(ARA) – The “magic” of the holiday season across the U.S. seems to arrive earlier and earlier each year, and so by late October, many store shelves are already stocked and awaiting excited shoppers. Families snap up Rudolph figures with light-up noses, jolly Santas for front porch displays, and whimsical decorations with which to deck the halls. About that same time, giddy children begin contemplating their gift lists, trying to decide which technology gadget or must-have pair of shoes should go on top. Menus are set, families plan travel and the expectation of a prosperous New Year looms.
And although the holidays are undoubtedly a meaningful and special occasions for those in fortunate situations, it’s easy to take for granted that family, gifts and a warm meal will be a part of the celebration.
Chicago-based charitable organization Friends of the Orphans, which supports the network of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH, Spanish for “Our Little Brothers and Sisters”) homes in nine Latin American and Caribbean countries, knows that for the 3,700 children currently in the NPH family, the holidays have a deeper meaning not rooted in extravagant material gifts. Because of all they have endured, these kids have unique perspectives on what the simple pleasures of celebrating the holidays, and every day, mean.
Sadrak, a 6-year-old boy from Haiti who is now a part of NPH’s Angels of Light program which helps disadvantaged children through day camps and food programs, says, “I am from a very poor family so my parents couldn’t afford gifts. But, my parents never wanted me to know that, so they helped me make my own toys – like a car from a tomato sauce can.” This year, however, he is excited about the NPH celebration planned and said, “I can’t wait for Christmas to arrive, and to see what Santa Claus might bring!”
Silvia, 18, lost her mother at age 12, and due to her father’s extreme poverty, came to NPH Peru to live soon after her mother’s death. In the past, Silvia often ate only a single, sparse meal a day, but her years at NPH have transformed her. “There is nothing that we lack. We are supported and helped in every aspect of life.”
She adds, “My hope for Christmas is to be able to finish high school and start university so I can have a good profession.”
Mabelyn, an 11-year-old girl from Guatemala, has been at NPH since age 6. And while she vaguely remembers holiday celebrations at home before circumstances dictated that her father send her to NPH, her holidays with her new family have been memorable. “When I think of gifts, I would give a gift to my best friend Lupe, who lives at NPH with me. My wish for Christmas would be to do well in school and complete middle school.”
Probably the most poignant wish and one that demonstrates the perspective many of these children have about the holiday comes from 10-year-old Esmeralda from NPH Mexico. She simply said, “My wish would be to help the little children in the world that don’t have a home.”
“The biggest lesson we all can learn from these children is how to take a deep breath and express simple gratitude, especially around Christmas, for even the smallest things,” says John Iberle, interim executive director of Friends of the Orphans. “As a prosperous country with so much at our fingertips, many of us tend to take things for granted. These children don’t. To them, being able to help others, the potential to better themselves in school, or just the arrival of the holiday and the promise of Santa Claus fills them with joy and appreciation.”
Friends of the Orphans is quick to point out that the love and support they provide these children to make their holidays memorable is due to the generosity of supporters from around the world. This year, they have created a unique and memorable way donors can help children in need, especially during the holiday season. The 2011 Gift Catalog, at www.friendsoftheorphans.org/GiftCatalog, allows visitors to learn about the special celebrations in each NPH home, and through donations either in their own names or on behalf of others, provides useful and appreciated gifts to the children.
For more information about Friends of the Orphans, please visit www.friendsoftheorphans.org.