Two experiences

January 28, 2008
Two experiences that marked my life…
It was 6:30 a.m. when the alarm clock welcomed me to another day. I lived the tranquil life of the elite in Venezuela- privileged in ways that few are around the world; maids, chauffeurs, cars and a mansion. As I got into the family car, to be driven to school by our chauffeur, two armed men violently approached the van, and threatening to kill my three brothers and me, kidnapped us. Their maliciousness stopped the winds, blocked the lights, promoted darkness and instilled fear. My mind was an empty book- no thoughts, no ideas, no pictures; and the lines that these men were just about to write in it were probably going to be the last, when suddenly, the chauffeur managed to convince them to set us free, claiming we were too young to be dealt with. Two of my brothers and I got out of the van safely, but the door was closed, and my youngest sibling, three years old at the time, was left inside. I pushed back, opened the van door and pulled my brother out onto the streets, as one of the kidnappers pressed a gun hard against my forehead swearing to kill me for what I had done.
My personal safety was threatened and my family’s support endangered, as we learned that the kidnappers were members of the police force. We were left with no choice but to leave the country. Adapting to a new life in a new culture with a new language has been very strenuous, but fortunately, four years of arduous labor and sacrifices ameliorated most of my difficulties.
I was not old enough when I was 12 to digest completely the fear that has surveyed my mind for the past five years- having someone press a gun to my head threatening to kill me, while being kidnapped. And I was not old enough to understand, being 17, that I could be sued and brought to court by a non-profit organization, for trying to help the barefooted and hungry in Africa, claiming a conflict of interest; even though my NPO and theirs seek to aid the world.
The first fear slowly dissipated with the help of professional psychological counseling, but the second one will grow with me forever.
It’s much easier to understand the cruelty of the armed men trying to make easy money, than that of my “adversary” company’s counsel- an office of three hundred lawyers, striving to stop me from reaching out into the world with a helping hand.
Since then I learned of the existence of detrimental beings in our world, but I never thought that they’d exist in charitable bodies. I founded Shoes4Africa a year ago with the mission of solving the barefoot crisis in Western Africa “one shoe at a time”, viciously expanding my ideal globally, and starting chapters throughout the US, Canada, Sweden, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Venezuela. Several months ago, a counsel for another NPO in NY, undertook legal actions against me as they learned of my success in collecting thousands of shoes. Although they managed to shut down my website, S4A kept expanding and collecting.
“The world needs one hundred organizations like ours,” was my first and last response to them. I grew older than I did in 17 years, when I digested the irony in their actions, the coldness in the hearts and their pocketing intentions.
Feeling alone in a fight- combating the goliaths without a rock, and managing to continue on with my aspirations, to learn and comprehend from those incidents, have made me grow taller inside.
The police kidnap and the charitable profit, but I grow. College awaits me, and growth anticipates.





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