MEXICO: How I Help Teen Girls Thrive After Trauma

Nuria Gracia, center, embraces a group of seven girls wearing uniforms during her time in Peru. One girl looks on. The photo is taken outside of a building and is black and white.

Photo Credit: Nuria Gracia

Nuria Gracia embraces a group of teen girls she worked with in Peru.

After working through her own childhood trauma, Nuria Gracia founded an organization to help teen moms heal from abuse and create their own businesses.

“It’s time for us to create and build new systems to change the cycles of domination and submission we face we face as women and girls.”

Nuria Gracia

A few months ago, I received a threatening email from a man who swore he would order my disappearance. I had tried to help him as he struggled with mental health issues, but to no avail. My heart beat hard and fast, my body shivered, and my mind was desperate with a million thoughts. Panicked and desperate, I wrote to two friends to help calm me down. With all my being, I breathed and breathed and breathed until pent-up memories and fears began to unravel.

The experience made clear one of the deep roots that my childhood trauma caused – how I assume what the abuser says is right. Only when I stopped to breathe could I find peace. Despite how difficult it was to be threatened, I was grateful to uncover one of the deepest root layers left by my trauma. I came to claim that I am a survivor of sexual abuse by my uncle when I was around age six. I didn’t discover it until I was in my 30s when I began my inner journey with a holistic therapist. I recognized my dissociation and the defenselessness of my father, who didn’t know what was happening. 

Many things have come to light and given me the awareness and tools to evolve. I’ve gone through many different therapies, workshops, research, learnings, and teachings that leave me grateful for the experience and knowledge I’ve acquired. And I know how whatever we desire goes hand in hand with our inner healing and growth.

I believe it’s time for us to create and build new systems to change the cycles of domination and submission we face as women and girls. That's why 13 years ago, I launched a project to help teen moms' get the care, nourishment, healing — and resources — they need to excel in life. I want to see them surrounded by caring, humble, and wise women to raise healthy children and live in harmony with nature. This is the key to raising a new generation and will create loving, peaceful, and joyful lives in the community.

My research indicates that millions of girls and boys worldwide face sexual abuse and exploitation every year. That’s why I focus on working with the people most unheard and unseen, often at-risk teen girls. Childhood trauma disconnects and divides us, both internally and collectively. Knowing that it is in our childhood where traumas strike us and it is in our teenage years that it becomes deeply rooted, we create many layers, behaviors, and beliefs to survive. That’s the best moment to face, heal, restore, and reconnect to our true selves. 

I came to realize this years ago, when I traveled with my son to Perú. A friend told me to visit Amantani, a home for abandoned children that did amazing work in Cusco. There I came to know the struggles and lack of opportunities teenage girls faced, especially in rural and rainforest areas. This was even worse for teen moms, who felt ostracized and abandoned in their communities. These girls often quit school and sometimes ended up on the street. The trip made me realize girls’ need for caring guidance and support, and it also helped me recognize the profound impact childhood trauma can have on us as women. 

Over the next few years, I interviewed teens and researched organizations serving them. I learned that providing at-risk teenage girls with a tangible way to make a living reduces poverty and creates a chain of wealth in their families and communities. This, in turn, can help to mitigate abuse and injustice. Our research showed that girls thrive when they receive opportunities and are treated with dignity. As a result, the girls can break cycles of trauma, which has the potential to impact future generations.  

I launched an initiative called Craft Atelier & Boots, a professional training on native food and crafts. Teen girls can harvest and create with native resources and share food and crafts with their communities. For example, when I worked with the girls in Cusco, we gathered fruits such as mangoes and papayas to produce gourmet marmalades. We’re launching our program in Guadalajara, Mexico, with hopes to expand to Colombia, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago. Because my project is itinerant, I’m excited that we can implement it in various countries.

Craft Atelier works with the concept of bootstrapping, or learning how to become self-sustaining and profitable by launching a business. Boots is a hybrid business system using the bootstrapping concept. We focus on setting up easy management systems, sales, and communications. Our goal is to contribute to the girls’ well-being and facilitate their economic independence.

These projects are based on the vision of unity and our inner self-growth. Through this process, I have learned there is no me or you; we are one, and we are connected and affected by what happens to others (all beings, including nature). I seek to partner with others worldwide. Your funding could help us train teen moms in rural and rainforest environments to start their first businesses, and this investment can help them become self-sufficient.


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