by SARAH ROBERTS
When Aurora Zacarias was just eight years-old she faced an uncertain future. The young Mexican orphan and her two older siblings, Elena and Alejandro, were struggling to survive.

They faced two options — first to move to separate towns in Mexico in which extended family members lived, but they would be separated and might never see each other again.

Aurora Zacarias with Loren O’Sullivan (left) from NPH New Zealand.

On top of this the two sisters wouldn’t be educated and would be expected to marry young and have many children who would grow up in poverty.

The second option was to be given up for adoption by an institution and grow up in an orphanage. This also meant they would be separated.

“It was really painful for us. Every day I would pray please don’t let us be separated. Can you imagine being this age and having to think ‘what is the best long term option?’” she said.

It was in the siblings’ darkest hour NPH Mexico became their safe haven. NPH, short for Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, means “Our Little Brothers and Sisters”.

“One of our aunts had heard about the charity and that’s where by the grace of God, we ended up,” Aurora said.

Aurora and her siblings were taken in by the charity, inspired by Christian values, that creates a loving and safe family environment for vulnerable children living in extreme conditions.

“I had found my real family. When we walked through the doors of NPH, our lives changed forever,” Aurora says.

It could have been a very different story. Many Mexican orphans end up begging on the streets and are often forced into gangs or worse.

Aurora shared her life story at the 25th Auckland Eucharistic Convention, held at Netball North Harbour on the North Shore.

As a child, Aurora didn’t notice her family were living on the poverty line.

“I was born in poverty. Having one bed for the three of us. It never crossed our minds that there was anything better for us in life,” she said.

“Whenever my mother cooked for us she wouldn’t eat a meal with us. She would just say I ate something while I was cooking, I’m full,” Aurora said. “But it wasn’t true, she didn’t eat most of the time. It was then I noticed she seemed sad all the time.”

Aurora’s mother became seriously ill with Hepatitis C and they didn’t have access to a doctor, so the family didn’t realise how serious it was. She died when Aurora was eight-years-old.

Aurora’s father became depressed and turned to alcohol after her mother’s death. He left the family for the United States to find work.

“He gave use 20 pesos and 1988 was the last time we saw our Dad. We don’t know if he’s even alive,” she said.

Nowadays, Aurora holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration, is a successful businesswoman with her own company, a social entrepreneur and an ambassador for NPH.

Her sister is an accountant and her brother is a paediatrician.

Aurora is also a “godmother” to two of the children living in NPH Mexico.

For Aurora it is finally her time to give back.

“For these children it is so special for them to know someone else is just thinking of them. When I met my god-daughter she said to me ‘Godmother I have been waiting for you’,” she said.

NPH was founded by American priest Fr William Wasson when he refused to file charges against a boy who stole from the poor box of a small church in Cuenavaca, Morelos, Mexico.

Instead, he asked for custody of the boy. By the end of the year, he was taking care of 32 children.

Sixty-four years later NPH has helped more than 18,000 children in nine different countries. The NPH mission is to help vulnerable children and their families.

More than 3000 children are fully supported by the charity, some in care and some living in communities.

Apart from Mexico and Honduras, NPH operates in Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Peru and Bolivia.

Director of NPH New Zealand Loren 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.

“Some of the children write letters saying ‘I want to study hard this year so that you will proud to be my godmother.”

Godparent is the word the children use for their sponsors. Go to nph-nz.org for more information on sponsoring a child or to make a donation.

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