I asked my friend Kelly to write about some time that she spend in the Dominican Republic with an orphanage called NPH. They are a sister orphanage of one in Haiti. If you have any heart at all the images coming from Haiti have affected you. To see these people suffer so makes me feel so helpless. Kelly has been nice enough to keep us (her friends) updated about what is going on with the orphanage in Haiti. First, let me say I truly admire Kelly for what she does with her summers. Secondly, I thought it might have a bit more impact coming from someone who has been with these kids and knows what their lives are like. Kelly has included some website's for information at the bottom but if you would like more information please email me and I will pass your information along to Kelly. I know she will be happy to answer any questions that will help bring relief to Haiti. Thanks for sharing Kelly.
During the summer of 2008 I had the opportunity to volunteer with an amazing organization. NPH is what it's called, and it stands for Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, which means "Our Little Brothers and Sisters" in Spanish. This organization was started in 1954 by Father Wasson when he took custody of a boy who was caught stealing from the offering plate at church. The boy had been arrested, but instead of pressing charges against the boy, he asked for custody. Within a week the judge had given him custody of 8 more homeless children, and by years end, the number had grown to 32.
The reason this organization is special is because it's a home. Yes, it is an orphanage in that all the children have been orphaned or abandoned. It's different than most orphanages because they do not adopt out. Once a child is placed with NPH (typically through the courts), that child has a home, and will never be asked to leave. Families are kept together. If they have extended family or parents who are too sick or too poor to care for them, they are invited to visit the children many times throughout they year.
This organization is also different because they not only raise the children, but they help out the surrounding community they live in . They take in children from the surrounding areas each day so they may attend school, eat lunch, and get access to clean water. They often deliver fresh drinking water to the neighborhoods outside the orphanage.
NPH is in 9 countries within Latin America and the Caribbean. I volunteered in the Dominican Republic as a preschool teacher, and taught arts and crafts groups in the afternoons with 1st grade - 3rd grade children. In the afternoons and evenings I ate my meals and spent my free time with a house of 16 girls from 3 - 6 grade. I was there from June through August (summer school).
This was the most amazing summer of my life. Here you have children who have parents who are unwilling or unable to care for them, yet, they are some of the happiest children you'll ever meet. They meet you with open arms. They call your name from every direction. They give you hugs and kisses. All they want is to sit in your lap and read a book, or play marbles in the dirt, simple pleasures. They know they are the fortunate ones. Yes, there are days when they are sad, days when no visitors come for them, days when they misbehave because they are angry and frustrated, but - it was truly rewarding to work with these kids every day.
In Haiti there is a branch of the same orphanage. Haitians speak Creole, a dialect of French, so instead of NPH they are called NPFS Nos Petit Freres et Soeurs (Our Little Brothers and Sisters in Haitian Creole). Haiti and the Dominican share an island, but they are worlds apart. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. The home in Haiti has it's own hospital focusing on Aids/HIV, TB, malnutrition and cancer.
These homes are amazing places. It's an open door policy. If a child is ever claimed by family (and it's a good situation) the children are free to leave. If a child wants to leave for whatever reason, they are never forced to stay. A child will never be asked to leave. Intead they are given food, clothing, a bed, medical care, an education, and a spiritual base with which to succeed in life.
NPH and NPFS are different because they are changing the cycle of poverty. These children are the next generation. They are being educated, they are given job training, they are taught to read and write and handle money. These homes give future generations the tools to support themselves, so they will have a chance at a productive life.
If you are interested in reading more, I've attached a few websites and blogs.
www.nph.org is the international website
www.friendsoftheorphans.org is the US website
http://www.mollyinhaiti.blogspot.com this is a blog created by NPFS Volunteer Molly Hightower, from the U.S. - who was killed in last weeks earthquake. Please read it.