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FOTO supports Honduran orphanage, surgery center

Amanda Gray | Monday, November 22, 2010

Freshman John Romano said one of Michael Daly’s most used statements is, “Do it for the children.”

Romano is Daly’s cousin and a member of Friends of the Orphans (FOTO), a student group that raises funds and awareness for Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH) orphanages. Notre Dame’s branch of FOTO works through a larger national FOTO group. Daly, a senior, is president and founder of the Notre Dame group.

The Spanish phrase “Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos” means “our little brothers and sisters” in English, and the orphanages provide homes for more than 3,600 children in nine orphanages and nine Latin American countries, according to the NPH website.

“We have such passionate members [at FOTO], and everyone’s willing to help with any event we have,” Daly said.

The group has put on such events as Charity Denim, where high-end denim brands were sold and a portion of the purchase price went to charity. They have also had charity lunches and dinners to raise money and awareness.

The group also travels to volunteer at an orphanage in Honduras several times a year, Daly said. FOTO members have already made this trip five times.

Daly said the trips in the spring are medically focused, with students helping in the surgery center. Students aren’t allowed to perform the operations, but they are allowed to “scrub in” and see things up close.

“In the U.S., you’re only able to stand back,” Daly said. “There, the doctors are very interactive.”

In the most recent trip over Fall Break, students volunteered in an orphanage.

“[We perform] jobs that have been idle because other things come up for the staff that they have to deal with,” Daly said. “It’s nice for [students] to come in and be a helping hand.”

Daly said the group painted a church, built tables and tutored children.

“The volunteer coordinators said the volunteers are proactive,” he said. “A lot of the volunteers don’t like to just sit around.”

Daly said it has been a blessing to see the effect in the lives of students who have gone to the orphanages.

“It’s a great lesson to students,” he said. “You don’t have to be doing something to be affective.”

Daly and his sister Trisha, a 2010 Saint Mary’s graduate, founded the Notre Dame branch of the club last year, and FOTO won SAO’s Social Service Club of the Year. The Daly siblings were originally involved with FOTO and NPH through their family. Their father, Dr. Peter Daly, helped build the Holy Family Surgery Center in 2003 at the Honduras NPH.

The surgery center helps not only the orphans, but also the residents in rural Honduras in the orphanage’s area. It is open two to three days per week, performing minor surgeries, Daly said. Groups of doctors come from the U.S. to perform major surgeries.

“We support all of the NPH orphanages in general, but we specifically support the Holy Family Surgery Center and the Honduras orphanage,” Daly said. “We’re raising funds to help the center function and exist. We’re trying to hand over the center to Honduran doctors. That will be something to take pride in for their country.”

Surgeries cost around $150 each, Daly said.

“These people wait years to have surgery because they don’t have the money,” he said.

There are roughly 500 orphans in the Honduras orphanage, Daly said. Anyone can sponsor an orphan through the NPH website. Several Notre Dame residence halls and a few students have sponsored orphans, which costs around $360 per year. Each child has between four and seven sponsors.

“I sponsor a kid named Carlos,” Daly said. “He’s special needs … Not a lot of people think about the kids who aren’t aesthetically attractive.”

Dillon Hall sponsors Carlos’ brother, Omar, Romano said.

“Most of the kids who do get sponsors are the young, cute kids,” Romano said. “We searched for someone who didn’t get many sponsors. Omar will be at NPH for the rest of his life — he’s mentally disabled.”

Romano said he didn’t know what to expect when he first visited Honduras in March.

“When I was down there I got close to a girl and now I sponsor her,” he said. “[NPS] gives kids an opportunity. There’s not kid on campus who has a tougher situation than the best situation in Honduras.”

Senior Caitlin Nichols went on the most recent trip to Honduras, and she said it helped her be around other students who share her interest in helping the orphanages.

“This trip was an experience I will never forget. Seeing the way these children live in such a loving community something that changes you. I am amazed by how much joy they show despite how little they have,” she said. “Now back on campus, staying involved with FOTO is important to me because it helps me remember my Fall Break experience and continue to support the children even from so far away.”

Daly said for many students, a week spent in Honduras with the orphans stays with them when the return to Notre Dame.

“[The students] are fighting for orphaned and abandoned children who need a voice,” he said. “They get to tell Notre Dame what’s going on abroad.”