“The first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself… Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.” -Nelson Mandela
While blog readers across the country and bored Facebook scrollers have had a few months vacation of not having to read my posts, I figured today of all days is an important day to temporarily halt the hiatus and offer up a few words.
The past few months have been an incredible whirlwind, to say the least, and I’m so fortunate for the experiences I have been able to have. Moving back to Peru to gain more clinical experience and returning to Guatemala to serve the beautiful people of Sumpango were without a doubt among the highlights, but tonight’s focus is on Haiti.
Last month, I was lucky enough to have worked alongside an incredible group of mental health professionals in Croix des Bouquets with Global Trauma Research—an organization whose meaningful and impactful work goes beyond limits. While in Haiti, we had the opportunity to work with medical providers, teachers, lawyers, and both religious and community leaders—all of whom had one goal: learn more about mental health and find ways to provide sustainable mental health care in their community.
While I’ll go into details about the trip later on, I want to bring to light the fact that Haiti suffered a catastrophic earthquake on this day eight years ago that devastated the lives of so many. One and a half million people were displaced, between 200,000-300,000 people were killed, and hundreds of thousands were left injured. While we read about natural disasters that take place across the globe on a frequent basis, it’s important to note the horrendous tragedy that struck this truly beautiful country as we remember those who were lost eight years ago.
While I have yet to learn Haitian Creole, I did learn the saying “Lespwa fè viv,” or “Hope makes one live.” Through all the adversity and challenges they have faced, the Haitian people have persevered time and time again. I saw firsthand how the people of Haiti continue to push forward with hope for a brighter tomorrow, and having worked alongside such inspiring leaders in the community while abroad, I truly believe that this brighter tomorrow is most definitely a possibility.
This afternoon, we participated in Trujillo’s Marcha por el Orgullo LGTBI (Lesbianas, gays, trans, bisexuales e intersexuales) in honor of Día Internacional del Orgullo Gay. The energy and feeling of overall love and acceptance at the march was truly beautiful and inspiring. Same sex marriage in Peru is still not legal, and alongside women and persons with disabilities, members of the LGTBI community are one of the most mistreated collective groups of individuals in the country.
One of the many posters that stood out to me was, “Porque mis amigos no pueden tener los mismos derechos que yo?,” which translates to “Why can’t my friends have the same rights as me?” Another meaningful poster that caught my attention was “Mi amor no es el problema. Tu odio, si,” which translates to, “My love is not the problem. Your hate is.” The parade was filled with members of the younger generation, and every so often, you could see an adult with a small child on their back carrying a pride flag alongside a trans pride flag.
The organizers of the march hosted a talent show afterwards, which showcased incredible local talent of children, adolescents, and adults—all of whom united as one for this important cause. A man and his mother attended the march and show together, and were asked to come on stage so that the mother could share her message of love and support to all of the children in the audience. One performer professed her love to her partner, and dedicated a song to her. One teenager in particular sang a song titled, “A quién le importa” by Thalía, and the impactful words really resonated on this powerful day. Part of the song (and a rough translation) can be found below.
Me apuntan con el dedo; They point to me with their fingers
Susurra a mis espaldas; They whisper behind my back
Y a mi me importa un bledo; And I couldn’t care less
Que mas me da; What more can I give
Si soy distinta a ellos; Yes, I am different from them
No soy de nadie; I do not belong to anyone
No tengo dueño; I do not have an owner
Me consta que me odian; I know they hate me
La envidia les corroe; Their envy corrodes
Mi vida les agobia; My life overwhelms them
Porque sera; Because it will be
Yo no tengo la culpa; It is not my fault
Mi circunstancia les insulta; My circumstances insult them
El que yo elijo para mi; It’s what I choose for me
A quien le importa lo que yo diga?; To whom is it important what I say?
Yo soy así, y así seguiré, nunca cambiare; I am like this, and so I will continue. I will never change
A quien le importa lo que yo haga?; To whom is it important what I do?
A quien le importa lo que yo diga?; To whom is it important what I say?
Yo soy así, y así seguiré, nunca cambiare; I am like this, and so I will continue. I will never change.
As we marched As we marched by a church, we received nothing but harsh stares and glances from church-goers. By the time we made our way back to the church on our second lap of the plaza, one church-goer grabbed a pride flag and waved it back and forth. Love and acceptance isn’t as hard as so many people make it out to be, and as one person yesterday mentioned, “Una no necesita ser gay para apoyar la unión civil, solo ser humano,” or “You don’t have to be gay to support civil union. You just have to be human.” And as Mother Teresa stated, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
No matter how unfair the laws may be or the maltreatment that so many experience on a daily basis due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, the march continues, and it is one of pride because everyone should be proud of who they are. And if society could only find a way to embrace acceptance, the world would truly be a better and more loving place for all.
Last week, we lost an incredible individual who impacted the lives of countless individuals across the globe. This week’s Simple Quote Sunday will be in memory of Wayne Dyer, and although it is more of a story than a quote, there is still an extremely valuable lesson that we can all learn something from.
“I was preparing to speak at an I Can Do It conference and I decided to bring an orange on stage with me as a prop for my lecture. I opened a conversation with a bright young fellow of about twelve who was sitting in the front row.
‘If I were to squeeze this orange as hard as I could, what would come out?’ I asked him.
He looked at me like I was a little crazy and said, ‘Juice, of course.’
‘Do you think apple juice could come out of it?’
‘No!’ he laughed.
‘What about grapefruit juice?’
‘What would come out of it?’
‘Orange juice, of course.’
‘Why? Why when you squeeze an orange does orange juice come out?’
He may have been getting a little exasperated with me at this point. ‘Well, it’s an orange and that’s what’s inside.’
I nodded. ‘Let’s assume that this orange isn’t an orange, but it’s you. And someone squeezes you, puts pressure on you, says something you don’t like, offends you. And out of you comes anger, hatred, bitterness, fear. Why? The answer, as our young friend has told us, is because that’s what’s inside.’
It’s one of the great lessons of life. What comes out when life squeezes you? When someone hurts or offends you? If anger, pain and fear come out of you, it’s because that’s what’s inside. It doesn’t matter who does the squeezing—your mother, your brother, your children, your boss, the government. If someone says something about you that you don’t like, what comes out of you is what’s inside. And what’s inside is up to you, it’s your choice.
When someone puts the pressure on you and out of you comes anything other than love, it’s because that’s what you’ve allowed to be inside. Once you take away all those negative things you don’t want in your life and replace them with love, you’ll find yourself living a highly functioning life.”
There are thousands of children living on the streets in Guatemala. Hundreds of them will die of malnutrition and hunger. But as Mami Leo exclaimed in a previous Radio Marathon, “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.” For nearly thirty years, Mami Leo has saved, cared for, and provided interim care to thousands of children. During her time in Guatemala, she also provided educational, nutritional, and medical support to countless children in the country. And because of her persistence, medical mission trips have helped provide medical attention to thousands of other Guatemalan citizens in need. Mami Leo has truly made this world a better place, and it is up to us to continue her mission.
Mami Leo was an incredible woman with a beautiful soul. She has taught us that with passion and unconditional love, anything is possible. For nearly thirty years, she has saved thousands of children from abuse, abandonment, neglect, and malnutrition. She has also provided help and care to children with neurological disorders who would have otherwise been cast aside by society. She impacted the lives of families throughout Guatemala by teaching them how to provide proper nutrition to their children, but above all, she spread love to every person she ever came across. Her love is what is helping break the cycle of abuse, abandonment, neglect, and malnutrition across the country. Her love has given countless children a brighter future. And her love is what will keep us working to fulfill her legacy. And as she once put it, “If you don’t dream, you’ll never make it.” Together, we can help continue to fulfill her dream.
In 1986, Mami Leo answered a call from God to pack her belongings and move to Guatemala to help abandoned, abused, and malnourished children. With $2,700 raised by her and her prayer group, and faith that the Lord would guide her, Mami Leo devoted nearly thirty years of her life living in the mountains, nourishing, educating, and loving countless Guatemalan children in need. For the past few weeks and remainder of the month, I’ll be highlighting many of incredible accomplishments that helped countless children in need, all thanks to one valiant and dedicated woman, Leonor Portela.
In 2001, the Emmaus Medical Mission group first started its biannual trips to Guatemala from Miami. The Emmaus doctors and volunteers treat a few thousand people each mission who have never before received medical attention in their lives. Mami Leo convinced a well-respected doctor from Miami who at the time was leading medical missions to other countries to bring his group to Guatemala because there were so many people in need of medical assistance. This doctor complied, and has since been bringing his Emmaus team to Guatemala twice a year for fourteen years now. Because of Mami Leo’s dedication to serve the people of Guatemala, thousands of Guatemalan citizens have received medical care ever since.
In 2003, a nutritional ward for malnourished children was started. Nourishment is provided to each child until they have fully recovered. Parents of children outside of the home are provided with a follow-up nutritional program that teaches them how to best feed their children with the available resources. As you can see from just one example in the picture below, the nutritional ward has positively impacted the lives of so many children. And again, this is yet another program that Mami Leo implemented to give children in such terrible, and often times deadly conditions, a chance at life.
This past week was a very difficult one because the world lost an incredible human being on Sunday, March 8th. Whenever the medical mission team I volunteer with would go to Guatemala and stay at the orphanage Mami Leo founded nearly thirty years ago, she would remind us to not forget about the children upon our return to the states. Our group stayed at the home for only one week, twice a year, and that’s it. For the other 355 days in the year, Leonor Portela, who was more affectionately known as Mami Leo was at the home with the children by herself. Through the hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides, and the days with no electricity, Mami Leo was there protecting her children. It takes a special person to dedicate her life just to provide a life for others, and that’s exactly what Mami Leo did.
I flew out to Guatemala City early Wednesday morning and arrived just in time for a beautiful mass held in her honor. The entire church was packed and there was not an empty seat in the building. Looking around the room and seeing just how many people Mami Leo has impacted throughout her life was an incredible sight, and knowing that this wasn’t even close to the amount of people she saved and inspired was even more incredible. The funeral procession commenced once the mass concluded, and it was just as difficult as you can imagine. When the funeral concluded, we drove to the orphanage in Sumpango, Sacatepequez where we all gathered around and talked, sharing stories of Mami Leo with one another.
We lined a bunch of tables next to one another and sat down for dinner in a long rectangular set-up. I sat by the center table, and as I looked to my left and right, a sense of peace overcame me. It was truly a beautiful sight; the table was filled with children of all ages who had been saved by Mami Leo (some of whom are pictured below). Even young adults who no longer live in the home came back to spend time with Memo Leo before her passing, and celebrate her life following this terrible loss. In looking around and taking in the surrounding environment, I realized the true impact of Mami Leo’s life work. Some of the people sitting at the table were among the first few children Mami Leo took in years ago, and they were sitting here with children of their own whom you can tell are provided with unconditional love and support.
The love that Mami Leo gave to her children has been carried on to their own children, and Mami Leo has successfully helped them break the chain of abuse, neglect, and abandonment in Guatemala. They are well-integrated members of society, many in Guatemala, and some in the United States. And what is just as special is the fact that they all still treasure where they come from, the beautiful home Mami Leo took them into, Misioneros Del Camino.
So while we mourn a tragic loss of what I truly believe is a one of a kind saint, we also rejoice in knowing that Mami Leo’s legacy isn’t going anywhere. We can all come together to help fulfill her mission and dream of providing love and support to such children in need, and more importantly, we will never forget Mami Leo, her work, or the thousands of children whom she is survived by. And as she once said, plain and simply, “If you don’t dream, you’ll never make it.” Descansa en paz Mami Leo.
A short while ago I was nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award, but somehow didn’t come across the comment nominating me until a few days ago. Better late than never, especially when it comes to exciting awards! I was nominated for this awesome award by Sahbina from http://sahbinahvioletflynn.wordpress.com/. Her blog is truly amazing, so I would strongly recommend checking it out!
We all have goals in life and all want to achieve nothing but the best for ourselves. Have you ever asked yourself what the goal of your blog is? I’m assuming you have since you’re successfully blogging here on WordPress, but once in a while it’s nice to think about the what the purpose of our actions is. Let me tell you why I blog. There are quite a few reasons here, so bare with me. I blog to make people happy; I blog to entertain my followers; I blog to keep tabs on trips that I have taken and remember what I did on those trips; I blog so that other people can take these trips with me from the comfort of their own home; I blog to help people overcome obstacles they may be facing on a daily basis; I blog to remind people what is important in life and to remind each of us (myself included) of important lessons that we sometimes forget; I blog to help myself out on a daily basis; I blog to help others out on a daily basis; I blog to inspire myself; and I blog to inspire others.
If you can make a positive impact on someone’s day, then you have done something really good. If you can help improve someone’s week, then you have done something great. If you have made a difference in someone’s life for the better, then you have done something incredible. I blog to try to make a positive impact in my follower’s lives on a daily basis and as a whole, in general. If I am able to make this difference on just one person (even if it’s myself), then I will be content in knowing that I fulfilled my goal. But I don’t want to stop at just impacting one person’s day and/or life. I want to keep going. So I will keep on blogging and keep on trying to inspire. (Maybe I took this post a little too seriously, but a little catharsis never hurt anyone). But again, special thanks to Sahbina for making a positive impact on my day with the nomination of this award 🙂
Now for the RULES to follow when nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award:
- Display the award logo on your blog.
- Link back to the person who nominated you.
- State 7 things about yourself.
- Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them.
- Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.
Seven Things About Me:
- I am the youngest of three kids (I have an older brother and sister)
- We have three dogs at home (one to replace each of us when we left our house for college)
- I intern for a local college entertainment-oriented magazine in the Orlando area
- While using the bathroom in a moving train last week, I had a sudden burst of inspiration and came up with the following quote. “Life is like using the bathroom in a moving vehicle. You can come out with lots of accomplishments or lots of regrets”
- I use Twitter to promote my blog and at times to reach out to friends and fellow Twitter followers. I try not to use it too much to give updates on my location (minus traveling) because I don’t think people want to know when I’m eating dinner or when I’m going to the bathroom
- I have self-diagnosed OCD in general, but more specifically, I can’t finish brushing my teeth until I brush each “section” for a certain amount of time. Also, after a certain amount of time since previous haircuts, I have to get another haircut or else I’ll start to get jittery (It’s not easy thinking of facts about yourself, so sometimes you have to dig deep)
- Seven is actually my favorite number
My Nominations for the Very Inspiring Blog Award:
My whole blogging experience wouldn’t be the same without my followers as well as the blogs that I follow. There are always new blogs that catch my attention and there is no way of showing that I appreciate their work more than nominating them with a gratifying award such as this. Thank you to the following blogs for inspiring me and making a difference in my everyday life!
Alright, I’m going to be blunt here and say what no one wants to hear. We’re all going to pass away one day, and when that happens, there’s nothing left we can do. Hmm; it seems pretty obvious, huh? Well, here’s the catch… You have to read in between the lines to really understand what I’m getting at.
If you want to leave a legacy behind, or make a difference in the world, you had better start now. We only have one shot here on earth, and in the game of life, there are no re-dos and no second chances. Yes, we will make mistakes and we will make them quite often, but this is the real deal. When people look back on your life after you pass away, no one will remember how big your flatscreen T.V. was, how many features your new car had, or how extravagent your house was. All of those “things” will be insignificant because people will only remember you for what you leave behind (and no, not the materialistic things you pass on to others).
Don’t get me wrong here, of course having a flatscreen T.V. will come in handy when watching the next big game, a great car will provide for smooth riding, and your dream-house will be of great comfort, but these aren’t the things that make life great and what shape the future. Making a differece in the community, going out and helping others, impacting generations to come, bringing joy and happiness to everyone around you; those will be the things that people remember you for.
Think of it this way: if you were to be looking down at your funeral procession, what would you want people to be saying about you? And for those who think this is meant to be a gloomy post (which I promise it isn’t), think about it like this, instead: if you were to be honored by your community for making a positive impact, what would you want to be honored for?
One person is all is takes to make a difference. And if you, yourself can help one person and one person only, you’ll have known that you made all the difference in the world. (Of course, we would all like to help as many people as possible, but even if it’s one single person, you will still have made a positive impact). I hope I left you all with some food for thought today, and remember, you could be that one person! Have a great weekend 🙂