Bolivia Yecenia cooks

Being a parent at age nine

Yecenia, 18, Bolivia

Chopping onions, cucumber and tomatoes, hand kneading dough, and cleaning the kitchen does not appeal to most 18-year olds, but Yecenia embraces her year of service as an aid in the kitchen with great style. Yecenia looks forward to preparing lunch and dinner (especially when it’s salpicon – mashed potatoes mixed with vegetables and mayonnaise) for the staff, volunteers, and over 100 children at NPH Bolivia. Believe it or not, she actually enjoys cleaning the kitchen, as it is the least exhausting part of her day. Yecenia’s love for cooking stems from her childhood, and she plans to pursue a professional degree in culinary arts.

When Yecenia was just nine years old, her mother died after giving birth to her youngest sister. Since they lived in the countryside, over four hours away from the nearest city, her father often had to leave his five children home alone for days at a time to find work. In his absence, Yecenia and her older brother managed the home and tended to their younger siblings. Yecenia woke up early to cook for the day and then walked four kilometers to the nearest school.

Two years later, Yecenia and her siblings arrived to NPH Bolivia as the home’s first family. Initially, Yecenia had a difficult time adjusting to her new lifestyle. She recalls the house director explaining to her that NPH was not only her home, but also her family and that any child who joined NPH would also be a part of that family. He also recommended that she begin to pray. Religion always interested Yecenia, but she never had the time or means to attend Mass. Yecenia began to thank God every day for what she had been given and attended Mass on a weekly basis, which she believes helped her to adapt to NPH.

Yecenia has graduated high school and is currently working on her first of two years of service in NPH Bolivia’s kitchen. After completing her morning chores, Yecenia works from 9 am to 4:30 pm and then hand washes her clothes in the evenings. During her weekends, she also works as an aid in the baby house. In her free time, she enjoys listening to romantic music and playing soccer.