Hogar Albergue Jesús de Nazaret

By: Andrés R. Cardona

Located in Mayaguez, the Hogar Albergue Jesús de Nazaret is managed by its most recent director Lidia Méndez. She has obtained the position just nine months ago. She says this tiredly but with great warmth, having patiently waited after the end of what was another hard day of work.

Her office is neat, clean and organized. The walls are covered with thank you drawings and messages from the children, posters of Minnie Mouse and religious messages. The calendar on the side is filled in with all sorts of events, hinting at how busy she usually is. She has a separate desk for her computer, while the desk she sits at has several small stacks of papers and documents as well as dolls. However there is nothing blocking the view to her, as she keeps the center of her desk clear of papers.

When asked why she decided to work there she said “I’ve always liked serving.” She also mentioned that it was the same reason that she became a social worker by profession.

“I was a social worker for 32 years” she said. For 13 of those years, she was also doing volunteer labor at the Hogar.

The Hogar Albergue Jesús de Nazaret is a non-profit, aimed at providing shelter for kids up to 11 years of age who have come from abusive, negligent or otherwise unfitting homes. They protect and heal the children brought into their care, usually by referral from the Department of the Family, for a period of 90 days.

Méndez explains that the institution was originally founded by Jesús Morales and his wife, Carmen Rodríguez. He wished to make an orphanage, but his wife convinced him that a home for mistreated children, of which there were many in the west, would be a better idea.

The Hogar’s location belonged to an organization consisting of citizens with the interest of analyzing the people’s needs. Morales and his wife belonged to this group and granted them the land for their plans.

According to their brochure, the services they provide to the children include food, medical care, transportation, recreation, education at both elementary and pre-school levels, social assistance and psychological therapy.

As it stands, the institution is rather small. It consists of two buildings with a playground in between.

The first building serves administrative purposes. Méndez’s office is here, as is the social worker’s and the psychologist’s. Also found here are the educational area and the employee break room.

The playground is average-sized. It is padded and contains a plastic playground set, with enough space to spare for their large collection of bicycles and toys strewn about the fence and ground.

Next to that is the second building which they call La Casita. It is here where the children reside and are cared for. It’s got a diner on the bottom floor, and washrooms, bedrooms and a small common area on the main floor.

“We receive calls every day for new children to be brought in” Méndez said. “About 1 to 2 calls each day.”

Méndez mentions that she wishes to expand “one of these days, but we still have achieved it.” She wishes to be able to have room for more children and facilities for their care and entertainment.

Currently, there seem to be no volunteers working there. There are, however, several people under the Hogar’s employment.

“We have” Méndez says, “11 nanas, two cooks, one driver, one social worker, one office assistant, one psychologist that comes one time a week, and one accounting assistant.”

These employees have nothing but respect for their boss.

Lillian Cruz, age 48, is the accounting clerk for the Hogar. She’s been working there since October 4, 1997, roughly 15 years and a half.

“[Méndez] started in the board of directors 13 years ago.” Cruz says, referring to the board consisting of 11 members that oversees the Hogar. “She revoked the presidency and, since November 2012, she’s been serving as director”

“I work very well with her. We have very good communication.” She adds. “The employees, we all consult with her and she tells us if we can or if we can’t or she gives another alternative for every situation that arises.”

Yolanda Santariz, 48-year-old child caretaker of 2 years, and Felipa Ayala, 65-year-old cook for 18 years, also had nothing but praise to offer the director.

“Tremendous person” says Santariz. “Tremendous person” Ayala repeats. They then, accompanied by Cruz, start listing all sorts of praise for the dear director.

They mention how she has so much capacity to do her job, how she stays after hours and is on call, as well as calls in herself even during her time off to check on the children, whom she worries about very much, according to them.

Méndez was born in Mayaguez, 57 years ago. She mentions that she had a nice childhood. Her parents were kind and she was raised with Christian values. Her family is united. She mentions it has some problems, but they are managed.

Despite her comparably privileged upbringing, she does her best to understand how hard the transition is for the children brought into her care. She says that “Every [special] moment stays with the children.” She is happiest when the children are smiling, happy and open.

Méndez mentions that if people wish to help, they accept donations of food and toys. However, she notes that the most helpful things are organized events to obtain funds for the Hogar. Volunteer work is also welcome and encouraged.

Anyone interested in more information are encouraged to call them at their phone number, (787) 831-6161.

The Hogar’s playground with La Casita visible behind it.

The Hogar’s playground with La Casita visible behind it.

From left to right: Felipa Ayala, Yolanda Santariz, Lillian Cruz and Lidia Méndez

From left to right:
Felipa Ayala, Yolanda Santariz, Lillian Cruz and Lidia Méndez

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The truth behind bullies and being bullied in school

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He never expected to see it happen in the same school where he studied.

 Rodríguez went to school every day  like any other student. He was friends with a couple on his grade. They seemed like any other couple, loving and always together. He never expected an act of violence would happen between them. But that all changed one day when the boyfriend started hitting his girlfriend.

Apparently, the couple had had an argument over a competition in school, which ended up in a fist fight.

“I thought they were joking and that they were kidding around” said Rodríguez. But soon realized that was not the case.

After that incident the couple’s relationship fell apart.

According to Rodríguez, the ex-boyfriend continued doing acts of bullying against her and some of her other friends. “Usually I left the bunch and tried not to be around them” said Rodríguez.

He never expected this to happen in his school, where this kind of behavior was not common. “Not in myschool butin other schools in town it is” said Rodríguez.

They had had talks about bullying at the beginning of classes but when this incident happened the students were not allowed to talk about it. Violence inside the school was prohibited but they could not control what was going on outside the school property.

Rodríguez was not convinced the situation was being controlled. “Inside the school yes, but things outside the school would be the same.”

The bullying continued for a while. Then the parents had to intervene, until the school expelled the student who was bullying the girls.

This type of behavior is common in bullying according to Psychologist Bernadette Delgado.

 Besides the use of force to inflict physical and mental abuse to a person, Delgado said “It is a consistent behavior that is sustained through a prolonged period of time.”

Many people think that the bully is a person that looks for comfort in being abusive to other people. And that a bad environment in their homes causes them to seek out violence. But experts believe that bullies do not necessarily have low self-esteem.  

“People think that a bully has a low self esteem, but a bully is a person who has high self esteem and high self-confidence” said Delgado.

Most of the time the bully thinks that the victim deserves the violence inflicted upon him or her.

There will always be a factor that gives the bully power over the victim. Those who have low self-esteem tend to be the target for most bullies. Those who are solitaire students that do not have many friends are also vulnerable to getting bullied.

There are different types of bulling other than physical and verbal damage. Most people tend to generalize the word bullying with student getting into fights. But there are other types of bulling out there.

Some of these are being excluded from activities on purpose, destroying property on purpose, threatening to harm, etc. People do not hear about them so often and in comparison with the other types of bullying these are “less traditional” as they are less common.

As a result, the bullying can have a negative effect on the victims. The victims of bulling can develop “depression or anxiety” as mentioned in the web site stopbullying.gov “the issues may persist to adulthood”. They can also lower academic grades and in some cases the victims could drop out of school.

Some consequences for the victim of the bullying is that the person suffers depression. Because of all the abuse the person separates himself from other people even though those people are not bullies. This makes the victim even more vulnerable.

Some consequences for the bully are that he or she can be expelled from school or punished by law. In addition, “he or she can become an abuser with his spouse, kids, and people he or she may work with in the future.” said Delgado.

“A high percentage of bullies are people who eventually become abusive to others in adulthood” said Delgado.

All of these factors can lead to a person who can develop a negative behavior further in life. It can change the personality of both the bully or the person being bullied.

Rodríguez was not affected by the incident. “The school expelled the student who hit my friend” said Rodríguez. “though, there was no talk given by the school to the students or parents after the incident”.

But he decided to get informed about bullying with his parents. “I searched for exact information with my parents”.

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This is what Rodríguez might have witnessed in school.

Don Claudio the Unknown Hero

By: Cristina N. Casiano

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He lives an active life. His mornings start early at four a clock. He leaves his house and drives to town like there was no tomorrow. He grabs a cup of coffee on a local restaurant then heads to his daughters work place and brings her a cup.

After that comes an invigorating walk to the towns plaza, market or were ever his legs can take him. In the afternoon you can find him at the mall sitting on a bench watching the people pass by. Then at around five he leaves to go home, watches television, and goes to bed early. Next morning he gets up and repeats.

Yes, Don Claudio Perez lives an active life. Having lived a full life raising seven children and a loving wife the now 86 year old is retired. He used to work at the experimental station (“estación experimental”) at University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez as the mechanical manager. A job that he carried on with stride thanks to his dominant nature.

The proof lies in his grease stained garage. Every now and then you can hear the sound of tweaking and a small ray of light coming from his working bench. His old tools still stored in their drawer next to his broken down Mercedes Benz, and the silhouette of an old man working, a window into the past he ones lived.

“I enjoyed working as a mechanic”, but even so, “the work comes with its risks” said Claudio loudly “ones a worker crushed his hand in between the parts of a bulldozer”, “Yes, yes, we had to be very careful with the equipment”. he moved his scarred hands to explain the details.

“It was a year before I retired” said Claudio as he remembered the incident that changed his life forever.

It happened while a gasoline truck was unloading the gas into the gas chamber. The tube had a defect that the truck driver had overlooked.

“The tube was supposed to have an opening so that the air could escape through”. “Sense the air had no were to escape the tube came off and the gasoline splashed everywhere and on everyone”.

He paused for a second and continued, “we used to have an old refrigerator that was damaged and every now and then it would create a spark”, “I knew that so I yelled for everyone to get out!”.

He was sitting next to one of his younger daughters Cathy who encouraged him to keep telling the story.

Little did they know that one of the older workers had stayed behind. So what happened?

“Unfortunately there was an older workers had in the back that either was in shock or didn’t hear us so he just stayed there” he paused for  moment.

“He knew full well the the gasoline could light up at any second but he went in there anyway” Cathy continued.

“I went back to get him out of there”, “He had the pace of a turtle” he laughed. But, “just when we were about to get out Puff! the refrigerator sparked and the gasoline light up”. He jolted for added affect. “I heard the spark so I pushed him so he could get out in time”. “Unfortunately I fell on my hands and burned my arms and legs.”

“Fortunately I knew there was a shower nearby so I ran there and put myself out.”

The scars on his arms bear the testimony of that faithful day. His family and friends all admire him for his bravery. Even the man who he had saved visit him in the hospital and thanked him.

“Our mom sat us down in the living room of our old house and she explained what had happened” explained his youngest daughter who was seven years old at the time of the incident. “he spent a month in the hospital recovering from his injuries, and seven months in physical therapy.”

“When he finally came home I was afraid of him” said Cathy. “He had bandages everywhere, he was completely bald and had no eyebrows”, her eyes wide open as if remembering the shock of seeing her father in that condition. “It took me a while to get use to it”.

“My mother was always taking care of him, always by his side”, said Patricia’s voice got sad. “I guess it was bad luck”.

She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when she was about to retire” Patricia’s voice got sad. “I guess it was bad luck”

She was only given five years to live. With each year her condition getting worse.

In the same way my mother had cared for my father, no w my father was caring for her” admired with sad eyes.

“She lasted 15 years and she was bed written on the fifth year” agreed Cathy “She spent 10 of her last years on a bed.”

“We miss her very much” agreed Cathy and Patricia, “Our dad never left her side, that is why our dad is very special to us” Cathy and Patricia nodded as they looked down in memory of their loved one.

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Don Claudio and his wife at their daughter’s wedding.

One of a Kind Laura

 By:Mariannette González Troche        

Every week, members of the microbiology student society of the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez receive a friendly reminder from Laura, the secretary, via email, usually asking about our contribution for the aid of the people in need.

Laura is a young lady with brown curly hair, olive skin and a big radiant smile. She dedicates her life to her studies in biology and microbiology. Her charisma identifies her; friends of hers say her spirit will brighten anyone’s day. That is not all. Laura has a passion for helping others. She never declines a request for help. Most of all, she is known for her hard work making possible all of our student society philanthropic projects. She is the one who organizes and manages these activities.

Laura was the one who brought Operation Christmas Child from the Samaritans Purse Organization to our society. In a year, she even managed to spread the project throughout the whole Biology Department. This project consists of filling shoe boxes with toys, hard candy, clothes, school supplies, first aid items, personal hygiene products, and other necessary items for poor children around the world. The boxes are wrapped, decorated and sent by mail as Christmas presents. All of the members were supposed to make at least 1 or 2 two boxes as a requisite for membership. The first year she collected 600 boxes, but the following year, she counted approximately 1,400 boxes from the entire department. Laura has held this activity for 2 years now and has encouraged all of us to join this noble cause. This is not Laura’s only philanthropic venture.

Above is Laura holding one of the boxes of the Operation Christmas Child. Picture retrieved from Laura via email.

Above is Laura holding one of the boxes of the Operation Christmas Child. Picture retrieved from Laura via email.

Cell Phones Against Cancer is another activity led by Laura. The president of the microbiology student society, Ester Cuadrado, stated that around 300 pieces of old or broken cell phones, chargers, USB drives and even beepers were collected. This project was in favor of the “Hogar de niños que quieren sonreír” in Santurce, Puerto Rico. Laura motivates us to look through our homes and ask our family and friends for things to donate.

Above is the box where people left their donations for the Cell Phones Against Cancer project. Picture Retrieved from Laura via email.

Above is the box where people left their donations for the Cell Phones Against Cancer project. Picture Retrieved from Laura via email.

As usual, Laura is now leading yet another project called Gift of Love. This time, she is trying to collect used clothing, shoes, school supplies, and other items to send to areas of extreme poverty in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. She has spread the word not only in our group, but throughout the entire Biology Department so that everyone may participate in this activity. The microbiology student society office is full of packages filled with clothes. There are so many, in fact, that she had to make various trips with a pickup truck to get some of them out of the office make room for more contributions. She will give this clothing to two different Puerto Rican organizations interested in aiding those in need that will make two trips.

Above is Laura in the pickup truck moving the bags of clothes for the poor people of Haiti and Dominican Republic. Picture retrieved via email from Laura.

Above is Laura in the pickup truck moving the bags of clothes for the poor people of Haiti and Dominican Republic. Picture retrieved via email from Laura.

Laura grew up with parents that taught her the importance of giving. She began helping others by the age of 7. As a child, she would help her mom wash and pack clothes which were sent to the poor in the United States. She watched her mother work to give physical and spiritual sustenance to families in need in many parts of the world. “People even knew where our house was. Sometimes we would come home and find trash bags full of donated clothes at our garage door,” she said. Laura’s family is constantly sending clothes, shoes and food to places where needed.

Laura does not rest. This summer she is traveling to the Amazon, in Brazil, to help in the building of underground wells for clean water sources. This project would minimize the amount of germs and bacteria in their rivers which is afflicting the population with many diseases. It seems Laura will never stop helping. She finished her double BA in May 2013 and her next step is to become a physician to work in global organizations who travel to places where there is no medical care. “I want to help these communities improve their quality of life, just like Doctors Without Borders,” Laura said. “I know the sacrifice will not be in vain.”

Laura finished her last semester in the university. She wants to encourage our society to keep doing all of the activities she got going throughout the years. She said “I will be watching from a distance; I want you guys to keep the hard work.” Nicole Valentín, an active member of the microbiology association with a smile on her face said she will surely miss those emails ending in: “The secretary is here to support you all as is the rest of the board. We will have that positive attitude that has always characterized us as SEMI [the microbiology student society] and show our department what we can do!”

The new generation of the board of the microbiology student society will always look up to her great example. “Laura will never be forgotten by any of us. I truly hope to meet more Lauras throughout my life,” said Janiret Narvaez, new member of the board. “She is definitely, one of a kind.”

Juanita

By: José G Grau López

      It’s early in the morning and as the rooster greets the dawn with confidence and belief in self-sufficiency, Juanita Gonzalez looks forward in telling her life’s story. Her face and eyes reflects the melancholy and generosity that characterized her infectious and adventurous spirit, product of a hard life.

Jayuya in the 30's

Jayuya in the 30’s

Juanita Gonzalez was born in 1924 in Jayuya P.R., in times where women from the neighborhood were hired to assist in the delivery of pregnant women. She comes from a humble family where she learned her values and virtues, such as compassion and perseverance in life.

“During these times the life of women was full of hardships, due to the ignorance and ego of the puertorrican man” said Juanita referring to “el machismo”. “The overblown masculinity of a manly man” is the definition of “machismo” given by http://www.vocabulary.com. Despite of the social limitations of women at her time, Juanita persevered and was able to direct her life towards her goals.

Moreover, Juanita’s family was immensely large which helped her to learn how to share and help each other because of so many people and the scarcity of the necessary things.

At this point, Juanita Lopez met Rosaly (female name but was a man), her husband in 1940, a relationship that lasted for more than 50 years, something hard to achieve in these days. “The key is to go forward with faith in God no matter what the blows and sufferings life throws at you” said Juanita. Although still believing that her husband was a bit abusive due to his ignorance and lack of education.

Despite all, Rosaly was a cheerful and loved person in the neighborhood. He loved to compose carols and songs, many of which he dedicated to his wife, something that helped keep their love alive. “Rosaly was a strong and very intelligent man, I remember him writing letters to the governor of Puerto Rico requesting any type of help for his family” said Antonio Lopez son of Rosaly and Juanita

In addition, they gathered fruit on farms in order to satisfy their family financially. Rosaly even had to work driving public buses later in his life.

Still Juanita tells us how hard it was at the beginning of their relationship because of the current situation at that time in Puerto Rico. “There was immense poverty and landowners abused their servants” said Juanita.

Juanita and her husband with their grandchildren

Juanita and her husband with their grandchildren

By the time Juanita and Rosaly had 4 of their 11 children’s, Juanita’s mother in law went to live with them at home with a psychiatric condition that was unknown in those times, so they assumed she was crazy. These type situations occurred a lot in those years because of the unawareness of the society and lack of medical knowledge in relation to psychiatric problems. “Depression wasn’t a clinically diagnosed disease as it is today, in those years we solved this kind of situation differently” said Juanita.

Soon after, one day Juanita woke up and went to the farm to give breakfast to her husband who was gathering fruits when she hears the cries of their children in the house. Upon returning the timber of the house crackled because of the intense flames of fire, years of struggle and dedication burning away. Later she found out it was her mother in law who locked in her room was the one who started the fire, and although Andrea, the eldest daughter, was able to rescue her siblings and took them out of the house safely, but there wasn’t enough time to save her paternal grandmother as well.

“She was crazy and at times spoke many inconsistencies, I tried to help but it was hard”. Juanita said, regarding the suicide of his mother.

In fact Antonia Lopez, daughter of Juanita, believes that the disease her grandmother had could be easily diagnose today as Alzheimer.

While speaking of these painful situations in her life, Juanita’s hands move with anxiety and lost sight toward the background behind me. Still she recomposes and continues with the conversation, as she does with her life when the obstacles were really difficult.

After the house burning the life of this family was very hard. They moved several times without a stable home. They lived in Jayuya and Ponce in a time where some farms were still owned by Spanish ranchers with servants, in both of these towns.

Nevertheless, Juanita’s strong and able image provided her circle of family with the example of strength and willingness. This helped their children to become capable people and professionals in the difficult life they lived. Juanita taught them about the real importance of self-believing.

“Everything is in you, you can do whatever you want, and never lose the faith” said Juanita to me giving me an advise. And this was the way she raised her family from the ruins, with her wisdom and way of seeing life.

"Juanita was a very catholic person and helps a lot of people through the church" said Antonia, daughter of Juanita. Photo: Main catholic church in Jayuya

“Juanita was a very catholic person and helps a lot of people through the church” said Antonia, daughter of Juanita.
Photo: Main catholic church in Jayuya

For this reason, Jose, the son of Juanita, say miracles do exist because up to this day he can’t understand how every day at home each of the 11 children had a plate of food, when economically and acquisitive they did not have much power. For this reason and many more he sees his mother as an angel.

But Juanita has another explanation for these situations, for her God pulled her through the hardships because she helped the families around her community, even though their situation wasn’t good. “I like to share my goods; I did not like to see anyone without certain things I could offer”

In addition, Juanita is very Catholic and although it may be debatable for some her faith in God has led her to achieve many things that without it she wouldn’t have achieved. It is a true example of what should be a good Catholic and Christian. Juanita was very involved in her community churches helping street bums and families. She also gives class to religious students.

Juanita also raised a lot of children of other families and helped her sons and daughters a lot in the raise of their children. “There were a lot of people in these times that gave birth to children but did not take care of them and I can’t stand that so I raise those children” said Juanita.

For Juanita despite belonging to an era which we today find hard to understand; she was visionary, for her education is the most important thing and still holds a grudge towards her father due to the fact of not given her the opportunity to attend school. Juanita never went to school.

Besides everything she also served in her community as a doctor because of all of the natural medicine that she knows. This knowledge was given to her by her father she said.

Juanita (left) and her daughter Andrea (right)

Juanita (left) and her daughter Andrea (right)

Juanita suffered the death of one of his daughters, the eldest, due to cancer. This was one of the most difficult moments in her life. “It was devastating” she said, however not losing her composure being the column of her family. While she talks about this her eyes expressed deep suffering.

Around Juanita always dwell peace, tranquility and serenity. Juanita prays the rosary every night asking God for each one of the members of his family including a host of great-grandchildren and even great-great grandchildren.

Furthermore, Juanita is very skilled in the kitchen and in the care of animals. Their children told stories of how she operated sick animals in her farm using knives and sewing thread.

Without a doubt, Juanita has gone through many hard situations in life but never hesitates to do good and help everyone she can, a true believer of granting and being good, because “God provides to those people in a miraculous way” she said referring to the people who live to be good.

Thus, Juanita thinks the problem of the social situation these days is the lack of commitment on God and neighbor, because we are no longer taught to share and to be social beings. “Our town should have a 1,000 women like Juanita because of her social and humans skills” said Georgie González mayor of Jayuya in a family reunion that he participates.

The Goddess of Ivory: A Story of Success Beyond Medals

By-Jonathan Mejias

Its only 6:00 a.m. in the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez. The high pitched sound of the “coqui” confirms that it’s still dark in the morning. The raindrops covering the short green grass around the synthetic track will soon dry up because the sun is already coming out. Hopefully the sneakers will not be needing a brush after running and there will be no excuse for being late.

The sun rises, the garbage truck passes by and while most of the students and faculty are still asleep, Nilsa París Millán and her track and field team is up for their daily routine.

París or “Chay”, as her friends called her, is an athletic woman around 5 feet 2 inches tall, black short hair, energetic, incredible black skin and with a shining smile wherever she goes.  She is 56 years old but no one believes it, for she looks way younger.

Nilsa París at her office in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. She began as a typist and took a lot of workshops, completed a second bachelor degree in office administration and today is the secretary of the director.

She has been working as the administrative secretary of the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the UPRM campus for 27 years.

On the other hand, she also wears the green and white uniform as the coach for the woman’s track and field team at the synthetic track behind the Mangual Coliseum.

París practically lives in the UPRM. Her weekly schedule includes her morning training, the work in her office and finally running again with the team from 4:30 p.m. till the sun comes down.

“I feel so happy. This is what really fascinates me. I feel just like one of them. Running with them gives me so much energy,” said París.

Somehow seeing her students working hard for what they wants remembers her about her years as an amateur.

“I started to compete in many sports since I was a little girl. However, when I got to high school, Santa Sánchez, my physical education teacher, motivated me to continue in sports because according to her I had a big future ahead.”

Paris, has represented Puerto Rico in many national and international competitions, such as the Intercollegiate Games, Penn Relays, Central American and Caribbean Games, World Athletics Championships and most recently the World Masters Athletics Championships.

“Prof, Gabino Irrizárry is my trainer from long ago, he is the responsible of the all the accomplishments that I have achieved.”

“Prof, Gabino Irrizárry is my trainer from long ago, he is the responsible of the all the accomplishments that I have achieved.”

París believes that a good athlete is born with the skills and talent. “Some athletes can be made by hard training but they will never be as good as the others who were born with innate physical capacities.”

According to a research conducted by Zatziorski, sports metrologist, “the capacities of the athlete to influence in the success of a particular activity, will develop with the union of congenital and acquired properties.

For the Ivory Goddess, like a Mexican newspaper called her after winning 15 gold medals, has not been it easy to be in the place she’s at today.

“I was born into a family with low income and resources in Carolina and raised in San Antón, a poor neighborhood in the same city. We were 11 in a house of wood, sport was the opportunity to progress. That’s why I and all my siblings were always. ”

París followed her teacher’s advice and continue improving her skills. When she graduated from high school she gracefully received an invitation of the UPRM to be part of the track and field team and offered her financial aid. Nevertheless, it wasn’t all that easy.

“I remember many times in Summer I didn’t have anything to eat, especially because there was no financial aid during that session in college. Back then I had to eat mangoes to calm my hunger” said, París looking at the mango’s tree behind the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

It’s been 41 years since the Title IX was established. This law banned sex discrimination in any educational program that received any type of federal aid in the United States system. This definitely helped hundreds of women that didn’t had the privilege to compete and benefit from the scholarships in college, like París.

Fortunately, París didn’t experienced any kind of discrimination, at least because of gender. However, this woman proves the falsity of the myth that women are naturally inferior to men in terms of strength and that women can’t be as good at sports as men.

“I constantly receive compliments for my achievements in sports, a place frequently dominated by men. I have never been discriminated because of my gender, on the contrary, I have experienced a lot of admiration of everybody.”

On the other hand, she still wonders about a weird experience she had in Europe during a College Sports Games. She wants to believe God wanted her to show that black people exist, compete and are human as anybody else.

“I’m not sure if it was racism, but in a competition I had in Bulgaria, an old women came to me, and the main judge suddenly stop the race. She touched me and awkwardly looked at her hands to see if I painted her. She left and then came again and gave me a hug.”

In terms of the feeling when competing internationally, París said “Is the greatest privilege and experience that any Puerto Rican athlete could ever had. When I compete I think about the responsibility and duty I have with my country.”

Nilsa París in the Pepe Barrientos Games in Cuba back in the 1983. She won a silver medal in 200 meters with a record of 23.70 seconds and was recognized for being the second women to achieve less than 24 seconds in 200 meters.

It was almost launch hour,  París grabbed her huge cellphone covered with a thick green colored rubber, she checked the hour and then played via YouTube a video of the 200 meters event in USA Indoor National Masters in which she won a gold medal.

Once the video was over, a moment of silent stood, she said very proudly “If you ask me why I like so much to coach, I will definitely say that I want to transmit all my knowledge as long as God want, to help other people to get as far as I did or will, because I know this talent is not eternal.”

Ponce’s Unknown hero Carlos

By: Yesenia M. Malavé Vázquez

Date: May 10, 2013

Target Audience: UPRM Students

 

We have been so busy watching news about violations, kidnapping, murders and a lot of other criminality that we have overlooked the unknown heroes of our community. Unknown heroes, the volunteer people whose mission is to assist the younger generations to confront life easily. Carlos M. Iglesias, a volunteer leader who is now the representative of Jocaan Organization in Ponce, is an unknown hero who has guided kids through sports and makes them college athletes.

Jocaan is a baseball association certified by the American Congress of baseball. “Nineteen years ago the organization made me the representative and I have been working hard to never fail to this youth”, said Carlos with a satisfied and joyful look.

“Since childhood I always liked this sport and then my kids started playing” said Iglesias with his gray hair full of experience. He also added that it was there when he was invited to lead small teams by categories and, a few years after, became the agent that he is today. What motivate him to accept being the agent of the league was that his mother died by the same date so he needed to clear his mind on something.  His mission is to interest young people in sports so they cannot be influenced by criminology in the streets, it makes him proud to touch a life of a child through baseball every day. Every morning, Iglesias wakes up in high spirits and goes to the baseball field to mark the park box and let everything ready for the games and practices.

As the article Influence of sports on kids in ehow.com says, sports does not only influence in exercise and fun but throughout their lifetime because they learn the importance of winning or losing, on  how to lead a team, respect and perseverance in their goals. Iglesias said that one of his purposes is to develop important skills like the one mentioned in the article. “I am proud of seeing this kids aspire to college as some of past players of this league are now leaders in college teams”, Iglesias said.

Iglesias has served so well in all these years that they are rumors that they want to put his name to the park. “All I am doing is volunteer; I do not expect this type of acknowledgment but if they do this I will accept with humility”, he said.  In 2003 the American Congress gave Iglesias an honor and they named him the volunteer leader of the year.

“I am so satisfied that I have a lot of young players that already have been selected to play in major leagues such as the professional league of Ponce and the A class of the Yankees”, Iglesias added with a peaceful posture. “It is exciting to see wherever I go the salute of my players and the conversations where they tell me how much they have succeed with baseball in other big leagues or in college”, Carlos Iglesias also added.

There are a few people who are engaged in a work without pay (voluntary) for the sake of others. For this reason there must be many unknown heroes, some helping the homeless, the elderly or the disabled persons. In this case, Iglesias choose being a volunteer helping kids and youth to achieve their dreams in baseball. Some parents thinks that baseball is not a big deal, there is when Carlos work to convince them how baseball can help you succeed through life. “It is harder working with the parents that with the kids”, Carlos said. He means that the majority of the parents does not cooperate with the fund raising activities and sometimes is hard to try if they can cooperate with their children.

Iglesias, a man with an average height and brown skin, is a role model for his players, and for the family of his team members. He is totally a leader, helps his players understand more with their parents and insists that parents support their children’s activities. He is one of some people who dedicate his whole life to the hobby he liked since child, so on he teaches to new generations and hopefully these generations will learn the same and practice with the youth of the future.

Carlos M. Iglesias, the proud representative of Jocaan, marching in the inauguration game.

Carlos M. Iglesias, the proud representative of Jocaan, marching in the inauguration game.

From child to hero

Figure 1 Elementary school photo of Jose.

Figure 1 Elementary school photo of Jose.

On the streets of old San German there is a 14 years old child selling candy and offering to clean your house for a few coins and you wonder why that child is not in school. This was the life of Jose, who dropped out of school at the age of fourteen. “I studied until ninth grade, because I needed to work to help my mom, because a few months after my birth my father died and my mother was the only who took care of me and my brothers”, said Jose with a low tone of voice.

Jose comes from a poor family who lacked basic amenities like food, shoes and clothes. Because of that the boy left his wooden toy car to help his idol. “My idol was my mom because she raised five children and with her own income, dedicated to raising her children and staying single all her life since age 33,” he admitted with a face full of pride.

But the boy became a man when he began to work with a monthly salary and started to help his mom without worries that the next day he would not have another job: “I became an adult when I got my first paycheck of cleaning offices, at that time was two dollars a day. In that moment I felt as an adult because I paid back my mother for what she had done for me. Because of that I felt like an adult being just 15 years old.”

In his life he also had two great loves. Jose remember that he had his first great love when he was very young: “I had a girlfriend that I loved so much, but her mother despised me because of my color. I had to break my commitment of marriage and leave with my sister to the United States to forget her.”

But years later he came back to Puerto Rico and found another woman which he fell for her and asked her for marriage: “But God handed me another woman which has unquestionably been the love of my life. She gave me two children and has been with me about 47 years, which I give many thanks for to God because I started with her and will die with her.”

Even for Jose that was not enough. In 1969 he had one of his greatest achievements: an employment of trust in the City hall of San German, along with the mayor Alemañy he found a job which was consistent with his personality and his commitment to the community, helping the people in community, not letting anyone deprive people of any help in the city hall: “For the year 1969 I was recruited by the mayor to work. In these years I had a great experience because I had a large number of functions such as property manager, procurement officer, municipal treasurer, deputy mayor and ending three periods of 4 years in 1981.”

Jose not only managed to have a job of great recognition but from there he helped the poor people like him,  It did not matter if they were of low income or middle class people, they all came to Jose’s office to tell their problems and he with great effort helped them. He said “The most striking case was a man who came to my office because he had a prescription for his wife and was told at the pharmacy that it had a cost of $ 50 and the man had no money. I was so moved that I decided to call the pharmacy.”

Jose with eyes lost in thought narrated how he called the pharmacy and told the pharmacist that the drugs would be pay by him if the city hall did not respond:

“This man entered the office crying and left happy. Not only that, a month later he came back to the office and arrived with his wife and a bag of peas. I had forgotten the man because they were not the only ones I helped. There were similar cases daily, but that moved me more because if the lady hadn’t used the drugs she would have been  gravely ill, on that day they came back  and the lady asked me if I could get up from the desk to give me a hug and the lady gave me a long hug.”

Jose after his years in the city hall found better work so he quick his position at the city hall, without forgetting his commitment with his people. Jose bought a gas station where he created a business that had a restaurant, mechanics and gas station. In this new work he kept on helping, he gave free fuel to poor people and lowered the price of food to the students. In this another great achievement Jose began to help his family, closest friends and young children which he taught to study and love their job. Later he decided to find another job without the long hours of work:

“After I acquired the gas station which in walk together with my family I worked in,  I got a job in the Puerto Rico Telephone Company which required much less effort than the gas station and having the same income as the gas station.”

Years later Jose retired and returned in search of support for his community. The mayor of San German after seeing Jose`s efforts on helping his people, invited Jose to be Municipal Assemblyman, another position in the city hall that have the community leaders with the purpose of helping others.

Jose said: “The function of an assemblyman is to have an area of town where the citizens can ask you for help or needs, the downtown of San German is my area of the community to help but I’m at the disposal not only of that area but the entire town.”

Jose’s effort is in the streets on going to the places most frequented by citizens and listening to what he calls “people’s complaints.”

“…with the complaints I go to City Hall to resolve them two or three days pass and citizen come back to me to tell me that the city hall resolved the problem, without knowing it was me who put effort to resolve it.  I do not get the title to tell the citizens that I did.”

But for Jose is not only a hobby it is a commitment, during the interview  he had to pause because the  mayor called for problems with a telephone cable that prevented the passage of citizens on a busy highway.

For Jose supporting others is not his only hobby, he also has another hobby; basketball. In basketball he began as scorekeeper holding various roles he has worked in various tournaments such as the LAI, BSN, and minor leagues:

“I started working in basketball in 1963 with a cousin of mine, we did the statistic of the team. The team paid only two dollars to each of us.”

Not only did he work in the statistics during his youth, but he is still today one of the oldest scorekeeper of Puerto Rico along with other fellow officers of the. One of his greatest basketball achievement was to get his family to inherit his empire in basketball.

“I have one that followed my footsteps in basketball, I have been a scorekeeper for 47 years, carrying several positions on the table and I have a grandson who loves basketball sometimes he even has more knowledge than me because he knows a lot of the players statics and I still do not know them at the age that I have.”

Jose also is addicted to his family having two son and two grandchildren that to him are everything. Through his efforts of savings he built a home where his dream was for his family to live with him, a wide and clear house with several floors. Upon entering his home you can smell the odors of food, see pictures of all sorts of ages of the family and hear the sounds of conversations of all sources of themes.

“I told you about my grandson who follows my footsteps and now I speak of my granddaughter who is playful and very similar to me because of her jokes, and that I am also friendly and playfull.”

Jose is a person who does not feel like a hero instead as person who came from below and got to fulfill all his dreams, but he admits that he still has a lot of goals to achieve in these next years; see his grandchildren graduate from university and celebrate his 50th anniversary of marriage with his wife.

“I consider myself a person who had fight for the things that I have; my family and my city.”

This person considers himself as someone who does not deserve any awards, but in the walls of his home there are admired awards from the city hall of San German, dedications from basketball tournaments like; the BSN to whom he has dedicated a whole season and other accolades in his work as an employer in the Puerto Rico telephone company.

Figure 2 Jose working as scorekeeper at San German basketball court

Figure 2 Jose working as scorekeeper at San German basketball court

 

 

There is no limit in life

By: Ada Marie Toraño Rodríguez

The sky is the limit… whether you can see it or not.

Ernesto Julio, the little boy on the right, with his two brothers and parents.

Ernesto Julio, the little boy on the right, with his two brothers and parents.

Ernesto Julio is a young man that was born in San Juan. He is special because even though he lost his ability to see, this did not become an obstacle for him. His mental development has improved.

In his childhood he was diagnosed with one eye that was not developed and the other eye was partially developed. He was able to see shadows and silhouettes. He had to undergo a couple of medical exams and surgery trying to find a way to overcome this. He is completely blind.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), complete blindness means that you cannot see anything and do not see light. Vision loss refers to the partial or complete loss of vision. This vision loss may happen suddenly or over a period of time. Some types of vision loss never lead to complete blindness.

He always had the back-up from his brothers, parents and family that were there to help him but not limit him. His mother has always been there in order to help him live a normal life. She kept pushing him so he could be a strong and happy man.

He began his studies in the “Liceo de Hostos” school which was small. One of the things that made it a little bit easier for him to adapt to this school was not yet blind and he knew most of the people who studied there. When he started to lose his sight his friends would help him and he would feel comfortable.

When he moved on to his high school education he transferred to Notre Dame School where it was more complicated for him because this school was bigger, new and he had been losing his ability to see. Now he could not walk alone because he did not know the areas nor wanted to use a walking stick. This made it hard for him to socialize because he was practically always with the same person. When Ernesto Julio was a senior he became completely blind, started to use the walking stick and was more independent. At school a teacher would help him take notes of the class or he would make copies from his friends’ notebooks.

Proceeding to his college studies, he was admitted at the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras (UPRRP) where he completed his bachelor’s degree in audiovisual communications in radio. What he liked most about college was the environment because he got to meet new people every day, people from other nationalities.

One of the most memorable experiences of his childhood was when his sixth grade graduation was dedicated to him, said Ernesto Julio.

Being blind has not become a limitation for Ernesto Julio, said his aunt. He has been able to play instruments such as the drums and piano which he wants to improve on and study music.

Ernesto Julio playing the drums.

Ernesto Julio playing the drums.

He travels alone, which has been one of the challenges he has faced. The first time he traveled alone he was 17 years old. It was hard because it was a time for acceptance and adaptation for him since it was when he became completely blind. When he arrived to the airport his escort was not there and an old lady overheard him talking on the phone and offered him her help. She was kind enough to talk on the phone with his parents and take him where he needed to go. When he arrived in the United States he got to meet many blind people that were his own age and had a normal lifestyle. This became for him an inspiration in which he saw that he could do the same and made him feel better about himself. Here he learned to read Braille. It took him three weeks to learn it.

Another challenge he had to face and probably the harshest is walking in new places and crossing avenues alone.  In college he would always walk alone but when he goes out he is always with his friends or his brothers.

When he found out he was going to lose his sight it was frustrating for him and was hard to accept the need of having someone by his side, said Ernesto Julio. However, he did not let this stop him and he became an example of self-improvement. One of the moments that he cherishes the most about his life was the opportunity he had of graduating from the UPRRP.

Something that has marked him about how the people around him handled this situation was their ignorance of the people, the way they treat a blind person. A blind person has the same capacity and ability to do what any other person can do. They are independent persons, said Wanda Santana, mother of Ernesto Julio.

The happiest moment of his life was when he decided to look for self motivation documentaries about two years ago. This was when he started to feel better about himself and forget what others thought about him. He became a happier person and finally understood that what he thinks about himself matters more than what anyone could think about him.

Wanda and Ernesto Julio both said that this has not become a limitation for him because he has been able to do what any other person could do. He exercises, cooks, clean, uses the computer and cell phones, but most importantly he has a social life like everyone else.

Unknown hero among us

May 18, 2013

Unknown hero among us

By Keishla L. López Domenech

Ever since she was a little girl Sandra Zapata has been associated with hospitals, diseases, doctors, surgeries and treatments.  At age 4 she traveled from her hometown of Mayagüez to New York where she received open heart surgery, due to undisclosed reasons. This operation was able to correct her problem but brought some consequences resulting in additional operations and treatments. Because of these complications and being the youngest in the family she was overprotected by her mother, father, brother, and her two sisters. Despite this Zapata has always seen herself as an independent spirit.

She is 52 years old, has green eyes, short brown hair; she is approximately 5 feet and 3 inches in height and fair complexion. Most of the time wears a long or short sleeved blouse and trousers covering most of her body.

Sandra Zapata by Keishla López

Sandra Zapata by Keishla López

As a child she loved to read, things relating to environmental protection and animals. She wanted to be a veterinarian because of her love for them, but because it was required to have her application documents one year prior to applying in college she instead decided on nursing school. During this time she fell in love with nursing and d

ecided this was her new passion.

The daughter of an electrical engineer and a housewife she continued her studies with their help and the help of the rest of her family. During the course of her studies she earned a Bachelor’s in nursing, to Master’s degrees also in nursing, and a Doctorate in Thanatology along with the opportunity to save lives.

During her time as a nursing student and later as a nurse she learned and applied ways to do just that. She saved lives not only at the hospital she worked at but also in different places outside of work. She would sometimes find people hurt on her way to work, during her vacation time and even right in front of her house where she would find herself obligated to help those in need. These included different situations ranging from someone choking with a piece of food to car accidents where people were in serious condition.

One Father’s day she decided to go to a river in San Sebastian with her husband and son to celebrate. While in the river they decided to place a rope on a tree branch where people would climb the rope and swing themselves with it and jump to the river. A young woman climbed the rope, jumped and fell into rocks seriously hurting her body. “I had to step in and help her. The paramedics had arrived but they did not know how to properly place her in the stretcher.” said Zapata.

Her husband and son let her

know right away when an emergency occurs so she can help. Sometimes in the middle of situations her husband starts yelling “Let her pass, she is a nurse. She can help.” He sometimes does not even give her time to think or prepare herself mentally. Zapata leaves what she is doing in order the help the person in need. “It’s almost automatic” says Zapata referring to the way he immediately reacts.

After know the bitter taste left in her after her father’s death two months before graduating from nursing and later going through her brother’s death and knowing the feeling of sadness of losing loved ones she decided to devote herself to studying Thanatology.

Thanatology is specialized science that studies death and the process of dying as defined by the Light and Truth Group. Zapata not only helps people as nurse but also as a Thanatologist. “For me, be

ing a Thanatologist is being able to share with people their death, trying to bring dignity to their lives instead of moments of terror, loneliness and sadness.” She also gives lectures to people about death. Her son helps her with this and preparing the presentations for her.

Due to physical exhaustion from overworking at the hospital she had to leave and pursue a full-time teaching career at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM). She provides nursing classes to the new generation of professionals in this area. Through the courses offered by the university she is able to go back in the clinical area at the hospital and take her students to practice in real time scenarios. She continues to help others while preparing future nurses to take on her role and help those in need in her place.

“Sandra Zapata is the best teacher of the Department of Nursing and is also a great human being” said Jesus Vega a nursing student at UPRM.

Sandra Zapata with her students at in the UPRM.

Sandra Zapata with her students at in the UPRM.

Part of Sandra Zapata’s daily life includes doing chores around her home, playing her pet dog and cat, going to the beach and snorkeling, scuba diving, going shopping and watching television series such as Glee, The Voice, Bones among other programs, going out with her friends and enjoying a cool frappe.

When not performing these activities Sandra Zapata can usually be found giving nursing classes to her students or taking them for practice sessions at the hospital making way for the new generation of nurses to take on the responsibilities of helping those in need, just like she did before them. “Nursing is an emotionally fulfilling and rewarding career” said Discover Nursing.

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