Girls w/disAbility & Moms Stop Cycle of Violence.

by Special Families Saint Julie Billiart (Familias Especiales Santa Julia Billiart)
Girls w/disAbility & Moms Stop  Cycle of Violence.
Girls w/disAbility & Moms Stop  Cycle of Violence.
Girls w/disAbility & Moms Stop  Cycle of Violence.
Girls w/disAbility & Moms Stop  Cycle of Violence.
Girls w/disAbility & Moms Stop  Cycle of Violence.
Girls w/disAbility & Moms Stop  Cycle of Violence.
Girls w/disAbility & Moms Stop  Cycle of Violence.
Girls w/disAbility & Moms Stop  Cycle of Violence.

Shut-down, shut-out, shut-up, follow these directions if you want to lower your self-esteem. The mothers and daughters in Magical Shoes Affirmation Group are exploring what affects their self-esteem. What conscious or unconscious demands limit their lives? What brings life to their self-esteem? The mothers and daughters are wise, but that wisdom is shut-down, shut-out, and shut-up by their lived experience. What if instead, they heard: relax-down, build-up, speak-out? The team created various activities to first guide them with relaxing activities. After the first relaxing activity, the mothers reacted, saying that relaxation is not part of our lives. They have always lived vigilant of their daughters' disabilities, so they could not afford to relax. If a mother never learned how to relax, she would not have permitted her daughter to relax either. What happens when mothers and daughters relax together? It takes time to understand and to relax. Sometimes, it is tough, but they are learning techniques relaxing little by little. According to team members, doing these exercises together reinforces the positive benefits of relaxation.

At the end of the activity, they are asked how these ideas and activities can be integrated into their everyday lives.  The mothers need to identify any feelings such as guilt over relaxation or sources of stress. Stress is the number one enemy of peace and self-esteem. They talk about ways to incorporate these ideas at home and report on them in the next session. The women are grateful for a program that does not put extra burdens on them, create guilt, or keep them silent. They don't have to shut-down, shut-out, and shut-up. These mothers and daughters have started a long journey to improve their self-esteem together. The problems that the mothers face in their lives are many times passed on to their daughters.

They end the session by sharing gratitude, creating an encouraging and constructive path home. The affirmations groups are grateful to you for all your support. It means a lot to the mothers to know that others are willing to support a program that helps them reflect with their daughters and build their relationships. Their daughters' well-being is vital as they recognize that a girl with a disability has to face many social problems. Still, their daughters are number one in their eyes, and they know that they can assist them in integrating more successfully if they understand and believe in them. 

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Special Invitation to Grandmother
Special Invitation to Grandmother

"When one of us suffers, we all suffer," said a mother inviting a grandmother to the Magic Shoes Affirmation Group. "How could we just meet here knowing that she was at home alone suffering."  This grandmother just lost two of her sons to covid.

Part of this bi-weekly affirmation group was giving each other a massage. So this grandmother received massages from other moms and daughters too. She was grateful to be included in the affirmations. "The thing is to help each other communicate. We all need that little touch to communicate our concern for one and other. I loved the massage as well as giving one to my daughter."
The mothers and daughters enjoyed giving a massage and then receiving one in return. For some of the mothers, it was hard because they have never had a massage before, but they soon learned how a simple massage can raise the spirits.
The daughters and mothers continue to work together to affirm each other in communication. Giving the massages was a way for them to learn to affirm one another; it worked as an icebreaker to more conversation and better relations between mother and daughter. "You got to believe it took a lot for my daughter to give me a massage." These were simple massages; they were new experiences, and everyone learned new ways of being able to touch each other.
The mothers are very proud of themselves and their daughters as they work to understand each other. At each session, the pair put on different shoes or socks to try to create a bond that makes it all worth the effort by trying on a different perspective. We want to thank all of you for your continued support through the pandemic shut down. It slowed us down, but it didn't shut us out of the lives of our daughters.



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Moms & Girls Still Communicating in  the Unknown
Moms & Girls Still Communicating in the Unknown

The over 25 mothers and daughters who are part of our magical shoes project are now in lock down in their homes to protect themselves from the corona virus.  This time in July seems to be a big spike in the virus in Nicaragua.  How do we know that? not from any government statistics because they are officially ignoring the virus.  Mothers who live in front of the street to the cemetery report about seven funerals daily passing their homes, and knowing street vendors who have died as there is no help for people who make their living on the street.  We have to rely on reports like these because even the traditional death notices that have been a part of the Nicaraguan culture have been banned.  So that we will think that there is no problem.  Our mothers with their special daughters have taught us a lot about how we should do lock down.  They have formed a special communication system and often send food and supplies to one another in ways that create community even in the midst of corona virus.  We are blessed by these women with magical shoes who have learned through much suffering how to keep in touch.   

As of March 25 we decided to go on lock down to protect our health and those around us, a very hard decision but necessary for an organization who works with people who are vulnerable and at the greatest risk of this virus.   
The decision was made by the foundation to close as Nicaragua started having cases of Covid19.  We could not envision doing anything else. This was not mandated by the government, schools have stayed open, nothing has been shut by government health concerns. At this time in early july the government of Nicaragua has mostly ignored the pandemic and have not order any social distancing or self-protection for their citizens. The country leads in the percentage of deaths:cases ratio in Central America.  This is a sad reality that we have to live with and come through alive. Our projected return is now scheduled for August, with hopes that we can feel secure to bring all workers back without infecting one another.  Since there is no testing in our country we don’t want to just start up again.  It is very hard without any support or acceptance.  Everything is an unknown for us but we continue to follow social media from Central American countries and the World Health organization.  That is all we have. 

 We also set up WhatsApp groups to keep in touch with workers and those families who have access to social media. Because the reality is that many do not have access to social media. 
The Magical shoes project main goal is to strengthen the relationships of mothers and daughters with special needs.  These times have been trying but we see that the program has had an effect as the mothers being in lockdown with their daughters have had to use the skills that we had all been working on before the virus, especially communication and acceptance.  As we share basic food baskets with the families once a month we are finding out how they are coping and looking for new ways to work with them when we do go back to “normal”.  We are working on hygiene problems and lack of resources to benefit them.  Some have been making masks in their homes to be able to help others. 

When we closed temporarily the program we told our workers “you are being paid to stay at home and take care of your health and protect yourself and others.” three months into the lock down we have several of our workers who have gotten the virus and are struggling to recuperate because it is not recognized here and there is no special treatment developed or put into practice. 

We also recognized that people were not getting the right nutrition and most social programs were shut down many permanently so we have taken it on ourselves to begin to provide monthly food packages. Staff are active in getting out each month more than 200 packages of basic grains to people we work with in the neighborhoods of Matagalpa, including the workers.  

We use the delivery of these food packages to educate as we go in trucks with our workers in protective gear not getting out of the trucks but letting each individual enter into the double cabin and receive a small talk, and a mask, about the virus.  Then they have a chance to share with us about their experience in this difficult time, and what is happening to their dreams and hopes for the future.  We are trying to motivate people to stay in their homes to avoid the virus.   This is not our usual style of direct work with the families but because public transportation is so crowded and the food shortage is so great we decided to do it in this manner to help our families when they are getting no other help.  We posted a you tube link of an inspirational video that we did about corona virus for our organization, on our you tube channel. We are a program to  provide opportunities and motivate mothers and people with a disability to get out of their homes and be involved in their community but we do not want them to help spread the disease unknowingly.

Families Especial wants to thank everyone for their support of our Magical Shoes project and work with mothers and their girls with disABILITIES.  We are not going away we would prefer to be working actively to involve people with a handicap in safe ways.   We are already working on plans on how we will reopen in a healthy safe way, but it is not easy. We have all changed in many ways but there is less security in our society now and we are learning from our mothers and special needs girls that we can make it through this time together. We are relying on them in many ways to give us information and guidance.

We are aware that all over the world countries are at different stages in this virus, this dangerous unknown threat and we continue to keep everyone in the world in our prayers. A small prayer from children:  “Dear God be good to me the sea is so wide and my boat is so small.” Let’s all share our boats to be safe, and remember to include mothers with daughters with disABILITY who really are the most vulnerable to this disease and are often forgotten but who want to continue to share their love and concern for others.

Taking Care in Time of Virus
Taking Care in Time of Virus
Walking in the Unknown
Walking in the Unknown
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Some of the daughters in affirmation groups
Some of the daughters in affirmation groups

What happens when you put girls and their moms together! Lots of laughter and fun.  That is what we are learning in Magical Shoes project.  Our mission to begin working with the girls and their mothers to affirm them on many different levels in their lives together.  Including their understanding of the girls disAbility.  The latest group worked on the birthing process.  Mothers remembering the birth of their daughters and sharing stories with them about this process, was not easy but they tried this with a dynamic using a baby doll to help them remember the love and the fears that they experienced.  The support of the other mothers and daughters was really important as they entered in to this dynamic.  In this particular affirmation group, the mothers also experienced how it felt to rely on their daughter with a disAbility as they did a faith walk blindfolded with their daughters with disAbility leading them around in the center where they were meeting. So who is it that has the disAbility?  Maybe no one?

What is really important is that the mothers and the daughters walk in each other’s shoes, sharing the experience with others and being open to learn from these affirmations.  This is different because neither group becomes the experts. We have experienced a growing sense of equality happening in the groups a chance to learn and to grow together changes the dynamic of mother daughter. 

“I never realized that I had never had a conversation with my daughter,” one mother shared.  She said that she just worked to make sure her daughter was safe and never stopped to think that her daughter had her own opinions and was her own person. So imagine how some of the daughters have felt.   Mostly the mother was trying to deal with the dis Ability and forgetting about the person with this disAbility.   That is a very big issue and sometimes the only way for mothers and daughters to change and to begin to recognize reality is to find a way to laugh and have fun with each other.  Their lives are so filled with serious issues that they never had the time to just be with their daughters and to play.   We at FE are learning from these mothers and daughters how to affirm and how to enjoy life with them. 

We are grateful to the Girl Fund for this opportunity to walk with mothers whether it is with plain sight or hindsight or with blindfolds.  We are grateful for all the women who have supported this program and continue to help us to continue this journey together and not leaving anyone behind because of fear or disAbility or lack of information.  This is a journey which we all need to take together.  In almost all of the session of the affirmation groups the mothers have a good laugh with their daughters and  begin to appreciate the gift they are to one another.

mother and daughter
mother and daughter
Two of the daughter in affirmation group meet
Two of the daughter in affirmation group meet
Girls with certificates for their participation
Girls with certificates for their participation
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This weekend we were celebrating with a group of women some of whom have participated in Magical Shoes and some who have not and we had a gift exchange.  Sara and her daughter Clara came together to the celebration.  This was a little bit different.  Normally Sara just comes to the celebrations and says Clara could not attend.  We have always encouraged her to come with Clara.   Everyone always asks “how is Clara?”  Clara is 30 some years old but has been overprotected by her mother who loves her dearly.   Clara has several severe disAbilties  and rarely participates in groups because she cannot talk.  Both Sara and Clara have been attending the Magic Shoe affirmation groups.   For the gift exchange everyone was supposed to  just go and pick one of the gifts.  Clara immediately got up and picked a huge gift and then sat down with a big smile.  This called the attention of everyone because usually Clara waits and lets her mother select a gift and give it to her.   Everyone was curious what was happening with Clara?  Clara hugged her gift which was a stuffed reindeer, saying in a voice we have never heard before “mine.”  All of us began laughing with Clara, in joy, as she continued to hug the deer and say clearly, “mine.”   Meanwhile Sara just sat down with a big smile, she allowed Clara to have her moment and to have her big deer. It was a very deer moment for all the rest because we saw the growth which others would have not noticed.  Clara was allowed to participate and enjoy the gift exchange.   Later Sara said. “Well I just realized that Clara is her own person and it made me happy that she could just choose her own gift and enjoy that deer and I did not have to control her.”  Wow, the first steps of letting go of a deep over protection, both mother and daughter left the party happy and all of us left happy thinking about Clara with her big deer and her first words and steps to learning that she is separate from her mother but supported by her mother.  Over protection is a major issue for the mothers in the affirmation groups and through the affirmations of other mothers Sara saw her daughter also as separate from her yet still in relationship with her.  What makes this so important is that without Magical Shoes we would have never heard Clara talk or seen her choose her own gift.  We would not have seen how Sara’s growth affected her daughter’s growth.

Little things mean big steps to mothers and daughters in the Magic Shoes project at Special Families.   Our desire is for mothers and daughters to walk in the shoes of each other and to grow in their relationships.


What is amazing is that all the mothers can identify in others overprotection but if asked if they are overprotective they say no.  Sara did not have to answer that question she had to live it.

And she could only live it by having received affirmation from others.   Clara would have been very uncomfortable if we would have pushed her to go and pick her own gift but because she is growing form her mom’s own letting go she just automatically went for the big deer and never wanted to let go because it was her gift.  Not her mothers. 

Why is this so important? because they walked in each other’s shoes and left feeling happy and other mothers saw that difference.  Hopefully it will continue as a lesson to each of us that we can be supported by others but not have to be controlled by them. 

This gift exchange was part of gg’s  gift to our group of mothers, because in a community everyone is gifted when they see each other grow.  Being a part of The Girl Fund has brought us to consciousness.  We created the program Magical Shoes just for the GlobalGiving campaign.  The fact that there was a campaign for girls made us think and observe our mostly all female programs.  We are aware that the girl with a disAbility is probably at the bottom of every totem pole, but we had never created a program just for girls. That awareness gave us courage to do a program like Magical Shoes and to keep it going this year.  It is now a permanent part of Special Families programs and we have many mothers who want to be part of this group.  The project which is run by mothers to create affirmation groups has taught many about affirmation and the difference between affirmation groups and self-help groups.  Most of our mothers would not attend a self-help group because of the name. They just don’t feel that they can help themselves.  But when asked to be a part of an affirmation group they are willing to work to affirm other mothers and other girls. Really how many of us really know how to affirm others much less ourselves?  If it were not for gg we would not have thought to create Magical Shoes or affirmation groups.  The mothers and daughters love the name of the program and are motivated to be a part of it.  We talk about it breaking the cycles of violence, because most of our mothers have lived through a lot of abuse and they don’t want their daughters to live through this abuse.  However, most of the mothers have hidden their abuse instead of dealing with it.  They want to protect their daughters especially those with a handicap.  This really is normal but what they do not understand at times is that they are overprotecting which can border on abuse and just continues the cycle.  What we are hoping for is that through mutual affirmation women can begin to deal with their past abuse and begin to create relationships with their daughters instead of overprotecting because of fear. We also have the situation where some mothers neglect their daughters with a disAbility out of fear as well and because they feel overwhelmed by the disAbility.  We have great hopes that with more information and affirmation mothers can walk in their daughter’s shoes and their daughters can walk in their mother’s shoes.  There are girls who blame their mothers for their disAbilities and this creates more violence.  These issues are very complex but at least we are starting to deal with them. There is also a societal level.  A lack of acceptance and inclusion of people with disAbilities and of women.  So do the mothers pass on their suffering or do they find a way to guide their daughters in new directions so that their daughters can have a voice like Clara who never spoke before making her own gift choice.  Are we willing to listen to the voices of girls with disAbilites and mothers who have suffered abuse so we can form truly affirming relationships or do we overprotect and block their voices? We want to thank all who have contributed to Magical shoes for giving us an opportunity to even ask this question.  As we all enert into the new decade may we be able to ask hard questions and stand together to begin exploring these questions together.

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Project Leader:
rebecca trujillo
Matagalpa, Matagalpa Nicaragua
$14,263 raised of $25,000 goal
249 donations
$10,737 to go
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