The following was a presentation made at a recent NPH fundraiser. Rafa Llamoga is a 2018-19 leadership student who has been staying with the Andersons since September, 2018 and studying English. He returns to his Peruvian home in San Vicente de Cañete at the beginning of July. NPH is Nuestro Pequeños Hermanos (our little brother's and sisters). St. Andrew has made three trips since 2012 to the NPH home in Honduras which you can read about here.
Good evening! My name is Rafael Llamoga. I am from Peru, and I have been a part of the NPH family for 14 years.
MIRACLES – Do you believe in miracles? I do.
I was 11 when one of my miracles happened, I arrived at NPH.
Because of this miracle I am here today a happy person and I am proud of the many accomplishments that NPH has helped me achieve.
I have a few thoughts on miracles: I believe they can be found not only in the best of situations, but in the worst of situations. The bad things that happen to us in life bring meaning, a greater purpose, and they can even transform and become the good we see in our lives. Watching this happen is nothing short of incredible.
Let’s start back at the beginning, when one of my first miracles occurred. I found it in the worst of situations. I had a dream one night when I was 8 years old - I was playing with my mom, and we were both so very happy. She told me, “I will always be with you.” I saw her smile like I had never seen before.
In reality, my mom – her name was Susana - was very sick. The next morning after my dream, I woke up excited to see her, thinking that she was healthy, but I quickly noticed something was wrong. My dad, told me that my mom had left us, that she had passed away. I wanted to cry, but he looked at me and said “We can’t cry. We have to be strong. We have to continue on.”
My father worked hard to take care of his 5 children. Gregorio was 6, I was 8, my brother Walter was 10, Zaldívar was 12 and Antonio was 14 years old.
I used to go to the farms and visit the animals there - cows, horses, sheep and pigs. I also went to the neighborhood school, but on most days, there was no teacher.
One day, I noticed that my little brother, who was 6 years old at the time, was at home alone, so I stayed with him. Then my older brother, who was 10, realized, and he stayed at home with us too. The three of us became very close.
Soon after, my father enrolled us in the local elementary school. We went to school every day, although we barely did any actual schoolwork and were very behind for our age. My father was gone most of the time working, and there were also times when we went to school without eating, and even to bed without eating. We were not sure when he would come home. My older brother Walter took care of us most of the time. This experience brought my brothers and I even closer.
One day in 2005, my brothers and I were visited by a state social worker to evaluate our situation. That was the day we were introduced to the NPH family.
Shortly after that we moved to NPH, and experienced another miracle.
The caregivers immediately brought us to the kitchen to feed us, they cut our hair, and gave us clothes, shoes. We took baths, and they showed us where we were going to sleep…there was a bed for each of us! I couldn’t believe it. We were used to sharing. Later they even brought us clothes for church. I could not believe it.
We didn’t sleep well that first night, but when we woke up one of the boys, Ruben, told us how to do everything with great detail – how to make our beds, fold our clothes, everything we would need to know.
I entered a new school, and that was a major change in my education. When my brothers and I were alone in our house, we learned basically nothing. I was in the 5th grade, but I did not know how to read nor do basic math. The caregivers had so much patience with me, teaching me what I did not know. One day I came home from school with my first passing grade, and proudly showed my caregivers my grades with a big smile.
As a child I was very calm, quiet, and followed the rules for the most part, but I liked to break the rules a little bit as well… When the other kids were doing their homework, I would take the time and go to the river near the home and bring back avocados. And when it was bedtime, and the other kids went to sleep, I would stay up with the caregivers talking. I told them about my day, asked them questions, told them my story and they told me theirs. A couple of caregivers in particular, Tía Soña and Tío Roger, made a big impact on me. They gave me emotional support and were there for me when I needed them the most.
I still like to break rules sometimes. You see, the rules that governed my life before NPH did not allow for real education, they did not involve the support and love I would need to make something of my life. NPH has helped me break those rules and make a new path for my life and my future.
This is a lesson I carry with me today as I look at what I want to accomplish. If I see that one door is closed, I find a new path, I break the rules, I go through the window to accomplish my dreams for a better future for myself, my family, and my community.
I am thankful to NPH for giving me that opportunity to change my story. It is the NPH family that taught me that regardless of my past, I am important to society. NPH gave me the opportunity to be more than I had ever imagined.
One gift from NPH has been my education. I graduated from primary, secondary, high school and finally, university in 2018. Another miracle! My degree is in Business Administration. One day I would like to have my own farm and restaurant.
But the greatest miracle of all from NPH was the opportunity to be a child: to feel wanted and loved, sure of myself, and to be able to enjoy my childhood. NPH gave me the tools I needed to overcome challenges and adversities in my life.
It is like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and realizing that you are safe.
The most recent miracle in my life has been the opportunity to come here and be part of the Seattle Institute to learn about leadership, learn about myself, learn English and learn how to work this incredible way to get to know this amazing community.
Thanks to my host family Scott, Barbara, Peter and Claire, for being some incredible people and allowing me to enter their home. Now they are part of my story and I will add another one of my best miracles in my life.
I thank all of the people that are involved with NPH - a wonderful community of people that are dedicated to giving opportunities to children in need and helping them break the cycle of poverty and become productive citizens that contribute to their communities.
Being here and being a witness to your support, and seeing how much you care for my NPH brothers and sisters, is another miracle in my life. Thank you!