For one hermano mayor, NPH heals and changes mindset
Amiltón Calel, a supervisor at a prominent agricultural firm, discusses how NPH heals emotional wounds and helps children break the cycle of poverty. September 19, 2019 - Guatemala
Amiltón Calel poses for a photo at Casa San Andrés, August 2019.
Amiltón Calel walks up the road at Casa San Andrés and takes a second to observe his surroundings. It’s a Monday afternoon, after work, and he explains that he has already changed out of his day clothes. He is wearing a rugged-looking button down tucked into maroon-colored jeans. His black-rimmed eyeglasses lend a sense of studied seriousness to an otherwise easygoing persona.
“A lot has changed here, for sure,” he says, eyes fixed on the horizon over the soccer pitch. “But every time I come back it’s like being with family.”
Calel has witnessed more than a few changes to NPH Guatemala’s Casa San Andrés since his arrival in 1999, including a church, a central park, and a center for vocational workshops. The foundation’s guiding mission, however—to support children from troubled situations and help them to break the cycle of poverty—has continued unaltered.
Calel’s family background is troubled in ways that would be familiar to many of the other children who have passed through the grounds of NPH Guatemala. He was born in the town of San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala, the youngest of seven siblings. Resources were scarce while he was growing up. His father struggled with alcoholism and the situation at home often devolved into violence. Four of those siblings were eventually admitted to NPH. As Amiltón recounts, however, two of them failed to adapt to life at NPH and only two Calel family members ended up continuing at the home.
“It’s sad knowing that some of my siblings had the same opportunities as I did, but were not able to take advantage,” Amiltón said. “That’s why changing the attitude of the kids is so important.”
Amiltón credits NPH with putting him in an environment that allowed him change his mindset and to develop personally and professionally.
“I think NPH is a real agent of change. Because when one comes here, he begins to see a different level of life. It’s a total change of mentality, of ideas, of ambitions … it’s a total transformation.”
Amiltón cites playing on a soccer team and having the chance to ride a bicycle as things that gave him motivation to pursue his interests. “These things give you an imagination, a dream, ideas,” he argues.
Another pivotal aspect of his experience at NPH was the contact he had with international visitors that came to the house. Calel thanks one family in particular, from Spain, who he claims “planted the seed” that led him to pursue agricultural engineering at the University of San Carlos in Guatemala City.
“The influence from that family really made a big difference in my life,” Calel says. They laid the groundwork for what I do today.”
After graduating and completing his año de servicio (year of service that all pequeños complete at NPH), Calel got his big break and accepted an administrative position with TotalFresh, a Guatemalan agricultural firm specializing in the export of blackberries to American and European markets. Now Calel dedicates his days to supervision and quality control of the blackberry production at his new job. He says the hiring process was competitive and that he’s very happy with his achievement.
“In my role you’re involved with everything, from administration to human resources … even the psychology of some of the workers,” he said.
As for the future, 27-year-old Calel imagines himself starting a family of his own. “I want to create and I want to pass down to my own children the things I’ve learned.”
When it comes to his definition of what NPH represents, Calel is unequivocal, saying the foundation provides necessary emotional support so that children can grow up to be productive members of society and transcend the conditions of poverty they knew before.
“NPH is like a bandage, because it closes a wound,” Calel says. “The truth is that many kids come bearing wounds from their past. And NPH tries to help.”
Interested in learning more programs at NPH Guatemala? Visit nph.org.
Spencer Cappelli Communications Officer
You may be only one person in the world, but you may be all the world to one child.
—Fr. William Wasson