Catching up with AIMES Alumni Loren O'Sullivan

Covid19 in Latin America and how it’s affecting NPH

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Loren O’Sullivan. I was fortunate to receive the AIMES Award in both 2007 and 2013 for Community Service. Your funding, encouragement and support networks have proved invaluable in my journey. Thank you so much!

I received a Community Service Award in 2013 for my work as a volunteer at NPH Honduras, a children’s home for vulnerable children. I spent 2 years at the home teaching English and caring for the babies. It was an incredible experience, which motivated me to continue my journey of community service. Coming back to New Zealand in 2015 I wanted to continue to support the great work of NPH, and so I started volunteering for the NPH NZ fundraising office in Auckland, while also teaching Spanish at Sacred Heart College.

In 2016 I decided that I wanted to make a bigger difference in the lives of the NPH children. I applied for the position of Director of NPH NZ so that I could spend more time raising funds for the children I love so dearly. NPH helps thousands of children across Latin America and the Caribbean (9 different countries). We help children, not just through children’s homes but also community services such as educational scholarships, medical care and nutritional support.

As you can imagine, during this Covid19 crisis, the need is greater than it has ever been. To give you some context about Covid19 in Latin America, the virus arrived late in Latin America. The first case was reported in Brazil on the 25th of February. Many Governments in Central America began to close their borders and implement strict lockdown conditions soon after Italy closed its borders. This swift action has helped prevent already fragile healthcare systems from collapsing. However, lockdown in these countries has been extremely difficult for the majority of the population who live in poverty.

For example, in Honduras, a strict lockdown has been implemented for over 7 weeks now. The army are patrolling the streets. Most people live hand-to-mouth and rely on informal work to survive. The Government has promised nutritional support to those affected but very little help has actually arrived. This means that there are many desperate people who are taking to the streets to protest. One way they have been protesting is by setting up road blocks, demanding money from vehicles which pass.

Our NPH family in Honduras have been affected by this as we need to send vehicles to the city of Tegucigalpa (40 minutes drive away) to collect essential supplies for our children. This highway has 15 roadblocks at the moment and some of them are aggressive.

Fortunately, the children in all our homes across Latin America are safe and doing well. We have no recorded cases of Covid19 in our homes as we’re implementing strict measures to keep it out. We have many children with underlying conditions, as well as elderly, so we need to be very strict.

NPH also runs the only paediatric hospital in Haiti, a country of 11 million people. On May 9th the first Covid19 death was recorded at our hospital – a 3 year old girl who was born with a heart defect. In Haiti and in many of the countries where we work, the Covid19 numbers are low, but they are not a true reflection of reality. These Governments simply don’t have the capabilities of testing, let alone tracking and tracing. Often they also want to downplay the virus and prevent panic from spreading.

Brazil and Ecuador have seen their healthcare facilities overwhelmed by the virus. In Ecuador bodies have been lying in the streets as authorities are unable to cope with burying the surplus number of bodies. Doctors and nurses have been affected and passed away due to a shortage of PPE. As Covid19 hit Latin America late, a lot of the PPE and tests were sent to the USA. This inequality in PPE may mean higher numbers of Covid19 deaths per capita in Latin America and a greater impact on the healthcare workers.

The global financial crisis that has stemmed from the pandemic will also have a major impact on the children that NPH cares for. In our children’s homes we care for nearly 3000 children. These children are not able to live with their biological families (due to abuse, abandonment, or they are orphans). For these children NPH is their family - a family which relies solely on the generosity of individual donors and businesses around the world. NPH does not receive any Government funding.

There is real concern about budget cuts and having to make staff redundant as a result of Covid19. I don’t like to think too much about the consequences of this, as it means the quality of care, nutrition and education for our children will be compromised. It’s also happening at a time when there is more need than ever -with food prices rising and extra costs associated with defending our homes from the virus. As well as this the communities and families that we support are facing extremely difficult times, and we want to be able to continue to support them.

Thank you for reading. If you’d like to donate to help our children during these difficult times, please do so here:  (You can receive a tax credit)


Loren was the recipient of an AIMES Service to the Community Award, sponsored by Albany Toyota, in 2007 and 2013.