Latinx teen Daniella Benitez is building miracles, one house at a time: 'That whole experience kind of just opened my eyes'

When Daniella Benitez helped build her first home for a family in Tijuana, Mexico — in 2017, at a mere 12 years old — the San Diego tween knew it wouldn’t be her last.

At the time, the now 18-year-old told her mom that she wanted to not only build another home for a family in Tijuana through the nonprofit organization Build a Miracle — she wanted to raise all the money for it too.

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And while the $16,000 needed to build a home was substantially less than many down payments on homes in California, it represented its own “miracle” to a preteen without a cellphone or a job.

Using her mom’s mobile phone, Benitez “texted 16 of our closest family and friends and asked if they’d be willing to donate $1,000 each so that we [could] put it together and build a house.”

By the end of that summer, with some added funds from babysitting and a lemonade stand, Benitez had secured all the money she needed to help another family live more comfortably.

“Honestly, the second we got there, the energy felt so good,” Benitez told In The Know by Yahoo about going to Tijuana. “Being with the family and watching them talk about their lives and then getting to watch them walk into their home, that whole experience kind of just opened my eyes and made me realize that there’s so much going on outside my bubble.”

It all started with that first house, which she learned about when Build a Miracle (BAM) came to Benitez’s school. The organization, founded by Julianne and Chris North, and its volunteers have built more than 400 homes in Tijuana since BAM’s founding in 2001.

“I get tears in my eyes just thinking about Daniella and her passion for making the world a better place,” Julianne told In The Know in a statement.

“We build three-bedroom homes with indoor kitchens and bathrooms and provide education and economic opportunities for families living in poverty in Mexico,” Julianne continued. “[Eighteen] of those homes have been built solely because of Daniella’s passion and her desire to care for those in need which has led to almost $300,000 in donations.”

A connection to her Latinx culture

Besides the motivation to help those in need, the Latina teen also feels a deep cultural connection to the families in Tijuana.

“I consider my BAM community in Tijuana as my ‘other family,'” Benitez shared. “With my dad [having] grown up in Puebla, Mexico, it makes me feel so good to find a way to help other people from Mexico, too. I feel a very strong connection with the Latino community and am committed to always being a part of the family I have created down in Tijuana.”

Daniella’s mom, GG Benitez, CEO of GG Benitez & Associates, PR, echoes Julianne’s pride in her daughter’s work — work that Daniella has also inspired her 16-year-old brother, Gabriel, to join.

“Every time she goes down to build another home, the previous donor families show up, hugging, crying, kissing her, and they refer to her as their ‘little mama’ and their ‘angel,'” GG told In The Know via email. “As a parent, there is nothing more heart warming than seeing my daughter come off of the BAM bus, and having dozens of kids and their parents run up to her with tears thanking her for not forgetting them. She doesn’t just raise the money, build and move on; she maintains an inspirational role in those young kids’ lives.”

As Daniella starts her college journey this year in Chicago, some of the kids she’s met in Tijuana are beginning theirs as well. Because they’ve stayed in touch, the teens have been able to share their experiences beyond their time with BAM.

“We all have the same basic desires, but some of us were just born into different opportunities,” Daniella shared. “I hope with the little work my teams and I are doing, that we are helping them to have some of the opportunities I am lucky to have, and create different futures for their own families.”

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