“Hola, Miss!” This is the buoyant greeting I receive every morning, accompanied by a strong handshake and kind inquiries about how I am doing that day. I spend a lot of time in the office at Amigos de Jesus, and because of this, I am fortunate to have become friends with Melvin*, our faithful office assistant. Melvin greets everyone who comes into the office with the same sunny hello. At eighteen, he is one of the oldest boys living in the dorms at Amigos de Jesus. Melvin is a unique member of the Amigos de Jesus family—he is one of our young men who will always be with us. With his cheerful disposition, helpful and polite demeanor, and imaginative mind, Melvin is a wonderful example to the younger boys in Hogar Five as well as a supportive and accommodating coworker.
Melvin is very trustworthy. Sometimes when I am running around from place to place, I leave my phone and computer in his care so I know that they will be safe. In addition, he is also very polite. On our monthly walks to Posas to buy snacks from the pulperia (corner store), Melvin respectfully greets the neighbors and the shopkeepers. They know Melvin by name, and it is obvious from their conversation that they are old acquaintances.
Melvin is a dependable messenger. His errands send him all over the hogar, from the office to the school, to the directors’ house to the kitchen, and back to the office again. He is tall and quick; his loping strides serve him well on these expeditions. Melvin also helps organize the bodega, the small, basement-like storage space at Amigos. It’s tedious work, but Melvin is able to maintain his positivity and even joke around as we unload cleaning products and sort through clothes. I think his imagination helps him stay motivated and focused in the bodega, with its gloomy, dusty interior.
According to our human resources assistant, who grew up here, when he was younger Melvin could often be found playing “pistoleros” (cops and robbers) with his friends Andres* and Tito*. Even at eighteen, Melvin retains some of this childlike imagination and excitement, especially when he is surrounded by his friends. During his birthday walk to Posas Verdes last December, Melvin, Andres, Tito, and Carlos* regaled us with detailed reenactments of scenes from zombie and monster movies. “Miss! Did you see that one? Miss, it was so cool!” were heard frequently as we drank our refresco and ate our churros (chips) in celebration of Melvin turning eighteen.
Melvin’s behavior in his hogar (dorm) is the same as when he is working in the office. He never has to be reminded to wash his clothes or do his assigned chore; in fact, he often volunteers to do extra tasks, such as filling the drinking water jugs and emptying the trash cans. His consistent helpfulness and cheerful attitude are an example for the rest of the boys in Hogar Five, and indeed for all of us here at Amigos de Jesus—especially his office mates!
~ Genevieve Volpe, 2015-16 volunteer
*name changed to protect privacy