Our Day at Cispus Learning Center

By Alberto, Class of 2016.

Cipsus Learning Center is a place where you can do outdoors leadership activities.

We are six students from NPH: Irene (Mexico), Mirna (Nicaragua), Suyapa (Honduras), Jonathan (Guatemala), Julio (Salvador), and finally me Alberto (Haiti). We enjoyed a long training day at Cipsus. To tell you the truth I personally enjoyed this place and that day.

In this place it is as if you have the truth in front of you, problems to be solved, people who need your help, you must work in teams, and learn how to analyze problems. These are some of the different things we learned during the day.

It was a nice day, it was totally different, because it was experiential, not only sitting and listening.

Karen Skoog and Anna Ricci!!!  These women were our two trainers.  Honestly I have no words to thank you for this beautiful day and access to Cipsus Learning Center.  In this sense, the students and Kara, we say a big THANKS. We appreciate very much and we love you.

I’m sure Gracie (Seattle) learned something too, she was so attentive.

Thank you NPH Family for making all this possible, I love you.


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NPH Mentors

By Irene Cruz, Class of 2016.  Translated by Kara (Irene’s next post will be in English)

Nosotros necesitamos y contamos con ayuda de varias personas, las cuales ahora son muy importantes y forman parte de nuestra vida.

Los mentores son un apoyo muy importante para nuestro crecimiento durante nuestra estancia en Seattle, ellos nos brindan y aportan de su tiempo para poder estar y convivir con nosotros.

Recibimos consejos de cada uno de ellos, sabemos que podemos contar con su apoyo siempre que lo necesitemos. Sé que nunca vamos a estar solos, y que el día que no creamos o que pensemos que ya no podemos seguir, ellos van a estar ahí para darnos la mano y ayudarnos a levantar. Eso hace los mentores por nosotros.

En lo personal Bailey (mentor), me brinda su apoyo cada vez que lo necesito, aun cuando ella no tiene el tiempo suficiente para poder hablar, ya sea que está en el trabajo o aun si está descansando y requiero de ella, nunca dice que no. En este tiempo que lleva como mi mentor ha sido de mucho aprendizaje para mí, ya que es una persona con un gran corazón, responsable y humilde e iré aprendiendo durante el tiempo más de ella lo cual me hará una mejor persona.


We both need, and have, the help of various people, people who are very important and form part of our lives.

Our mentors are an important support for our growth during our stay in Seattle.  They share their time with us.

They give us advice, and we know we can count on their support whenever we need it.  I know that we will never be alone.  If one day we think that we cannot keep going, they will be there to offer a hand and help us back up.  This is what our mentors do for us.

Personally, my mentor Bailey supports me whenever I need it, even when she doesn’t have enough time to talk, maybe because she is at work or needs to rest – she always makes times for me anyways.  I have learned a lot from her, she is a person with a big heart, responsible, and humble – and I know I will continue learning from her throughout my time here and that will make me a better person.


Editor’s Note: This year we have adjusted our mentoring program.  In September each student was paired with a former NPH volunteer.  These mentors help them bridge the cultural gaps, adjust to life in Seattle, and introduce them to friends closer to their own age.  These mentors also speak the students’ native languages which is of much comfort in the beginning months!  Feedback from the students, mentors, and host families indicate this new addition is a success!

Currently, we are working to pair each of the students with a second mentor.  This person will dig even more deeply into the leadership work, self-awareness, exploring career options, goal setting, and working on personal growth with the students.

Both mentors support the students in their work to become more capable leaders.

It is our hope that the time in Seattle might be just the beginning of life-long relationships that are mutually beneficial.  We are so grateful to all our mentors and all you do for our students!



Our Host Families

Our Host Families

By Suyapa, Class of 2016.  This was written by Suyapa in English.

Our house is not just a place.  Our host families are providing us a home and allow us to share our lives and experiences with them.  They treat us like their own children.  They are willing to help you, support you and give advice when needed, and above all make you feel in family.

During my time here in Seattle, I am very grateful to everyone who made this possible.  My host family, especially Cheryl and Paul make my life here very happy. 
Also all my NPH brothers and sisters families are there when we need them.  They give us the right words that give us the strength to go on. 
It is too large to explain what you do for us.  Thank you very much for everything you do for us!

iLEAP/NPHI Global Leadership Intensives

by: Julio, Class of 2016 (in his own English!)

iLEAP is a non-profit organization that helps social leaders and global citizens to improve their skills and inspire them to continue their amazing labor of change in their communities. iLEAP is an international leadership training. It has participants from 20 countries around the world.

iLEAP now is working with NPH, so is having a huge impact in the life of the pequenos. The actual group of Seattle Leadership Institute is attending one iLEAP ‘s program, the group is formed by: Irene (Mexico), Suyapa (Honduras), Mirna (Nicaragua), Alberto (Haiti), Jonathan (Guatemala), and my person, Julio (El Salvador). There are six countries that could have six potential social leaders, so that’s the impact that iLEAP has in people around the world.  The program consists in develop important topics like: leadership foundation, social business, small group challenge, and so on. They have a schedule of each session. Our group has only attended the first session and we have already learned so much. It is an interesting and invaluable training; I hope this program last so long.

Their vision transcend barriers, I mean can be a bad situation people is facing, but this organization don’t have excuses for don’t do anything, instead they’re inspiring social leaders, in order to improve their performance in their own communities.

That’s it what I want to highlight, NPH has to face adversities all the time. Like government and social issues. We the pequenos need to be prepared for face these situations. What a better org to achieve that goal that iLEAP as NPH partner!

After living this program, is expected that people return to home and make more changes in their communities. I think iLEAP and NPH shares the same goal, which is helps social leaders to grew as humans. They are inspiring the people who will change and transform the world.  I invite anyone who would like to join this amazing program and meet them. I am sure you will not disappointed about learn with them! Thanks iLEAP stuff for open us the knowledge gate, Thanks to Britt (founder), Izumi (associate director), Caitlin (Global programs coordinator), Kei (Japan programs coordinator), Bao (office coordinator) and trustees, thanks all for make iLEAP possible.

Julio Cesar

NPH Seattle Leadership Institute 2015-2016

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Our Group

Our Group

By: Mirna Sotelo, NPH Nicaragua (translated by Kara…Mirna’s next post will be in English!)

“Llegar juntos es el principio. Mantenerse juntos, es el progreso. Trabajar juntos es el éxito”.

Coming together is the beginning.  Staying together is progress.  Working together is success.

Antes de todo quiero compartirles un poco de mi experiencia con el grupo,  aunque no tengo palabras para expresar lo bonito he importante que es para mi este grupo, por que de ellos he aprendido muchas cosas positivas que  han llenado mi vida de fortalezas como por ejemplo la firmeza de ser valiente y  tener seguridad en mis capacidades.  En algunas ocasiones se nos ha hecho difícil tomar decisiones pero siempre encontramos la solución al problema, se que no es fácil enfrentarlos,  pero si llegan hay que desafiarlos y es exactamente lo que hemos hecho como grupo atacar el problema y no a las personas. Espero que sigamos así confiando uno en el otro y ayudándonos como hemos hecho hasta el día de hoy.

Before anything else, I want to share a Little bit of my experience with this group.  I don’t really have the adequate words to describe how beautiful and important this group is to me, because from them I have already learned many positive things that have filled my life with strength.  For example, I have learned to be brave and have confidence in my capabilities.  There have been a few occasions when it has been hard for us to come to a group decision, but we have always found the solution to the problem.  It is not easy to confront problems, but when they come we have to face them, and that is what we have done as a group – to attack the problem, not the person!  I hope we will continue like this, trusting each other and helping each other like we have done so far. 

Hay 6 cosas importantes y fundamentales que nos permiten estar tomados de la mano:

There are six important and fundamental things that permit us to hold each other by the hand:

1-El trabajo en equipo: Hemos logrado trabajar mutuamente, no somos individualista a pesar de nuestros errores, temores y dificultades no hacemos más, ni menos, el trabajo ni los pensamientos de nadie, todos somos iguales siempre hay una buena conexión, en el equipo. Aceptamos la responsabilidad; pero el mérito se le atribuye al equipo.

1 – Teamwork: We have been able to work together, we are not individualistic in spite of our errors, fears and difficulties, we are neither better nor worse than the work or thoughts of others.  We are all equal, there is a good connection between us.  We all accept responsibility, but the success goes to the group.

2-La unión: Nos unimos, no para estar juntos, sino para hacer o resolver algo juntos, somos como una cadena de acero, pero algo muy importante y que no se nos olvide nunca es que tenemos que aprender a tener un balance en nuestras decisiones ante cualquier situación.

2-Union: We come together not just to be together, but to solve something as a group, we are like a metal chain.  We need to remember to always keep a good balance in our decision making.

3-El crecimiento: Todos tenemos un proyecto o un plan para nuestras vidas, estamos conscientes que tendremos días difíciles y que en cualquier momento caeremos, pero nos levantaremos y seguiremos adelante para llenarnos de conocimientos positivos y satisfacciones, no es fácil es una jornada larga y difícil, pero estoy segura que buscaremos soluciones y superaremos el problema.

3-Growth: Each of us has a plan for our lives, and we are conscious that there will be hard days and that we can always stumble – but we will get up and keep going.  It is not easy, but rather a long and difficult journey, but I am sure that we will find solutions and overcome problems.

4-Confianza: Esa confianza mutua que nos tenemos unos a otros me da la plena seguridad que todos lograremos nuestras metas y propósitos.

4-Trust: The mutual trust we have gives me confidence that we will achieve our objectives and goals.

5-La Motivación: Me llena de alegría escucharlos cuando se motivan unos a otros sigamos así, porque con motivación estaremos dispuestos a correr riesgos y tomar decisiones que la mayoría de personas no harían por miedo.

5-Motivation: I am filled with happiness when I hear the group motivating each other, for with that motivation we will be able to take risks, and make decisions that many people don’t take because of fear.

6-El Respeto: Es importante que siempre sigamos respetando las decisiones, opiniones, y pensamientos de los demás no perdamos este valor tan importante y fundamental dentro del grupo.

7-Respect: It is important that we continue to respect the decisions, opinions, and thoughts of each other.  We should not lose that important value in our group.

Gracias Irene, Suyapa, Alberto, Julio y Jonathan, ustedes son los mejores y recuerden que el talento depende de la inspiración e el esfuerzo depende de cada uno de nosotros.

Thank you, Irene, Suyapa, Alberto, Julio and Jonathan – You are the best! Remember that talent depends upon the inspiration and efforts of each of us.

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Year Five Begins in Seattle

Year Five Begins in Seattle

It has been just over one month since our fifth group of emerging leaders arrived in Seattle.  It has been a full and solid beginning to our year together.  This post will give some highlights of their first month here and then over the next few months each of the students will contribute a more specific post to our blog, so keep checking back!

  • The students arrived on September 10th and our arrival weekend consisted our getting to know our host families, learning our bus routes, and getting to know each other better. We had dinner at Kara’s and played trilingual Pictionary (fun and appropriate for our global NPH family!).
  • During that first week, the students participated in NPH Seattle orientation: What is the Seattle Institute, what can they expect during their year, what do we expect from them, etc….They also met their “tutor, play, culture” mentors – former volunteers who are helping them make the transition from their country to life in Seattle. The students were introduced to our NPH Chaplain here in Seattle, former NPH volunteer Joe Cotton – who serves as a safe and compassionate spiritual guide for any of them as needed throughout the year.
  • During the second week, we had our first leadership intensive at iLEAP. This year we are partnering with iLEAP to deepen our leadership formation.  The students will have four opportunities throughout the year to learn from the good folks at iLEAP about leadership, social change, and their personal ways of serving and leading.  During this first intensive, the focus was on getting to know iLEAP as an organization as well as getting to know Caitlin, Bao, Izumi and Britt, exploring leadership qualities, leadership language and communication, and discussing the importance of time to reflect in our work and lives.
  • The next week brought orientation for our English classes at Seattle Central College. This meant placement tests, tours of the university, meeting advisers and teachers, and registering for fall quarter.  The students also began to meet classmates and friends from all over the world: Saudi Arabia, Japan, Korea, Brazil, etc…
  • On September 26th we celebrated our traditional Welcome Mass at the home of Ann and Don Connolly. In his homily, Fr. Natch Ohno, SJ (Seattle University) urged the students “to teach us, just as you have come to learn…tell us your stories too for we have much to learn from you” and then reminded them “you have come here to learn and grow, you will go back to serve”.
  • The following weekend, the students participated in a full-day leadership retreat at Cipsus Learning Center. They engaged in a variety of experiential learning activities in a beautiful outdoor setting. Our awesome facilitators (thank you Karen Skoog and Anna Ricci!) used the challenge course to represent the students’ year in Seattle, inviting them into teamwork, trust-building, communication, reflection, and fun!
  • Last weekend, we had a workshop on the NPH Volunteer Experience with NPH USA Volunteer Coordinator, Vicky Medley. Our conversation led to a recognition of the cultural adjustment our volunteers make, just as the students are now adjusting to life here.  Now that they are living it, it is easier for them to understand the volunteers’ experience!  We also spent time discussing what makes a volunteer a “good fit” for the NPH family.  Afterwards we met up with former NPH volunteers to go bowling!
  • A lot of our leadership focus during this first month has been on group/team-formation and the stages any small group goes through. Last weekend, we had a challenging and fruitful conversation as a group on where we are now and what we need to do to help our group keep growing together.  This is NOT easy work, but they are doing it and doing it with integrity.
  • The students are now in the midst of their third week of classes, and I have to say that I am already noticing big improvements in their English! They are working and studying hard and it shows.

Phew!  We have been busy!  For my part (Kara), I am so grateful for the way these six students have shown up and been ready to work hard.  This program requires a lot of them, and I see each of them working hard to do their best.  I am also grateful for the amazing Northwest NPH community that year after year comes around our students to make their year successful and inspiring.  I write today in hopeful anticipation of the growth and learning I anticipate for Irene, Mirna, Suyapa, Alberto, Jonathan and Julio during their time here in Seattle.

Stay tuned for blog posts from each student in the coming weeks and months…

Growth and Change in The Seattle Institute

Growth and Change in The Seattle Institute

By Kara King, Program Director

“Seattle changes people, doesn’t it?” – the question came from one of the students (pequeños/as) during our closing retreat this year.  As the rest of the group nodded quietly in agreement, it became a statement rather than a question: “The Seattle Institute changes people”.  This program creates change.  Not in a way that the students become someone they are not, but rather in a way that invites them to really ponder who they are and encourages them to become more of who God uniquely created them to be.  To uncover the gifts that they have to offer a world in need, and to learn to set fear and insecurity aside long enough to take the risk to serve and love others well.  To be bold and courageous in their service and work and relationships.  They are able to step into this growth and change because of the roots they have formed in our NPH family.  With feet firmly planted in our philosophy, the students are able do the challenging work this program demands of them; increasing their self-awareness, emotional intelligence, communication skills, and interpersonal skills, along with other important leadership skills.

Father Wasson left us this reminder, “Everyone needs attention and deserves it.  Individual attention, concern for each individual child in their uniqueness, when actively applied is what allows us to maintain a balance between our four principles: security, sharing, work, and responsibility” (Quien Verá Por Los Niños/as).  The program in Seattle gives us the beautiful opportunity to do deeply transformative work with each individual student.  Though they are now adults, they are certainly still in need of this wisdom that Father Wasson left us; they need to be seen, heard, and understood.  We work with them, offering this love and attention, offering comfort and challenge, and hoping they will return home better able to offer it to their younger brothers and sisters in NPH.

In his homily at our graduation Mass this year, Father Jack Walmesley urged us not to put limits on God’s power.  To have deep faith.  That is what Father Wasson had when he began to form this family so many years ago, now it is up to us to carry on his work.  To have faith, to keep growing and adapting, to act in love with the faces of our children and young adults in mind.  In fact, Father Wasson once said, “Things are provided for us as we grow. And our home, like any family, is a living organization. And as soon as it stops growing, or stops living, it begins to die. Trust in God. God will take care of us”.  We have seen that time and time again in this work in Seattle.  The Spirit has worked to connect the right mentor at the right time, or help us make a mutually transformative match for a host family placement, or brought financial backing to ensure the future of the program.  The list goes on and on.  The work of God is present and stunning in the life of this program.

“The Seattle Institute changes people”.  I am aware it is a statement that can stir fear or concern….Change can be scary and it requires those of us in positions of power to loosen our grip, let go a little of control, and to hold our work with open hands.  It is something I am in a process of learning, and those of you who work closely with me know it is not easy for me!  But, my teachers are the pequeños/as who have shown me again and again that if I can let go of my need for control, they will do amazing things.  And that is not to be confused with some idealized version of growth or perfection in leadership, but they will do amazing things in that they will try new ideas, they will stumble, explore, make mistakes, learn from them, learn to receive and use feedback, and try again.  If I will just journey with them, comforting and challenging as best I can, instead of pushing too hard in a certain direction, they will go so much further.  It is harder, and much messier, but I believe now it is a better path and a better way towards leadership.  We will help each other, grow together, and work for the good of our NPH family together.

“The Seattle Institute changes people”.  I hope so!  If not, what is the point of all this work, all the tears, struggles, all this investment, all these resources?  We seek change, growth, personal transformation.  We hope the students will realize that their circle of influence is bigger than they think, that we need them to step up and take initiative rather than waiting to be told what to do.  We believe that they can have an impact for good on their world.  We need them to understand and believe that their NPH family needs them.

“Seattle changes people”.  In a way that allows the students to make courageous and insightful statements such as these made by this year’s graduates:

“I used to think I had to do everything alone, now I have learned how to work in a group” (Luisa).

“I never used to think I could be a leader, but now I know that I am – not perfect, but willing to serve” (Lucre).

“I wonder if another world is possible…I will try to understand the suffering of others” (Nelson).

“I have found the goodness in my difficult story, and it will allow me to listen to my younger brothers and sisters in NPH like I have been listened to here” (Magda).

“Brothers and Sisters might fight, but when a difficulty or problem comes, they work together to find a solution and to stand with you in your battle.  It feels like I am writing a new story about me and NPH family” (Florine).

“I understand now that I can integrate what I learned about survival before coming to NPH, what I learned about service in my NPH family, and what I learned about myself in Seattle in order to be a better person” (Samy).   

So yes, The Seattle Institute changes people.  In ways that are obvious and quantifiable such as learning English, new hairstyles, or a degree change: this year alone two students identified social work and psychology as areas of study they are interested in primarily because it will help them care for more people.  A third is discerning a degree change to nursing.  And then there are the changes that are not so easily seen: less fear, more self-confidence, more hope, an even deeper connection to the worldwide NPH family, a widening and global perspective on leadership, an openness of mind and heart.  I believe both kinds are important.

Of course one change leads to another and they are all interconnected, they do not come easily and can be fragile.  It is my hope that we will encourage these young people in their continuing journeys.  I know I am honored to be a co-traveler with each of the 20 students who has graduated from this program over the past four years, and eagerly anticipate the goodness, hope, and love they will bring to our family and our world.

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