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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Misioneros Del Camino: Changing Societal Norms

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. Throughout the past month, I have been discussion the incredible milestones that Misioneros Del Camino has accomplished thus far. As the story wraps up to today’s present date, I wanted to share a video with pictures that show some of the beautiful children who have been saved by Misioneros Del Camino.

Some of the countless children who have been saved by Mami Leo can be found in the video below. It only takes one person to make a difference, as Mami Leo has done, and just one person alone has changed a generation of children. This is evident in the fact that over the years many of the children from Misioneros Del Camino have grown up to be inspirational figures to the other children and have become exceptional figures in society. It is always such a joyous moment when we get to see them graduate from school and enter into adulthood, thus breaking the cycle of abandonment, neglect, and abuse. The success of these young adults is truly an incredible sight.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TO-BuoKrV9o#t=254

 

Reaching New Heights at Misioneros Del Camino

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. Throughout the past month, I have been discussion the incredible milestones that Misioneros Del Camino has accomplished thus far. As the story continues, we pick back up in 2011.

As you might remember from a previous post, in 2006, a neurological center was established on site, providing care and numerous therapies to children with various neurological disorders such as autism, Down syndrome, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, and many more. In 2011, an expansion on the neurological center was completed in an effort to provide service to more children than our current facilities would allow. The expansion was devoted to both occupational and sensorial therapy.

Occupational therapy consists of teaching children everyday skills from getting dressed, to writing and more. Sensorial Therapy deals with sensory issues such as not being able to eat certain types of food, not being able to stand in a bright room, and more severe issues like the inability to sense hot or cold and high sensitivity to touch. To put this into perspective, imagine if someone touched you and it felt as though thousands of ants were crawling on you. Many children with Autism and sensory disorders cannot even be hugged or touched by their mothers because of such sensations. But thanks to the generosity of such great supporters, more will children will be able to hug their mothers and accomplish ordinary tasks that we would normally never even think twice about.

One such child who benefits from the therapies offered at the neurological center is Darlin, who is pictured below being carried on her mother’s back. She is four years old and has cerebral palsy. They live in a very poor village about 20 miles from the Neurological Center. To bring Darlin to therapy, her mother has to carry her daughter on her back to take a bus that leaves her about 5 kilometers from the Center, and then she walks the rest of the way with her daughter on her back. To return home, she does this again. She has been doing this since 2011 to help her daughter. Darlin has made fantastic progress! She is starting to take her first steps and is saying a few words. Hers is a long road, but there is hope. A few short years ago, she would not have had any hope or access to help, but thanks to the Neurological Center, that is no longer the case.

Misioneros Del Camino: The Opening of a Neurological Center

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. Throughout the past month, I have been discussion the incredible milestones that Misioneros Del Camino has accomplished thus far. As the story continues, we pick back up in 2006.

In 2006, a neurological center was established on site, providing care and numerous therapies to children with various neurological disorders such as autism, Down syndrome, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, and many more. With a great team of certified therapists, psychologists, and doctors, hundreds of children are able to obtain the necessary treatments that they wouldn’t be able to receive anywhere else.

In addition to special education, various types of therapies are provided to the children at the neurological center including: speech, physical, psychological, occupational, and sensorial therapy. Neurological and psychological evaluations as well as parental and therapeutic training seminars are also provided so that the children can learn to overcome the obstacles faced with their neurological disorders to the best of their abilities.

As you can see in the video below, all it takes is determination and a dream to make a difference in someone else’s life, which is exactly what Mami Leo has been done for nearly thirty years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0mi8kCMyZ0

Misioneros Del Camino: Reaching Out To Help The Surrounding Community

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.

Misioneros Del Camino- Educating the Future Generations

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. Over the next month, I’ll be highlighting a lot of incredible accomplishments that helped countless children in need, all thanks to one valiant and dedicated woman, Leonor Portela.

Thanks to the generosity of Mr. Ernesto Townsen, a Guatemalan businessman, the Sagrado Corazon School was opened on site in 2000. This elementary school has since provided an education, uniforms, school supplies, and transportation for children from the surrounding areas. The Sagrado Corazon School also has a marching band, which consists of numerous students with immense talent. To date, the band has won countless awards and has not only made the city proud, but they have made us proud as well. The school not only provides children an opportunity to receive an education and learn to become active members in a society that might not have allowed for such an education, but it instills confidence in each and every child in attendance. And the band gives the children a chance to learn a new skill and take pride in a talent they would have otherwise not knew existed.

A preview from the Sagrado Corazon’s Marching Band practice can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/k9w2bkg

Important Additions To Misioneros Del Camino

To summarize my past few posts, 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. Over the next month, I’ll be highlighting a lot of incredible accomplishments that helped countless children in need, all thanks to one valiant and dedicated woman, Leonor Portela.

By 1999, a chapel built on site at the home gave the children a place to cherish their prayers, and the first baptisms and communion took place shortly thereafter. After having survived a few years of purchasing daily supplies of water, a 705-foot deep well was built that same year, thus providing water to the home, thanks to the Rotary Clubs in Guatemala, the United States, and Canada.