Transitions

On June 25th, I walked across the stage to receive my Master’s Degree from The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology.  In the audience (and others there in spirit) was my family. They had come from Seattle and Spokane, as well as from Haiti, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua to bear witness to this moment with me.

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The Seattle School Graduation.

On June 26th, I listened at an NPHI Board Meeting to Donna Egge and Miguel Venegas as they reminded me of how far we had come together over the past 6 years of shaping and then beginning The Seattle Institute.

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Miguel and Kara during the NPHI Board Meeting.

I mention both of these days not only because they were two significant endings so close together, but also because The Seattle School and NPH have been interwoven in my life for the past four years.  As I have grown as a therapist, the leadership program has grown and developed.  As I have learned who I am uniquely created to be in the world, I have been better able to accompany our young people in that same journey.  As I stepped into a school with its own recent history of transitions, failure, and redemption – I was newly able to imagine that for NPH as well.

I will be forever grateful to NPHI for taking the risk they took in launching this program.  And, I will be forever grateful to The Seattle School for the transformation that began in my heart within that brick building.

A week later, on July 3rd, we celebrated our fifth graduating class of The Seattle Institute.  In the audience were alumni from four years of the Seattle program, along with our Seattle Community which has so lovingly embraced this program from day one.  The graduating students spoke wisely and courageously as they shared with us what they had learned during their time in Seattle.  If you missed it, you can listen to their speeches here: 2016 Student Speeches

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Alberto sharing his thoughts on leadership.

We shared a bit about how the program came to be and where we are now, including introducing our partners from iLEAP and the NPH staff members who were in Seattle for a month-long leadership training.  We were also excited to share an update on our alumni and the good and inspiring work they are doing in the communities.  You can read those here: Where are they now?

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Jean Francois (Charter Class) reflects on the first year of The Seattle Institute.

Finally, the graduates and alumni offered a gift I will always treasure – their words and memories about their time in the program.  Jean Francois Seide (charter class) was there to remind us of some of the realities of that first year, for we certainly had a steep learning curve!  I am glad we can now laugh about how lost we often felt (or literally were) in that first year – and I am grateful for all the learning that has come from it.

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Charter Class with NPHI Leadership in 2011.

Those first students: JF, Emir, Wendy, Julissa, Digyana were the pioneers of this program and their legacy is strong.  I am thankful for them and their willingness to “go with the flow” as we learned together during that first year.  We are also grateful to the supporters and host families who joined us as we got our feet under us along the way.  The vision of this program takes time to fulfill, and the results may not always be quickly seen.  But, that first class is clear evidence something beautiful is at work here: JF is headed to Oxford to pursue a Master’s Degree in Public Policy, Emir is in his 5th year of Medical School in Monterrey, Wendy is finishing her degree in Linguistics and runs the Girl’s Home at NPH Honduras during weekend and vacations, Julissa is a fabulous mother and works at a bilingual call center in Guatemala City as well as being involved in the Hermanos Mayores Group for NPH Guatemala, and Digyana lives in Tegucigalpa with her husband Denis and is the lead Montessori teacher at NPH Honduras.  It is stunning to me to see the good work they are each doing.  I could go on about our other alumni as well, but instead, I will invite you again to read more about each of them here: Where are they now?

As the other alumni and students blessed me with their words, they also offered tangible gifts that I will take with me into my work as a therapist.  It is a lovely way to carry them with me as I make this transition.  Thank you to each and every one of you!

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Seattle Institute Students from Classes of 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016.

Finally, a shout out to Donna Egge.  Donna has believed in, and dreamt of, this program long before it even crossed my imagination.  She has been a mentor to me throughout the process of getting it up and running.  Donna, thank you for your passion, your wisdom, your courage, and your friendship.  You have taken my late night calls when things were falling apart (and helped me see they really weren’t), you have challenged (and oh, so gently guided) me when I was veering off-course, you have supported me when it felt overwhelming, you have celebrated with me when the beauty of the students made my heart sing, you have done all of this and so much more.  Deep, sincere gratitude to you and all you have been to me during this process.

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Donna with students from the Class of 2015.

Tomorrow, we begin the real work of transitioning to our next Program Director, Jacqueline Shrader.  You will hear more from Jacqueline in the coming weeks and months, for now please join me in welcoming her into our NPH Seattle family.  Jacqueline can be reached at: jacqueline.shrader@nph.org.

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The NPH Seattle Community met Jacqueline at Graduation o July 3rd!

It has been my honor and deep privilege to be on this journey with you.  I can continue to be reached for NPH-related topics through August at kara.king@nph.org.  Otherwise, you can find me at: kara@karakingcounseling.com.

Peace and All Good Things (Paz y Bien),

Kara King

 

Site Visit – Starbucks International Headquarters

By: JEAN LOUIS FRECHETTE ALBERTO, NPH-HAITI. CLASS OF 2016.

I want to share with you a great experience we all had in Seattle. A few weeks ago we went to the Starbucks headquarters for a tour and to get a sense of what they do there, what kind of leaders work there, and of course – to have lunch!

It organized by Ed Holtgraves, my mentor in Seattle, who works there along with Chris and Mary who were both volunteers in Nicaragua, and Alana who was a volunteer in Honduras.  We are grateful for their hard work on this day!

We started first by a brief tour of part of the building because we couldn’t walk into the whole building in only one or two hours. After that we went to a room for a coffee taste with Mary where we taste 5 different coffee flavor from five country where my fellow brothers and sisters from such as Mexico, Guatemala, Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Unfortunately, they don’t have any coffee from Haiti however, I enjoyed the experience and so far I already have a favorite coffee but I won’t tell you which one.

After the coffee taste we went to another room where we had two guest speakers: Craig Russell and Jennie Bowen who work at Starbucks. At this moment Julio from El Salvador explained to them what is the Seattle Institute Program, what we are doing here and explained what is NPH in general.

Let’s see something we learned from each of these leaders.

Craig Russell: As a leader you should care about respect and dignity. When you work as a team one of the things you should have is “TRUST”. As a leader sometimes you will feel alone but no matter what you should not give up. One thing I personally liked in what he said is “OWN YOUR MISTAKES” – if not you will not overcome them and in this case you will fail as a leader. At the end he said “reset yourself and your goals every quarter or every month”. I like that and I think everybody must do that.

Jennie Bowen: As a leader the first thing you need to know is “what you need in your life?”, you should have a vision while you have this vision you should listen and while you are listening you should learn and be who you want to be not who people want you to be. She made a little difference between Boss and Leader… Boss tells you what to do while Leader works with you and you achieve together.

Finally, we end the day with a nice lunch on the 3rd floor of the building with Ed, Kara and Glory from the NPH USA office.

Thank you Ed, Chris, Mary, Alana, Craig, Jennie and Kara for that opportunity and I can tell you we really learned something. Thank you Glory for joined us we really enjoyed it.

 

 

 

Christmas in Family!

By Julio Cesar, Class of 2016

There are some important holidays during the year, but Thanksgiving day and Christmas are the most important world wide. In Thanksgiving day, people gather in family and thanks with a delicious special dinner for all they have received during the year, they give thanks for the loved ones and family members.

Christmas is the season of being thankful for Jesus’ birth. Like Thanksgiving day people gather together, eat a special meal, spend time in family and share presents. The most important thing here is being gathered in family and share lot of beautiful moments with them, and being thankful for Jesus child born in our hearts and homes. Also in this holiday is important being in peace and celebrate all the blessings we have, what a better way that in family.

While celebrating Christmas eve here in the United States, the memory of my NPH family came to my mind. The special night mass we celebrate on Christmas eve, the special meal we share all together at the basketball court, the presents we receive in the morning thanks to our benefactors, the fireworks that we watch after dinner, laughs of my brothers. All that good sensations that I have in my NPH home, this year I lived with my host family The Saldañas, and I bet my five NPH Seattle Institute brothers/sisters lived with their families too. It was an amazing Christmas celebration! Thank you to all our families for making a special Christmas celebration for us!

I want to close my post by thanking Bubar family for hosting our Christmas party, thanks to Tapias family for the posada in your house, it was amazing! Thanks to all the beautiful people that have shared time and presents with us the Seattle institute leadership pequenos, Thank you to all friends whom help NPH in any way, Thank you to Kara for supporting us at any time, Thanks to all NPHI staff for all the hard work you make, Thanks to iLEAP staff for helping us growing as social leaders, and a huge THANK YOU to all our host families for being all the time with us, we love you!

Blessings for all in the 2016 year!!!

 

 

An Open Letter to NPH Volunteers from a Grown Pequeño

By Jonathan, Class of 2016 (in his own English!)

Dear Volunteers,

I would like to personally thank all of you for your commitment to NPH.   I truly believe that both the children and the great family of NPH are also grateful for you.

I would also like to express my thanks to Vicky who manages all the volunteers that make NPH feel like a family.  Your ability to recruit people to volunteer in NPH and place them in the appropriate country and house as role models for our children who need to be prepared to live their lives beyond NPH is much appreciated.

Our volunteers have the opportunity to share their talents and knowledge while serving children. Often volunteers are highly trained and skilled individuals whom NPH leverages for our children as nurses, teachers, and therapists working in different areas where the house needs, also including childcare.

Volunteers always bring new ideas and different perspectives in order to help improve our family.  To volunteer with NPH is one of the greatest gifts for our family.  Thank you for the things you do for us.  You spend time with us for protection and love, and sacrifice time away from your family, thank you infinitely, dear volunteers.  I just wish that when it’s my turn to support my neighbors, that it is half of what you were within our family.

No matter how much time passes without a visit, or how far you go, you can be sure that on your return to the family of NPH, I [we] will welcome you with abundant love and hugs.

Congratulations for the great time you shared, the hard work, and thanks because this program would not be possible without your generous support.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Palma, NPH Guatemala

 

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Editor’s Note: In October, Vicky facilitated a workshop called “The NPH Volunteer Experience” with the students, in which they learned about the logistics of the program and spent time thinking about what makes a good volunteer for our family.  It was after that day and re-connecting with many former NPH volunteers here in Seattle that Jonathan decided upon this topic for his blog post.  Former volunteers in the Northwest have made significant contributions to the beginnings of this program as well, and we are so grateful that your love and support continues after you return “home”!

 

 

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.

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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

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!

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

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

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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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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