Published: November 19th 2011November 18th 2011
This morning we boarded the NPH bus and arrived at Casa Sagrada Familia at 8:30. Today was the NPH graduation ceremony for the kindergarten students and the 9th grade students. We started off in the chapel for Mass. We found our seats and soon after Olivia was at our side greeting us. We had hoped that she would sit with us, but she was playing the piano with the group of musicians and singers. The chapel was beautiful and I imagined all of the wonderful services held there for the students. Once the procession began led by the kindergartners with their caps and gowns, there was a hush. While all the students processed in, I began to think about where these kids had come from and how they beat the odds and were making something out of their lives. This was truly one of those moments that I will remember forever. These were 9th graders who now would give back to NPH a year of service before going on to high school. The graduation class also consisted of Pequenos who had completed their years of service (1 year before high school or 2 years before university). It was a moving ceremony
and we were grateful that we could be a part of this wonderful day.
After Mass, we proceeded to go to the actual graduation ceremony. We were ushered into the first and second rows. There was one little kindergartner who got up and read a lengthy speech and we were all in awe because she was only 7 and her reading was amazing. Diplomas were handed out and congratulations given.
Olivia found us right after the ceremony and introduced us to her brother, Oscar. We then went to a small reception for our group and were shown a video showing us what life on the campus of NPH was like in 2011. These are truly happy, well-adjusted kids who work, play and study very hard. We then went with our new friends, Kathy and Carol to distribute treats to the boys’ home. They welcomed us warmly and some really just wanted to be hugged. It was really very touching.
It was now lunch time, so we went to the lunch hall which was huge and all the tables were set. You could tell this was a very special day for them, made all the more special because they had visitors.
Lunch consisted of rice and a small salad and beef (they get either chicken or beef twice a week—otherwise it is usually rice and beans). John went around to all the tables and took pictures of all the kids—they love getting their picture taken.
We found Olivia after lunch and she took us to the girls’ home which was immaculate and a large dormitory style room—John, of course, took the opportunity to explain his flexible walls for smaller bedrooms within dormitory, taking a survey of the young girls if they would like that privacy and they said “yes .” Olivia’s room was upstairs and there were about 15 to 20 girls in her section. We met some more of her sisters and she showed us her locker. Then all the girls wanted to show us their lockers. I couldn’t believe it; all of their clothes were neatly folded and everything in its place. This wasn’t just because they had visitors, but they are like that every day. We went to the different sections and she introduced us to more of her siblings and we talked to the girls and they practiced their English on us and tried to teach us
a few words in Spanish. It was really fun and of course they wanted pictures taken with their friends and us. We decided to go back to the office to give Olivia a gift we had brought her and also a gift she had received from a woman in Chicago whom she had stayed with a few years ago. It was really special spending this time with her and seeing that she was well cared for in this beautiful facility. We heard from several people who know Olivia well and they all said she was very intelligent and does a great job of making a presentation to a large group. It is so hard to describe the emotion that one feels upon visiting Friends of the Orphans NPH. It was time to go, so we gave our hugs and said we would be back the next day.
Once back at the hotel we had a short period of rest before we met for dinner at another steak house before returning to our hotel to rest up for our final day in El Salvador when the 15-year-old girls will celebrate their Quinceanera.