Belén was sad to say goodbye to her grandmother when she first arrived at Casa San Andres over 10 years ago. Since then, NPH Guatemala has offered her a platform to turn her life around. In 2021, university beckons. December 15, 2020 - Guatemala
Belén prepares for Christmas with anticipation.
Belén entered NPH Guatemala February 2010 when she was 9 years old. She remembers the day precisely. It was a sunny morning at Casa San Andres when she walked through the doors of the children’s dorm with her older brother and younger brother and sister. The NPH bus had picked them up from their grandmother’s house in Zone 1 of Guatemala City, close to the historical center of the nation’s capital.
“It is very poor, but not really a dangerous neighborhood. I lived all my childhood there with my grandmother and never had an incident with bad people or neighbors,” remembers the now 19-year-old Belén.
She doesn't really know her father and has no knowledge of his whereabouts or if he is even still alive. Her real mother lived in San Martín Jilotepeque, a small historical town in the Chimaltenango department just 46 miles north of Guatemala City. Belén only met her a couple of times, but they never really exchanged many words. In 2014, she received the sad news that her mother had passed away. Both her parents were alcoholics and neither could take care of or educate their children. Luckily Belén’s grandmother, Norma, showed much love for her grandchildren and took them into her home.
However, over time her grandmother was unable to afford to pay for her four grandchildren’s needs by herself or give them enough time to help their development. They struggled at school, unable to read or write, and it proved more and more difficult to put food on the table, never mind having a balanced diet. This distressed Belén’s poor grandmother, so she finally approached the Social Services Department at NPH Guatemala to seek professional help.
“When I first entered NPH, it was very difficult for me. I had a great mix of emotions and feelings. I couldn’t believe that I was separated from my lovely grandmother and I cried and cried for weeks,” laments Belén.
The first weeks at NPH Guatemala were also hard for her siblings, who shed many tears and experienced much heartache due to the separation from their grandmother after so many years of her being by their side. It took Belén a while to adapt to the new environment and make new friends with the NPH family, and she received emotional support from the therapists and caregivers. Now, the NPH family means everything to Belén, yet she still maintains a deep bond with her grandmother, who now lives close to NPH Guatemala and pays monthly visits to her four grandchildren.
“Thanks to NPH, I have a better life today. I can read and write and I have the necessary experience to understand the world we live in. This helps me to set realistic goals and to visualize a better future for myself. I am deeply happy to be part of the NPH family!” says Belén, today.
As Christmas approaches, a feeling of joy swells among the children at NPH Guatemala. Belén loves this special time of the year and the preparations before the season begins. All the boys and girls play their part in decorating their living quarters, community areas, and the church to build the Christmas atmosphere. A manger with the baby Jesus in the hay, the three kings, and some farm animals, is presented in a peaceful glow in the church.
Already, every member of the NPH Guatemala family is licking their lips at the thought of the Christmas meal consisting of tamales and turkey or a leg of pork, mixing traditions old and new, which is shared among all the children and caregivers. Gifts and little surprises await the kids and everyone feels the harmony and spirit of Jesus Christ on the 24 December; however, Belén’s favorite part of Christmas comes a little later on Christmas night, when the children sit around a bonfire and enjoy the warmth, listening to music and wishing Merry Christmas to fellow members of the NPH Guatemala family.
“It’s beautiful. We roast angelitos (marshmallows) over the fire and play and dance together,” says Belén. “I love seeing all the children’s faces illuminated with joy in the family. It is a special moment.”
Before her arrival at NPH Guatemala, Belén used to celebrate a typical Christmas night with her grandmother and siblings, with traditional ponche (warm fruit punch) and tamales (cornmeal dough with a filling of minced meat and red peppers) as Christmas dinner, with music, fire crackers, and family games.
“For me, to be part of the NPH family is something very beautiful, especially around the holidays and thank God it gave me the privilege to grow and develop myself, which wouldn’t have been possible without NPH,” she confides.
“For 2021, I have much hope that it will be a great year with lots of joy and happiness. I hope it comes with big opportunities for me and my brothers and sisters. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to tell you my story, about my family and my life. Thank you so much!”
Her grandmother now lives with Belén’s older brother Kevin and younger brother Franklin*, who left the home in 2016 as part of the NPH OneFamily reintegration program. This year Belén will finish her high school education and her year-of-service at NPH Guatemala. In 2021 she wishes to study psychology at university. In the future, she would like to work with children or young adults, supporting those who find themselves in difficult situations, like she once did long ago.
Have a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year!
*Names of children have been changed to protect their privacy.
Are you able to support Belén study at university next year? Donate to the NPH Guatemala family.
Thomas Hartig Communication Officer
You may be only one person in the world, but you may be all the world to one child.
—Fr. William Wasson