Gabriel Benitez, 12, a 7th grader at Notre Dame Academy, was inspired by his older sister, 14-year-old Cathedral Catholic High School freshman Daniella Benitez, to raise the money to build a home for a family living in poverty.
Through the nonprofit organization Build a Miracle, it costs $16,000 to take a family from living in a shack to a fully furnished home with plumbing, electricity, bedrooms, a bathroom and shower. Gabriel and his sister Daniella were part of a Notre Dame-sponsored home build last year, and since then, Daniella had committed to building one home a year through her own leadership efforts.
After seeing Daniella’s success with recruiting a team of volunteers and helping families in need, Gabriel was motivated to do the same. This past summer, he spearheaded his own BAM (Build a Miracle) team, including his older sister Alexis Jammo, his aunt Bessma Loussia, the Lakmin family, the Aon family, the Purcell family, the Martin family, Sylvia Toma, Valerie Aljajawai, the Luddy family, the Attar family, the Thompson family, the Thurman family, the Dziura family, the Toma family, and also enlisted the help of celebrities Phaedra Parks and Mario and Courtney Lopez, to raise the money needed to build a home.
On Nov. 3, Gabriel and other volunteers traveled to Tijuana to meet their newly adopted family, and to mix and pour the cement, laying the foundation for their new home. On Dec. 1, they went back down to Tijuana to paint, furnish and reveal the home to its grateful new occupants.
“What affected me most was hearing the son, who is my age, saying that for the first time he will finally be able to invite his friends over to do homework and play technology, which is something I get to do all of the time,” said Gabriel Benitez.