co m m u n i t y | m y st ory
If we don’t welcome these children into our family … no one else will.
Kristina Cavit saw what was happening to children in Latin America and joined an organisation doing something about it.
hree years ago, while travelling throughout South America, I visited a Bolivian slum, where I saw children working as prostitutes and being forced into child slavery. I began searching for a way to help, and a friend told me about an amazing organisation that provides education, medicine, and a loving home to children throughout Latin America who have been abandoned, abused, or orphaned. I packed my bags, and two weeks later, I was at NPH (Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, or, in English, Our Little Brothers and Sisters). I worked on communications, education, and community projects for two years at the home in the Dominican Republic. little brothers and sisters At NPH, I met 11-year-old Manuel. He lived in an isolated village, deep within the sugar-cane fields. Manuel’s father believed his son was loco, or mentally insane. As a result, he tied him up and abused him. Fortunately, NPH found him, albeit severely malnourished. Today, Manuel lives with the NPH Dominican Republic family, where I’ve seen him transform into a happy and playful child. He now has 200 brothers and sisters, along with an extended family of local support staff and international volunteers that all care for him. NPH doesn’t make a difference just to the children that it welcomes into its family. I have seen firsthand how this organisation has transformed communities, volunteers, and staff members. Children are empowered through education – an essential part of NPH. The NPH philosophy ensures that these
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one big happy family Nearly 18,000 children have grown up in the NPH family.
“The NPH philosophy ensures that these children have a loving family and a future.” children have a loving family and a future; the organisation teaches children trades so they can find jobs and become productive members of society. I was overwhelmed by the successful professionals I met who were once orphaned or abandoned children themselves and had grown up in the NPH homes. Now, 57 years after NPH started, the doctors, graduates, and children who grew up in the family are running the nine NPH homes. More than 17,600 children have grown up in the NPH family, which now has homes in Mexico, Honduras, Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Peru, and Bolivia. I returned to the Dominican Republic in 2010 when the devastating earthquake hit Haiti and 316,000 people were killed. NPH welcomed thousands of children and opened day-camp
programs, street schools, and makeshift clinics around Haiti. NPH Dominican Republic became a hub for receiving and delivering water, food, and medicine. Trucks crossed the Haitian border every day to get supplies to those stranded with no provisions. The NPH hospital rooms were full of cholera-infected patients who arrived so dehydrated that doctors and nurses could find no veins. Our medical team had to drill through bone to pump in IV solution. When cholera spread to our small nearby village, a donation enabled us to start public-health and cholera workshops in the surrounding villages to educate the community. In addition to providing relief from the earthquake, the NPH home in the Dominican Republic also welcomed many children who were orphans as a result of HIV. The need for HIV medication and sexual-health education is overwhelming in these countries. Donations allowed us to do workshops on sexual health in the local villages. Sonia’s story One child I grew to know was Sonia, an immigrant from Haiti who’d been brought to the Dominican Republic with the promise of a better life. After her illegal journey to the Dominican Republic, Sonia was sold as a child prostitute. But through some miracle, NPH found this young girl and welcomed her into the NPH family. Sonia has come so far from the frightened child that arrived on NPH’s doorstep. Today, she’s studying and living a very happy and healthy childhood. She has dreams of becoming a famous singer, and she has told me: “I want to help NPH in the future because NPH helped me.”
honorary siblings Kristina Cavit with some of her little brothers and sisters.
NPH will never turn away children in need. If we don’t welcome these children, into our family and homes, no one else will. It is inspiring to see that despite everything they’ve been through – starvation, gang violence, sex trafficking, disease, slavery, and natural disasters – the children of NPH radiate a strength and positivity that is infectious. Their past, as well as their present, reminds them that every day is a precious gift. Even in tough moments, I was able to find a smile on a child’s face that gave me hope. It can be easy to lose faith in charities. However, after living with these children and witnessing NPH’s work firsthand, I know that the organisation desperately needs every penny, and that this money has the power to help transform children’s lives. Every minute of work we do and every dollar we give affects the lives of children like Manuel and Sonia. working from home I am now back in Auckland doing all I can to connect the people of my community and greater New Zealand with the wonderful children of NPH. With a group of volunteers, I have started the NPH New Zealand chapter to fundraise for these children and the NPH communities. It’s been a challenge to get the word out, but it’s also been exceptionally rewarding to see people who truly believe in the work of the organisation and who have committed to helping. The NPH team of volunteers and staff are working around the clock to break the cycle of poverty for children throughout Latin America, but we need more help. This month, on a two-week trip to NPH homes in Peru and Bolivia, we’ll work with children and visit the local community. To find additional information on NPH and its charitable trips and programs or to make a donation, visit the organisation’s website, nph-nz.org. more AT MiNDFOOD.COM visit our website for more on the ongoing relief efforts in earthquakeravaged Haiti. KEYWORDS: haiti, relief