In Latin America, where the drug trade is rampant and gang–related violence is common, Kiwis are helping orphaned and abandoned children find safe haven in the “ranchos” of Nuestro Pequeno Hermanos (Our Little Brothers).
NPH New Zealand director Loren O’Sullivan led a group of volunteers to NPH Mexico and Honduras from February 26 to March 15 where they caught up with their “godchildren”. “These kids are always so grateful and so positive. I makes you humble,” said Ms O’Sullivan.
Ms O’Sullivan said the thing that struck her the most in her last visit was the fear that always seem to permeate the lives of people there.
“The gangs have so much control. Ordinary people live with so much fear and so much poverty that that’s the big thing I notice when I go to these countries,” she said.
Children are especially vulnerable. They come to NPH usually through the court system, Ms O’Sullivan explained.
“They might go to like a government orphanage first and then, they’ll come to NPH with their brothers and sisters so they can stay together,” she said.
One of the volunteers who went on the trip with Ms O’Sullivan, Holy Cross (Henderson) parishioner Natasha Sutcliffe, said meeting the children was a moving experience.
“We felt immediately welcomed, receiving warm smiles and greetings everywhere we went. The children often ran up to hold our hands and give us a hug; which quickly broke down any cultural barriers and allowed us to connect and communicate with the children,” said Miss Sutcliffe.
On the two-week trip, the volunteers pitched in with painting the school, planting trees and even dancing with the children.
Miss Sutcliffe also got the chance to meet Adony, a former student of Ms O’Sullivan’s. Ms O’Sullivan had previously volunteered to teach English to the children.
The 17-year-old Adony and his five siblings went to NPH after their mother died in childbirth. Years later, he is preparing to study medicine.
“We are a family here. A big family. We have values. Our most important value is unconditional love. I think the best example of unconditional love is our sponsors. These people show us so much love, even though many of them have never met us,” he told Miss
Ms O’Sullivan said NPH supports the children for as long as they can.
The organisation currently supports 223 high school students in Mexico and 73 in Honduras.
“Quite amazingly, there are nearly 100 students in Mexico who are studying at university at this time,” she said.
NPH was founded by American priest, Fr William Wasson when he refused to file charges against a young boy who stole from the poor box of a small church in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. Instead, he asked for custody of the boy.
By the end of the year, he was taking care of 32 children. Apart from Mexico and Honduras, NPH operates in Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Peru and Bolivia.
Ms O’Sullivan said Kiwis can help these children by sponsoring them.
“People need to help, to think about people who through no fault of their own get into tricky situations. And if we don’t help, there is literally no one else to help those kids. That’s what motivates me,” she said.