Stories of Hope
Volunteer Story: Stephanie Irizarry
From long-time volunteer, Stephanie Irizarry:
New Hope Foundation changed me and open my eyes in so many ways since August 2009 when I first stepped into this magical place. A home full of hope and love, New Hope is no ordinary place. It was founded with love by Dr. Joyce and Robin Hill and you can feel and see it in every way. From the way the Ayi’s interact with the kids to the amazing care that the nurses provide. Over the years I have been able to make six trips with my seventh just around the corner. I have been considered a long-term volunteer for four of those trips. One of my favorite things about being a long termer is that your job can vary so much that you have to go into it with an open heart and mind. One of the main and most common jobs is to help teach preschool which is so much fun and never has a dull moment. You really get to know so many of the amazing kiddos and even if it sounds scary going into it, this is a very rewarding role. Outside of preschool you are also able to help with various tasks and one of my favorites is working on scrapbooks for each child that is at New Hope. These books are filled with memories and are gifted to the child’s family when they are adopted one day. I wanted to share a few of my favorite memories from each of my trips:
2013 – I was able to be there for several of the children’s first steps and help guide them along those first uneasy days of finding their balance. It was amazing to capture those moments in pictures and video and I was able to send many of them to their adoptive families once they were adopted.
2015 – This was a remarkable summer… I was asked to escort a baby to Hong Kong for heart surgery. For six weeks, we lived in a hospital together and created a bond that I know will last a lifetime. I love to document big milestones on any of my trips, so this one was no different: I kept a journal of our daily life at the hospital during this brave time for our little warrior. I prayed she would find the perfect forever family. I am happy to report that in December 2016 she was adopted!
2016 – This spring I was able to raise the funds to take all the preschoolers on a field trip to the aquarium. The kids had a blast seeing the world under the sea and we were even able to take a few ayi’s along as well.
2017 – Summer at New Hope is always a fun time between lots and lots of pool days and then spending time doing music class with the kids. I love watching the kids’ faces when they see the pool for the first time or for those that remember it from the previous year as their faces light up with joy about being able to swim again.
Being a long-term volunteer is a life changing experience and you meet so many amazing people during your trips. I have met visitors and other volunteers from all around the world and they all have the same love and passion and stories to share. Overall the love that the full-time staff both local and foreign pour into these kids is one of a kind and I am thankful to be a part of the story.