All over the world, children and young women are struggling with many adverse aspects of life. Many succeed thanks to charitable organisations and amazing people who help them daily. These three stories are based in South America, but they could be any country in the world. Let’s listen and hear their story, truly hear.
“Congratulations, Lucia. I’m so impressed. Associate Professor and you are so young. I bet you don’t stop there. The rest of us can barely make the grade and you are not only a great lecturer, but also a great colleague. How do you manage your time so well?”
“Grit and determination.”
“You must be one of the lucky ones, raised in a secure home and having parents to help you not like the rest of us struggling students.”
I smiled and walked away. Yes, I was one of the lucky ones, taken off the streets and helped and encouraged by therapists and social workers – always living with the fear that I wouldn’t make it. That fear made me focus. I worked hard. I studied determined to pass my final school certificate. I knew I wanted to be a lecturer, to teach and help others. I knew I wanted to show other young women like me that it was possible to rise up from the gutter, like a Phoenix from the ashes.
I had to leave the shelter when I was 18. All I took with me were my few clothes and precious books, plus the self esteem therapists and social workers had taught me. I discarded the squalid memories and brushed off the past. Only my future mattered now. I studied every free hour I had, grateful for the scholarships that made this possible.
I was passionate about my studies and graduation day was just the beginning for me. I wanted more. I studied more. I achieved more. I was not alone at the beginning of my journey. Without all the help I received from the unsung heroes, I doubt I would be standing here.
I am so proud to be here not only to share my story, but also the story of these beautiful young women standing next to me.
I want to encourage others to follow our example, to follow our path. I will mentor and help as many as possible. That is your gift to me – to allow me to share my knowledge.
Ana and Carmena
Let me introduce you to Ana and Carmena who have pushed the boundaries to their limits and achieved their goals.
Ana is one of the youngest motivational speakers I have ever met. She has travelled far to be here, but in reality she has travelled further in life than any of you, but she will show you the way and show you how.
Meet the young author and artist, Carmena, a young lady who is ahead of her time in the field of creativity and education. Please welcome these young innovators and listen. Their stories could be yours and their futures could be yours.
“I was born into poverty and wore it like a cumbersome coat for many years. Both my parents were dead and I was being raised by relatives. Hunger was my daily companion.
Sent out to beg on the streets, I averted my eyes from the well dressed people around me, too proud to see the disgust in their eyes. Yes, no matter my circumstances I held pride in my heart like a lodestone. I often think that’s what saved me from a life of further degradation.
One day I decided not to go home. Home? It was barely that. I was only ten years old. As dusk gathered I crouched inside a shop doorway. I was scared and very alone. Closing my eyes tightly I prayed for a miracle. I prayed for food. I prayed for a proper home. I prayed for clean water to alleviate my thirst and clean my body.
I know this may sound improbable to you all, a bit too much like a fairy tale, but my prayers were instantly answered. I was rescued that very night. I was rescued and brought to a safe house.
I spent eight years there living in what I saw as splendour with other young girls like me. I learned to trust people. I learned how to make friends. I learned how to read. The more I read the more I wanted. My mind was as greedy for knowledge as my stomach had once been for food.
Then, one week, a motivational speaker came to visit. She did some workshops with us encouraging us all to think outside the box, to reach out and achieve our goals. This was the first time I had heard a motivational speaker. I was fascinated. Questions tumbled around my mind. I thought my head would explode. Daringly I raised my hand.
“How do I become a motivational speaker? Can I earn a lot of money?”
She answered all my questions and then told me to write down the year when I would hold my first workshop, the year I would be a qualified motivational speaker.
As the weeks went by I gazed at the date in my notebook. I knew I could do it. This was my dream, but first I had to take the important steps of studying and passing my final high-school exams. I passed with honours. Finding work in a local supermarket and a kindly landlady recommended by the shelter was a blessing, but certainly not my long term goal.
What next? I researched. I googled. I read every book I could get my hands on about being a motivational speaker. Then I reached out to an American company and told them my story. I asked them for an internship. They accepted me and arranged all the travel and visa requirements. I spent an amazing two years in the USA, learning and developing.
I returned home so that I could help others to achieve their potential. To learn how to look up at the sky and see the stars instead of dark clouds.
I returned home to ensure more young women became empowered, freed from the shackles that held them back, and given the tools to unlock all the potential inside them. That is my story.
I was six years old when I was saved. Saved from cruelty and hardship and a deep rooted hunger of the soul. I could barely talk. I was too afraid to talk. Scrawny, hungry, and dirty, I was ignored by the people in the street I begged from. Perhaps, not ignored – just invisible, Many, many times I wished I was invisible. I would wrap a shawl tightly around me, so tightly it hurt. That pain I could cope with. That pain reminded me that I was still alive – just.
I was six years old when I was saved and for the first time in my life treated with respect, not a word I knew or understood until much much later. Sharing a house with other girls and kind workers seemed like a dream for a long time. I was waiting to wake up and it would have all disappeared. I was waiting for the groping hands that hurt and the lash of the buckled belt, the screaming and shouting. Gone. No more. The nightmare seemed to be over, but my fear kept the screams alive in my mind – in case I had to erupt and protect myself. But I was too small to protect myself. I was of no consequence – except – these people in the home saw me. Their eyes met mine and they actually saw me. I was real.
Then one of the teenage girls taught me how to draw pictures. She helped me with my spelling. She taught me words – small words, big words, words I could roll around my tongue and then let them escape with joy. She taught me how to smile. She became my mentor. I became her shadow.
When she left I was heartbroken, but she promised to visit me every week. Before she left she removed the shawl I was wrapped in. At first, I clung on tightly. It was as though my skin was being peeled from my body. Gently, she unravelled it.
“You don’t need this anymore. You are strong and the world needs to see that. You are wrapped in love inside and out, love from all the people who care about you. They are your protectors, but most of all you are your own strongest protector. Believe it! Know it!”
She also made me promise to carry on learning new words and not to stop drawing. She gave me a brand new notebook with my name on it.
“This is the beginning of your story. Write in it every day, even one word. One word leads to two to three to hundreds. Draw your pictures. They are the images of all the words inside your head.”
That was the first day I laughed out loud. That was the first day I hugged her. It was the first time I had ever hugged anyone.
I kept my promise. She kept hers.
She mentored me for years and with her help I gained confidence. Today, I am here to show you my first novel and also to surprise Lucia, your guest speaker. Without her I don’t think I would be alive.
The three young women held hands and bowed. The audience rose as one united body. They did not applaud. It was a powerful silent ovation, a unity of strength and love. Lucia, Ana, and Carmena, walked off the stage and joined the audience. Hands reached out and clasped each other as everyone present formed a circle around the three young women.
A low hum emanated from the crowd, rising and falling as their bodies moved with every note sung. No words – just the purest outpouring of a heartfelt melody that had no beginning or end.
The melody is in all our hearts. It’s there to strengthen us and to help others. It is there to guide us. It is there as an expression of gratitude.
Read my five part Blog series – A PLACE CALLED HOPE.
I have written two novels available on Amazon
Both are available on Kindle Amazon!