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Mission Monday: A Quinceañera at the Franciscan burn center


Bolivian children recovering severe burns are sometimes brought to the Franciscan Social Center in Cochabamba to heal. Missioner Nora Pfeiffer, who lives at the center, shares with us this “Mission Monday” a recent special birthday celebration.

The 15th birthday girl and the cake made by Nora

Here in Bolivia, a girl’s 15th birthday is particularly special because it marks the transition into a new phase of life. Not everyone likes to have a big party (fiesta de quince años) but some girls choose to celebrate with lots of people and beautiful dresses etc.

One teenage girl is recovering at the center from being electrocuted one day while herding sheep. The electric company had not properly protected the cables and she stuck her stick into the grass and struck the cable which knocked her out completely. She lost her arm and parts of her toes, among other complications.

For her recent 15th birthday party, she asked me to be the “madrina de torta,” which means I would bring the cake. We’ve known each other for quite a while now and have a good relationship, so I agreed.

The quinceañera and Nora

I had quite an experience of being madrina!  I was stubborn and wanted to make the cake instead of buying it. My expectation was that there would be 15 or 20 guests, but I later found it would be as many as 70. Three of the kids helped me out a lot so in the end it all worked out, but what a labor of love it was.

At the party, I was so happy though to see the birthday girl all dressed up in her fancy dresses, surrounded by people who clearly admired her courage for continuing to live her life and overcome adversities daily.

She continues to play basketball whenever I take them to the court, and she is definitely enjoying being a teenager.

She teaches me that when the unexpected takes something away from you, that doesn’t mean that life ends there, rather you adjust and continue on.

To learn more about Nora’s mission in Bolivia, read her blog A Walk in Bolivia.

Nora Pfeiffer is a returned missioner who served in Cochabamba, Bolivia from 2009 to 2012. She currently works at Franciscans International – Bolivia.