Celebrating Blanca’s Birthday . . It All About Family! – March 15, 2010

Blanca age 12 cares for her siblings and cousins

Blanca right age 12 cares for her siblings and cousins

Yesterday was Blanca’s birthday. . . so I want to share a little about her. She’s an amazing, intelligent young woman we’ve come to know through volunteer efforts to support her extended family, including constructing a kitchen for them during the recent Mission Trip. At the ripe old age of 12, Blanca has already assumed a caretaking role for the 13 children (siblings and cousins) that live together in Jose’s family. Jose, her oldest cousin, is a child with disabilities sponsored by Carrie’s Heart.

Blancas home

Blanca's home is built from reclaimed materials

Blanca lives modestly on the Transversal road that crosses the island a couple of miles out of town. Each family group has separate sleeping quarters. They share cooking in a common kitchen with the extended family of 13 children and 8 adults. There is no running water or plumbing. They draw 5 gallon buckets of water by hand from a well. An extension cord from their neighbors provides two light bulbs at night.

Blanca learns to give fluoride treatments

Blanca learned to give fluoride treatments from Dr. Julie

Blanca doesn’t have many material possessions or any opportunities outside home and school. However, that doesn’t stop her . . . she’s very resourceful. She always offers to help volunteers and is determined to learn new things, especially English. Blanca initiates conversations with anyone who visits and she longs for simple story books in English with pictures. Spanish/English children’s books are difficult to find here and very expensive so new or used books make wonderful donations for families, daycares like NUAFA and schools. Blanca plays “school” with all the children, gathering them around their new table. She’s taught them to count in both Spanish and English.

April prepares the pinata

April fills piñata for Blanca's birthday

Mission trip volunteers learned about Blanca’s birthday when we installed the projects built for the family’s kitchen. Kendricks and Stephens donated the huge tiger piñata and candy as a surprise for Blanca. Other goodies were added too (beads, small toys, shampoo/soap samples) donated by the SAIL group, Marshalls, Larsens and Pedersens. April and I took food donations to the family on Satuday and checked to be sure all was working fine with the kitchen projects. When we asked if they planned to celebrate Blanca’s birthday, they replied “No, there is no money to celebrate . . .but her birthday is Sunday and we will all be together.” No one was sad. There were no expectations or a sense of entitlement for a meal, a cake, gifts or celebration.

It is hard to know who was more excited when we gave them the piñata. . . Antonia, the grandmother, the mothers of the children or all the kids! Everyone was THRILLED. In this family, like many others with limited resources here, birthdays are less about the individual and all about the family spending time together. –Karen

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