What the Jalapa Girl Jewelsmiths can teach us about expanding our notions of family and the ability to heal.
There are no molds. No stamps. Each jewelry item is finished with the fingerprint of the girl who made it. The inspiration behind each piece — a renewed sense of hope that comes from confronting the ghosts of one’s past.
The Jalapa Girl Jewelsmiths come to the Nuestra Señora de los Remedios Home for different reasons: domestic violence, physical and psychological abuse, incest, rape, neglect, and others. Today 110 girls, between the ages of two and twenty-one, live there under the loving care of nuns. Referred to the home by the courts, the girls receive food, education, psychological and spiritual support — and also training in the art of traditional crafts.
When Clare Johnston Kunkel heard about the Nuestra Señora Home in Guatemala in 2007, she decided to travel from the United States and volunteer to teach sewing. All these years later, the crafts have expanded to include jewelry making, and the number of girls who work on the projects has blossomed to over twenty. Through silver, gemstones, and leather, the Jalapa girls express their hearts, minds, and imaginations.
While they may be apart from their biological families, they find warmth, protection, and care in the loving nuns who raise them, and Clare Kunkel, who has dedicated her life to empowering these young women.
They may not be related by blood, but there is no doubt that Clare and the nuns are essential maternal figures in the lives of these girls.
This Mother’s Day, we celebrate all those who fill those maternal roles, who show us what unconditional love looks like and help us find our way in the world.