Woman calls childhood in Mexico a blessing, thanks to NPH

| April 8, 2015 | 0 Comments
Clara Grove enjoys her life in the U.S. as a married mother of two in Stillwater, and  continues to maintain ties to the NPH home she lived in for seven years during her childhood in Mexico. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Clara Grove enjoys her life in the U.S. as a married mother of two in Stillwater, and continues to maintain ties to the NPH home she lived in for seven years during her childhood in Mexico. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

When Clara Grove was a 5-year-old in Mexico City, she never could have imagined that 40 years later she would be living in a suburban home in Stillwater with a golf course bordering her back yard.

Her thoughts back then never got beyond what the family would do after her mother died of heart complications.

Her father struggled with how to care for his seven children, of whom Clara was the second youngest. The kids bounced between both sets of grandparents and other relatives for three years.

Then, her dad made a decision that she now calls her “salvation.” He brought them to a home run by Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, a 61-year-old organization now known as NPH International started in Mexico by a Jesuit priest, Father William Wasson.

The idea was to provide a stable home for orphans and children whose families didn’t have the money to care for them. Grove, who later married an American and became a U.S. citizen, lived in an NPH home just north of Mexico City in Acolman for seven years with several hundred other children.

“We got everything — education, clothing, health care, love, lots of friends, lots of brothers and sisters,” said Grove, 45. “So, it was a blessing, a complete blessing. And everybody that you would talk to [who lived there] would tell you the same thing.”

In fact, Grove firmly deflects any sympathy expressed by people who hear that she grew up in an orphanage. Her ties are so strong that she has continued to make visits to the NPH home, now located in Miacatlán, 80 miles south of Mexico City. She went last summer to be there for the organization’s 60th anniversary celebration.

“A lot of people went to the 60th anniversary; that was fantastic because you got to see everybody from back then,” she said. “I don’t think I would be here without NPH. Some people, when I tell them I was raised in an orphanage, they say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ It’s like, ‘No. It was our salvation for all of us who went there.’”

Grove came to the U.S. in 1986 to live at a home Father Wasson started in Arizona. It had a school that specialized in helping Latino children learn to speak English. Grove went for six months before moving to Minnesota to live with a family in Arden Hills.

After finishing high school, she went to Lakewood Community College (now Century College) in White Bear Lake, where she earned a two-year degree in business administration. She met her future husband, Tom Grove, while there. He was taking Spanish classes, and she was working as a tutor in the Spanish lab.

They dated for two years, then her visa expired and she returned to Mexico. She thought the relationship would end. He had other ideas. He visited her twice and proposed during the second trip, on New Year’s Eve 1991.

She returned to the U.S. in March 1992, and the two married that June. They have two sons.

Grove enjoys maintaining the connections she has to NPH. She is proud of her childhood and the lifelong friendships that came as a result.

“I go back to the home every time I go to Mexico,” she said. “I keep in contact. There are many, many what we call ‘ex-pequeños.’ They’re like my brothers and sisters. We still have that connection of brotherhood and sisterhood because we were raised in the same place. There are 15 or 20 people who live here in Minnesota. And, we get together often.”

NPH celebrates 60 years of ‘raising children, transforming lives’

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