Although she is the oldest child in her hogar, Nina* is small for her age. She has a wide smile full of crooked teeth, and she loves to laugh and joke. Once we spent a whole afternoon sitting on the porch saying silly things like “huesos, huesos, huesos!”, which literally means “bones, bones, bones!” Other times Nina is content to sit in the hogar’s little rocking chair and sing to herself while the other girls play jacks and do handclaps nearby. Occasionally she tries to play jacks herself. She has watched her sister and their friends play numerous times, and it is obvious that she knows what the object of the game is. However, Nina struggles with the hand-eye coordination necessary to play the game effectively. Yet despite this, Nina continues playing independently and as best she can.
Nina enjoys attending school; her class is made up of one other classmate, Jose*, and herself and their teacher, Allison. One day I found them on the cement court next to the soccer field, tracing a chalk letter “D” with their feet and trying to come up with words that start with “d”. Nina and Jose are friends and have no trouble communicating with each other. After class they wander into the comedor and eat their lunch at the same table, all the while chatting with the smaller children—or tattling on them as the case may be!
Nina enjoys the different activities at the hogar and participates when she is able. Usually Nina is quiet and reflective during prayer circle—except when there is going to be a party afterwards. Only then does she have trouble standing still and paying attention. All she can do is yell, “Fiesta!” and twirl around you. Nina is the first one on the dance floor at a party, and sometimes she does not want a partner! At a recent graduation party, I approached her and asked if she wanted to dance. She gave me an emphatic “NO!” and continued happily dancing on her own.
The other children at the hogar are aware of Nina’s happy demeanor and independent nature. During a meeting I happened to notice Nina walking with one of the older boys. He’d just returned from school in a truck full of his classmates, and Nina and Jose had gone over to meet them—well, Nina had gone over to meet them. As a (very) junior car aficionado, Jose was most likely just checking on the status of the truck! The older boy and Nina were walking next to each other, smiling and laughing. At one point the older boy reached over and patted Nina on the head in a very brotherly and protective way. Nina is a treasured member of the Amigos de Jesus family.
~ Genevieve Volpe, 2015-16 long-term volunteer
*name changed to protect privacy