Snapshot Challenge Saturday

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the NEDA walk in Miami. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate out of any mental illness, and if we can help bring additional awareness to this important cause, more individuals can receive the help and support they need to overcome this awful disorder. Seeing so many individuals come together for a wonderful cause was truly beautiful, but knowing that even more individuals will receive the medical attention they deserve is even more beautiful.

IMG_9011.JPG

Advertisements

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

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.

IMG_4863

Mami Leo’s Legacy Will Always Live On

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.

Off To Guatemala!

Later today, I’ll be flying to Guatemala for my fourth medical missionary trip in the past three years. It’s a five day trip, where I will be serving as a volunteer to a team of well-respected doctors and nurses, treating people in a poverty stricken area, where most of the citizens have have never received medical attention in their lives. We will work to treat as many people as possible throughout our stay, seeing as we turn a popular church into a makeshift clinic, which is open to the public. While in Guatemala, we will be staying at an orphanage, called Missioneros Del Camino which serves as a home to children who have either been abused, neglected, or who have any sort of neurological disorder. There is a neurological clinic on site, and it just so happens to be the best one in the country. Parents from America even bring their children there for treatment and therapies! So not only will we be treating those in need, but we will be making ever-lasting memories (or in my case, expanding on ever-lasting memories) with amazing children who really put things into perspective with regards to how important life is. I’ll try to post while I’m there, but trust me I’ll be taking plenty of notes to blog about when I get back. In the meantime, I’d like to end off with a favorite quote of mine which I used a while back, but I think now is a suitable time for it to resurface.

Serving the world with love and cooperation, you will find your own true Self. As you help those in need, selfishness will fall away, and without even noticing you will find your own fulfillment.
-Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi Devi)

The 7 x 7 Link Award

As I mentioned in my last post, this past weekend I attended a leadership conference. I met a lot of people and learned valuable lessons to help me with future endeavors. Upon returning home yesterday afternoon, I figured I hadn’t missed much over the weekend except spam emails and a few views on my blog here and there. So you can imagine just how surprised I was to find out that I had been nominated for the 7 x 7 Link Award. I’d like to extend a special thanks to Tammy for this great award; especially because her blog is so great, and it’s an honor to be receiving it from her.

With that being said, this award requires me to 1) Reveal seven things about myself that you don’t already know; 2) Compile 7 of my favorite links from my own blog; and 3) Bestow this award upon 7 other bloggers. So here we go:

About Me:

1. I have often been called a procrastinator, since I enjoy doing most of my work late at night (which usually happens to be at the last minute)

2. I have three dogs: Nikki (named after the New York Knicks), Cayne (named after the Miami Hurricanes), and Kila (named after the measurement: kilo, since she is so small)

3. I am the youngest of three children; with an older brother and sister

4. I was born in Queens, New York, but grew up in South Florida

5. I spent half a year under the impression that I was lactose-intolerant, thanks to a misdiagnosis from a doctor

6. I attend medical missionary trips twice a year to Guatemala, serving as a volunteer

7. My favorite TV show is Castle

7 Favorite Blog Links (in no particular order): 

1. Why I Write

2. The Opportunity of a Lifetime

3. Overcoming the Word “No”

4. Rejection

5. Throwing In The Ingredients

6. Peace

7. Wanting the Time To Pass

My nominations for the 7 x 7 Link Award:

Whether I just began following your blog, or have already been an avid-follower, I really enjoy reading all of your posts, and would like to see some of your favorite works! Congratulations everyone!! It is well deserved 🙂

1. Unique and Unpredictable

2. Step On A Crack… Or Break Your Mother’s Back

3. Gabrielle Angel and Autumn Sunshine

4. Deborah Ailman

5. Chica Andaluza

6. NocturneFireFay

7. Joxtapose