At thirteen, Daniela* is one of the oldest girls living here at Amigos de Jesus. She has a unique, carefully cultivated, artistic sense of style that is apparent in her wardrobe as well as in her living space. Daniela is a quiet leader and a compassionate role model to her siblings and to the other girls in her dorm. The depth of her personality and her peaceful demeanor belie her thirteen years.
Daniela possesses an abundance of artistic skill which is evident throughout Amigos de Jesus. The walls of Hogar Two, where she and her sister Karina live, are decorated with brightly colored, laminated, three-dimensional flowers and birds that seemingly leap off the painted concrete. Our beloved Oscarito’s grave is adorned with a handmade wreath of these same spectacular flowers as well as a life-size rosary commemorating the deceased friends and relatives of Amigos children and staff, each person represented by a tiny handcrafted paper angel. Daniela’s clothing shows her artistic flair; the outfits she puts together are funky and contemporary, yet still distinctly feminine and age-appropriate. Daniela’s artistry is also evident in her beautiful singing voice. During this past ADJ Bilingual School Christmas concert, she and Kerlin led the fourth grade class in a beautiful, lilting song that recreated the simple, humble scene of Christ’s birth.
Despite her youth, Daniela is extremely self-aware, observant, and responsible. When talking to Daniela, it seems as if you are talking to someone who is wise beyond their years. Every month the padrino coordinators hold a tienda, or store, where the children and jovenes (young people) can use tickets they’ve earned for good behavior to buy what they need and want. Many of the children need reminders to buy the things they need first, but not Daniela. She has a mental list of her necessities and methodically checks off items as she purposefully walks around the store. The first time I witnessed Daniela in the tienda, I was visibly amazed. Towards the end, she looked at me knowingly and said, “Miss! I know exactly what I’m looking for, don’t I?” Truer words were never spoken.
Perhaps the most exceptional of Daniela’s many fine qualities is the compassionate love she shows to others. She is able to help distract one of the younger girls in her dorm with a game so that she can take her medicine easily and without an argument or a tantrum. She is very protective of and close to her younger sister, Karina. Although she does not live in the same house with them, Daniela can often be found with her younger brothers, Herman and Marco. One evening Herman was upset and Daniela sat down next to him, put her arm around his shoulders, and quietly comforted him until he felt better enough to continue playing. Daniela is a creative, deep, warm-hearted soul who is sure to become a gracious leader to the other soon-to-be young women of Amigos de Jesus.
~ Genevieve Volpe, 2015-16 volunteer
*name changed to protect privacy