For a teenage girl in Latin America, a “quinceanera” party – a traditional coming-out celebration for 15-year-olds – is a cherished rite of passage.
But, not all families can afford to give their daughters the big special day, complete with colourful gown, that they deserve.
Add to this the added burden for families with teenagers who are dealing with cancer and a quinceanera can seem little more than a beautiful fantasy for young girls from poor, rural families.
Thankfully, for the past six years, Nicaragua’s Association of Mothers and Fathers of Children with Cancer and Leukaemia has been able to put on a quinceanera for girls from poor, rural families who are battling with illness.
For this year’s quinceanera party, 37 lucky girls between 14 and 16 years of age attended the annual event at a hotel in Nicaragua’s capital, Managua.
Local donors, took on the traditional role of “padrinos,” or godparents, and their donations went towards paying for the girls’ outfits, from their dresses and shoes.
The floral arrangements, cakes and other refreshments were also donated by kind locals.
Even better still, each padrino also paid for medicine for three or four of the girls that attended the ‘coming-out’ party.
Nicaragua’s Military Academy also sent cadets in uniform to be the girls’ escorts and dance partners.
Yamileth Barrera, a 16-year-old from San Jose de Bocay, 150 miles (240 kilometers) north of Managua, said she really enjoyed being with the other girls and wasn’t kept from dancing by the wheelchair she uses because of bone cancer.
“I am happy because only once in a life do you celebrate your 15th year,” Yamileth said.