The following article originally appeared in a January 2013 Amigos de Jesús newsletter as a reflection on the one-year anniversary of the arrival of our first girl, Perla*, on January 31st, 2012. This week, we celebrate Perla as the Amiguita of the Week, and we bring back this article as a way to reflect on her journey and the impact she has had on the Amigos de Jesús family. See the end of the article for an update on how Perla is doing today, almost five years after arriving!
A year ago today 4-year-old Perla* came to Amigos de Jesus with her two brothers. She brought nothing but the tattered clothes on her back. She was in need of a home, love, and a future. She was scared. Yet in spite of all her needs and fears, tiny Perla has touched hearts, made history, broken ground, and changed the future for many other children. Simply by being Perla.
A year ago today Amigos de Jesus became a home for boys AND girls. We weren’t quite ready for girls. The new buildings weren’t done, we only had clothes on hand for boys, and we didn’t have a plan for how we’d adjust to having girls in our midst. We thought it would be much later in the year that we would finally start welcoming girls home. But Perla’s needs were more important than our plans.
A year ago today we learned yet another lesson about what it means to be Friends of Jesus: We are here to provide hope for children who have been without hope. Perla hardly knew what hope was. Her only hope at that time was to have enough food for herself and her little brother.
A year ago today we learned Mother Teresa’s lesson, “we cannot do great things, only small things with great love.” Perla cried the day she had to leave the only home she’d ever known. Yet she clung to her younger brother as she mothered and protected him during the long, winding ride to her new home. She wiped his tears, held him tight, and panicked if she lost sight of him for even a moment. Her concern for her brother before herself, in the midst of crisis and at such a young age, is one of the greatest examples of love we’ve ever seen. Perla taught us this that day, and continues to teach us.
A year ago today we learned about the power of our own love to transform our children. As Suyapa (our Director of Human Resources and amazing mother figure to our kids) bathed, dressed and put hair ties in Perla’s hair for hours that first night, Perla said to her, “you are doing these nice things for me, do you love me?” And then proceeded to fall asleep on Suyapa’s lap. Perla’s transformation as a child who is loved began a year ago today.
A year ago today we began a journey to a bigger, even livelier, always loving Amigos de Jesus family. In the year since Perla came home to us we have changed greatly: we have grown from 58 children in 2 dormitories to 75 children in 4 homes. Whereas Perla was for a time our only girl, she is now joined by new sisters bringing our total to 11 girls. Our youngest child prior to Perla’s arrival was a 6 year old boy; we now have 13 boys and girls aged 7 and younger. (see below for statistics updated to 2016)
A year ago today we could scarcely imagine and hardly hope for Perla to be the 5 and a half year old she is today. She is a leader and a mother hen who ensures that even children taller than her are doing what they should be, though the boys may call her bossy. She is a student who has finished kindergarten and is about to start first grade in English in our soon-to-be-inaugurated bilingual school. She is a beautiful, bright-eyed, charismatic, slightly stubborn little girl who lights up when called “Princess”, begs her teachers for homework, and gives the best hugs. She loves watching cartoons, drawing, eating watermelon, and helping the madrinas and padrinos. She wants to be a lawyer or Dora the Explorer when she grows up, or maybe both. She prays with sincerity and from the heart, giving thanks for the people who care for her, the food she eats, and always remembers others in prayer, especially “the poor and the children without a home.” She is our Perla.
A year ago today Perla came home and our future began. Today we celebrate Perla and praise God for all who have made this possible.
~ Amy Escoto, Co-Director of Operations
*name changed to protect privacy
UPDATE AS OF 2016: Since 2013, Amigos has only continued to grow in love. Today, our family consists of 121 children living in 7 homes (plus 3 off-site homes for young adults preparing for adulthood). In 2013, we had 11 girls including Perla; today we have 36. We also now have 19 boys and girls aged 7 and younger.
Perla herself continues to grow, as well. These days, she is a bright and outgoing fourth grader who is quite bilingual. She loves to sing and dance and is rarely seen without a bright smile on her face. See her recent Amiguita of the Week video interview (posted on the Amigos de Jesús Facebook page on 9/20/16) to learn more about her!