Love & Hope Children’s Home recently celebrated the coming-of-age of two amazing young women: Brenda and Michell. In Latin American culture, a girl’s 15th birthday marks the beginning of adulthood, and is often celebrated with a special party, called a Fiesta Rosa or Quinceañera. This was Love & Hope’s 4th quinceañera and definitely the biggest; rightly so, because we had two birthdays to celebrate! (Make sure you read to the end; there’s a video!)
Preparation for the party began months ago. Mandy is Love & Hope’s resident party planner and having already planned three other quinceañeras, she is getting quite efficient at it. Michell and Brenda picked the colors they wanted (fuchsia and yellow) and Mandy started planning the party’s homemade decorations, favors, etc., accordingly. The girls picked out dress styles they liked, then went to a local dress shop to be measured. We handed out invitations at church, youth group and school. We found sponsors for the different party items, and asked our good friends to share the message and sing during the service.
A couple of weeks before the party, Brenda and Michell’s guests began to arrive! Old and new friends flew in from the States to help prepare for and be here for their special day. They folded, cut, decorated, painted, cooked and shopped to have everything ready for the quinceañera. Love & Hope Children’s Home and Mandy’s house were filled with yellow and pink decorations. Mandy made sure that all of the Love & Hope kids had appropriate attire for the big day too. Everyone was eagerly anticipating the party!
The Saturday morning of the quinceañera, everyone had their job to do. Rachel went with Brenda and Michell to the salon. Meanwhile at home, all of the other kids took an hour to study for their tests the next Monday (party or not, school is important!). In the kitchen of Love & Hope, Brenda and Michell’s special guests were preparing lasagna for 150 people! At the back of the house, Tia Larixa ironed just about every person’s dress/shirt/jacket/pants (adults and kids!). Many of the older girls spent the majority of the morning in their room straightening their hair, painting their nails and the like. After lunch, the kids and tios began to get dressed and ready.
Another group was assigned to head to the party venue to set-up and decorate. They hung lights, “fluffed” tissue paper balls, set-up tables, arranged flowers and prepared for the music and slideshow. Brenda and Michell came from the salon, helped a little with the decorations, then disappeared to put on their dresses. The food arrived shortly after and was readied for dinner.
The party started at 4:30 pm. Guests began pouring in, and took their seats. Our kids looked so beautiful and handsome when they arrived; they sure know how to get fancy! The twins helped pass out the programs, Chamba took lots of pictures with everyone’s phones, and the kids had a great time greeting so many important people to Love & Hope Children’s Home.
All of our quinceañeras have followed a similar format. Brenda and Michell’s quince was unique in many ways, but Love & Hope’s values and quinceañera “traditions” were prevalent. The service included a prayer by Tio Julio, music led by Michael Kaiser, and a few words shared by Tio Rene and our good friend Eric Michiels. The girls then girls received several representative gifts (bracelet, Bible, ring) and made a promise to purity. Later, we watched a slideshow featuring photos of the two girls from the time they were little.
After the ceremony, dinner was served and then Brenda and Michell did the 15 candles ceremony. In this ceremony, the girls honored people that have made an impact on their lives. It was touching to hear the words that each person shared with the girls. It was obvious that Brenda and Michell have also touched the lives of many people.
Finally, it was time for cake and karaoke. Everyone had a great time singing and dancing along to the karaoke. Michell and Brenda each sang several songs with their friends. Our very own Chamba, though, seemed to steal the show. He danced and sang his heart out to just about every song. After seeing the enthusiasm of the Love & Hope kids, one of our staff made a good point: Love & Hope Children’s Home, on its own, is pretty good at having fun; we ARE the party! The Saturday night of the quinceañera was no better example of this. We had a blast together.
After the rest of the guests had left, Mandy pulled out one last activity just for Love & Hope: paper lanterns. The lanterns looked beautiful in the night sky and it certainly provided a memory that neither Michell nor Brenda, nor any of the other children, will ever forget. We didn’t get home until about 9:30 pm and then everyone gathered around to watch Brenda and Michell open their gifts.
Brenda and Michell’s combined quinceañera was a huge success thanks in part to many, many people. Thank you to their sponsors; you have been such a huge part of their lives and Love & Hope Children’s Home for so many years. Thank you to Mandy for working so hard to pull the party together. Thank you to the many people that sponsored the party items (dresses, rings, bracelets, Bibles, etc.). Thank you to Sarah, Brittany, Lisa, Mama Kathy, Eric, Phil, Justin, Chelsea, Karen, Mackenzie and Gary for flying to El Salvador especially to attend and help with this event. Thank you to Nathan and Jason for, once again, taking the time to capture our beautiful children on film and video. Thank you to Alma for making Brenda and Michell look like princesses at your salon. Love & Hope Children’s Home would also like to thank the following people: Rachel, Yanira, Suzana, Kirsten, Michael Kaiser, Eric Michiels, SEVEN Salon, The Union Church of San Salvador, Kris Klika, Sarah Nehez, AME International, Thrift Nation, Veronica, Julio, Rene, Yessenia, Henry, Yency, Gloria, Aracely, Marisol, Larixa, Alberto, Constru Market, Jaime Angel, Mike & Sandy Royle, Perry & Charisse Anderson, and Scot & Tanya Soeder.
Happy birthday, Michell and Brenda. We are so, so proud of both of you!