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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I Am…

By Nelson Alvarez, Class of 2015.

Nelson used poetry to express his thoughts and hopes for his life and our world.  Thank you, Nelson!

I am an open and persevering person.

I wonder if another world is possible.

I hear people pondering about their world dream.

I see a sign that says peace.

I want an equal world with the same human rights.

I am an open and persevering person.

I pretend I am a president.

I feel I have an incredible power.

I touch the lives of millions of people.

I worry about the future of children.

I cry from injustice.

I am an open and persevering person.

I understand I cannot fix all the world problems.

I say education is the key to success.

I dream someday we will live in peace.

I try to understand the suffering of people.

I hope we do not have any war.

I am an open and persevering person.

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Cinema de los Cuates: A Lesson in Unconditional Love

Cinema de los Cuates: A Lesson in Unconditional Love

By Kara King (Program Director) & Florine St. Eloi (Haiti, Class of 2015)

About a month ago, we were at a leadership workshop as a group.  The task at hand was to bring a worry or concern to the group in order to receive feedback, to hear questions, and to perhaps find new ways to approach a problem.  As each shared, the group interacted and provided feedback to each other.

When it was Florine’s turn to share, I watched her struggle to give words to her concerns.  As she did, she honored herself and the group by being deeply honest about what she was facing.  She painted for us a picture of her mother’s current living situation: dangerous, unhealthy, and desperate.  Her description reminded me of what we called in teaching “first hour needs”.  How could I expect her to focus on leadership training when constant on her mind is that her mom is living in a violent neighborhood, breathing in fumes from the burning garbage of the city dump, and unable to stay dry in any storm?  No, these are “first hour” needs that must be heard if Florine is to be able to grow and develop into the strong woman and servant leader that God has created her to be.

And yet, we live in a complex and unjust world.  NPH cannot buy everyone a house.  We don’t have the resources, nor is that our stated mission.

As we sat there with our sister, Florine, I felt grief and despair and anger.  I feel proud of the group for staying with her in her worry, for praying with her, hugging her, and not offering ridiculous and empty words like “it will be okay”.  No, these are young adults who know all too well that is not always true.  Their ability to accompany her in her grief is beautiful.

It was Nelson who eventually spoke into that space wondering aloud: ‘can’t we do something?’.  None of us really knew what we could do, we didn’t know in that moment that if we worked together we would be able to help Florine and her family of origin.  But the group committed to try to do something – even knowing it might not work out.

And do something, they did.  As I write this, they have raised more than enough money for Florine’s mom and siblings to move into a safe and healthy home and pay the rent for one year.  It is a life changing gift and came about because six young people, who grew up in our NPH homes refused to ignore a sister in trouble.

When we teach our children at NPH to serve others, when we give them the opportunity to see how much they have to offer the world, we instill in them the idea that they are not victims but rather people who have much to offer their communities.  We empower them to be creative problem-solvers.  And they learn that in combining their efforts, they can make good happen.  They are living out our mission and vision, and it is a delight to witness.

I asked Florine to reflect on what the experience was like for her, and this is what she said:

“What would have happened if Kara did not ask us about what was bothering us?  This movie night turned into a successful event. Yes, that is what it means to me. Nelson, Luisa, Samy, Magda, Lucre and Kara’s participation to help my family and I was quite a powerful story. From them, I learned how it is important to work as a team. Of course they are part of my life because of NPH, but now it becomes stonger.

Do not hesitate when it comes to help others; that is also another lesson that I learned from this group after all the struggles that we have been through.  I did not have any solutions, but they found out what needed to be done.

Isn’t that the “unconditional love” that Father Wasson has left to us? There’s no other name for it. They acted as leaders, friends, brothers, and sisters. The supporters also made it possible. Thank you so much for coming and supporting, thanks a lot for those who could not make it but helped in different ways.

Words cannot express how grateful I am…thank you for everything that you all did for my family and I. Thank you for helping to find a place where my family can live normally, somewhere they can call “home”!  Good memories stay forever, and this movie night was one of the best that I ever had. Thank you to all of you who made it possible, I will never forget it.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you, gracias and may God always bless and protect you!”

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Father Rick Frechette Visits Seattle

By Samuel, NPH Mexico (Class of 2015)

I remember since I came to NPH, almost everyone talking about “Father Rick”, I was always curious about him. Then, years later, in one of our NPH international meetings I met him, well!  Well, I just met him by sight, at least it was something but that was not enough for me, I promise myself that someday I would meet him, not just sight, also talk and share with him and hear his stories and experiences about his life.

Now, after years of waiting, he was here, in front of me, I need to admit I was a kind of nervous, then he said me “so you are the guy who is going to sing, I hear you can play a lot of instruments, I can play mandolin and guitar as well!” these words increased my confidence and I started to talk with him.

That day, also, we had a diner with him and some sponsors, I will tell you, that house where we had the diner was huge and something I liked about It was that it had a room with a huge collection of guitars (some of these were autographed by celebrities), I felt like a kid in a candy store.  Anyways, that day Father Rick shared with us some of his experiences in his life and actually about the work he is doing in Haiti, I realized that Father Rick has always a busy agenda, he don’t have enough time for himself, he is used to working 24/7, something that is hard to do for me!  I complain just because I have school and I don’t need to work, and I feel like I am doing a lot.

Then, the next day we had a Mass and he also shared another story. From Father Rick I learned that it is not about trying to do our best, no, we need to do, share and give the best. Because if we just try, it may not be sufficient, but giving the best thing is the key to achieve, inspire and succeed.

Now, I’m really glad to have met Father Rick, he has been one of our gold coins in NPH; he has been a good model for people, kids and also for me, I hope he will continue working for our brothers and sisters in Haiti and keep teaching us that everything is possible.

Thank you for all Father Rick, It was an honor to meet you. 

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Thank you for all Father Rick, It was an honor to meet you.

If you want to Change the World, Begin with Yourself

By Luisa, NPH Guatemala (Class of 2015)

(English below)

Hola soy Luisa Fernanda llevo nueve meses estudiando en Seattle Central College. Antes de venir nunca pensé que mi vida iba a cambiar, tengo tantas cosas que contar que no sé  si tendré espacio en mi  hoja.  Antes de venir a Seattle mi vida era muy diferente estaba llena de mucha ira, envida, enojo  la verdad que nunca quise entender porque, simplemente quería esconderme y que nadie pensara que existo, pero esto cambio aquí, vivir con una familia que siempre está pendiente de todo lo que pasa al mi alrededor y ellos estaban atendiendo nuestras necesidades y no simplemente la mía sino la de todos nosotros. Cada vez que veía trabajar a las personas para NPH, me sorprendía porque todos entregaban con mucho amor y con una esperanza para nosotros.

Quiero decirles mil gracias que no tengo palabras, simplemente GRACIAS.

Aquí he trabajado la reflexión conmigo misma, la paciencia, tener un tiempo para proponer planes y son tantas cosas que ahora entiendo, por ejemplo: que cuando estamos herido lastimamos a las personas. Cuando uno  es un líder tiene que saber sanar sus propias heridas para no usarlo como un poder, como dice la Madre Teresa C. di algo que sane no que hiera, esto hacia yo antes de venir Seattle, sé que lastime a varias personas con mi ira y una de las cosa fue porque no sabía sanar mis propias heridas sino solo actuaba.

Aprendi mucho sobre el liderazgo la verdad que nunca me preocupe en buscar información sobre esto, siempre creí trabajar sola y sin ayuda de nadie, pero ahí estaba mi error. Dios nunca trabajo solo él, tuvo que buscar a sus discípulos para que lo ayudaran, entonces ahí entendí que era importante tener dos personas diferentes para no tener las mismas ideas.

Nunca creí en mí, simplemente hacia lo que me pedían educaba con rencor y era un ciclo estaba creando personas como yo con ira. Mi estancia en Seattle me ha ensenado muchas cosas, nunca estuve lejos de casa, no extrañe a nadie porque aquí tenia a mis  hermanos, no extrañe el ruido de cada mañana porque mis hermanos creaban ese ruido de NPH y  por supuesto que  no extrañe mi deporte favorito, hay tantas cosas que le doy gracias a Dios por darme tantas personas tan generosas.

El Padre Wasson hizo un trabajo duro, no es fácil hablar enfrente muchas personas para poder ayudar a tu familia, es difícil y yo tuve la experiencia de esto, cada palabra que decía era como recordar mi pasado y cada vez que leí cada oración de mi historia tenía mucho dolor y enojo. Pero me hizo crecer como persona.

Estoy tan contenta con Kara porque es difícil trabajar con personas como nosotros que tenemos diferentes historias, diferentes pasados y sé que es difícil reconstruir una vida cuando uno está herido. Este año me ha enseñado más de lo que yo imagine, todo en esta vida es temporal y para alcanzar el éxito hay que trabajar duro, que para ser un buen líder hay que prepararse y aprender del fracaso.  ¡Gracias!

 

Hello, my name is Luisa Fernanda and I have been studying at Seattle Central College for nine months.  Before coming to Seattle, I never believed that my life could change.  I have so many things to express that I don’t know if I will have enough space.  Before Seattle, my life was very different.  I was filled with rage, jealousy, and anger – and the truth is I didn’t want to understand it, I only wanted to hide and have no one notice I existed.  But this has changed here.  Living with a family that is always paying attention to me and my needs, and not only my needs but the needs of others too.  Each time I have seen the NPH staff here work, I have been surprised by their complete devotion to us, everything they do in love for NPH.

I want to say thank you, I don’t have words…Just THANK YOU.

Here I have learned how to reflect: how to have patience, how to make plans, and among other things I have learned that when we have been hurt, we hurt others.  When one is a leader, s/he must heal his/her own wounds in order to not abuse power.  As Mother Teresa said, “if you are going to say something, say something that heals not something that wounds”.  That is what I did before I came to Seattle, I know I hurt many people with my anger – and now I know one of the reasons is because I had not healed my own wounds and so I simply reacted. 

I have learned a lot about leadership here.  In truth I had never thought much about this before, instead I simply thought that the best was to work alone without anyone’s help but that was my mistake!  God never worked alone, God invited God’s disciples to help.  So now I understand that it is good to have more than one person in order to have multiple points of view.

I never used to believe in myself, I only did what people told me to do.  And, I taught and coached with a chip on my shoulder – it became a cycle in which I was teaching people to be like me – angry.  My stay in Seattle has taught me many things, a new way.  I was never far from my NPH family – I didn’t have to miss home because I had brothers and sisters here, I didn’t have to miss the noise of a morning at NPH because Joshua and Elias made the same noise, and I didn’t have to miss my favorite sport because I joined a team here!  I am so grateful to God for sending me so many generous people. 

Father Wasson did an amazing and difficult work, I have learned it is not easy to speak in front of many people in order to help our NPH family.  I had that experience here and each word reminded me of my past and reminded me of the pain and anger, but the experience helped me to grow as a person and as a leader.

I am so pleased with Kara because it is difficult to work with people with so many difficult and different stories.  I know that it is hard to rebuild a live when one has been so badly harmed.  This time in Seattle has taught me more than I ever could have imagined.  Everything in this life is temporary and in order to reach our goals and achieve success, we must work hard, be prepared and learn from our mistakes.  Thank you!

“Si quieres cambiar el mundo, cámbiate a ti mismo”

“If you want to change the world, begin with yourself”

Mahatma Gandhi

Sisters: Lucre and Florine’s Journey

Florine and Lucre reflect on their relationship over the past 8 months.  Though both from NPH, they had never met before the plane ride from Miami to Seattle last September.  How do we move from strangers to sisters?  

“Hi! Are you Florine?”, asked Nelson. “Yes, it’s me”, I replied.

Magda was seated by the window, Lucre in the middle, and Nelson…you can imagine where he was sitting?  The four of us shared some cookies, and tried to know each other in the plane from Miami to Seattle.  Nelson was translating for the girls what I was saying in broken English.  Well, you know how communication is important, so we decided to do our first intercultural communication which was quite interesting and friendly.

Landed in Seattle, it took us more than ten minutes to find our suitcases. Thank goodness we were all together!  Were we lost?  Hmmmm…not really, we were just excited to visit and exploring this big airport.  Would you do that for a first time?  Maybe not, but we were just adventurous and curious.  After taking a couple laps at the airport and finding our suitcases, we were surprised to see how many people were waiting for us. Our host families and friends. We loved it, and we were happy.

One time at the beginning of the year, we were at Malia’s place for a get-together with some of the NPH volunteers, and Lucre was taking pictures of the whole group.  I wanted to delete the pictures that she took of me.  I did not know how to tell her in Spanish that I want to only delete mine, and she did not either understand in English what I was telling her. We both got angry because we had a misunderstanding in that conversation. She thought that I wanted the camera, but I did not need it, I just wanted to delete the pictures.  That was our first hard time.

Did we have a second one?  You know, we were all different from each other, so working as a team was kind of challenging.  But, we took time to get to know each other, we learned how to speak “Spanglish” because that helped us most of the time, and we even used sign language to communicate.  As time was passing, things got better.

Lucre and I are maybe not the best friends in the world, but we are really good, true friends and most importantly, sisters.  We now support each other every single day, we share stories, secrets…who does not share secret with a special friend?  Lucre says that I am humble, but I think that she is more humble than me.  She also thinks that I am bossy, and well, she is right and I am working on that.  I love her. And…she says that she loves me too.  Last Saturday, I forgot to take my passport with me to the ELS for my TOEFL test. Lucre took the bus and came all the way to downtown Seattle, and brought me the passport.  I was able to take it because she was there for me, I won’t never forget it.  Thank you mi Lucrecita!  Te  amo mucho!

At the end, we have struggled, we found difficulties, we were mad at each other sometimes, but we finally saw a sister in each other.  Now, we only speak English, but I do speak some Spanish words sometimes just to let her know that I can speak Spanish while she is speaking English.  “Hurry Florine, hurry!”  That is what she says when she comes over to the Fonsecas’s place, and she has to make sure that we do not miss the bus.  “I am almost done Lucre, give me five minutes and we won’t be late because we have class at 1:00”.  I should ask for ten or fifteen minutes instead of five. Why? Because I take more than five minutes to be ready, so I make her run every morning to the bus stop since she is staying with me, and if we miss the bus, we will be in trouble.

The End of Lucre and Florine’s story…just for now…

How a Year in Seattle Transformed my Life

By: Jacinto Arias, Class of 2013 (NPH Guatemala)

Jacinto graduated from The Seattle Institute in 2013 and is now serving as the Year of Service and University Student Coordinator, while he continues his University Studies in Guatemala.  Here he reflects on his time in Seattle and how it impacted his life.  

It´s been almost 2 years since I came back from Seattle. When I look back I realize that I am not the same person that I was before. I experienced ten months filled with hard work, joy, games, homework (grammar), and meeting so many people. I met really good people. I don’t remember some of their names, but I have their faces in my mind.

In the beginning, it was really hard because I was really far from my friends and my family, and of course the language made my first weeks harder.  During my stay in Seattle, I could find unconditional love from my host family (the Callans) and in their house I felt for the first time in my whole life, a real family. But now you will say: Why are you saying that? You are in NPH and NPH is a family and its true, but there I experienced having a mom and dad, where they took care of me very seriously. I remember this phrase from Cathy Callans: I take my role very seriously. She told me when she saw that I was doing something wrong or something good, as well.  They treated me as a son and their kids treated me as a brother. Their kids (Jonathan, Matthew and Molly) always had time for me and they argued with each other in order to know who had the best Spanish.

I was used to having so many people around me and when I went to Seattle it was really different. I lived in a big house for 5 people and for me it was really difficult to get used to it. Sometimes I got frustrated because I was alone at the house and I had just one channel in Spanish, but because of that experience I got to learn more about myself. I realized that at NPH I did not have enough time for myself, and in Seattle I had that time and I could know more about myself: goals, objectives, fears, etc.

No matter where I went, I found good people; people who were and still are interested in NPH. Something that really impressed me was that even though they didn´t know NPH, they believed in us, they believed that we would be successful and we would change the world. I admire NPH USA a lot because they work so hard every day in order to help us and get more people involved.

Kara King, the coordinator of the program, always trusted in us. She is an amazing person and always listened to us and gave us advice.  She is totally convinced that this program is worth it, which motivates me to keep working and helping others. I know that I cannot do everything, but I can do something and that something I will do well.

People from the States and all the people that help us, thank you so much for your support. I have no words to thank you nor a way to pay you, but I am truly convinced that one day YOU will have your compensation.

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