Our Fuller Center kids are growing up — and that’s what it’s all about

(Photo: We met Cindy and Manuel, above, during our first exploratory visit to Nicaragua. They captured our hearts, and their family would become the first to move from a shack to a new Fuller Center home in Las Peñitas, Nicaragua.)

Often when we think of a house, we picture walls, a roof, windows, doors and floors. But when you fill those walls with families trying to build a better life for themselves and their children, that house becomes a home. And home is the foundation, the basic building block for healthy families and successful children.

Studies have repeatedly shown what common sense already tells us — that children who grow up in a decent home are more likely to be happier, healthier and do better in school than those who do not. Sometimes, though, we need a reminder of that. Sometimes, we need to put a face with that statistic. And here’s a face we fell in love with way back in 2012 …

Cindy at her family’s shack in Las Peñitas, Nicaragua, in 2012.

Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafigliola met Cindy and her family while visiting a little fishing village called Las Peñitas, Nicaragua, where local leaders were inviting The Fuller Center to work. I remember Ryan being struck by the terrible condition of the shacks in the village but not being able to stop smiling as he remembered this family, especially the joyous, giggling children who made fun of his then-poor Spanish skills and the parents who offered him some of the little food they had.

We soon began working in Las Peñitas, and it quickly became one of our most productive partners thanks to outstanding local leadership, hard-working families who eagerly embraced our hand-up model and hundreds of Global Builders volunteers who fell in love with Las Peñitas and its people — myself and my wife, Shellie, included. Cindy’s family would become our first partner family in Las Peñitas. Since then, we’ve built homes in partnership with 120 more families.

Cindy’s mother Yasmina in front of the family’s home in 2015.

Unfortunately, our work in Nicaragua ground to a screeching halt this year as political turmoil and violence broke out in the country. Fortunately, the worst shacks in Las Peñitas have already been replaced with decent homes. In fact, The Fuller Center’s work was set to expand to other areas of the country before turmoil erupted. When the situation stabilizes, we will be ready to resume work.

Life in Las Peñitas has become a little harder amid the turmoil, but it does go on. There is still plenty of joy. Rarely is there a more joyous occasion in Las Peñitas than a quinceañara, the 15th birthday celebration for Latino girls, recognizing and honoring them as having become young women. Few ceremonies in the culture are more momentous.

Having met Cindy and her family back in 2015 during a couple of different trips to Nicaragua, I feel a little old seeing this cute little girl grow up. And her brother, little Manuel, is all grown up, too. In fact, the quinceañara became a double-celebration for Cindy and her cousin whose birthdays are close together, and Manuel served as the escort for their cousin. In the gallery below, you’ll see Cindy in the blue dress and Manuel in the pink shirt.

Yasmina is a proud mother and deservedly so. The family remains grateful for the opportunity to have a simple, decent place to live, and Yasmina has continued to support The Fuller Center’s work in the community. She enthusiastically allowed us to share these photos from the quinceañara because she considers Fuller Center volunteers and supporters her extended family.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We’d like to thank Yasmina for sharing this special event with us and reminding us why we build houses — so that families have good homes and that children can grow and be nurtured. When you support The Fuller Center, you are building homes and helping cute kids become the productive adults of tomorrow. Thank you!

During a 2015 visit to Las Peñitas, Fuller Center President David Snell visited the family at their home:

We'd love to hear your comments!