“Miss! Ya Puedo!” “Miss! I can do it now!” shouted Juana*, her face wide-eyed with delight as she skidded to a stop in front of me, so proud of her newfound ability to ride a bicycle. Juana’s excitement is always palpable and very infectious. She also possesses the ability to converse easily with people of all ages. At twelve years old, Juana is quite tenderhearted and has an innocent quality about her; she is one of the lights in Hogar Uno (Dorm One), and indeed of Amigos de Jesus.
Juana is very demonstrative with her emotions. She loves to talk about what events are coming up and looks forward to them. A week before our soccer games she would be asking me, “Miss—we play on Saturday, right?” Sometimes her enthusiasm would wane by the time we were actually on the field, but she was ready for game day to arrive! Juana can detail a 'convivencia,' or small party, well before it occurs. She knows exactly what food will be served, what games and activities will be available, and /or what movie will be shown, and she will happily regale you with a litany of the upcoming convivencia’s festivities, especially if pizza is involved.
Juana loves talking to people and will comfortably approach almost anyone and engage them in conversation. At one point, I was talking with one of the 'jovenes' (young people) in front of my 'hogar.' Juana came over and sat down without hesitation, eagerly joining the conversation. Considering that she consistently earns A’s in English class, pretty soon Juana will be able to converse almost as well in English as she does in Spanish.
Juana is extraordinarily tenderhearted. Every prayer circle she consistently prays for her family, for their safety and well-being. She takes it to heart when someone leaves Amigos, even if they are leaving on a positive note. When one of the jovenes left to live with his extended family, Juana approached me sadly and asked me when I would be leaving. She was relieved to hear that I’d be staying for the rest of the year. Juana is also very protective of her little brother and makes sure to watch out for him when they are together. She also has a little sister, with whom she has a somewhat typical sisterly relationship; they play nicely when they think no one is looking, and they stand up for each other when necessary.
Ever since she came here, Juana has been attached to two things: the white Amigos van and Padrino Wison. Both picked her up and brought her to Amigos de Jesus. She is slightly possessive of both, in her childlike way. Juana’s innocence, guileless affection for people, her happiness and excitement, and her talkativeness make her a very special part of Amigos de Jesus.
~ Genevieve Volpe, 2015-16 volunteer
*name changed to protect privacy