PASEO Program Adventure—Day 15: Trujillo, Peru

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.

La gente me señala; The people point at me
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
Yo se que me critican; I know they criticize me
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
Mi destino es el que yo decido; My destiny is what I decide
El que yo elijo para mi; It’s what I choose for me
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
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.

FotorCreated.jpg

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 

IMG_8475.JPG

Misioneros Del Camino: A Legacy of Unconditional Love

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.

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

Rest In Peace Mami Leo

On Saturday, I wrote about an important figure, not only in my life, but in the lives of countless people across the world. Leonor Portela, also known as Mami Leo saved thousands of lives in Guatemala after moving there to start a home for abandoned, neglected, malnourished, and abused children. With only $2,000 to her name, she picked up and left her life in America to start a new life in Guatemala, a country in which she had no connection to whatsoever before moving there. On Sunday evening at 7:12 p.m. Guatemalan time, Mami Leo passed away peacefully, surrounded by so many of the children whom she loved so dearly. I’ve included a link in this post that shows a brief video of some of the incredible work that Mami Leo has done. Keep in mind, the video only talks about the neurological center that she started to help children with neurological disorders; it doesn’t even mention the orphanage that she also started on her own!

Mami Leo was truly an incredible woman who was relentless in putting the lives of children in need before her own. She worked tirelessly to provide so many children with a home to call their own. But more importantly, she gave them love which is something that so many of them were missing for so long before arriving at the home. Thanks to Mami Leo’s love and devotion, I can honestly say the world has become a better place. I am so fortunate to have had her be a part of my life and I can only hope to be even just half of the person she was. I will forever be grateful for the example she set for each of us and I hope that our continuation of her work will forever make her proud.

http://youtu.be/h0mi8kCMyZ0

A family friend recently shared this quote with me and it has provided me with great comfort. I hope it can be helpful to someone else in their time of need too.

“Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again! ”
-Henry Scott Holland

Half Marathon Training Weeks 3 and 4

Going into my third week of training, I had received a generous amount of donations from friends and colleagues, but the donations seemed to have stopped coming in. Running was as boring as I imagined it would be, and no T.V. channel at the gym was able to make it more exciting. I was beginning to lose focus on the end goal, as feelings of doubt continued to arise.  I had to research something on the Internet for school one afternoon, and upon looking up scholarly articles for the assigned topic, I somehow came across the name of the woman who started the orphanage in Guatemala. I looked into the site and found a radio interview with her, which I listened to later that night when completing my daily run. The interview, which can be found at: http://www.catholicemmausradio.org/media/show21.mp3 really helped give me a motivational push to get back on track and realize that I wasn’t just running for myself, but for a cause bigger than me. And with that, I was able to complete my third week of running, in which I had run 23 miles, and by the end of the fourth week, I had run 24 miles.

Born and raised in Cuba, Leonor Portela moved to Miami where her husband served as an Air Force pilot. Three years later at the age of twenty-six, Leonor’s husband was flying for America in the Bay of Pigs, when 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 help out, and came back to the States in shock of the country’s destruction and the conditions that the children were living in. Having found her purpose of saving the children of Guatemala, it took ten years to find the financial help and support that Mami Leo needed, thanks to her prayer group.

In 1986, Leonor sold her home and moved to Guatemala with $2,700 raised by her prayer group, where she opened up a home for children, currently known as Misioneros Del Camino. Starting off with three children, Mami Leo, as she is affectionately known, began collecting donations to bring in more children. One of the first children was a two-year year old girl who weighed only 12 pounds, and had tuberculosis as well. Doctors swore that she would have no more than two weeks to live, but she is currently living in the United States as a straight-A student in school. One of the other children that Mami Leo took into her home had been dipped in scalding water by his parents, and had undergone other atrocious treatments by them as well. Mami Leo carried him, mute and lifeless in a harness for days, and on the fourth day as she put him to bed, he broke his silence and asked, “Por que me quieres?” which translates to “Why do you love me?” He now attends law school and returns to the home to help out whenever he can.

There are roughly 10,000 children living on the streets in Guatemala alone. Nearly 100 out of every 1,000 child will die of malnutrition and hunger. As Mami Leo exclaimed in the above interview, “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 and cared for over 2,200 children and has provided interim care for thousands more. During her time in Guatemala thus far, she has provided educational, nutritional, and medical support to over 42,000 children in the country.

This is the reason that I am running in this week’s Miami Marathon, and the reason why I continue returning to Guatemala year after year. 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. http://www.gofundme.com/h8kjvs http://www.misionerosdelcamino.org/index.php