Forming friendships through service and soccer

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By Special to the Monitor

The Honduran soccer team bested Team USA in early June.

Fortunately, this was not preparation for the World Cup, but a friendly game between a group of teens from Los Alamos and youth from the orphanage in Honduras where they were visiting.  

Ten high school students and their four adult chaperones from Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish spent the first week of their summer vacation at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos or Our Little Brothers and Sisters Orphanage in Honduras.

 The Los Alamos parish has sent a group to the NPH ranch every summer for more than a decade.

While at the orphanage, visiting missionaries helped out by doing various chores, including collecting eggs from the farm, plowing and working the fields of the ranch, making thousands of tortillas, or preparing meals for all of the 500 children. They also had the opportunity to spend time with the children, eating dinner together and playing several games of soccer.  

Another experience that missionaries and orphans enjoyed together during the visit was watching the Honduras vs. U.S. soccer match on TV.  

The real Team USA won this time, but some Los Alamos teens suffered a thorough soaking with water by their new found friends as a result.  

Getting to know those who live at the ranch has a deep impact on students from the states and is the main reason many return.

The orphaned, abandoned or at-risk children who come to the ranch receive an education, health care, spiritual formation, trade skills and an opportunity to obtain an advanced degree if they wish.  

In return, older children give a year of volunteer service back to the NPH community, two or more years, if they go on to college.  

Even though many come from difficult backgrounds and have very little to call their own, most are joyful and harbor no bitterness about their lives.  

Along with the children and volunteers, the elderly, who no longer have family to care for them, also live at NPH and fill in the role of grandparents.

“They were so welcoming and helped us feel at home,” Brenna O’Hara said about the Abuelitos.

Completing the NPH family in Honduras are those suffering from HIV/AIDS who have been ostracized from society due to a lack of understanding regarding the disease.  

Some residents have become so conditioned to being avoided that they were surprised that the IHM missionaries wanted to visit with them.  

“If everyone went down to Honduras and experienced the pain, the love and the devotion that is experienced there everyday, no one would be the same. Trust me, no one,” said Sara Tuzel, who made a second trip to the ranch this June.

In order to raise the $1,000 for the trip, students held several fundraisers in the parish and community, from hosting Los Alamos Big Band Dances to selling tamales.

Ten percent of the profits from each fund raising event were donated directly to the orphanage. To learn more about NPH and how to provide a one time donation or monthly support, visit www.nph.org.  

NPH, which has several orphanages in Latin America, has provided a permanent family and a home for almost 16,000 orphaned, abandoned or at-risk children since 1954.

“Many of the things I’ve learned, I’ve learned falling down. Witnessing a child who has learned everything in life through falling down profoundly changes you,” Tuzel said.

To learn more about the yearly mission to Honduras call the Youth Office at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish at 661-8303.