Sharing Tres Leches Cake in America #familiesbelongtogether

Sharing Tres Leches Cake in America #familiesbelongtogether

 “Who wants some cake?”  My friend, Adelyn Ruiz-Lopez, asked.

“I am so full,” I said with a laugh.

“But it’s Tres Leches cake!” she quipped with a smile.

“Tres Leches cake!”  Our heads turned and gazed longingly at the delicious light and fluffy cake.

“Well, maybe one slice,” I replied.

Now in our thirties, my college friends and I gathered together for a brunch reunion at my friend Adelyn’s house in the east coast of the USA. My three-year-old daughter Lily was laughing and playing with Adelyn’s one-year-old daughter Evie. The two youths were covered in bubbles, laughing and sprawled out on the floor playing with Elmo toys. It gave me a momentary reprise to enjoy a mimosa and reminisce and chat with my friends. Despite the darkness happening in our country, this brunch was a unique perspective, about love, friendship and family.

I am a second-generation immigrant who grew up with the brave and courageous stories of my grandparents who immigrated to this country from Europe to start a better life for themselves and their families. I am the lucky one, being born, here, in the USA in Long Island, NY I didn’t have to go through the hardships my ancestors faced getting here.  However, I have been horrified and heartbroken about the new Trump administration policy that has been separating children from their parents at the Texas border in order to curb the influx of immigrants migrating to this country illegally.

Many families being detained are seeking asylum due to gang related violence and political unrest in their home countries in Central America.  After having gone through hell of escaping persecution in their home countries, they encountered a new and never imagined hell –  the fear and utter despair of being separated from their children with little or no hope of being reunited.

As a mother, I am appalled that these young children, including babies, are being detained in cages and tent cities.  Even with a Federal Judge ruling against the Trump administration’s separation policy at the border and 17 states suing the Federal Government, the Trump administration continues to fight to continue with these inhumane practices, with approximately 2,300 children still separated from their families since May.

Despite the happy reunion at our college brunch, there was also that sad reality of what was happening in our country.   I was fortunate enough to have amazing friends to help open my eyes about what it’s like to immigrate to this country at a young age. My friend Adelyn emigrated from the Dominican Republic with her family when she was 10 years old.   In 1991, her dad lost his job as a production manager at one of the biggest oil refineries in the country.

They took their life savings and decided to come to America. Adelyn’s parents, along with their four daughters, came to NY on a Visitor Visa. Adelyn said that her family was one of the fortunate ones to be in a position where they could obtain a visa which is often hard to obtain and often unavailable to poorer families in many third world countries. Fortunately, Adelyn and her family had a path to citizenship through her grandfather who became a US citizen and petitioned for the family to get permanent residency once they were here.

Adelyn’s father, who had been an executive in the Dominican Republic, now worked at a factory and sometimes held three jobs at one time to make ends meet. One of the things he is most proud of is that despite all the hardships that he had to endure, he never asked for help from the US government to support his family. That is a big source of pride for him. He, along with his wife, worked hard, paid their taxes and saved enough money from their jobs to send all their children to Catholic School and their hard work helped create a better life for their children.

In this current political climate, it is easy to misunderstand the plight of the majority of immigrant families trying to come to the United States. Adelyn’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Lopez, came to this country for very different reasons than Adelyn and her family. Mrs. Lopez fled from a country, Nicaragua, where people were being persecuted, starved and killed due to the change in regimes at the time. The majority of immigrants being held at the US border right now are primarily families escaping situations as hostile as those that Mrs. Lopez described. Families seeking asylum need help!

Adelyn took a deep breath and said, “America was a beacon of hope for all people looking to create a better tomorrow for their families. We once were a country that gave asylum to people who were oppressed and in need of protection.  Now we are a country that would rather turn a blind eye to the plight of the suffering.”

As I sat and listened to these stories, I realized that it is through listening to these stories that these mothers and children and families are not just another statistic, another “Immigrant” or attempt by this administration to de-humanize the term. It is through these stories that we realize these people are human and not so different than you and me. They are our friends. They are our family. They are women and mothers I share a Tres Leches cake with during brunch in Corona Queens. They are people I share my American dream with.

I looked down to see my daughter Lily crying and holding out her arms to me. I picked her up and, after a hug and a kiss, she continued playing with Evie.  For that moment, she just needed her mother. I looked down at the two beautiful, innocent children- two innocent children that could now be in a cage in Texas waiting for judgement, waiting for their mother to hold them. Waiting for their mother to hold them and tell them everything was going to be alright.

I realize that it is not through hate, but through LOVE that we will persevere as a country. Together we can work with this administration to help find a more humane and just immigration policy. May we hold out our hands and our hearts to these mothers, fathers and children and help fight to stop this inhumane separation of families at our borders. I think about these mothers and realize in another life, I could be the mother praying for someone to fight for me when all hope is lost. I could be the one on the other side, my child ripped from my arms, praying for a new and better life.

I put myself in their shoes, and they are the reason why my daughter and I marched this weekend.

On Saturday, June 30th, people joined to march throughout the United States and around the world to demand an end to the separation of families at the U.S. border. For more information on the march and what can be done next, go to the Families Belong Together website

Melissa Kuch is a World Mom from New York, USA and author of the young adult fantasy and adventure series, The Hypothesis of Giants.

Photo credit of “Keep Families Together Sign” to Jill Ion. This post has a creative commons attribution license.

Photo credit of the author’s daughter at the Families Belong Together March in Huntington, NY to Melissa Kuch.

 

 

World Moms Network

World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.

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WORLD VOICE: #Airlift2014 to Nicaragua with @AmeriCares: Part I

WORLD VOICE: #Airlift2014 to Nicaragua with @AmeriCares: Part I

Airlift Benefit Table Shot

What would it be like to see the impact that our donations make in places around the world that need it most? And what would it be like to be able to do that with your partner?  I don’t travel as much as I would love to because although longer-term trips can be amazing, I find it difficult to leave my kids for more than a few days at a time. I’ve given that a whirl before. But recently, a really unique opportunity called the “AmeriCares Airlift 2014” presented itself. The event took my husband and I to Nicaragua for a 24 hour social good trip. Yep, only 24 hours! The experience was all due to the generosity of my husband’s employer, Cognizant, who has financially supported the global health work of AmeriCares for years.

The event began at Westchester Airport in New York on September 20th. I checked in wearing heels and went through a security check for the plane that was donated to the event by Sun Country airlines. By the way, did I mention, we were also celebrating our wedding anniversary on the trip? 

One hundred of the 850 gala guests would be boarding the plane at the end of the night to Nicaragua, and those 100 were given flashing bracelets at check-in.

The casual airport hangar had been magically turned into a fancy gala. We sat with the Cognizant table, where I got to meet some of my husband’s coworkers, who were excited to tell us about AmeriCares Airlifts of years past and what to expect. We were excited, and yet, nervous, too! 

The event included Nicaraguan music, and afterwards we set our attention on this very video about AmeriCares relief efforts in the Philippines after typhoon Haiyan. Emotions were flying. It was engagement with people like Jen in the video below that led to the Airlift Benefit raising over $2 million dollars for everyday global health issues and relief efforts!:

 

Jen’s story was heartfelt and amazing, and she was even in attendance at the event from the Philippines!  Authors, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, spoke next at the event about their latest book, “A Path Appears.” They noted that the same part of the brain that enjoys sex and chocolate is the same part of the brain that makes us want to give. So interesting, right? I was excited to hear from the duo because I had read and cherished “Half the Sky”, the book about human trafficking that they coauthored, which helped further motivate my activism for women and children worldwide.

Americares Airlift Benefit Gala

In fact, just this past week, I got to meet Nicholas Kristof at the AYA Summit in Washington, DC. I explained that I had heard him speak last month at #Airlift2014, and he was genuinely excited to hear how the 24 hour trip to Nicaragua was. Kristof said he always wondered what that trip would be like. I told him that he should join them on the flight next time!! Could you imagine being on a social good trip with Nick Kristof??? My fingers would be crossed to be in his group, so I could hear his questions to the people we met along the way!

We also heard from long-time AmeriCares supporter and actor, Tony Goldwyn, who plays the President on Scandal. Tony became the first celebrity spokesperson for Americares. And Erica Hill of NBC MCd the event. Time flew by before they announced that it was time to board the flight.  Steve and I quickly headed to the makeshift airport hangar changing rooms to change into clothes for the flight. It was go-time!

We were divided into 4 color-coded groups. my husband and I were in the blue group.  Our group indicated what bus we were to ride once in Nicaragua and what places we’d be visiting. Each bus visited 3 health facilities.  Because there were 4 buses, we all didn’t visit the same ones.  The flight went quick because I knew we wouldn’t be getting very much sleep, so I tried to keep my eyes closed the entire time. If I wasn’t sleeping, I’d at least be relaxing to be able to take in the importance of the site visits.  Once we arrived in the middle of the night in Managua, our bus took us to our hotel, where we were able to get 4-5 hours more sleep.

Early in the morning, we met the entire group for breakfast in a hotel conference room and were briefed on Nicaragua.  The statistic that is still singed into my heart is that “2 out of 3 pregnancies are unwanted” in the country. It is even difficult to write. I thought it was a typo. But, as the day went on, I’d learn that it was true…

Stay posted to WorldMomsBlog.com for Part II of Jennifer Burden’s adventure to Nicaragua with AmeriCares and #Airlift 2014 on behalf of Cognizant.

Photo credits to the author. 

 

 

Jennifer Burden

Jennifer Burden is the Founder and CEO of World Moms Network, an award winning website on global motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. World Moms Network writes from over 30 countries, has over 70 contributors and was listed by Forbes as one of the “Best 100 Websites for Women”, named a “must read” by The New York Times, and was recommended by The Times of India. She was also invited to Uganda to view UNICEF’s family health programs with Shot@Life and was previously named a “Global Influencer Fellow” and “Social Media Fellow” by the UN Foundation. Jennifer was invited to the White House twice, including as a nominated "Changemaker" for the State of the World Women Summit. She also participated in the One Campaign’s first AYA Summit on the topic of women and girl empowerment and organized and spoke on an international panel at the World Bank in Washington, DC on the importance of a universal education for all girls. Her writing has been featured by Baby Center, Huffington Post, ONE.org, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life, and The Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists.” She is currently a candidate in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the Executive Masters of Public Affairs program, where she hopes to further her study of global policies affecting women and girls. Jennifer can be found on Twitter @JenniferBurden.

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