Hooked on NPH
Frenck is a new volunteer at NPH Mexico, who has a long story with the NPH family.
August 22, 2018 - Mexico
“What? Are you giving up your well-paid job? Why on earth would you do that?”, was the most common reaction of my friends and family to my decision to go and work at NPH Mexico. Yes, it is a risk to resign when you are 50+. Yes, it is a risk to end a wonderful teaching position at a renowned secondary school. Will the new job be as rewarding? Will I be able to adapt to my new Mexican surroundings? I don’t know. However, I am convinced that my work at NPH will be more relevant to bring about a better world than my previous job. Moreover, I know the organization because this is my third time working as an NPH volunteer…you could say I’ve become hooked on this great family!
When I write this, my actual work still has to start, as I have just finished my month of orientation, in which I got to meet lots of new people and learn how NPH Mexico is run. It is impressive to see how caregivers, teachers, psychologists, nurses, doctors, therapists, cooks, fundraisers, administrators and many others are all working hard to help hundreds of Mexican children and young adults. Their zeal and commitment are great, despite the sometimes harsh climate and limited means.
I will be an English teacher at NPH Bachillerato Técnológico (a vocational high school), and I will help the caregivers in the home Casa Buen Señor, both in Cuernavaca. Some 150 adolescents live in this home, and a team of caregivers assist them in the transition from childhood to adulthood – a challenging undertaking. The adolescents enjoy more freedom than the younger children in the NPH home in Miacatlán (a one-hour drive from here) – being able to journey into the city alone or have a mobile phone - as this enables them to develop into responsible adults. Here, the older children get a better understanding of the outside world where they will have to live in the future.
My first time working for NPH was in Guatemala, in the years 2003 and 2004. That was also my first time living and working in Latin America, as well as speaking Spanish all the time. Although I had taken sufficient Spanish classes by then, it was still exhausting! I had to think all the time and pay close attention to what my colleagues and children were saying, because their vocabulary and accents were quite different from the ones I had learned from my teacher, who was Spanish.
In Guatemala I started my teaching career; I taught English at primary and secondary school, to pupils aging 10 to 15 years old. I came from a public relations background, and felt thrown into a new challenge. Despite this, my work was wonderful and gave me enormous satisfaction.
I was also with a group of nearly 25 volunteers, of with whom I got along quite well. Quite a lot of us decided to stay another year and extend our NPH experience. In that year, I established an understanding- or level-based (instead of grade-based) English curriculum and set up an extra-curricular English training program for outstanding pupils, with the help of a Canadian sponsor.
My second NPH position was in Peru, in 2007-2008. I had learned from the Dutch office that this was a new home that needed assistance in various programs. I worked in a combined position as volunteer coordinator, projects coordinator and communication officer (the person who writes articles and interviews for the NPH website). There were only 35 children at the time; a lot less than the 350 in Guatemala! Because it was smaller in scale, I got to know the children and my new colleagues very quickly. We stayed in temporary housing - a former tourist resort in Lunahuaná, a small town along a wild river. That town had been hit by an earthquake only months before, and was still in ruins – in my job I would later help poor residents rebuild their homes with the support of NPH.
The other two volunteers and I had an interesting year, in which we also got the chance to explore the wonderful country of Peru. In Peru, I did not extend my work like in Guatemala, as in my office job, I seldom interacted with the kids, who were going to a local school. Interacting with the children has always been my main reason to work at NPH. In Mexico, where I stay now, I will definitely have a lot of interaction with the children, both as a teacher and as an assistant-caregiver. Although I know there will be many challenges ahead, I can’t wait to start teaching and help our adolescents to grow into responsible adults!
Frenck van Orsouw
NPH Mexico Volunteer