Sofia Ruiz '14.5

HANDS FOR LATIN AMERICA

Hands for Latin America is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide psychological aid services to disenfranchised youth of Mexico City through Art therapy. Hands for Latin America is dedicated to raising awareness on mental health and the advancement of visual arts as a therapeutic modality thorough the sale of a unique fashion line fueled by children's artwork. Hands for Latin America seeks to create a vein through which the voice, personal experiences, and visions of the world unique to the Mexican youth could flow freely onto the world through their artistic expressions. 

Personal Statement

Two three-year-old children sprint in front of our speeding van and attempt to stop our vehicle going 60 miles an hour. We come to a screeching halt, inches away from the children and, in less than three seconds, a swarm of children surrounds our van trying to sell us fruit, seeds, plants, and hand-woven baskets. "Por favor, cómprame algo... mira esta bien rica la fruta, por favor, no sean malos" or in English, "Please buy something... the fruit is really good, please, don't be mean." We buy some baskets, and some pieces of fruit from a little girl carrying a newborn baby on her back while the rest of the children beg us to buy something from them too. We tell them we can't buy anything else and roll up the windows. As we continue along the road, I look back and see two little boys sitting on the side of the road, crying.

Reflecting on my own childhood, I remember parks, toys, playgrounds, tricycles, chicken nuggets... everything was given to me. I was never in need of anything, and always without responsibility. Millions of children, however, forfeit their childhood as they struggle from day to day to survive, and, as idealistic as it might sound, this issue resonates deeply with me and I feel that I am uniquely positioned to make a difference in this injustice.

I have always had a strong passion for my Latin roots, and my country of origin Mexico. Growing up in Mexico, I was overwhelmed by the differences I saw with the life I lived and the lives the majority of the children in my country lived: our experiences were completely different, our visions of the world ions apart, our opportunities not even remotely similar... but somehow we still lived under the same nation and flag, and thus I felt we were intertwined. At first, my desire to help extended to the broad goal of reducing child poverty in Latin America, which although an honorable goal, was realistically impossible to measure and the chances of making a significant impact slim.  It was my desire to change my project from a charity to a social innovation as my interests and knowledge of humanitarian efforts began to grow. And from here, slowly but surely came the idea for the all new Hands for Latin America.

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