“I willingly gave up [my love for crafts] to go where God was leading me,” Karla says, “only to have Him give it back!”
The mission of DAYA (Fundación Dar y Amar – Give and Love Foundation) is to assist adolescent mothers and their children who have suffered abuse or marginalization to live with dignity and integrate into society.
Twice a week, Karla travels 3-4 hours round-trip to DAYA for a craft class. She teaches the girls to sew blankets, make jewelry, design cards and paint picture frames, meanwhile showing and sharing the love of Jesus. Although DAYA is a secular organization, the director is a Christian, and the doors are open for Karla to talk about Jesus with the girls.
Twice a month, Karla’s husband, Barry, accompanies her to DAYA. “They need a handyman,” he says. “I can be it.” Besides working on projects, he plays soccer with the girls or sometimes watches their children while Karla teaches her craft class.
Today, I am joining Karla and Barry for a visit to DAYA.
The girls and their children are offered a home at DAYA until they turn 20. Onsite there is a re-sale shop and a Montessori preschool with 30-45 students, but a remodeling project is underway to make room for up to 100 students. Barry and Karla’s heads are spinning with ideas for expansion, including adding a garden area and a workshop. Many of the girls enjoy cooking and could start a business selling their culinary creations.
Sometimes the supplies for the craft classes are donated by supporters in the US (like the recent gift of sewing machines from TouchGlobal that Barry retrieved from the States). But often Karla buys the supplies, making multiple trips to downtown Mexico City on quests to locate everything she needs.
She selects projects that are practical and encourages the girls to make things for themselves, although occasionally they do sell their projects. To prepare for class she creates an example to show the girls, verifying that the directions are correctly translated into Spanish and easy to understand.
Many of the sewing patterns they use in class are homemade, and the girls receive a variety of options. They are excited to choose their own colors and sewing patterns – a small instance of empowerment in the life of a girl who has suffered a pattern of oppression and abuse.
Class begins with a review of the rules and a short devotional. Although there are few rules, it helps establish structure – a thing many of the girls lack in their personal lives.
Building confidence and living Christ’s love
Many of the girls believe in God, but they don’t know Jesus. Karla’s devotionals often focus on His love. The girls are very attentive and eager to learn. They have a strong sense of community and help each other out with the projects. [Read Julia’s story.]
During the class, I sit with Jessica. Shy and quiet, she rarely smiles or speaks, but I sense a smile behind her eyes. She loves the class, but Karla shares that she has not always enjoyed participating.
“When she first started taking the class, she would say ‘No puedo’ [I can’t] all the time,” Karla says. Through encouragement and hands-on attention, Jessica has gained confidence and takes part in the activities.
Karla has adopted a saying for the class: “No es un error – es una creación en proceso.” (It’s not an error – it’s a creation waiting to happen.) She encourages the girls to enjoy the creative process.
“I’m learning all the time from them,” she says. As she creates a safe space for sharing and learning, the girls open up about their lives, giving her glimpses of the pain, suffering and abuse that have stripped them of their childhood innocence.
Beyond the doors of DAYA
Karlita, as Karla is affectionately called by the girls, has been involved at DAYA since early 2008. As she and Barry have built trust with the organization, she now has permission to invite the girls to stay at her home for a weekend. [Read Alicia’s story.]
She is also tutoring two girls that do not know how to read and write in Spanish, their native language.
Jim Elliot, renowned missionary to Ecuador, said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Karla was willing to leave behind her craft business in the US only to the have the Lord prepare a ministry for her in Mexico where she could put her creativity to use for His glory.
Story by Ashley Orlando, LAM missionary (and friend to ReachGlobal) serving in Mexico City
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Bring a short-term team to Mexico City. Serve the Lord through creative evangelism, construction or renovation, teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), job or skills training… or other projects that match with your skills.
- For God to be glorified at DAYA in the lives of the girls and that He would heal their wounded hearts.
- For Karla and Barry as they serve the girls at DAYA — that God would use them as instruments of change in the lives of the girls and their children.
Make an online donation to DAYA House.