Hero Spotlight: Joanna Henriquez, Answering God’s Call in the Dominican Republic
January 23, 2017
Without exception, the local people we employ are not only technically qualified for their jobs, they also bring an extraordinary degree of passion and personal investment that makes them ideally suited for working with people eager for a hand up.
Joanna Henriquez is our Survival Skills teacher in the Dominican Republic, where she teaches 35 orphaned and vulnerable teenagers how to survive independently and provide for themselves after they age out of the orphanage. She believes this youth empowerment work is God’s calling for her, and often expresses her gratitude to God for making it possible for her to work with these teens.
Born in the Dominican Republic city of La Romana, Joanna was raised by her grandmother and step-grandfather. She has a degree in Business Administration and Teacher Qualification, and she is mom to two children, ages 17 and 7.
During the week, she works for the Orphaned Starfish Foundation and teaches computer and typing classes to the same group of kids, providing them with skills they need to succeed in college and find steady work as an adult. On Fridays, they delve into spiritual topics, including a weekly “life lesson” that is meant to guide them in the week to come. And, on some Sundays, Joanna uses the Just Hope curriculum to tackle survival skills, teaching them about earning an income and paying bills, shopping for food and necessities and taking care of themselves.
It’s after the Survival Skills class that Joanna’s dedication shines. Even though her “official” duties for the week are completed, on many Sundays, Joanna voluntarily spends more time with the students, helping them with homework, enjoying some casual fun time, and then attending church together.
“I cannot express in words how delighted I am to work on the Survival Skills project,” Joanna said. “I feel satisfaction as I have never felt it in my life. Truly, working with these beautiful people has made me a better person, and I am so grateful to God for using me to give them a little piece of heaven, which they need so much.”
Joanna brings an incredible depth of love and attention to her work with Just Hope, and her gratitude for her job is matched by our gratitude for her!