Seeing our Pequeños Grow
Touching story about one of our big girls, leaving home to start university.
December 31, 2015 - Dominican Republic
Recently, the oldest girl in my house left for college after twelve years of living here. I think it was a day that she was dreading and looking forward to at the same time. She had been telling me over the past weeks that she would be leaving, but the date kept changing. So, I wasn't sure when she would actually embark on this new journey.
On site, we have housing for our university young men, but not for the young women. The home, started in 2003, is still fairly young. We do not have that many youths who have reached the age or stage of graduating and are going on to college. Additionally, there are proportionately more males than females. So, we have a house for a couple male employees and the university young men. For all the young women, and even some of the other men, we help find and sponsor housing, whether on campus or with family members.
Leading up to her time to leave, I noticed Odilia* would pull me into the room with her, and constantly ask why I never spent as much time with her as the others. To get my attention she would roll her amazing eyes, or walk past me without saying ‘hello.’ Afterwards I would hug her and twirl her around, and she would smile and say she loved me. The she would change her mind when I would have to leave at the end of the night. I can only imagine the emotions that were going through her, as she thought about exploring the world with more freedom and responsibility away from comfort and stability.
That Sunday afternoon that she was preparing to leave, she came to get me from the volunteers´ house. I walked over to San Esteban to help her pack the remaining things. The other girls were like excited butterflies around her, cleaning up her closet space, painting her nails, arranging her hair. Odilia's big brother also joined us to support her in that special moment.
We loaded her things in the bus, and I hopped right on in with her. I remembered my experience when my family took me to Emory University in August 2005, and so I simply could not let her take that ride alone.
We were just silent when we pulled out of the front gate. My throat tightened up as Odilia took a deep breath. She had tears in her eyes, and tears welled up in mine as well. At that moment, I tapped her knee and she grabbed my hand. “Lift your head up princess, if not the crown falls,” I said. We continued in silence holding hands for the entire ride.
Odilia is studying to be a teacher in the town of San Pedro de Macoris. She is not far away, and we stay in contact as much as we can. She just came back to visit recently, and hopefully we will see her during the Family Days. She's spreading her wings, walking through the door of opportunity, and taking the next steps.
We miss her so much; however, this proud feeling compensates by far the bittersweet aftertaste of seeing her leave. After all, the autonomy and independence of our pequeños is the final goal, and the reason why we all work together for this dream-maker called NPH.