The warmest of hellos to all from NPH-Guatemala! First and foremost – breaking news (to some) – I have officially extended my time here in my Guatemalan home for another 6 months!! That’ll bring me to the maximum of 2 years here as a volunteer at NPH-G (through July 2019). This is a decision that has been received with mixed but mostly positive reviews. It’s a slightly counter-US-cultural move to decide to remain in a volunteer position as a young professional for any extended amount of time. But here I am, savoring every second of the 10 months I have left in my current fairytale of a life. NPH is going to have to kick me out the door, I’m pretty sure (just kidding…kinda).
The reality is, life here isn’t without it’s high-highs and low-lows, just like “real life” at home in the States. I’m of the opinion the highs are probably higher and the lows are likely lower in a lot of ways. But I am so very much in family here at NPH-G, thanks to a culture and community of warm-hearted, relationship-centered humans who have taken me into their fold, an unconditional acceptance I will forever be grateful for – and that’s the kind of stuff that can get you through the hard times. Seeing as my blogs can tend to get a bit on the heavy side, let me first highlight some of the cherished moments at NPH I’ve been muy thankful for lately:
August 4, we celebrated the big “15-year-old” celebration of 6 NPH pequeñas, 2 of whom still live on our immediate campus in San Andrés, Itzapa, and 4 of whom live off campus and remain a part of the NPH OneFamily program, which “provide[s] a continuum of care to children who transition from our homes to reintegrate with family” (check this awesome program out here: https://www.nphusa.org/one/).
Another volunteer and I had the privilege of getting to teach the quinceañeras and their caballeros (a group of excellent young gentlemen who accompanied the lovely ladies) a waltz and choreography to present to all those who attended the fiesta. While coordinating “ensayos” (rehearsals) and motivating a group of 15-year-old girls to get their “animo” on and dance their hearts out for the special day was a little on the stressful side at times (okay, maybe more than just sometimes), the end result was a BEAUTIFUL Quinceañera celebration that I was thrilled to get to be a part of. More than that, I had the opportunity to grow closer to a group of cherished young women and men who have bright futures in front of them, and with whom I love being in family. While I don’t have pictures to share due to protecting the pequeñas’ and pequeños’ privacy, rest assured that it was a magnificent day celebrated by many!
Hogar Fatima ❤
I love (loooove) all the pequeños and pequeñas of NPH a very large amount. However, I spend the most direct pequeñ@ time with my hogar, the 10-14-year-old girlies of Fatima, and it has been one of the greatest honors of my life. As with the general NPH experience, there are undoubtedly many ups and downs in hogar when doing life with a group of highly adolescent girly-girls. I happen to be writing this on a day when things are all hunky-dory and I’m feeling like a part of the group. If I wrote it on another more difficult day, maybe I’d be complaining about my many woes and worries for the most important young ladies in my life. What I have to share today, though, are the little things that spark joy, make me laugh, and fill my heart so far to the brim that I’m overflowing with love and contentment. Some of the following are…
The supreme wit and sarcasm these girls are developing.
Nati:“Will you pass me that towel (insert name of whichever Fatima chica)?” “Mmmm…quizas mañana/la otra semana/el otro año Nati (maybe tomorrow/next week/next year),” says little miss sassy pants. It’s hard to capture the ‘tude in text, but it’s there. And it’s funny.
• I go off on a soapbox about some important life lesson/self-worth thing I’m certain these girls need to hear (and maybe end up talking for just a littleeee too long): one of the girlies hands me or pretends to hand me a tissue and asks if I need a “papelito” to dry my tears. Pretty sure they are constantly in wait of an opportunity to offer my emotional/easily-worked-up self one of these “papelitos.”
• Say anything slightly “off” in the eyes of an adolescent girl and they will immediately touch your forehead with the back of their hands and pretend you have a fever (“Tssss….fiebre!!” – fever!!). Don’t sit too close to them in one of these moments or they will worry that “el virus se pegará” (the virus will get them!). Thank goodness I have not had a fever every single time I have been accused of such, or I’d likely be U.S.-bound by now. En serio (seriouslyyy).
• The examples here are endless but text can’t do them justice. Trust me that my girls are sassy as heck and I love it ❤
How they take care of each other, and me.
• If I never need to know if I’m part of the gang or not, I just have to wait around a minute or two and there will likely be a girly going around asking everyone to share some food with me if I miss dinner. If I I leave a water bottle, plate, or other random things, as I’m wont to do, they will be the first to make sure I get it back ASAP (the opposite of what happens a lot of the times in the home when volunteers’ things go missing).
• One night I spent the night in our hogar after a movie night hosted by our tías (caregivers). The girls were eager to make sure I had everything I needed to spend the night comfortably there, from blankets to a place to charge my phone. They didn’t rush off to their beds, as late as it was for them, without making sure I was squared away. What good little hostesses in the making they are.
• They share just about everything. Compartir (to share) is a very important value at NPH, and they do it oh so well. You would think within a group of girls in their age range, and with only one filled locker and a bed to their respective names (relatively a lot here in Guate, but not rooms full of toys/books/whatever else a 12-year-old might yearn for by any means), they’d be a little more possessive of their things. But no, while they always prefer for their things to be taken care of and returned once lent out, they are still endlessly willing to share with their compañeras, a beautiful example that all we have in this life is not really “ours,” but possessions we have been gifted so we can share with those without. This has been one of the greatest things my little rays of sunshine have taught me over the past year.
Hugs and hand hugs and hand shakes.
In a lot of ways, adolescent girls in Guate are just about identical in their behaviors/interests/oddities to the adolescent girl I was and those I grew up with. I imagine these are pretty similar in other cultures, as well. Generally, I love to hug my girls and just squeeze all the love I can muster to them through this simple gesture, especially as they are about to head to bead and before I return to my volunteer community home for the night. Some girlies, however, aren’t that into hugs, and so we’ve had to introduce some hug alternatives. To meet this need, “hand hugs” were introduced, in which we go for a high-five but pause for a nice little thumb-wrap to mimic a hug, thereby replacing the whole full-body hugging ordeal. SO DORKY. But we love it. Hand hugs have transformed for at least one girly into a whole not-so-secret handshake sequence, which we use every now and again to greet each other or say our “hasta luegos”. Secret handshakes are pretty hot right now in Fatima – gotta love that throw back.
In sum, the love I experience for my girls is huge and so very heart-filling. My constant message to them these days is that *EACH. AND. EVERY. ONE. OF. THEM.* matters so, so, soooo much. These kiddos cannot hear that enough, and it’s so true. No matter what they accomplish or don’t accomplish, if they say good words or bad words, make good choices or bad choices in a day, they are beloved and worthy of love, simply by being the humans they were made to be. While we always want to shape and support them on a track to help them become the very best versions of themselves, I never want them to forget they are perfectly perfect as-is, and there is nothing they can do to be unloved by those who love them so in this life. The opportunity to be one of those people who gets to love them for this season as a volunteer, and for future seasons in life to come, really is a gift.
Disability Rights in Guatemala
This is another part of my NPH experience that I didn’t expect to get to be a part of in my time here. My eyes are being opened wide to the need for adaptations and modifications for those with disabilities in Guatemala (and everywhere), and how essential it is for all communities to include those with different abilities, no matter what those may be. I am learning and seeing with a fresh perspective how important each and every human life is, and how important it is to advocate for those who are unable to advocate for themselves. Or, even if we aren’t to that “level” yet, we must start by simply treating ALL people like the humans they are, no matter the society-defined difference we have identified (this can extend to any minority group we’d like to talk about here, as well). These are lessons I wish I had embraced long, long ago, and many points in which I erred in my life are directly tied to not comprehending this with my whole self.
Getting the chance to learn from those with greater experience in this area than I have, both from personal experience with disability and in advocacy roles, has opened my heart and mind to the people we are called to be when in community with others. I hope to continue challenging myself in this area each and every day, as it is something that can bring us all not only together but also to life as we begin aligning ourselves to advocate for those who need our support most.
**On that note – as always, a huge thank you to Tom Jakobs and his team at Be Extraordinary for equipping us with more and more AAC systems and equipment to give a voice to those without one currently – more updates on this topic to come!**
Other exciting things on the U.S. home front!
I can’t say it enough – my current experience would be impossible with the support of an unconditionally loving blood family and friend family. I would not be the person I am today without all those standing by my side through this adventure that has allowed me to become more and more myself. (A special shout out to my parents who supported me through the education I needed to get to this point, and all the support since then…I would not be here without you guys!).
Some especially important events in the past couple months have been the birth of the incredibly handsome baby boy Crosby Curran, who I loved at first sight (FaceTime style), and who getting to meet in person turned my world upside down and taught me a love I didn’t know was possible. Lots of love to that baby boy and his mama and padre Mollie and Bill!
Getting to see my dear friend Hannah get hitched just last weekend, seeing firsthand her joy and contentment, and getting to share in such a special celebration reminded me how thankful I am to have so many beloved people on my life journey. Spending precious moments with NPH, Chicago, and Tulsa forever friends during this weekend gave me even more to be thankful for. I love you all very, very much!!!
All in all…
I am filled to the brim and overflowing with love and gratitude for the place I am now and the people I’m surrounded by, both in my U.S. and Guatemala homes. I consider myself one of the luckiest girls in the world to get to be in my current here-and-now. This place has changed and continues to change me, helping me to think critically about the issues we face on global and humanitarian levels (a blog for another time), and I love being along for the ride.
Please consider being a part of our NPH family by visiting, volunteering, sponsoring a pequeñ@…or all of the above. You will not regret it! Feel free to reach out to me any time for more info (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org), or in the meantime you can check out NPH’s international site: https://www.nph.org/ or the NPH-Guatemala site: https://www.nph-guatemala.org/.
So much love, paz, y bien from Guate!