In May of 2009, Brittany Johnson was working in the baby center at the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH) Orphanage. A young boy sat peacefully in her arms. Though he had terrible scarring on his head and arms and was unresponsive to Brittany’s attempts to communicate, he was content to be held in her arms.
Later in the week, Brittany learned that the little boy was the son of a prostitute who had developed AIDS. He was found in a box under a bed with rats eating away at his head and arms. He was then abandoned and alone, but once found, he was loved.
At the end of the week this same boy took Brittany’s empty water bottle, filled, it, and returned it to her, acting parallel to the Gospel passage, “When I was thirsty you gave me drink” (Matthew 25:42). This boy, who had been abandoned, unwanted, and unloved, had begun to serve like Christ as a result of the care given him at NPH.
In 2003, Dr. Peter and Lulu Daly began the development of the Holy Family Surgery Center, a state of the art surgery center on NPH Orphanage property in Honduras. Six years later, their children Michael Daly (ND ’11) and Tricia Daly (SMC ’10) were inspired by the love they witnessed at NPH to found a Notre Dame chapter of Friends of the Orphans (FOTO).. Their goal was to raise money to provide local access to first world healthcare through the Holy Family Surgery Center for the third world orphans and impoverished local citizens.
For more than 50 years, FOTO has raised funds to support more than 3,600 children in NPH orphanages in Latin America and the Caribbean. FOTO seeks to transform the lives of orphaned, abandoned and disadvantaged children by creating families for life that instill values of unconditional love, shared responsibility, and education. These families enable children to grow into caring and productive members of their communities, ending the cycle of poverty one child at a time.
Notre Dame’s FOTO chapter works to organize fundraisers, service events, and outreach activities to assist the Holy Family Surgery Center. Additionally, it works to transform its members into individuals who, inspired by a love of Christ seek Him through service to the poor.
FOTO Co-President Brittany Johnson stated, “We are a group of ND, SMC, and HCC students that work to make a difference in the lives of the children we serve by raising awareness, generating funds, and living in solidarity with the children through service/learning trips. We believe that as members of the Notre Dame family and the universal Catholic community, we are called to serve the poor without limit, and FOTO provides an avenue to accomplish this.”
With over 50 active members FOTO makes three trips to Honduras throughout the year: one over fall break, one over spring break, and one in May. The spring break trip has an intense medical focus as the group travels with Dr. Daly and his American medical brigade to scrub-in on orthopedic surgeries. St. Mary’s nursing students and Notre Dame pre-medical students are strongly encouraged to apply for the spring break trip, while the other two trips are oriented towards all majors.
The club’s mission, however, does not end in Honduras. Johnson pointed out, “One major lesson that our members take away from service learning immersions is the value of each precious life. In Honduras, there are 550 children that have been rescued by NPH from utmost poverty and abuse. When our members witness the unconditional love that each child holds, the value of even just one life is so strikingly apparent that it is impossible to ignore. Had it not been for NPH, this unconditional love and potential would have been lost in the cycle of poverty.”
Johnson also reflected on FOTO’s impact on the lives of the students involved.
“We carry this lesson back to the United States with us as we pray about, ponder, and act on other aspects of our Catholic identity, such as abortion’s destruction of precious lives and the love and potential that is destroyed along with those lives,” he stated.” “As a club, we focus on fostering the integration of lessons learned abroad into the daily lives of our members.”
Contact Mary Forr at mforr-at-nd.edu.