I laughed out loud at the sound my 3-year old son made as he blew out his birthday candles, spitting across his cookie cake. He had just turned three and we were celebrating at a park with friends and family. It was a particularly memorable birthday because it was the first birthday where he really understood what was happening around him, an appropriate developmental milestone for his age. He knew this party was for him. My boy was overjoyed by each gift, delighted by those he loved and most importantly to him, excited to be playing on the wooden replica of a battleship on the playground.
Whether we enjoy a meal out with friends or a quiet night at home with our families, each of us has a deep desire to feel special on our birthday. But for impoverished families in Cancun who struggle to simply provide the most basic essentials, things such as birthday celebrations are a luxury they can’t afford. Back2Back partners with families, providing tools to break the cycle of poverty. And in a practical effort to spark change and improve relationships, Back2Back empowers parents to host birthday celebrations for their children. Because of Back2Back’s involvement in her family’s life, Oti was able to throw her dauther, Jeny, a magnificent party of her own.
In Mexico, a girl’s 15th birthday, called a quinceañera, is not only a giant party that more resembles a wedding than a birthday fiesta, but it is also a rite of passage, a symbolic ceremony of becoming a woman. Oti planned to have Jeny’s party at home. She wanted it to be perfect.
With help from their church and Back2Back, Oti threw Jeny a huge celebration complete with dinner, cake, balloons and dancing. Jeny spent the evening laughing with friends and glancing at herself in the reflection of a window. She’d never felt so beautiful. In a family of eight, having anything completely your own is a distant dream. But this night was hers. And she was determined to relish every second.
During the event, there is traditionally a moment when a daughter dances the waltz with her father—her first dance as a young woman. Since Jeny’s father had passed away, Oti stepped in to dance with her daughter. While the dance was still a difficult reminder of Jeny’s father, it connected mother and daughter in a special moment as they honored his place in their life.
As Jeny closed the door behind the last guest who left, she ran to her mom and threw her arms tightly around her neck. Shocked, Oti lifted her arms and pulled her in closer. Without a word, Jeny pulled back smiled at her mom and quietly headed off to bed.
I can imagine the pride Oti must have felt after the party was over. I was elated watching my son’s first glance of the bright green frosting train on his cookie cake. There’s something about watching your child experience joy that moves a parent’s heart parent like none other. She’d been empowered to love her daughter in a meaningful way that deepened their bond.
I’m thankful for the ways Back2Back partners with impoverished families in Cancun to provide help and hope. Oti was empowered to provide something special for her oldest daughter. While Jeny felt loved and appreciated, Oti was grateful for what she was able to offer her daughter. Watching her daughter smile and laugh warmed her heart the way few other things can.