, our hearts overflow with gratitude for life’s special moments, newly formed and strengthened relationships, and the accomplishments of our children. We are as proud as the parents who post their child’s exam marked with a big red A+ on the fridge.

We are not a small family. We do not have one mom, one dad, and one fridge to post our children’s student work. We are big, and rather than one mom and dad there are many, and rather than a couple siblings there are thousands. Our family is nowhere near traditional, but we are happy, and loved, and celebrate in our uniqueness.

We step into 2015 energized by a love that is contagious and unconditionally present throughout the home. A few members of our family, who are accustomed to this kind of love and know firsthand what makes NPH so special, share their insight with us.

We asked them, “what makes NPH unique?”

Reinhart, Board Chair of NPH International:

BLOG 4 (NY) - ReinhartMany things make NPH unique. One of the most important things is that we’re truly a family. It’s very difficult for people to understand why we’re a family with so many children. But we see it. We see it as the children grow up, how they relate to each other, how they relate to the adults, and how they relate to NPH once they leave the home. It’s not just the caretakers, the tíos and tías, it’s also the gardener, the cooks, the nurses in the clinic. All are really positive role models. The teachers in the school. That makes part of the family. But in the end the children make the family because they know that once they arrive at NPH they can stay here. And because of that security to be able to stay here they can develop a sense of belonging. Sharing creates community. Sharing creates family.

Benito Martinez, Family Services Coordinator of NPH Nicaragua:

Blog 4 (NY) - BenitoFor the children, it’s a place where they can develop themselves as people with principles and values. For us, as adults and employees, it’s also a family where we share our experiences and our feelings with all the children that are here in NPH. Our goal is to provide a safe home. Give love and security to the children so that this strengthens them to be able to become good people in society. So our goal, more than just giving them a home with love and security, is to form them so that they can transmit these values that they learn inside the NPH family to their own families. And also form them so that they give a better life for their families after leaving the NPH family.

Nidia Roda, Hermana Mayor and social worker from NPH Honduras:

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For me, the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos family is something that you will always carry with you. Hermanos Mayores never stop being pequeños/pequeñas. It is an experience that cannot be explained because wherever we are, with whomever we are, NPH is our base. It’s the foundation of all our lives. If we know how to live life with the principles of the NPH family which they taught us here, we go through life leaving footprints. And this transcends to our homes, it transcends to our own families, in the future to our own children. It’s something that will always be there and no one will be able to erase it. It’s like a stamp, a mark on each one of our lives.

Billy Jean, university student from NPFS Haiti:

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What makes us unique is the feeling of belonging that all of us have at NPH. The feeling of belonging that we have for our family. And also, we are in different countries but we all grew up in NPH and we follow a philosophy together that makes us have the same mentality about life and about NPH. Even if we are in different countries, we have the same concept of NPH because we grow up together as real brothers and sisters. NPH is a new concept of family in the world because we don’t have the same father or same brothers. We are from different countries. This new concept of family is from the heart.

 

Sending you best wishes for a special year full of family and love,

The Family Services Team

Merry Christmas from Family Services

Mary and Joseph walked a long road before they found shelter in Bethlehem. Although young in age, many of our children understand this journey better than anyone. They arrive at our doorstep, looking for warmth and hoping to find light in the darkness. They knock, and we open the door.

NPH Honduras Nativity Scene - photo by Sally Weigel

NPH Honduras Nativity Scene – photo by Sally Weigel

We cannot change a past, but can help each child turn the page to write a new, entirely different life story full of hope. One that tells the impact of family, unconditional love, a quality education, and a victory against the cycle of poverty. One that lays the foundation for a new chapter, which will tell of a bright future and a world of possibilities.

May the good news of Christmas be ever present in your lives, and may your story be one of faith, hope and love.

 

God bless. Sending joy and blessings your way this Christmas season,
The NPHI Family Services team

Employee Spotlight!

At NPH our employees are dedicated to their work: providing excellent care, love and security to the children. In return, they are forever changed by their experiences working with the kids and the exceptional love that can only come from a child. 

Leticia Mejia Leon, also known by the kids as ‘Tía Leti’, is the Baby House Director in NPH El Salvador. She grew up in the NPH Mexico home and shares with us her inspiration to work in the Baby House each day.

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Tía Leti with one of the toddlers she cares for in the NPH El Salvador Baby House

Name: Leticia Mejia Leon, a.k.a ‘Tía Leti’

NPH Homes: Grew up in NPH Mexico and currently works at NPH El Salvador

Position: Director of the Baby House in NPH El Salvador for 14 years

Total time working at NPH: 18 years

 

 

What inspires you to do your work each day? 

“I joined NPH Mexico at the age of 7, and since then I have always had the need to work with the youngest children because I feel that they need care, love and protection the most.”

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Tía Leti with a brother and sister she cares for in the NPH El Salvador Baby House.

What is one favorite memory that you have during your time working at NPH?

“I will never forget the first time they gave me a baby to hold. The most incredible part was that we had to go pick him up at the hospital as he was born just twenty-four hours prior. The mom did not want him, and so he was very small, malnourished, and required special care. We dedicated twenty-four hours around the clock until we helped stabilize him. Now we see him run and play like any other child without problems that could have been caused due to a lack of care at such a young age. We have had many cases like this and our dedication and work is the same for all. Every day we provide love and care so that all our children feel confident and secure here at NPH. We love them and always explain to them the philosophy of the NPH founder, Father Wasson, and that we are so lucky to have such a great family.”

Working Together to Continue the NPH Mission

NPH staff travels from all over Latin America for integrated team training and professional development at the Family Services Workshop 2014 in Nicaragua.

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Collaboration. Interdisciplinary teamwork. Renewed inspiration. Highest quality childcare possible. These were the primary themes of the NPH International Family Services Workshop that recently took place Nicaragua.

From September 24th to the 29th, teams from the NPH homes in eight different countries stayed at ‘Casa Padre Wasson’, the principal NPH home in Nicaragua approximately 30 miles south from the capital city of Managua. Two to thirteen team members represented each country and worked in the areas of child caregiving, psychology and social work.

Casa Padre Wasson is named after the NPH founder Father Wasson, who dedicated his life to making a home and opportunities for orphaned, abandoned kids a reality. Sixty years after founding the first home in Mexico and eight years after Father Wasson passed on to rest, child-care professionals in nine different countries dedicate their lives to continuing what he began. The Family Services workshop united these professionals so that they could reflect on their childcare practices as a team and share new ideas to bring back to their home countries.

Gerson Carrasco, a Social Worker in our Honduras home who attended the workshop comments on the value of teamwork when working with individual children, “Collaboration is of utmost importance. The contributions from each one of us in our different areas of work complement each other, which results in an integral form of attention to the kids in our family.”

One main goal of the workshop was to facilitate team collaboration both within each NPH home and among the various countries present during the week. The teams presented programs from their childcare, psychology and social work departments, and also met in small, ‘job-alike’ groups from the other countries. This created a platform for the teams across NPH homes to share ideas and learn best practices from each other.

The ‘Comité de Apoyo’, or Multidisciplinary Team (‘MDT’), is the strategic problem solving committee in each of our homes. Participants received extra practice in developing an integrated approach to solve difficult cases in their homes. The workshop participants role-played a typical situation the MDT Committee may encounter. Two employees put themselves in the role of two children or adolescents in challenging circumstances, and their team members from multiple departments discussed each case and developed a strategic solution to support the youth.

Other explored themes during the workshop included NPH International childcare policies, the process for welcoming children and assisting them as they adapt to life in the home, and understanding the different phases of child development while implementing positive reinforcement at each stage. Each country team returned home with updated, more defined “Core Programs”, those programs that are essential for the positive development and care for our children and youth. The participants and Family Service team also worked with the theme of trauma, learning new ideas to support and work with our children that have suffered trauma in their lives before arriving at NPH. Spirituality was integrated each day through morning prayer, reflection, and by encouraging the staff to prioritize the spiritual formation of the NPH family as an integral part of their daily work.

Special guests at the workshop include Reinhart Koehler, the NPH International Board Chair, and Miguel Venegas, the Executive Director, along with Marlon Velázquez, the National Director of NPH Nicaragua and NPHI Family Service Consultant, Fr. Reynaldo Galindo, Chaplain of NPH – Honduras. Their keynote talks set the tone for the workshop and helped provide perspective on how the work of each child-care professional fits together and carries out the NPH mission of caring for the children.

Markus Streit, the Assistant Director of Family Services who has been involved with NPH since 2003 and facilitates multiple NPH trainings each year, lists just a few benefits of gathering with staff from each of the NPH homes for an in-person workshop such as the one in Nicaragua:

“The exchange of experiences among people in the same work area from other countries helps them to see that they face similar challenges, and together they can develop creative ideas. The teams are motivated to try something new in their own workplace. In addition, all staff has the opportunity to experience the spirit of the extended family of NPH, and refresh the motivation and inspiration to do their daily work.”

Donna Egge, the Family Services Director echoes the importance of the workshop benefits Markus described, and explains her personal takeaways from this particular week in Nicaragua,

“There is no replacement for inspiration, motivation and sharing when it comes to the hard work we do, day in and day out of caring for our children, and youth. Bringing good people together, validating their work and their individuality, their creativity, honors the work they are doing and appreciates in a big way, their professionalism that they bring each and every day to the mission of NPH. These benefits were certainly seen during the Family Services workshop week.”

On the last night, the Family Services workshop participants celebrated a week well done and spent time in community together. These child care professionals have at least one thing in common: they are dedicated to our mission of continuing Father Wasson’s work and caring for his children.

While reflecting on the week with the group, Donna shared, “I know that Father Wasson is looking down from above, and he is able to know deeply that his children and his legacy are in good hands.”


“No hay tal cosa com un nino mal, sino que puede comportarse mal porque
se siente abandonado y solo.”  

“There is no such thing as a bad child, only one that behaves badly because they feel abandoned and alone.”

~Father Wasson, founder of NPH

Love & Security – Responsibility – Sharing –Work – Faith & Service