Antigua to Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (NPH)—Our brothers and sisters San Andres
The morning began early with a Rooster call followed immediately by the Church bells. Georgie said she slept right through it. After a quick shower (because the hot water didn’t last too long), we went to eat a buffet breakfast right next door to the Hotel. We both had some fresh fruit (pineapple, papaya, watermelon) with some small quiche squares, some plantains, and small pancakes, and OJ. We all got on an NPH bus about 9:30 for the ½ hour drive to the Casa. As we wended our way up the mountain side, we saw a variety of wild flowers (some with a refreshing fragrant smell), clouds surrounding the tops of mountains, and went through the small town of Paramos where the high school boys attend school and live in small apartments about 15 minutes from NPH San Andres casa.
When we finally turned into the driveway of the NPH property, we were amazed by the size of the total property (35 acres) and beauty of all brick buildings. After bringing all of our presents or donations (clothing, games, bedding, medical supplies, etc.) we began a 3 hour tour
of the place. Before we got started, one of the young girls approached one of the women and she met her godchild for the first time; it was such an emotional, heart-thumping, and awesome sight. She spent the rest of the day attached to the hip of her godmother. We visited the school (two story brick building serving about 25 children per classroom) and met some of the volunteer teachers from Germany, Spain, Canada, Vermont, and ?. We then walked towards the kitchen and dining room stopping by Vocational Ed Workshops (making wood products—chairs, benches, etc—and metal products (dining room tables and benches as well as bunk beds for the dorm rooms all within the home), finally ending at the kitchen where the children and the paid workers were cleaning the floors and getting the lunch and dinner ready for the day and evening. Now off to the homes for the babies, the young children, the preteens, and teens (boys and girls separately). I was struck by the large dorm areas with bunk beds and some small spaces with chairs, couches, and play areas but with a lot of open space in the middle. There were also large shower areas,
toilets and wash basin area. Two immediate thoughts—1. It reminded me of my living arrangements during the first two years in the seminary at St. Johns and 2. My sister Mary’s living conditions for forty years in the state institutions in Minnesota.
When we toured the living space for the “special needs children” I was surprised to see the large living space divided into 3 areas and lots of bright colors and clouds and blue sky frescoes on the ceiling. When our tour group was leaving, I pulled our NPH Host tour director (also the San Andres complex Director) aside and asked why they could not do the same modular flexing in all the other dorms. I described for him a visual of what that might look like. Later on the tour, I met an Architect student from a University in Guatemala City (who had lived at NPH since he was five and returns to San Andres on the weekends) and described to him an idea for flexible modular smaller living pods. About an hour later we saw each other again and he showed me a hand-sketch drawing for my idea. I exchanged business card or information with the San Andres Director and Josue the architect student. After lunch we split up our group and went to different parts of the campus to spend time with the children playing games, laughing and getting to know each other better. Then we went to the dining area again for a mass with Fr. Ron Hicks (former director of the NPH programs) who came along on the tour to see both the Guatemala and San Salvador programs. After the mass we had dinner and Georgie and I ate with some young pre teen girls, one of whom had attached herself to G. during the “play time” portion of our tour. We had fun trying to understand each other and finally said goodbye to that small cluster of youngsters as well as to our adult hosts.
When we got back to our hotel, we accepted an invitation from several people who wanted to get “some refreshments” and snacks at a bar/grill close to our hotel. That’s why I am up at 11:30 PM writing this blog rather than sleeping. Well, the rooster crows in the evening too; I can attest to that fact. Tomorrow it is off to Lake Atitlan.
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