Thursday started with a bang. Neighbors to the orphanage figured they had waited long enough and began popping off mortar rounds at around 5 AM. Guatemalans do love their fireworks this time of year.
Jan Leiritz, the director of the orphanage stopped by at about 7:45 and for the next three hours we talked about the orphanage. Jan was born and raised in East Germany, his father was career military as were many others in his family. He had a different calling. Nine years ago came to Guatemala, met his wife Maria Jose and says he can’t imagine ever leaving the children. He became National Director for NPH Guatemala three years ago. Did I mention he’s like 6 foot 7?
NPH Guatemala has 350 children who live on campus in Parramos, and another 130 who are either attending High School or College. Their college bound batting average is spiking next year going from 6 to 18. Impressive numbers. The on-site school is held in higher regard than the local schools attracting children from the local community attend. Most walk one hour each way with only one tortilla for the day — the value of a good education is clearly understood. Additionally NPH has five vocational training programs: sewing, baking, cooking, metal working and wood working. NPH stresses vocational training at all of the 9 of their orphanages.
They have 100 children in K-6 and another 150 or so in 7-9 and vocational. Vocational training starts when children reach 12 years of age.
The Montessori school has 45 children. Finances come from Holland, and along with Harriett Neidermeyer (a German national who runs the program) there are four Guatemalan teachers. One of the teachers had been an orphan at NPH! The facilities are amazing.
Their high school students live in houses run by the orphanage in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. Each house has tios (uncles) or tias (aunts) who oversee the children. But in a hallmark of NPH’s model, they are constantly striving toward self sufficiency. The children are responsible for life skills as basic as getting to school, washing their clothes, and cooking their own food.
While the orphanage is situated on only 17 acres, they do an amazing job of growing half of the vegetables they need on site. The green houses and fields are first rate. They have a herd of goats and four cows for milk and cheese. The main source of meat are the pigs they raise. The hen population provides all the eggs, and they make bread in their bakery for the children at the orphanage. Having a bakery operation on site for vocational training has it’s benefits. A german baker comes over several times a year to train and bake. Locals hear about his coming and actually place orders for their brown bread!
They have a medical clinic on site with a doctor and four nurses. As part of the training program in Guatemala, future dentists must give a year of service, the orphanage benefits by having on site basic dental care.
We were just as impressed by NPH Guatemala as we were by NPH Honduras. We also learned something new. There is a program run by the European Union called SES or Senior Expert Service. Through the program experts in everything you can think of sign up when they near retirement at age 60. SES then takes requests from places like NPH and lines up the expert they need to visit. One psychologist, Ruth, comes on a frequent basis to train Guatemalan employees on basic therapy techniques for handling the children’s psychological needs. For example, they have started group therapy with the girls.
The World Orphan Fund will consider a proposal from NPH to expand their agricultural production and create an agricultural vocational program at the orphanage. We’re excited by the possibilities.
After NPH we headed to Hogar Madre Anna Vitiello. More about then in our next post.