Barbie and the Oaxacan Princess
I know Barbie gets a bad rap. I know she can be seen as a symbol of all that is wrong with our perceptions of how women should look and act. Like the multi-billion toy industry that North Americans are enslaved to, she is often over-priced and kind of ridiculous. However, this week, I saw Barbie do something I never knew she could do. Barbie brought hope to a little neighbourhood in the middle of the outback of Baja California, Mexico. Barbie reached out and touched a young girl’s life, and we got to be a part of it all.Micaela moved to Baja California from Oaxaca (wuh-hawk-ah) in southern mainland Mexico with her mom when she was two years old. Forced to move to find work and survive, there were many years full of good memories but persevering endurance as she grew up. She gave birth to Octavio when she was 15 and Jessica when she was 18; sometimes life leaves us with few options and she was never given the option of family planning. Micaela sells items and handicrafts in the market in town. She is a good mother and a faithful daughter. Her husband had been in America working for four years. He missed most of his children’s early years, and last November, shortly after arriving back home, he left Micaela and the children and moved across town and in with another woman. Perhaps he couldn’t handle the uncertainty of what Micaela had no option of escaping: the uncertainty of how long Jessica will be around.Jessica began to get sick a year and a half ago, when she was 5. A tumour began to grow on the side of her face, and tests confirmed it was cancerous. Micaela had no choice: she had to take Jessica two hours up the coast to the hospital. When she arrived there, without extra clothes, blankets or money, she was told that she would need to put Jessica in treatments immediately and it would take a month. She didn’t even have enough money to take a bus home. Our LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) staff and students sent up emergency supplies and money and wanted her to know how much her and her family were loved and valued.After two rounds of chemotherapy, Jessica is home with her mom and brother. School has been hard, as she has missed so much this year and she is easily tired and can’t walk very far. Though there are uncertainties as to her future, Micaela and Octavio work hard to make their home one of love and comfort for Jessica. And that is where we came in.Like every parent, Micaela would like to give her kids the moon, but unlike many of the homes we all grew up in, there is no money after the necessities – and sometimes even those can’t be met. Our Leadership students were at her house, helping to build an extra room to give Jessica some space. There was nothing to put in that room. But Jessica had a dream of what she would like to see: a pink doll house full of Barbie’s.Shelby was one of our Hero Holiday interns in Mexico this past summer. Moved by Jessica’s story, she sent money to help us and to remind them that they were loved. And this week we watched a dream come true as we pulled up to their house and made Jessica close her eyes as we set out a little girl’s fantasy: a huge pink Barbie house and camping van, tonnes of Barbie’s to complete the picture and a big pink quilt that said “Princess”. All of us counted to three in Spanish and watched as tears ran down her face as she tried to comprehend what she saw there.For me, it was hard to decide what the best part of the morning was: seeing Jessica holding her Barbie’s close, helping to break the pinata outside to celebrate, or watching Shane, one of our Leadership students, work in a sea of pink as he tried desperately to figure out how to put the dollhouse together!Will a dollhouse cure Jessica? No. Can Barbie change a life? Perhaps…when she is combined with a little dose of hope and a big serving of love.To find out more about how to join us in Mexico for our Hero Holidays, check out www.livedifferent.com. This is how hope begins!