PASEO Program Adventure—Day 28: El Porvenir, Peru

Seeing as this (past) weekend marks the end of the first half of our trip, last night, we hosted a potluck for all of the students and professors from the program. After the potluck, we all went out to the local salsa club (which keep in mind, doesn’t open until midnight). We stayed out until 3:00am, and were somehow able to make it to another workshop at 8:00am in El Porvenir. 

As we walked into the room where the workshop was going to take place, we were surprised to see more than 40 attendees eagerly awaiting our arrival. Teachers from local public schools, members of La Fiscalía, and professors and administrators from Universidad Nacional de Trujillo were all in attendance. Prior workshops had 11 attendees at most, so this was truly a surprise, and it was motivating to see so many individuals participate and take an interest in improving the overall wellbeing of their students. 

We discussed some of the many barriers that the educators face, as well as risk factors that so many students face, which can often hinder their completion of attaining an education. However, we discussed protective factors to be mindful of, and ways to foster a greater level of support between the students and teachers. Before concluding, we discussed ways to engage in self-care, and worked with the teachers to create a plan moving forward so they can begin to implement changes they would like to make in the classroom. 

Each of the public schools have a program called Líderes Escolares, where students with leadership qualities are named School Leaders. These leaders get together every  week or two and work alongside one another to help improve their school communities. After the workshop, we were fortunate enough to see a show hosted by the Líderes Escolares, in which students from each school performed a song or dance. 

Throughout the first half of the program, we worked alongside teachers and faculty members to see how we can improve classroom behaviors as well as teacher relationships with students (with the goal of helping students feel more support so that they can achieve their educational goals). This was the perfect transition to end the first half of the program, because starting next week, we will be working more closely with the student leaders, with the goal of empowering them to help their peers stay in school, avoid drug usage and gang affiliation, and help them make an even greater difference in their schools. 

PASEO Program Adventure—Day 25: El Porvenir, Peru

This morning (Tuesday), we began the day with our Spanish for Mental Health class. Shortly after class, we traveled to El Porvenir to host another workshop for teachers and school administrators at one of the city’s local public schools. 

We start each workshop with the same question: What made you decide to become a teacher? Often times, (if you haven’t already realized) when you work in a field with little recognition when so many societal barriers are stacked against you, it’s easy to forget what motivated you to get into that particular field. It’s interesting to hear how each individual found their way to become a teacher- whether it was by choice or because everyone in their family before them was a teacher too. Regardless of how they ended up in this profession, each individual described the same goal, and that is wanting to make a difference in the lives of their students. 

The teachers discussed the hardships of maintaining their students’ attention in the classroom, mainly due to the fact that so many of them have to work night shifts in order to help bring in some extra money for their families. It’s difficult to know that majority of these students face a variety of obstacles outside of the classroom- most of which are outside of our control. However, what helps offer the slightest sliver of peace is the fact that there are so many selfless teachers willing and able to support these children in any way possible. It is our hope that these workshops will help those in the educational field better understand some of the difficulties that their students are facing so that an even greater amount of support can be fostered between the students and teachers. 

 

PASEO Program Adventure—Day 14: El Porvenir y Huanchaco, Peru

Last night, we went salsa dancing at a local club, which didn’t start until midnight. Given the fact that most reasons to stay up later in the States (i.e. Blacklist, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, etc.) are over by 10:00pm., it’s safe to say that this was way past my usual bedtime. We were out until 3:00am before I remembered I had to be at my internship site nearly two hours away at 8:00am.

Today’s observation was pretty interesting, since I was able to observe an art class, during which the students were learning Marinera—the coastal dance of Peru. I was then able to observe another class where the students were asked to draw a tree in which each part of the tree represents an important aspect of their lives—including values, support systems, and goals for the future. Last week, one of the principals informed me that vocational considerations aren’t usually discussed with the children, so it was great for so many children to have the opportunity to think about their interests, plans, and goals. It was also refreshing to see a professor teach with such passion because doing so allowed her to maintain the class’ attention, which appears to be a big problem in many of the public schools here. But it just goes to show, if you are truly passionate about what you do, you can absolutely make a lasting difference in the lives of so many others.

Upon returning from the school, I had class on global mental health, which I’ll discuss later on. For dinner, we went out for local street food, and of course, we had more papas rellenas, a baked potato dough usually filled with beef, onions, hard-boiled eggs, cumin and other spices. Once prepared, this incredible healthy (just kidding) blob of goodness is deep-fried. Because what isn’t ten times better deep-fried?

Running For A Cause: Part 1

This upcoming Sunday, January 24th, I’ll be running in the Miami Half Marathon to raise money and awareness for Misioneros Del Camino—a home for orphaned, abandoned, and malnourished children in Guatemala. Over the course of the next few days, I’ll be writing about Misioneros Del Camino and sharing the incredible background story of one brave woman’s calling from above to make a difference, as well as various success stories of some of the many children who grew up at MDC.

Born and raised in Cuba, Leonor Portela moved to Miami where her husband served as an American Air Force pilot. At the age of twenty-six, Leonor’s husband was called for duty to during the Bay of Pigs, but unfortunately, his plane was shot down and crashed in the ocean. Years later, after hearing about the devastating 1976 earthquake in Guatemala, Leonor was moved to action and decided to assist in volunteer efforts abroad. She traveled to Guatemala to offer her assistance, and was shocked at the country’s destruction and the conditions that the children were living in. After returning to America, it took a few years before Leonor was able to find the financial help and support needed to return to Guatemala and follow through with a calling from above.

In 1986, Leonor sold her home and moved to Guatemala with $2,700 raised by her prayer group—where she opened a Home for children—currently known as Misioneros Del Camino. Leonor, also known as Mami Leo, started the Home with three children, and worked tirelessly to collect donations to bring in more children. One of the first children was a two-year year old girl with tuberculosis who weighed only 12 pounds. Doctors swore that she would have no more than two weeks to live, but she is currently living in the United States with a masters in social work. Another child taken in by Mami Leo had been dipped in scalding water by his parents, and had undergone other atrocious treatments by them as well. Mami Leo carried him in her arms for days, and during that time, he did not move or utter a sound. As she put him to bed on the fourth night of continuously caring for him and holding him, he broke his silence and asked, “Por que me quieres?” which translates to “Why do you love me?” He is currently attending law school and returns to the Home to help out whenever he can.

There are so many children living on the streets in Guatemala—many of whom are suffering from malnutrition and hunger. Mami Leo once exclaimed, “It’s not only saving a child, giving them food and shelter; anybody can do that. But to give love, to make them citizens that are proud of themselves and not ashamed of where they come from, and become good Christians, I think that’s the job.” Throughout the years, Mami Leo has saved, cared for, and provided educational, nutritional, and medical support for thousands of children.

In honor of the work Mami Leo has done, in continuing her legacy, and to help provide a bright future to the current generation of children at Misioneros Del Camino, I am running in this week’s Miami Marathon. If you would like to help contribute to this incredible cause so that we can help fulfill Mami Leo’s mission, please feel free to click on the below link. And if you would like to learn more about Misioneros Del Camino, please feel free to clink on the bottom link.

https://www.gofundme.com/5y82yn78
www.misionerosdelcamino.org 

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Snapshot Challenge Saturday

My brother and sister work in the floral industry, and as you can probably imagine, work has been somewhat hectic (to say the least) with the holiday season in full swing. However, as orders have been placed and shipped, they had a great deal of extra vases and flowers sitting around their warehouse. They decided to donate all of the remaining flowers to a local hospital, and they invited me to go with them to make the delivery.

They gave forty arrangements to the administrative nurse to hand out to the patients, and seeing how appreciative she was on behalf of the staff and patients was such a beautiful and fulfilling sight. It just goes to show that simple and thoughtful acts of kindness can make all the difference.

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In the Face of Abuse

On the medical mission trip I attended this past summer to Guatemala, a young girl in her early 20’s asked if she could speak with someone. One of the volunteers asked me to go over and talk to her, so I sat down alongside her and began conversing. She explained that her uncle had recently passed away from alcoholism and his death had left her distraught because he left behind his wife and young children. His wife is not able to work since her children are so young, so his family was left hungry and without any money. This resulting effect had left the young woman in a state of depression, and she could not stop thinking about her uncle’s passing and what would happen to his family.

Upon inquiring more into her background, I learned that this young woman is married with a newborn. She and her husband live with her parents, but the issue at hand though, is that her husband has been physically abusive by consistently beating her. When her husband wasn’t abusing her, both of her parents would take turns beating her, and if she experiencing such severe mistreatment from either of her “loved ones,” her mother-in-law would verbally abuse her and put her down at any given moment.

While many young adults in the United States are in college and finding themselves at such a young age, this young woman was being abused by everyone in her immediate family. Regardless of the awful situation she was facing, she was still concerned about her uncle’s family and what would happen to his children and wife. Through her way of speaking and her mannerisms, you could tell that this young woman was such a strong, resilient, and caring individual. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to interfere with her situation at home, because upon leaving our medical mission, the situation could intensify and we wouldn’t be able to do anything about it back in the States. However, for the first time ever, this young woman was able to open up about her life behind closed doors.

While the concept of not actually being able to help her situation at home was painful for me to accept, together, we discussed what an incredible mother she has been and what an incredible mother she will continue to be. She alone will break the cycle of abuse when it comes to her child, and she will teach her child the right way to treat others. We were able to collect numerous nutritional pediatric drinks for both her baby and her uncle’s children.

Such stories are more common than we would like to imagine, which is why we must do everything we can to help prevent abuse and domestic violence here at home and wherever possible. No one should have to experience any form of mistreatment by others, and if we could come together to make this a point across the globe, so many lives would be saved and improved. But in the meantime, somewhere out there is a brave young mother tolerating awful abuse by her “loved ones,” but still continuing to care for her newborn baby and young, hungry cousins.

I will not be posting a picture of this young woman, but instead, I decided to post a picture of a sunset during the mission. Although the nights may be dark, a sunrise will always follow. Therefore, there is always hope for a better and brighter tomorrow.

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One Child’s Misconstrued Story

Over the summer, I attended a medical mission trip to Guatemala where our team of doctors and volunteers treated well over a thousand individuals in only a few short days. I worked in a triage station, and had the primary task of asking the people needing medical attention what was wrong, taking their blood sugar levels, blood pressure, weight, and temperature. From there, myself and the other triage team members would write down which doctor the person needed to see, and someone from the logistics team would walk him or her over to the required doctor.

A mother and her young son sat down at my table, and the mother explained that her son was very quiet and did not like talking to many people beside for her. She mentioned that the boy’s teacher believed him to have Autism Spectrum Disorder and recommended that he stop by the medical mission to inquire testing. I spent some time with the child and tried to engage in conversation with him. Although he was shy and  seemed afraid to talk at first, little by little, he began opening up.

While I still recommended he receive testing by a trained psychologist as his teacher had recommended, it turns out, the child was being bullied at school. For this reason, he had become increasingly quiet and preferred not to engage in conversations with individuals other than his mother. Because he was being bullied at school, he was carrying around a significant fear on his shoulders, and no one seemed to know about his bullying.

Bullying occurs across the globe, and for us to ignore such terrible actions committed against others is an injustice to those afraid to speak up and ask for help. No one should have to endure bullying, and we should be doing everything we can to make sure that no child, young adult, or even adult faces mistreatment by others. It is up to us to make a difference.

For a child who was believed to have had Autism and who was believed to avoid individuals and not smile at all costs, I would say that after explaining his story and having someone to talk to, his smile was pretty big if you ask me.

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