The moment is still clearly captured in my mind, like a unforgettable videoclip- it is a couple days before the Quinceañera party that we have been planning for over a month. I walk into the comedor (dining room/cafeteria space) at Casa Hogar del Norte, a place that is nearly always filled with chaos. On a normal day, to achieve capturing the attention of half of them would be pretty miraculous—there are 34 of them, and 24 of them are under the age of 8. But today, when I walked in, one kid asked the question that silenced the room and had all eyes on me: “How many more days until the party?” The excitement had been building in the home for so long, even my answer of “3 days” seemed way too far away.
Moments like these, which were many, are a simple picture of an achieved goal: we wanted this party to be so much more than an investment in Wendy’s development; we wanted each child at del Norte to experience the joy of the celebration as well as the social lessons to be learned about how to dress, host and act at such a fancy party.
Step 1: “Ponernos bien guapos” in the words of 6-year old David (pictured in the maroon shirt on the right). That translates to making
ourselves look good! We not only wanted the kids to look presentable, but we wanted them to get all dressed up, as would be socially acceptable for a Quinceañera here in Mexico.
So, the process began with shopping- that’s right, shopping for 34 outfits for 34 excited faces. It was quite the endeavor!
We began by inviting the 8 oldest kids to join us in the shopping experience, hoping to invest in their social development by teaching them how to behave in a public shopping area and giving them the opportunity to choose their own clothes for the big day. We had so much fun, and shopped until we dropped!
A local volunteer collected donated, gently used dresses for the rest of
the girls to choose from, and we gathered any black pants that we could find at the children’s home. Then, a few of us staff ventured out to purchase the rest of the clothes, many sizes of black pants and some more dress shirts. Let me tell you, shopping for 34 is definitely difficult and time-consuming, but we completed our mission!
A couple days before the party, we had the genius idea that we should have each child try on the clothes we had purchased and gathered for them to make sure that there was no need for belts or hems. I walked in that day with 34 labeled hangers, a box of straight pins, a notebook and absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. The little boys gathered around, each one wanting to know which shirt was theirs, and I watched their faces just light up as they identified their very own shirt by its color. The kids excitedly put on their new clothes, modeled them for me awaiting my enthusiastic exclamation of how handsome they looked, and reluctantly took them off again after I pinned the pant legs. Nearly every pair of pants needed hemmed and about half of them required belts. The coming days were a flurry of activity to get all of these loose-ends tied up.
But the day of the party, every child was looking fine, and they were absolutely loving it! They proudly strolled around the party in their new clothes, looking for compliments and receiving plenty of them. By investing in clothes for each one of them, we actually invested in so much more!