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

 

Hermanos Mayores in Seattle

A few months ago, we participated in a day-long workshop with the Hermanos Mayores who were here as a part of the iLEAP Global Leadership Program for NPH.  Here Irene reflects on our day together (written in her own English!).

 

By Irene Cruz, Class of 2016

I remember the day when we arrived to iLEAP.  We just were looking for our brothers and sisters from the same country.  We were very happy to see all of them. One by one they were coming, and we began to sit next to each other.

While the meeting started we were talking with them.  The most funny part was that when the meeting began, and we did one dinamica where we needed to talk, but only in English.  So I remember that when they began to try and talk Mirna was looking me, and she coming to me and told me: do you remember when we arrived we were like them?  I just was laughing because it is true.  When we came here and the people told us that we needed to talk in English we did not know how because we were very shy, but the truth is that we really did not know anything, just HELLO AND BYE.  So I saw that we learned a lot these months.

I think that iLEAP really is a very good program. Now I think this because the first months for me was very hard, even boring just because I did not understand nothing in English. iLEAP has a lot of interesting information, and the people that work in iLEAP are prepared to teach us subjects, but not just about leadership also they teach us about the life.

They prepared very well and know how to teach the information to help us when we return our countries. Spending the time with our brothers and sisters all day was very nice. I really appreciate the time because I had the opportunity to know them. The best part was when we take the lunch. Everybody bring food to the table and everyone could take it. Everybody were siting and talking about our families, friends and school. We were joking a lot.

It is interesting when you can see that your house has more leaders, and that many people want the best changes for NPH. That each one has different ideas, but the same purpose DO THE BEST FOR THE CHILDREN.

Our FATHER always wanted that, so we need to work together and try to give the best of ourself.

We are the future of our NPH family, so we join our hands, hearts, and ideas together and we don’t let go until we achieve what Father Wasson wanted: A better life for our little brothers and sisters.

 

Story Retreat

By Irene, Class of 2016 

It is true that we cannot forget the past, but we can overcome it.  Life is not only filled with failures, and not everyone around us will hurt us.  In order to move forward we must first fall and learn to rise up again, we learn to work hard for what we want and also to take advantage and value life.

The weekend of our “Story and Servant Leadership” retreat was definitely hard for all of us.  It is difficult or remember the things that hurt or shame us.  But we learned that as we bring these things – that for many years we have carried alone and that have hurt us – into the light we feel like a new person.  We also found that we really are brothers and sisters, the fact that we don’t share the same parents or blood does not indicate that we aren’t.  NPH is a family and we support each other, knowing we can count on one another.  Now, we have more confidence in ourselves and each other, and we know that we can overcome our pasts and achieve our goals.   

We often think that we are the only people suffering in the world, but we are wrong.  Others are also passing through difficult situations, and it helps to put ourselves in their shoes.  NPH has the good fortune to have wonderful people that make the program without doubt one of the best experiences, these people are trained to give us the information and tools that we need to build a better path.  Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos gives us the opportunities and helps us find our path to achieve our goals, it is now up to us to decide to stay on it.  

 

 

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El pasado no lo puedes olvidar es cierto, pero si superar. En la vida no solo fracasamos, y tampoco todas las personas que están a nuestro lado nos lastimas. Para llegar lejos hay que tener que caer primero y aprender a levantarse. Aprender que para lograr lo que deseas debes trabajar muy duro y sudar, de esa manera una aprovecha y valora las cosas de la vida.

El fin de semana que tuvimos el retiro sin duda fue duro para todos, es difícil recordar las cosas que nos duelen o que nos avergüenzan. Pero también aprendimos a que una vez que sacas de tu vida eso que por muchos años te ha lastimado y has cargado a lo largo de los años, te sientes una nueva persona, aprendimos que verdaderamente somos hermanos, el hecho de que no tengamos los mismos padres o misma sangre no quiere decir que no lo somos. NPH somos una sola familia y nos apoyamos unos a otros, sabemos que podemos contar entre nosotros mismos. Tenemos más confianza en cada uno de nosotros, estamos seguros que podemos lograr nuestras metas si verdaderamente lo deseamos y nos esforzamos.

Muchas veces creemos que somos los únicos que están sufriendo en el mundo, pero estamos equivocados. Otras personas han pasado por cosas más duras, uno debe ponerse en los zapatos del otro y asimilar la situación. NPH tiene la fortuna de contar con personas maravillosas que hacen que el programa sea sin duda una de las mejores experiencias por la que pasaras, cuenta con  personas capacitadas para darte la información y las herramientas necesarias para construir el mejor camino. Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos nos dan las mejores oportunidades y el camino que te hará llegar a la meta. Depende de ti si decides seguirlo o cambias de rumbo.

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”!

 

 

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!

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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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.

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…

“I would do it again in a heartbeat” ~ A Reflection on Hosting an NPH Student

By Cheryl Goodwin

When we agreed to be a host family for one of the Leadership students this year, I knew that I would be glad I had done it. My family has been involved with NPH since 2007, when my oldest daughter worked at the regional office. She invited us to a Faces of Hope event that introduced us to NPH, its founder and the children who are part of a large, loving family.  Shortly after that we sponsored our first godchild from Guatemala, and then a second one.

I have been a Table Captain at numerous events, volunteered in the office, and am currently serving on the Regional Board.  This past summer, I visited the home in Guatemala and was able to meet my godchildren and see first-hand that everything that I had heard about NPH was true. I remember clearly driving through the entrance of the grounds and being brought to tears by the beauty of it all, especially in contrast to the poverty we had passed through on the trip from the airport.

During this trip I was able to visit with several of the young men and women who had been through the Leadership program in the past few years.  It was good to see them living out what the program was aiming for – providing leadership and support to their sisters and brothers at NPH. I was also introduced to Luisa, who was planning to come as one of this year’s students.

Paul and I have always opened our home to others.  Our children’s friends were (are) always welcome, extended family members have lived with us for several months, holiday gatherings are frequently at our house, and we have had weekly meals with a  large group of friends for nearly twenty years.  However, in recent years, I kept feeling the call to show “hospitality to strangers.”  We had been asked to consider hosting a student the prior year, but for several reasons had decided it wasn’t the right time.  The idea had stayed in my mind, however, and my visit to the home in Guatemala made everything so much more real than it had been before.  So, when Kara King asked us to consider it again this year we said yes.

To be honest, even after saying yes, I was nervous and uncertain about whether or not it was a good idea. Our student, Magda, is from Honduras and she spoke very little English.  Since neither my husband, my mother, nor I speak Spanish, I was worried about how we were going to communicate.  The first couple weeks were a bit of a challenge, communication-wise.  The translation programs on our cell phones were a life-saver, allowing us to at least get the basics of what we were trying to say across. However, we were able to laugh as we fumbled our way through unfamiliar words and as Magda’s English skills increased and we learned a little Spanish, communication became easier.  We now have long, detailed conversations with only the occasional look-up of a particularly difficult word.

I had also worried that we wouldn’t be exciting enough for her – we don’t have kids at home, we aren’t soccer players, and are pretty busy with work commitments.  But we can, and did, provide an opportunity for her to be part of our family, with all of our quirks and goodness. Our friends and church family have loved getting the chance to get to know her.  I was rather surprised at how quickly Magda began to feel like another daughter to us.

As I mentioned earlier, I knew that I would be glad that we had agreed to be a host family and that it was the right thing to do.  What I hadn’t counted on, however, was the joy I would experience in the midst of it.  I love introducing her to our family’s traditions, taking her to our favorite restaurants, participating in holiday activities, spending the evening watching a movie at home, and even helping her with her homework.  I am humbled by the fact that she has been willing to share her life story with us and that she trusts us to love and care for her.  I am blessed by her generosity and kindness towards her brothers and sisters at the ranch. I am impressed with her hard work to learn a new language and a new culture. I know she will take a piece of my heart with her when she returns to Honduras at the end of June, but am comforted by the knowledge that I now have another reason to visit the NPH ranch there.

An added benefit of being a host family is the opportunity to get to know the other five students and their host families. Each of them, Luisa, Samy, Lucre, Florine, and Nelson, are wonderful individuals who challenge and bless me.  As I near the end of this year, I am saddened by the fact that I will miss them all and so very encouraged by the good work that I know they will all do in the future.

I am grateful that I have been able to play a small part in their lives. I would do it again in a heartbeat.