Existing in humanity

I spent this afternoon transcribing an interview I did six months ago in a quiet mountain suburb in Quito, Ecuador. I was speaking with a fifteen-year-old girl (we will call her Yamileth) who had an eight-month-old son and was living in Casa Elizabeth, a home I have talked about frequently in other blog posts. That afternoon, she told me about her family, her life, her high school classes and her dreams for the future.

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I’ve sat here this afternoon 2,000 miles away in a Starbucks. And I can’t get one simple sentence she said out of my head, “I never thought [before coming to Casa Elizabeth] that the love of God existed in humanity to help those who are ‘condemned.'”

Later this week I will share more about Yamileth’s story, but for now I will simply say, she found in Casa Elizabeth a group of people that gave unconditional, unconservative and uncondemnatory love to a pregnant fourteen-year-old.

I never thought [before coming here] that the love of God existed in humanity to help those who are ‘condemned.’

And isn’t that what God’s love should be? Every time I reflect on my summer in Ecuador I am overwhelmed by the truth that it is the radical, incomprehensible love of God existing in ordinary humans that makes all the difference. In the down-on-their-luck, victims-of-society, least of these.

But also in me.

Julieth: A story of hope

This article is a part of a larger series on teen mothers in Ecuador. 
To read the first article in the series, click here.
Read the previous article here. 

It is easy to get caught up in the statistics of the thing.

july1 in 5 girls in Ecuador have their first child before the age of 18.

Girls living below the poverty line are 4 times more likely to get pregnant.

Some statistics have even stated that as many as 62.7% of pregnancies in the Amazon jungle are unwanted or unplanned.

Like I said, easy to get caught up in the statistics. But perhaps what I learned, more than anything else living with five teen mothers in the Ecuador, is that hope is found in the individual story. It’s in what we do for the person directly in front of us.

Julieth, also known as July, was 11 when her mom died of cancer. She’s an outgoing, passionate girl, who laughs and loves easily. She was the “mother” in a home of mothers, helping the younger girls adapt to taking care of babies who were sick, didn’t want to eat, cried easily or couldn’t sleep. My first night at Casa Elizabeth, she saw through my fear and culture shock, told me to sit down and watch a movie with her.

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But she was not always so comfortable in that role. July lived with her stepfather, an aunt, then a friend of her mother’s before getting pregnant at 15. “Before, I went out with boys without thinking,” July said. “I drank a lot. I was always partying.”

It is easy… to become overwhelmed by the mixture of social disadvantages, bad choices and pure evil that contribute to the situations teen moms find themselves in.

It wasn’t until she had a medical scare that the lifestyle halted. “I felt a bulge in my stomach and my entire family was scared [because they remembered my mom],” July said. “But I went to the doctor, had a test and he said you’re pregnant.”

July’s story is unique because she came to Casa Elizabeth after she had Felipe, who was then four-months-old. Social workers said she could no longer stay where she was, and Casa Elizabeth made an exception, because “Julieth had nowhere to go,” July recalled.

She did not want to be there. She said she had a bad attitude, didn’t want to share her space and it was “very, very difficult.” But the house parents showed her how a family could be different.

“When I came, I saw their lives, how they acted,” July said, remembering that she found their kindness weird. “But now God has done many good things in my life. They make you apart of their family.”

DSC_0171Casa Elizabeth is a home that doesn’t just help the girls with the physical and economic needs of having a child. They also help them continue school and emphasize living a healthy lifestyle physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. But everything Casa Elizabeth does is centered in the family, something July decided to take with her when she left. “I’m nervous,” July told me days before her wedding last June. “Because for the first time I am forming my own family.”

July is also unique because she married her boyfriend, and the father of Felipe, Gorge. A beautiful wedding, perhaps because it showed that we don’t have to fear the insurmountable.

It is easy when listening to the tragic stories of five teen moms in the mountain capital of Ecuador to become overwhelmed by the mixture of social disadvantages, bad choices and pure evil that contribute to the situations teen moms find themselves in.

You only have to listen to Lucia’s mom tell her she must marry the 57-year-old man who sexually abused her for months. Or to the fear that Yamileth’s boyfriend might come back, and hurt her or her son. Or as Sofia, a 19-year-old girl, struggles to read at the kitchen table.

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These are a few of the people I met this summer: moms, babies, volunteers. They inspire me in the face of the incredible pandemic of teen pregnancy in Ecuador.

But then I remember laughing at dinner over some mistake I made in Spanish. I remember Dani, Yamileth’s son, making faces at me across the room, late night facial nights and dance parties. I remember the pure joy that anyone can find anywhere love and acceptance is.

It is easy to get caught up in the statistics of teen pregnancy. But the hope I see is not in large-scale public policy or international efforts, although those do help.

I see hope in a school psychologist who noticed something was wrong and called in social services. I see it in the house mom who spent hours on a Wednesday afternoon picking lice out of a girl’s hair. Or the counselor who volunteers on Tuesday mornings to just listen. It’s in the mission team who comes to build beds large enough to sleep a mom and her child. It’s in the family who donates baby clothes or weekly buys diapers.

I see it in the individual who dedicates his or herself to helping the person right in front of them, without judgment and full of love — and I realize that anywhere there is an overwhelming problem, God also provides unexpected hope.

Go back to the main page here

Deep into Dunkies

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My roommate is in love with Dunkin’ Donuts. And when I say in love, I really mean obsessed. And truth be told, she’s got me hooked too.

When we had to analyze a corporate newsletter for my PR writing class, where did I turn? Dunkies.

Dunkies’ newsletter falls into the special interest category and focuses on both Dunkin’ Donuts’ news and the “quick-serve industry” news. As you can see below, the articles center around Dunkin’ Donuts business openings and how the fast food industry is changing:

  • Dunkin’ Donuts Makes Plans for 46 New Units in Sacramento (2)
  • Dunkin’ Lays Plans for 22 New Stores (1)
  • Build the Buzz (broadcasting and fast food) (2)
  • A Whole New Game (fast food at sporting events) (1)
  • The Growth 40 (basketball players eat fast food) (2)
  • Breaking with Tradition (breakfast sandwiches) (3)
  • Dunkin’ Donuts Unveils Valentine’s Day Offerings (3)
  • Dunkin’ Donuts Plans Opening at Northwestern University (1)
  • Dunkin’ Donuts Loyalty App Ready for Take Off (3)

The key publics of this newsletter are Dunkies’ or fast food industry employees and business owners. I think some of these articles would be interesting and some would flop in regards to this audience. I’ve rated the articles for interest above: 3 for very interesting, 2 for mas o menos, 1 for not that interesting. It basically comes down to new information or new events. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts’ Valentine’s Day sounds has a novel aspect to it; Fast food at sporting events, not so much.

I have several ideas for photo ideas that will address a major weakness I see in the newslettermultimedia. In today’s day and age, it’s not enough to have text and a logo. It would greatly enhance the newsletter if they could add these elements:

  1. Video feature story on CEO of Dunkies.
  2. Photo gallery of employees across the nation.
  3. Interactive map showing the most productive stores across the nation.

As a whole, I think it is somewhat effective a a newsletter. The format is easy to read, however, the layout is boring. Navigation is intuitive, but there is not many photographs or multimedia elements. Overall, it serves the people it aims to but still could use some work as far as interest and excitement comes in.

As for me, I’ll be taking advantage of the “Breakfast Tradition” and go get my Dunkies on.

Out of Context: The Social Media Conundrum

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It was late at night. I was in my apartment after a long school/work day for some mindless surfing of facebook. Lo and behold, I came across something else that night–another news article shared completely taken out of context.

And the question that comes to my mind is how long? How long will we continue to share stories, news bits, photos, and videos without checking source credibility, source agenda, or even stoping to consider the larger context of the issue?

A major issue my generation complains about is the way political sides are both divided and divisive. I wonder if one cause might be that our society uses social media to “share news” without bothering to read or understand the actual issue at hand.

The problem is two-fold. In our busy schedules we don’t take the time to read the four articles the New York Times have published about an issueyet complain when the media doesn’t give context.

What social media needs is this millennial generation to use what they know to start making intelligent posts about the news, social issues, and politics. I know out generation can. And only when this happens will I be able to skim facebook, or twitter, or whatever other social media sight, without cringing over the context conundrum.