Refugee crisis worldwide

About 70.8 million individuals are forced to flee their homes because of violence and international conflict during 2018, and half of them are children.

Read more www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/jun/19/more-than-70-million-people-fleeing-conflict-oppression-worldwide

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Central America

Central America is the hub for U.S. trade ships and foreign trade through the Panama Canal, and gas lines across Caribbean waters, but is also home to left-wing guerrillas, juvenile gangs, crime syndicates, drug traffickers and smugglers.

With weak and non-democratic governments the region has the highest rates of poverty, child malnutrition, and poor infrastructure, and since 2014 women and children are fleeing their homes by the hundreds of thousands because of poverty, political aggression, gang-related violence and seeking entry into the U.S. via the southern border stressing and dividing communities.

Central America is part of the U.S. sphere of influence, sadly democracy hasn’t been achieved, development is a sketch and peace is still a dream yet to come especially for countries in the northern triangle –Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador- were violence and political instability push women and children to flee seeking asylum in the U.S. thus creating a political problem for local authorities and an international crisis.

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What is Human Trafficking?

“Trafficking in Persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs” Article 3 parr (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons.

Human trafficking includes sex trafficking exploitative work, including domestic workers agricultural, child soldiers, child adoptions, organ trafficking.

Why does Human Trafficking happen?

There are different factors that push trafficking nowadays

  • Global Economic
  • Domestic
  • Political/legal
  • Sociological

Bullying

Bullying is a type of school violence, the constant and persistent harassment towards an individual, it is intended behavior and never an isolated event.

This type of violence could include verbal abuse, isolation, harassment, physical, psychological and cyber abuse.

Bullying is the repetitive intentional behavior to hurt, harm, isolate and humiliate  a person, this person in most of the cases is a school-age child who is different from the general population because of some sort of disabilities, ethnicity, culture, gender role expectations, personality, immigration status, gender stereotypes, economic situations, political values, and the list just goes on.

Bullying differs from conflict.

  • Conflict is a disagreement or argument in which both sides express their views.
  • Bullying is negative behavior directed by someone exerting power and control over another person.

In general terms, bullying is perpetrated by students against other students, however when we as adults fail to identify those involved in bullying (victim and victimizer) we become part of the problem.

Teachers and school staff are involved too, as stand-by-viewers, adults grant power to bullies and indirectly approve their behavior.

On this topic, in 2016 Unicef made a poll and found “that 30% of those who had been bullied did not tell anyone, 30% told an adult and more than 30% told a friend or sibling; less than 10% told a teacher. Reasons for not telling anyone included being afraid or ashamed, not knowing who to tell and thinking that bullying is normal.” 

What is worst, “children and adolescents who are victims of bullying are not always willing to report these incidents to parents, teachers or other adults either because of fear of retaliation.

Did you know?

32% of 12-18-year-old students in the United States were bullied in the 2007-2008 school year.

According to the National Voices for Equality, Education, and Enlightenment (NVEEE)

  1. Every 7 MINUTES a child is bullied.  Adult intervention – 4%. Peer intervention – 11%. No intervention – 85%.
  2. Biracial and multiracial youth are more likely to be victimized than youth who identify with a single race.
  3. Bullied students tend to grow up more socially anxious, with less self-esteem and require more mental health services throughout life.
  4. Only 7% of U.S. parents are worried about cyberbullying, yet 33% of teenagers have been victims of cyberbullying
  5. Kids who are obese, gay, or have disabilities are up to 63% more likely to be bullied than other children.
  6. 1 MILLION children were harassed, threatened or subjected to other forms of cyberbullying during the past year.
  7. 86% of students said, “other kids picking on them, making fun of them or bullying them” causes teenagers to turn to lethal violence in schools.
  8. It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. Source: National Education Association.
  9. American schools harbor approximately 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million of their victims. Dan Olweus, National School Safety Center.

Those who are bullied are also more likely to be depressed, lonely or anxious, to have low self-esteem, are prone to self-injuring and addictions, and to have suicidal thoughts or to attempt suicide.

The worst part is, that victims perceive they are not worthy of trust, or that they will not be taken seriously. The balance of power between victim and victimizer leans away from them, leaving an empty space to be filled solely with pain, despair, anger, resentment and a sense of “being broken”

“After so many years of being bullied, I feel so broken inside,

that every day I have to hot-glue myself to go to school.”

8th grader

Bullying is worldwide

Unicef collected data from 106 countries showing that the proportion of adolescents aged 13-15 who say they have recently experienced bullying ranged from 7% in Tajikistan to 74% in Samoa. In 14 of the 67 low- to middle- income countries with available data, more than half of this age group said they had recently experienced bullying.

In 16 Latin American and Caribbean countries,  students aged 10-14, a 51% overall reported experiencing some type of bullying in “the last month.” Being robbed was the most commonly reported experience, followed by being insulted or threatened.

No More Bullying

  • Start being part of the solution, listen to your child before is too late.
  • Effective communication with your child is essential to know if there is a problem at school, or home (bullying also happen there).
  • Trust your child, and do not judge.
  • Embark on straight forward discussions focusing on inclusion over exclusion.
  • Showing respect and kindness toward others, tolerance is the key word.
  • Raise awareness in your community, as many adults are unaware of the extent of the problem and of its negative impact on the well-being of children and adolescents.

Urgent action is needed to address the global problem of school violence and bullying to ensure that all children and adolescents have access to safe and non-violent learning environments.

Road Trips

“Sometimes the most scenic roads in life are the detours you didn’t mean to take.”

-Angela N. Blount, Once Upon an Ever After

 

Road trips… I just love them, endless hours heading toward new towns having a great conversation and making memories, that is how I grew up. Of course, back in my days (ahem ahem) the cassettes tapes only hold 45 minutes of music thus forcing you to turn the tape or changed it for a completely new artist after both sides were done, that is how I used to measure time on road trips: music length.

With today’s iPhone capabilities of over 21 hours of non-stop music I’m lost in a sea of mixes varying from alternative to pop but hooked more on the punk rock side of the spectrum, I don’t complain but is hard to measure when are we going to arrive at our destination, lucky for me the built-in navigation system displays the arrival time… if only I actually follow the directions…

Usually, I plan 80% of the road trip and tend to look at the billboards and local signs along the highway making last-minute decisions of what else to do, most of the time it pays off, others not so much.

Last weekend we hit the road to Chappell Hill, Texas to catch some bluebonnet fields, it was a 50 minutes drive from home, not so many bluebonnets to gaze at so I decided to follow some signs pointing to a lavender farm nearby, the image of Provence struck my mind and I swiftly made a U-turn prompting everyone to pay attention to the road, that was my queue for a conversation.

I finally managed to arrive at the lavender farm (?) in the middle of nothing, 30 neatly bushes without a single lavender flower and three miniature goats welcomed us, it was an interesting sight, to say the least, but it was a good spot to stretch the legs. Luckily I managed to spot some bluebonnets in a nearby pond.

After walking a bit through the fields and walking up and down Chappell Hill Main St., we decided to head back home. The conversation kept flowing between laughs and milkshake slurps, it turns out that my elder girl has decided for the military path, her brief time as a cadet in the JROTC surely made a mark on her and though she hasn’t been able to join while in private school, she plans to rejoin the armed forces via the Navy or the Air Force when in college.

I have no idea how she will manage to deal with military life, but I’m proud of her decision, I know she will gain confidence and structure, and the armed forces will gain a courageous princess.

My younger girl sighed after listening to the 50-minute conversation about the military path and just said: “I don’t have a clue of what comes next, I’ll just keep studying, and yeah… I want to launch a rocket and shoot my dad’s ashes into a black hole across the universe, yeah that’s pretty much of what I want to do with my life… ah yes and get a cat.”

I love road trips.

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Social Pressure

Valentine’s day is just three days away and the social pressure builds up in my daughters’ mind like a broken record asking why there’s no sweetheart, secret friend or letter waiting inside the red and pink decorated school box?

Year after year the dreadful day comes, no matter how much I tried to divert the attention at home, everywhere you go is about red/pink articles and overpriced chocolates.

The best time for fundraising is in February, the student clubs and the PTO manage to arrange fabulous sales: carnations, chocolates, songs, cards, and whatever sale to the “secret crush”, the “soon to be sweetheart”, the “special friend” because everyone loves valentine’s day.

Are you sure? Are you positively sure that everyone loves the social pressure to have a sweetheart by a certain date? To measure yourself by the number of flowers, letters, cards, chocolate, balloons, plush toys, and gifts you receive?

Are you absolutely sure? Of course, I’ve never received a direct answer other than “well, they have to improve their social skills, the more friends the merrier it is.”

My two kids stopped liking Valentine’s day many years ago, elementary was fun they still ache for the handmade cards to each of the classmates highlighting a positive quality about them, “I like that you ___, have a fun Valentine’s day” We recall the long hours actually thinking about why they had fun with such classmates: because they made snarky comments, their goofy hair, a glitter headband, the ultra super cool shoes, a backpack with googly eyes… it was about liking each other and complimenting without any infatuation, just a positive thought.

But years passed and elementary years are long gone, everything is now about the sweetheart, the crush, the asking out, the pressure to attend or not a valentine’s dance without a date.

“It’s just a dance,” I said “You can go with your friends and have fun, and free food” –I honestly thought that throwing in the free pizza they would actually say yes, because who doesn’t love free food right?

But no, no such luck.

Such social pressure to succeed according to specific standards messes up the confidence and self-esteem as much as the criticism on how you look, weight or talk. Valentine’s day is nothing more than a romanticized tradition of what love should look like but is far from it.

Anyway, I’ll have to keep studying and preparing for a long week of rolling eyes and complaints on school dances, mandatory red shirts, and sugar that comes with school bake sales.

 

 

Demons

It was a hard weekend at home, and not precisely because of the endless amount of boxes still to unpack from the moving, the house chores –which I hate doing- the slowest Super Bowl game ever, or the 345 pages I needed to read for my graduate course.

No, none of these things made my weekend harder than usual, I can deal with that and much more but the look in her eyes, the melancholy in her smile and the overall sadness that permeated to the family all weekend long brought me down to my knees, made me curl on a corner of the walking closet and silently cry questioning every single decision I’d made since the moment my girls were born.

Two years ago my daughter was admitted into a behavioral facility because of major depression and anxiety… We almost lost her. I thought she was fine… a bit sad or angry at times, nothing out of the ordinary for a teenager, but I was so wrong.

With an “I’m fine” and a fake smile my girl used to bottle up all her concerns, her pain until there was no more room for pain or sorrows…

I remember the backlash I received from the family and friends: You didn’t know? Where were you when all of this happened? It happened because you didn’t talk to her! That wouldn’t have happened if you had stayed in Mexico! Forget about going back to study or work now… and so on.

To be honest, I didn’t care about the backlash, what would they know of what we were going through? The only thing in my mind was to keep my daughter alive and to make sure my little one was safe too while I was trying to make sense of all this. How was I going to explain an 11-year old that her sister was being hospitalized and the true reasons behind it? How to tell her that she was sick with wounds that no Band-Aid or cast could heal, and that we wouldn’t be able to visit until after the evaluation process was over… 72 hours later.

I signed the papers and my older daughter looked at me terrified, and without saying a single word with her eyes fixed in mine she got inside the facility. My world crumbled, my legs were not responding I couldn’t move –I didn’t want to move- I wanted to stay put just in case they come out and said some sort of nonsense for us to stay with her, next to her, comforting her.

It was surreal; I still remember the lack of air and the dizziness I felt, the fire inside me reminding me to stay strong for her and for my other daughter who was soaking her tears with my ribcage. Yes, I just took a very deep breath, and slowly walked back to the car.

The first 24 hours were the hardest moments of my life trying to assure my little one that everything was going to be ok, but I didn’t know, at that point, I didn’t know anything and doubted everything. The only thing real was that we were all alone at home, sleeping together holding on to each other trying to fill in the absence that my oldest daughter left behind, that my husband would arrive as soon as he could find a flight.

I remember I had to fill so many questionnaires to figure out why it happened, what triggered it, what was the root cause? They dismiss each of the social causes at home, family history, but there it was, silently in the last page of the report the results about the school environment: she was a victim of bullying.

Bullying, the repetitive intentional behavior to hurt, harm, isolate and humiliate a person.

They kept asking about family issues, relatives with a history of mental health conditions, but in the end, they concluded that yes, she had to be a victim of school bullying to the point of a mental breakdown putting her life at risk.

Her mind has never been the same after she got discharged; she stopped smiling for so many months, there was not a single spark or sign of joy in her eyes, hardly a smile, the vast quantity of anti-depressants, mood stabilizers and insomnia treatment has changed her completely, she is such a different person from the funny silly girl who used to play endlessly with her sister, enjoyed tumbling, and laughed at a butterfly because why not? She was a glooming figure always holding my hand -numbed most of the time because of how tight the grip is- no more play dates with her little sister and a look of resentment every now and then.

It has been two years and I still wake up to check if she is safe, it is my night routine, I don’t sleep more than three hours but now I have an assistant: her new puppy helps me to keep track of her, if there is something wrong before I wake up he goes and tells me and I go. That little fellow is an angel sent directly from dog heaven.

She wrote me a birthday card two weeks ago asking for forgiveness for all the hardship she has put me through –of course I cried my guts out- she talked about how much she changed and how her demons inside sometimes steal the best of her, she is aware of how much she has changed and it terrifies her to let me down again -she blames herself for not be as strong as I am and stand up to bullies- but I told her she could never let me down and we hugged as if there were no tomorrow.

It has been a long learning process for the entire family, to reconstruct concepts about mental health, dismiss biases, identify triggers, adjust to new environments, schedules and lots of routines and fix activities -often against my wild nature-

The only one who knows the demons inside her mind is she alone; believe me when I say that if I could fight them for her I would, but I can’t, I can only love her, listen and treat her with kindness so she can thrive within her new reality.