I am from the small border town of Tijuana, Mexico. Seeing kids hustling on the streets in the middle of oncoming traffic and begging for money is sadly, second nature. Although, this is considered the norm, I have a deep desire to do something, to help in some sort of way.
For a long time, I was ashamed of where I was from, as a kid, I would constantly lie about my place of birth. The corruption of the Mexican government espouses no remorse. Today, I choose to embrace my town, not the corruption, but my people. Many are fearful to the U.S./Mexico border due to Mexico’s infamous bribery and violence, however, all I see is a result of a greedy government The people here are fighting to survive. I am not attempting to justify their crimes and actions whatsoever, but I understand. People are in deep need; more than when I was raised here.
As the holidays rolled around, I felt a sense of guilt buying superfluous gifts. I told my mother Flor, to guide me to an orphanage to help young children. My initial orphanage experience was almost 12 years ago, all I remember was the orphans screaming after my sisters and I, as we were walking to the exit door. One of the little girls cried out to my middle sister, “Mami, mami,” I felt my heart sink. That moment has stained me, and I can’t continue buying five dollar lattes knowing there’s so much need. I desperately want to encourage the youth to seek beyond their circumstances, and to fight for their rights and their education–as difficult as it might be.
On December 26, 2016 at around 4:50 am with heavy eyes, my boyfriend Javier and I left our apartment and drove 2 hours South. My parents met us in the town of San Ysidro, a border town near San Diego, and drove us across the border to Tijuana.
We had prepared care bags with a few essentials: underwear, toothbrushes, socks, etc. It was a long time since I visited, I felt like a stranger in my own hometown. I looked out the window to meet aluminum homes on the hills, young kinds on the road doing tricks, skinny homeless dogs looking through the trash. These images arose an uneasy feeling in my gut. Again, I felt guilty for my blessings, it was inevitable.
After a couple hours we arrived at the orphanage City of Children in the town of Ensenada. As we pulled in I saw a group of young boys ages 6-17 sweeping the driveway. I instantly felt warmth and gratitude.
Our day consisted of spending time with all of the kids. I observed my father give the young men a lecture. They are so smart and conscious, I thought. I looked at the floor and realized how blessed I really am….
After the boys ate their lunch enthusiastically, the girls arrived. My mother had asked me to give the girls a brief lecture on the topic of discipline and habit building. Although I had just aced my public speaking class, I’ve never done anything like this before. But, seeing the hope and enthusiasm of these girls, I knew it was bigger than me. After an uneasy first five minutes and some choppy Spanish, I gained my confidence back and gave a 20 minute lecture. All the girls hugged me and extended their appreciation.
Many of the girls and boys are the victims of parental abuse, many are rape victims, or have drug-dependent parents. However, they still smiled and talked about their hopes and dreams. I will continue to be present in their lives, God willing. I share this to hopefully inspire you to look at your life and count your blessings. No matter how much you have or don’t, there is always someone out there praying for the things we take for granted.
Unfortunately, due to their policy, the orphanage didn’t allow me to film or take photos inside. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful experience we expect to repeat soon.
God Bless you all….