At seventeen I was planning my future. There were college visits, graduation parties, and drill team banquets. I was blessed with an infinite amount of love and support from my family. I was safe and secure, with nothing to fear. At seventeen, I was just a girl, eager for the endless opportunities before me.
At seventeen Maria was married. She was a woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders.
At the age of two my daughter was ready to take on the world. She was feisty and healthy. The greatest challenge of her young life was deciding which princess costume to wear each day. She still talks about the Frozen cake she had for her birthday and loved zooming around our neighborhood on her Frozen scooter.
At the age of two, Maria’s daughter lived in San Salvador, a battleground for the notorious MS13 and Barrio18 gangs. Her daughter was caught in the crossfire of a gang dispute as she walked down the street of her neighborhood. She was killed. No one was arrested.
Zero is the number of times that I have had to wonder how I am going to feed my daughter or keep a roof over her head. Zero is the amount of times we have been shot at.
Zero is the amount of money Maria’s husband refused to pay MS13 in extortion fees. They shot and killed him.
Five is the number of years my sweet daughter will have lived on this earth come this summer. She’s asked for a Sofia the First cake this year. There will be balloons, friends, and family. She will be engulfed in love.
Five is the number of months Maria was pregnant with her second child when she buried her husband. She decided that her unborn child’s only chance for a normal, safe life was starting over in America.
Thirty is the age at which I gave birth to my precious girl. She was born safely into safety. We were cared for and looked after by my family, friends, and midwives.
Thirty is the number of people Maria traveled with in a cramped truck to the Port of San Jose, before boarding an old fishing boat where they huddled below deck with barely enough air to breathe. They sailed for ten miserable days before arriving just south of Tijuana.
Fourteen is the number of miles I will run this month, along with family and friends, to represent Maria’s journey. Fourteen miles in comfortable running shoes, on a beautiful trail, in a gorgeous city. Fourteen miles to let Maria know that she does not stand alone in her plight.
Fourteen is the number of miles Maria learned she must walk to reach Tijuana to await the next border crossing. Fourteen miles. Tired. Dehydrated. Heartbroken. Scared. Hungry. Pregnant. Fourteen miles.
One is the elderly woman who took Maria by the arm and walked those fourteen miles with her. One woman supporting another woman, each bearing each other’s load, supporting one another through their pain.
One person standing with another person in their suffering. One. Whose one person will you be?
To read Maria’s full story or to donate to Circle of Health International’s Go the Distance Campaign, the campaign for which I am running, please click here. Just $50 provides essential food and medicine for refugee women and girls. Thank you for supporting Team Maria.