“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
Today (Sunday—yes, I know I’m behind) was a day designated to catching up on homework. This week, we’ll begin our presentations for teachers in the public school system in El Porvenir, Trujillo, and Trujillo Alto (which I’ll discuss later this week), but there’s a lot of preparations to be done. For today’s post however, I wanted to backtrack to something I wrote about in my prior post. I mentioned a song from Thalía titled, “A quien le importa,” or something along the lines of “To whom is it important to?”
For whatever reason, so many of us find importance in what others think or say about us as we grow up. We find that our sense of confidence, or lack thereof is developed and fostered based on the opinions and beliefs of those around us. When you speak with elder adults in the later stages, many of them will likely tell you the opposite, and explain that they could care less what others think of them because at this stage in life, they should be free to express themselves however they please.
Why is it that we have to wait until we reach an older age to finally learn to live for ourselves and not based on what others think of us? What is stopping us from doing so earlier so that we can truly get the most out of what we want from life? How would our lives differ if we went back in time and only focused on our opinions, as opposed to those of others?
Could you imagine how awful it would be if we could ignore everybody else for just a moment and truly enjoy every aspect of ourselves? What a concept it would be if we could care less what others think and treat ourselves as kindly as we treat those around us. Sounds terrible and pretty scary, right?
It’s such an easy concept, but one that for some reason is much harder said than done. So what is it that’s stopping us? Yes, we can obviously find fault in these learned behaviors by blaming society, the media, and whoever else is behind our dependency to place such a large emphasis on what others think. But at the end of the day, we are the only ones who stop ourselves from breaking this cycle. We are the only ones who can push ourselves to believe in ourselves. We have more power than we tend to believe, but like any change that we want to see, it has to start with us.
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.
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
In honor of running tomorrow’s Miami Half Marathon for Misioneros Del Camino, this week’s Snapshot Challenge is dedicated to the work that Mami Leo has done through MDC. There aren’t many things in life I can think of that are more beautiful than offering a helping hand to a fellow human being. However, saving the life of a child, giving that child a wonderful upbringing, providing that child with an abundance of love, and helping that child acclimate into society is pretty extraordinary if you ask me. Imagine devoting your life to such a cause and saving a countless number of children’s lives on a daily basis for thirty years. Mami Leo has done exactly this, and I believe that this week’s featured picture shows just how beautiful the work she has done, and the work that continues to be done in her name truly is.
If you would like to help support this wonderful cause, you may do so at: https://www.gofundme.com/5y82yn78
Similar to what I mentioned yesterday, at the beginning of the year, I set out to find noteworthy quotes to share with my readers every Sunday throughout 2015. My hope was that if one quote resonated with just one person, maybe that individual could be inspired to go on and achieve greatness.
It only takes a single spark to ignite a burning passion within a person. If that spark could be lit by memorable words of past and present leading figures of society, by all means, we should run with such words and begin to pave our paths towards greatness. With that being said, I would like to conclude 2015 with the following quote:
“There is no passion to be found playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
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. 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.
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.