A Friend for Those in Need

Alumni Katie Hultquist and Joe Cotton make a difference through Friends of the Orphans

Tina PotterfFriend in Need Large

Katie Hultquist, ’02, MNPL, and Joe Cotton, ’99, are making a difference in the lives of children throughout the world through their involvement with Friends of the Orphans and Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH).

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One week into her new job as regional director of the Northwest chapter of Friends of the Orphans, the earthquake struck Haiti and Katie Hultquist, ’02 MNPL, found herself inundated with phone calls and e-mails from the media, volunteers, concerned parents and supporters, all seeking information and status reports from the nonprofit with ties to Haiti. “Since the earthquake we’ve had an outpouring of support from people who want to help,” says Hultquist, who came to the organization after more than eight years as executive director at Passages Northwest.

Friends of the Orphans, which supports a home for orphans and various programs in Haiti, lost two volunteers when one of the buildings collapsed in the earthquake. One of those volunteers was Molly Hightower, the young woman from Washington state who is remembered for her caring, personal connection with and commitment to the Haitian children.

“We were all just devastated, in shock and heartbroken,” Hultquist says. “We had planned a hope vigil for Molly that ended up being a memorial service. She has really left a tremendous legacy behind. Thousands of people have learned about the organization and the needs in Haiti through her and because of her.”

The home supported by Friends of the Orphans, St. Helene, is located roughly 25 miles from the epicenter of the quake. All 350 children who reside there were safe.

“Sponsoring someone is like adding another child to your family. These kids become part of your life.”
— Joe Cotton, ’99, director of King County Juvenile Detention Ministry

Friends of the Orphans raises funds and recruits volunteers throughout the United States for Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH, “Our Little Brothers and Sisters”), which operates the home in Haiti and homes in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Peru, Dominican Republic, Honduras and Bolivia. Some of the children end up here because their parents have died, while others are abandoned or placed with NPH to escape abuse. Siblings are never separated, and parents or relatives with children in the homes are encouraged to visit.

“We aren’t trying to recruit kids from poor families,” Hultquist says, “but rather to break the cycle of poverty by giving children in desperate situations a loving home and pathway to success.”

Children at the NPH homes are not available for adoption. Residents often stay in the homes through their young adult lives and receive more than a roof over their heads—their education and health care are provided. The only condition is that they are asked to give a year back to the home through service, says Hultquist, adding that the ultimate goal is to provide the education and tools for them to stay in their countries and communities.

One example of this: Following the earthquake, youth who grew up in the Haiti home organized and today manage a day camp for vulnerable and displaced children called Angels of Light. Daily, 1,200 kids attend the camp, which provides meals and educational and recreational activities. Eventually, some of the children at the camp who are orphaned will be given a permanent home with NPH, Hultquist says.

In addition to volunteering at the homes, individuals can sponsor a child and follow them through their education and into their adulthood, forming bonds that are unbreakable and life-changing.

Just ask Joe Cotton, a 1999 graduate of SU’s Matteo Ricci College, who in 2002 sponsored a young man in the Nicaragua home. Cotton, who is currently pursuing his master’s in pastoral studies at the School of Theology and Ministry, is a regional board member for Friends of the Orphans and has served as an international volunteer. The boy he sponsored at age 14 is now 22 and thriving; Cotton has stayed connected with him over the years through regular visits to Nicaragua. When you sponsor a child you become a godparent, Cotton says.

“Sponsoring someone is like adding another child to your family,” says Cotton, director of King County Juvenile Detention Ministry. “These kids become part of your life.

“This experience has completely changed me. It has made me a global citizen and has made me see life and culture in America very differently,” he continues. “In these countries the people have intangible wealth, it’s about sticking together and really relying on one another. They have nothing but give everything.”

NPH and Friends of the Orphans run other programs in Haiti such as St. Damien’s, the only free pediatric hospital in Haiti. The hospital quickly set up an orthopedic surgery center and a new maternity and neonatal ward to care for the more than 50 babies born at the hospital in the first three months after the quake.

Since the need in Haiti is still so great, Friends of the Orphans is doing everything possible to support its programs there, Hultquist says, as well as those in the other countries. “We have been trying to keep the focus on raising all 3,500 children in all of our homes,” says Hultquist, who adds that although Friends is not a disaster-relief organization, “we have been in Haiti for more than 20 years; we have a commitment to Haiti and we will continue to provide assistance for whatever is needed.”

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