Olegario Campos: A Wonderful Lifetime Dedicated to NPH
The National Director of NPH El Salvador will retire at the end of 2019. However, his story with NPH goes way back.
September 20, 2019 - El Salvador
Olegario Campos has NPH DNA in his blood. For those who know him, he has been the rock of NPH El Salvador, planting seeds since its very beginning in 1999. He, too, came to NPH as a pequeños in NPH Mexico and became a driver for the founder of the NPH family, Father Wasson. From there, he began to grow.
NPH has a long history of investing in its youth, even long after they can no longer be described as youth , and we’ve seen many success stories along the way. Many of our pequeños have chosen to remain with the NPH family and make the focus of their careers serving our children. Olegario is one such shining example. In spite of his own hardships as a child, he was inspired to break the chains of poverty for hundreds of other children at NPH.
When Olegario announced that he was stepping down as National Director, the NPH family expressed their shock and sadness to see one of the founding NPH children ready to move on. But the overwhelming feeling was one of gratitude for all his service to the NPH family. Here we recount Olegario’s footsteps from the very beginning.
Growing up at NPH
Olegario was born in Queretaro, Mexico. He is one of 16 siblings, arriving at NPH Mexico in 1958 when he was 8 years old. His mother had passed away, and he arrived at NPH with two of his sisters. His other siblings were older and had their own lives at that time, while others had unfortunately passed away.
Arriving at the NPH home four years after it first opened its doors was a whole new world to Olegario. He adapted to living in a big house—a great contrast compared to previously living in impoverished surroundings. He also began school and soon discovered his favorite subject was math.
As with other 8-year-olds, Olegario was very active and playful. One day he was told that Father Wasson, the American priest who had founded NPH, was going to arrive. Naturally, Olegario was nervous and excited to meet him to the point of sharing the news with everyone around him.
“I remember I was running around saying ‘Fr. Wasson is coming’ to anyone in earshot. So I saw a man standing and I told the big news to him; his answer was ‘Really? Well, there must be someone else called Fr. Wasson then, because I am Fr. Wasson’, and that was how I met him,” laughs Olegario.
Olegario recounts that when NPH first opened its doors, there weren’t many formal employees, “We took care of one another. Our caregivers and teachers were the pequeños who had just finished high school.”
NPH began to teach Olegario different values and responsibilities. When he reached his teen years, his daily schedule changed drastically, beginning at five o’clock in the morning and ending at 11 o’clock at night. During the day, he carried out different activities that helped him become a responsible young man.
It was at the beginning of Olegario’s year of service—a year where all pequeños serve in different areas of the house in order to give something back of what they have received—that learned to drive a car. He was then sent to be a driver in the home in Cuernavaca. He would never have imagined that the experience of being a driver would change his life.
Working with Father Wasson
One Sunday Fr. Wasson asked Olegario to work with him as a driver for one year. The request posed a difficult scenario for Olegario. He did not have much experience driving and he’d just been awarded a scholarship due to his good grades in the year of service evaluations. He had to decide whether to work with Fr. Wasson or continue with his studies. His dream was to be a pilot.
Olegario decided to work for Fr. Wasson. “He told me I would start to be his driver within three months, but to my surprise he actually called me the following day. On Monday he asked me to pick up my stuff and start my job. I remember I was very nervous to work with him as I wanted to do a good job and I didn’t consider myself very experienced. Initially, I was supposed to work with him for one year, but I ended up working 20 years by his side.”
While working alongside Fr. Wasson, who Olegario considered always a father, the two became very close, supporting each other through the good times and bad. It was Olegario who remained by Fr. Wasson’s side when he was diagnosed with cancer in 1985, supporting Fr. Wasson through the entire treatment lasting two years.
During that time, Olegario married Patricia Mejia, a pequeña who he met at NPH. Their first daughter, Ambar, had just been born, but Olegario had to leave for long periods in order to be by Fr. Wasson’s side.
“I went to the hospital in the United States to stay with Father Wasson; it was hard to see him suffer. I spent a lot of time with him there. When I returned to Mexico, my daughter had grown. It was hard to leave my own family and miss those moments but I understood that I needed to help Fr. Wasson in that difficult stage of his life,” explains Olegario.
Becoming a National Director
With the passing of time, when Fr. Wasson regained his health, he thought about asking Olegario to be the director of a new home.
“He asked me to become the director of NPH Nicaragua, but my second son, Bryce, was very little at that time and I told him that I couldn’t. Later, he asked me to be the director in Guatemala, but again, my third son, Adan, was a little baby,” remembers Olegario.
“So one day, he invited my family and me to visit El Salvador. We were in Guatemala and the director of NPH there drove us to El Salvador. While entering a city named Santa Ana, our car broke down, and since Fr. Wasson was very kind and generous, he started sharing candy with little children nearby. Suddenly there were too many kids around and one of them grabbed my wife’s necklace and ran away.
“At that moment, Fr. Wasson told me, 'I’ve asked you to come here because I want you to help me open a home in this country. You see there is lots of need here’ and I told him that I couldn’t decide by myself, so I talked to Patty that night and she told me “'It’s the third time that he has asked you. I think he has faith in you; let’s give it a try’ and here we are 20 years later.”
NPH El Salvador
Our home opened its doors 29 June 1999 and since that moment Olegario has served as the National Director. He and his family have always worked for the benefit of the population. “I’ve never seen these kids as part of an institution; I consider them my own sons and daughters. I am very proud to be here and I am proud of everything that we have achieved with the help of the great staff that we have.”
Olegario will retire in December and move back to Mexico. He spent 20 years of his life in El Salvador and he will miss this area of the country, “I really like El Salvador as it is small and you can travel from one place to another within a couple of hours.
“I also like Salvadorian people. They are very friendly and kind. But mostly, I will miss my children, all their love and affection.”
Olegario is very thankful to God for the opportunity he received to be at NPH in first place, “If I had not been at NPH, I would have probably remained in my hometown and been father to many children.”
He is a very humble man, always worrying to help others. Throughout his time in El Salvador, he has supported many families from NPH and the communities, yet he considers himself a lucky man, who has been rewarded kindly by God. If someone hurts him, he has learned to forgive: an important quality to obtain in life.
The NPH El Salvador family will always be grateful to Olegario and his family for taking a risk and accepting a new experience in building NPH El Salvador. He has NPH blood in his veins and will remain part of our family.
God bless him forever.