In Ecuador, Valentine’s Day is not just a day to celebrate romantic relationships, but also the love shared between friends. It is common to see female friends gift each other flowers or male friends share cards, in addition to the stereotypical romantic gestures shared on this holiday. So what better way to honor Ecuador’s inclusive approach to celebrating than by sharing the story of a friendship that blossomed from the mission home.

Jenny and Jocelyn both moved to the mission home as preadolescents. Adapting to life with so many other teenage girls was challenging at times, but when they became roommates they fell into an easy friendship and life got much better. Jocelyn often talks about how beneficial it was to have a friend like Jenny, who was going through something similar to her in those first few years. Though they arrived at the mission home for different reasons, both were unable to stay with their biological families, and both had experienced trauma and had to adapt to being placed in a new living and school environment in their formative adolescent years. But thankfully it wasn’t all serious. They still laugh about the time when Jocelyn tried to hide her portion of tomatoes during dinner, her least favorite food, eventually leading to a huge mess and Jenny and Jocelyn being punished to clean the dishes for the next week.

When they graduated from high school they each desired to study in university, and through the support of Mission Santa Maria are both enrolled in university courses now. Jenny is in her final semester at a university in Guayaquil, studying to become an occupational therapist. Jocelyn lives and works at the mission home and is studying tourism through a part-time online university program. Despite several years living in different cities, the two remain incredibly close, sending each other WhatsApp voice and text messages daily. Jenny often returns to the mission home to help out during her university breaks, and when she does she always stays with Jocelyn. They refer to each other as ñaña, or sister in Quechua, the language of several indigenous groups in Ecuador and other neighboring countries. It is a term of utmost affection and signifies their bond beyond the bounds of blood and genetics.

Over the years they have spent many Valentine’s Days together. They have gifted each other flowers, detailed hand made cards, beaded friendship bracelets, small cakes from the local bakery, and more. Though this year they will celebrate Valentine’s Day apart, you can be sure that they will be sending each other many electronic messages of care and love to honor their friendship. We are so grateful for the friendships that grow out of the mission home, as well as for all of our friends across the world who support young girls like Jenny and Jocelyn. From all of us at Mission Santa Maria, we want to wish you a very happy ‘día de amor y amistad’!