Around the world, the transition from childhood to womanhood is celebrated in many different ways. In Latin America, this transition takes place when girls turn 15. This extra-special coming-of-age is paired with a big celebration: a quinceañera.

Each year, Safe Passage hosts a quinceañera celebration for all of the girls at Safe Passage who are turning 15–girls whose families would not otherwise be able to host a quinceañera for them.

This year, 18 girls participated. For these girls, this event is one of the most anticipated events the entire year.

Much more than just a birthday party, planning for the quinceañera begins many months before the actual event.

In the Latin American culture, the transition to womanhood is incredibly important for both the girls and their families. It is also an important time to talk to the girls about health, teamwork, values, leadership, and above all: how to become a professional woman. Throughout the journey to the quinceañera event, the girls were able to spend time quality time together, develop confidence in themselves, and strengthen their friendships.

This year, for the first time in a very long time, the quinceañeras volunteered at the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Charity Home. Through community service we hoped to cultivate in these young girls the desire to help those who are most in need in their own communities.

As the big day approached, you could feel the anticipation in the air. The girls were provided with dresses and shoes, the menu was selected, and decorations were made and displayed. Finally, the big day arrived.

One by one the quinceañeras entered the room accompanied by their chambelan, or male Escort of Honor. As they entered the room, the girls faces wore the biggest smiles we had seen in a long time! At each table sat the girls’ family members beaming with joy. It was easy to see how proud the families are for their daughters. Two Support Team members and Safe Passage sponsors, Kira and Mindy, spoke kind words of welcome before the next big moment: the waltz.

Watching the young girls dance with their parents was one of the most special moments of the entire evening. Looking around the room, there was barely a dry eye in the house. For these girls, this event was a dream come true.

For our families, the quinceañera was more than just a birthday party. It signifies the success of their daughters, and the hope they have placed in them for a better future.

In a word, the event was magical. This year we were incredibly grateful to our Support Team members who very kindly raised all the funds for the celebration. Thanks to the hard work and compassionate support of the Schenectady First Unitarian Universalist Society (New York, USA), we were able to provide this special celebration for our girls and their families. We want to extend our heartfelt thanks to all of the volunteers and donors who made our 2017 quinceañera a reality!

See additional photos from the quinceañera on our Facebook page.