Twenty Years Strong at NPH
One of NPH's most experienced caregivers reflects on the family-oriented mission of NPH.
November 16, 2016 - Honduras
While the 500 or so children and staff who make up NPH Honduras are not direct relatives, one of the most important pillars of NPH life is the creation of a secondary family. While you're on the ranch (NPH Honduras home) you will be treated as part of one of the largest families in the country. On the front lines of this family environment are the tios and tias (uncles and aunts) who serve as caregivers to the children making sure that they are well fed, do their chores, get to school, grow up with strong examples to emulate, and provide whatever else a traditional parent passes on to their children.
One of the experts on the ranch in care giving is Tio Miguel. He works with the oldest boys' hogar and has more than 20 years of experience on the ranch.
Tio Mikey, as he is affectionately called, works with San Lucas in Buen Pastor (the boys’ homes). This is the final hogar on the ranch before passing on to high school. Being employed here for nearly half of the ranch’s existence, very few know more about the philosophy and history of NPH than him. “It’s a form of living, a way of life. NPH means growing up or developing as a person spiritually, physically, and intellectually.” Since he has been a caregiver for so long, he directly sees the impact, and he is part of creating the day-to-day of the family experience provided by the ranch. “It’s not direct family, but it creates an equally supportive environment for kids to grow up in.”
However, Mikey realizes that he is not the direct father of his boys, and has had to find how to show parental love without the direct ties. “Like a father would, I try to positively influence them through my example. Working hard, encouraging them to study and helping them with their school work. I try my best to teach them different values – respect, responsibility, the importance of work – through both words and my own actions.”
While the caregivers here can never replace the parents of the pequeños on the ranch, they do help in providing a stability that can be hard to find in Honduras. The nation faces the highest level of inequality in the Central American region, and has one of the world’s highest homicide rates (67 per 100,000 people, 2014) in non-wartime countries in the world. This is a far cry from what would be considered ideal conditions to foster a stable upbringing for a child. A combination of poverty and gang-related violence has led to countless births of children into families far from capable of supporting them in a healthy familiar environment.
“But here on the ranch,” Mikey explains, “our model of work is as a community. We strive to create a loving environment, to not put up ‘walls’ between ourselves, our children, or each other. This is just like you would see in a typical institution.”
Being on the ranch for so long, Mikey has seen a lot of changes, both struggles and the victories that have come to NPH. “Every generation here has seen its degree of changes. The first generation was that of closeness with Father Wasson. He would come and visit often, and provide direct support, care and teaching for the children. After he passed, there was a great distance between us and his teachings. But through the years, I have seen the home become very strong in reforming our faith formation without Father Wasson directly with us, and learning ways to effectively instill the values of him and of the church in our children.”
Watching the boys of San Lucas eat dinner and get ready for bed, it is clear that Mikey is a man that they respect, look up to, and enjoy. The secret to his success is simple - being present in the little things. His favorite moments in the past 20 years with his boys are not the grand events or big celebrations, but the subtler interactions. “I really enjoy the small moments like playing sports, sharing a joke at the dinner table, passing by any of them by chance through today and asking about school. This is really just being present in their daily lives.”
*Statistics from the World Bank.