by Lilian Dirito

Four years ago, I learned about Nana’s House in Tepic, Nayarit, México, through a ministry called La Fuente Ministries. Tepic is the capital of the state of Nayarit in the North Pacific of Mexico, and the city where I grew up until I went to college.

Mary Jo Hansen, a wonderful American woman that has been living in Tepic for over 15 years, along with P. Jodiann Schott from Spokane, Wash., founded Nana´s House over five years ago. Mary Jo felt in her heart the desire to rescue girls from poverty, abandonment and abusive conditions. She has been very successful in her mission and now has 23 children. A few months ago, Nana´s House started a home from boys, so there are 18 girls and five boys altogether.

The background and life stories of these children are heartbreaking, to say the least, from sexual abuse to human trafficking to abandonment on the streets to suicide attempts. They range from 3 to 15 years old, and most of them have never attended school.

Mary Jo worked for months and years to get them into the school system, but because of documentation and history requirements, the public schools did not accept them. She finally found a private school for them.

To get acclimated, the children go through a few months of school training to learn basic skills before joining the regular school program. The changing testimonies are breathtaking. Girls and boys who were living with an extreme, uncertain future are now some of the top students in their classes, and are active, peaceful and loving.

During my past few winters in México, I have participated in different activities with Nana´s House. This last winter I taught a Zumba fitness class for them twice a week. We went on a trip to the mall and to dinner with the boys to celebrate one of their birthdays. They love tacos! These children are so appreciative. The minute they see you, they pour so much love and respect that you just want to hug them and kiss them forever.

Sofia and Diego (my children) love going to visit them. The little girls like Sofia a lot, because she plays with them for hours and does girlie things that they feel are so much fun. Diego, of course, goes with the boys. They run, play, bike and build things.

The home grew from 12 to 15 to over 20 children in just a few months. It takes around $300 US to support one child per month. They all receive three meals a day, clothes, shoes, school supplies, school tuition, uniforms, medical expenses (there is no medical insurance available for these kids), dental work and braces in some cases, etc.

Nana´s House is a non-profit organization that supports itself solely by donations.

Right now, the children are divided by ages and live in three different homes. Mary Jo´s dream is to get donated land in Tepic to build a home where they can all live together. Every time a child comes into Nana´s House, they are always welcomed, even if the home is full. The children mostly come from very critical experiences. The only thing Mary Jo and the staff want to do is take them, hug them, take care of beaten little faces and other injuries, and help them recover from a suicide attempt (like the case of Tonatiuh, a 10-year-old boy), and just keep them safe.

Over the winter, I told Mary Jo about Ellicottville and the incredible community we have here. My heart´s desire quickly moved into the possibility of sharing this mission with our community. Two months ago, Mary Jo wrote me and asked if she could come and to share our mission.

We will have a short video presentation on July 24 at 7 p.m. in the Ellicottville Memorial Library’s Community Room. Please join us to learn more about Nana´s House. It will be an evening full of loving and giving inspiration.

For more information, please email Lilian Dirito at or call (716) 244-2114. More information is at or