Convivir Press: Fundación Luena, “Happiness begins when you leave your comfort zone”

June 9, 2019: Convivir Press

Convivir Press is a free periodical dedicated to the development of a better quality of life. Declared to be of Social Interest by the Legislature of the city of Buenos Aires, Convivir has been published and distributed to more than 24,000 people in Argentina’s capital for 25 years, with the goal to disseminate, inform and create a new consciousness that promotes sustainable human development by cultivating peace and respect.

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There are people who go where nobody would like to be, give hugs and they donate their time to attend to others, those who have less. Ryan and Emily are like that, because that’s how they chose to be. They dedicate their current life to feed, dress and help children and families who are in a state of risk. They travel the world with their three young children contacting organizations through their Foundation and offering their help. Both are Americans and in their “past life” they were dedicated to finance. With a personal history that involved their own suffering … like most people. One day they decided that their homeland consisted of the five of them and they took off into the world to help.

How did the Luena Foundation come about?
Emily: Luena was a very healthy biracial girl, with an Angolan father and a
Spanish mother, humble people from the south of Spain where we live. Luena was one of our children’s friends, a leader in the school and the community. She died suddenly from a cerebral hemorrhage that no one ever expected. The pain was very great for everyone, I wanted to give life back to that girl, her family.

After a long mourning period that we respected, as is customary in Andalusia, we decided with her parents to celebrate her life, because you have to celebrate the life of a child, and we threw a party. The whole town attended, even people from neighboring towns. There were games, there were singers, and we raised money to kick-off our future humanitarian efforts. And so the Foundation was born. The Foundation is like our fourth child, we carry it with us and we present it wherever we go. The plan was always to begin our work in South America. We started with Bolivia and from there went to Chile and now are in Argentina.

What works have you been doing?
Ryan: We were in Bolivia three months in an orphanage living with our three children, changing diapers, giving food, I was a driver, babysitter, working 18 hours a day …

Emily: In Bolivia there is an index of infanticide that is very high. Many babies are abandoned on the street, left in a bag near the bank of a river … and fortunately someone heard the baby crying before the dogs could find it … This happens a lot in Bolivia. Nowadays there are not many orphanages but there are many abandoned children.

Ryan: There we sponsor two young people, two 17 year-olds who will study at a university in the United States. The Foundation says grain x grain of love and that is my mentality. Then we went to Santiago and we are met with a foundation called Cristo Vive, and also in Valparaíso with Minga Valpo.

Ryan: We have friends in the United States and in Spain who are volunteers. In the world there is no lack of money but it is lacking heart, love and time. To collaborate with the Foundation and with organizations can be through money, time, love or contacts.

Emily: For example: there is a soup kitchen for children that has no way of receiving food and we are looking at greengrocers, people who want to help with this. There are many connections that are still missing, we try everywhere.

Ryan: This Foundation is for Luena but it is also for me. For me to be in service gives me a lot of happiness and I think that the next generation will be the people that will change the world. My children and my children’s children are learning to help others.

Ryan and Emily speak Spanish very well with the typical American accent that we know, they get excited when talking, they make jokes, they tell me that at night, they will go to the Once Station to feed the homeless with an NGO, they invite me to participate, I’m ashamed to say that I can not, I do not want to… I feel selfish …but I think about how to help, I promise to collaborate. They comfort me, they say that I can help in different ways and that you just have to get going.

That same night walking at about 10 in the evening near Avenida Santa Fe, very close to the bar where I met Emily and Ryan that morning, I looked with awake eyes, I saw as so many people sitting with others less fortunate, they spoke to them, they gave soup, a blanket, company, humanity. Young girls and boys, mature men, in silence, invisible… helping. And from the other side, those with less, giving the opportunity to grow.



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