Wendy Velasquez: “NPH Honduras Saved Me. Now I Want to Give Back.”
Wendy had lost someone close to her at a young age when she arrived at the doors of NPH Honduras. Today, she is focused on her career teaching in the Montessori program. And she's loving it. December 11, 2020 - Honduras
Wendy Velasquez with her sisters.
Wendy Velasquez bears a sadly similar story to many children who live at NPH. A happy upbringing with a loving guardian. And then a life that is changed when someone passes away or a hardship strikes that the family cannot bear.
In Wendy’s case, it was when her grandmother, the woman who was raising her and her siblings, passed away.
“It was a very difficult time for my siblings, my cousins and I, ending with my grandfather telling my mother that she would have to take us in.” Wendy moved in with her mother and stepfather, although the two were open about not wanting to take responsibility for Wendy and her brother.
“It was very dangerous in the neighborhood where my mother lived. We – my mother, stepfather, four of my brothers, and I – lived in a small wooden house. There was no bathroom and no kitchen, so we had to cook in a small fire outside. At night, we had to sleep three people in each bed.”
“Every morning, I had to sell sweets in a health center near the house. When we did not sell all the sweets, my mother beat us with whatever she found around the house – shoes, sticks, things like that. One day, it was so bad that I was bleeding from my arm. Doctors at the health center where I sold candy noticed, and informed government social services of my mistreatment.”
Wendy’s story then followed a path brings many children to NPH. Due to a lack of funds and other resources, government social services are able to investigate and discover when children’s rights are being abused, but they do not have the resources to locate other, safer family members, or care for the children themselves. So NPH is called, and we are asked to take a child in.
“I arrived at NPH at the age of 11 in 1998, alone and a little confused. I felt sad, and it was difficult being around so many people who I didn’t yet know. But over time, I adapted and came to find that my life improved. I started going to school, I had food and clothes, and most importantly, nobody mistreated me or hit me. I felt so safe and full of life.”
Wendy found a home and a family at NPH. And perhaps just as importantly, she found a second chance at a stable childhood. “I loved all of the activities with the other children. I felt such a pure love there, and through the love and care of the caregivers, I felt safe and protected. As a child, I really enjoyed short stories and tall tales, reading and writing poetry. I loved being surrounded by other kids my age, who were respectful of me and were confident about their futures, too. They made me feel that I belonged there, and that we truly were family.”
At her new home, Wendy fully took advantage of the opportunities that NPH provides to ensure that every child is not only loved and protected, but given the best shot at a successful and independent future.
“The first opportunity NPH gave to me was simply opening their doors. They gave me a home, education, food and their support. Later, they gave me their vote of confidence, entrusting me, when I was a young woman, with the responsibility of being the holiday coordinator for the girls’ houses. It was not an easy job, but I always strived to do my best.”
“During my time at NPH, I also got very involved with the leadership groups. I participated in several leadership conferences with the young people from the other NPH homes. They were very important and unique experiences: They made me stronger and more resilient, they helped me grow and learn more about my NPH family. I would then take what I learned back to Honduras, sharing my experiences with the younger girls and other children through motivational talks about leadership.”
One often unseen job that NPH social workers undertake for our children revolves around family tracing. This includes keeping in contact with our children’s existing family members, searching for other relatives in the country, and supporting our children’s family members in improving their lives however we can.
We know our home, while safe and full of love, should not supersede a child’s right to be with family. So if a child’s family’s situation changes, or if a different, loving biological relative is found, we work with the local government to give children the choice to go back to their families. This was the choice that was presented to Wendy.
“But at NPH, I felt so safe and so full of life that a year later, I made a big choice. I was asked if I wanted to return to live with my biological family, but I chose to say ‘No, here I feel good.’ I made my own decision to continue living at NPH, and NPH became my home.” In accordance with both our own philosophy and with internationally recognized best practices in childcare, we honored Wendy’s decision.
GIVING BACK TO NPH HONDURAS
Wendy is thankful for the impact that NPH made on her future, but knows that like many others, her story could have been quite different.
Honduras is the second poorest country in the region, with 29% of the population living below the poverty line. Nearly one third of the country is underemployed – that is, an individual has a job, but does not make enough money to sustain a basic standard of living. One out of every ten adults can neither read nor write.
At NPH, Wendy had access to our variety of empowering educational opportunities. Our own high-quality school educates children through the 9th grade, and then we pay to ensure that our students can continue their studies through high school and university in the country’s capital, Tegucigalpa.
But not every child in the country has those opportunities – the average child only makes it through 10 years of school, dropping out before finishing with a high school degree.
But for Wendy, her story has a happier ending. Recently, she chose to return to NPH following college graduation, and is currently a teacher in our school’s Montessori program. Despite the challenges that children all across Honduras face day in and day out, a combination of Wendy’s strength and determination, amplified by the love, support, and opportunities she found at NPH, has allowed her to rise and thrive. Today, she is more than glad to be an example for the younger girls currently living in the home.
“I want to give back even just a little of what NPH has given to me,” she says. “I want to let the younger girls see an example of what can happen if they use the opportunities that are given to them. If I could do it, then why can’t they?”
Are you able to support young women like Wendy Velasquez this Christmas? Please donate $20 to NPH Honduras by visiting nph.org. Make a difference.
Alex Hanel Former NPH staff member and volunteer
You may be only one person in the world, but you may be all the world to one child.
—Fr. William Wasson