Don’t you stop fighting!


I have loved and lived amongst you since my bravest of friends set themselves free. I have never let anyone tell me that loving any of you was wrong or that you loving each other was wrong. I have fought against the religious beliefs spoon fed down my throat, against male chauvinists, against my Latino culture and against my own parents to make them accept you. Eventually my parents did, the very moment they realized their beliefs were founded on ignorance. That’s when they started loving you too. A battle that took years to win; a defining personal victory.

Since I was young I have always fought alongside you and forever will until you have the same rights as me. I believe in fighting for change through kind words and actions. Your community is the epitome of that. And although you’re not the first and only group in history being persecuted, your community is by far the most unique. The entire spectrum of the rainbow you have…all races, ethnicities, religions, orientations, and genders. The word gay is used to describe you because that is what you are…gay! I’ve never had a dull moment at a gay establishment. You bring joy into the lives of others despite the fact that outside you are fighting monsters in the shape of unaccepting parents, religion, laws, fear, hate, and prejudice.

Your community is synonymous with unity, love, acceptance, and support. What a beautiful example your community is to the rest of the world who is fighting with each other about every other issue, especially here in America. Despite all the differences amongst you, you stand together, march together, cry together, endure visceral pain together, laugh together. In my 37 years of existence and from what I’ve learned in world history, there has never existed such a diverse yet cohesive community like yours. Schools should teach a mandatory class on LGBT studies so young minds can understand the power of love and community and how that can bring about some really beautiful changes. I would be honored, as a professor, to teach that class.

I want to end by acknowledging your accomplishments. We are so proud of you, so very fucking proud of you! Your strength is the love and unity rampant amongst your community, add education and success to the equation and you will accomplish all you set out to do.  You will change the laws, you will be accepted, you will respected, you will be tolerated, you will be loved by all.  Despite the arduous road you’ve been walking on since you were born , you’re on the right track. Don’t lose focus and don’t let intolerance, ignorance, fear, and hate derail you. You have so many allies and so many cheerleaders. Don’t you stop fighting, don’t you fucking stop fighting! Because we won’t stop fighting! Keep marching, keep fighting, keep loving, and keep dancing because that is what you do best!

With love and in solidarity with LGBT communities across the globe,

Loren Medina


Cuba: My Vicarious Nostalgia

I was born in 1978 in Miami, FL, exactly 18 years and 11 months after Fidel Castro’s revolución in Cuba.  My father, a political prisoner and member of the contra-revolucionario movement (the MRR), evaded his trial (most probably a firing squad) because Costa Rica granted him a visa.  He was 17 and that was 1961.  My grandfather, who was a sergeant during Batista’s regime and had retired by the time Fidel assumed power, also joined the movement after Castro took all of our family’s possessions.  That was the revolution, and that is my family’s history.

My father met my mother during a business trip in Colombia and shortly after they wed and had me.  I grew up between Barranquilla and Miami, “la otra provincia de Cuba.”  Papi and Abuelo Juan were very proud Cubans who made sure to keep their culture, traditions and history very much alive within me.  Papi would teach me Jose Martí poems, Cuba’s most famous poet, philosopher, and teacher, and proudly prompt me to recite them in front of my abuelo.  They taught me Cuba’s history and politics, how to smoke puros (they were tabaco farmers in Pinar del Río), play dominó and burro, and of course made food, traditions, and music an integral part of my life (I actually know the Cuban national anthem).

For over three decades, Cuba was this forbidden, magical, yet tragic place I deeply longed to see but wouldn’t dare to visit.  I was morally shackled to my family’s honor and couldn’t disrespect them by leaving our hard earned dollars in the hands of the Castros.  Years passed, my grandfather passed, my father’s health deteriorated and the situation in Cuba remained the same.  And so the day came when my father accepted the reality that he would never return and finally, finally gave me his blessing, “Loren, yo entiendo que quieres ver a tú ‘patría’…ves baby, porque yo me voy a morir sin poder regresar.”  And that, was all I needed to hear!

December 31, 2015 would mark my 40th country and most memorable trip.  I flew direct from Miami to La Habana and in 30 minutes was transported to another world frozen in time!  Before booking my trip, I vouched to stay only in casas particulares in order to be closer to the people and help them financially.  If I was going to Cuba I was going to live, eat and struggle like they do, a lo Cubano.  I wanted to experience their reality no matter how difficult it would be.

4 days in La Habana, 2 in Pinar del Río, 2 in Varadero and 2 in Cienfuegos.  Every moment in Cuba felt like home. I was living in this sort of vicarious nostalgia.  La Habana was incredible and insanely gorgeous, the most run down of neighborhoods were picturesque; so much beauty in those very traces of beauty.  However, life in La Habana is a hustle; resources are scarce and everyone is trying to make do with what they have.  One morning it took me over an hour to find breakfast and it was here where I learned a valuable lesson of resolver y conseguir.  Pinar del Río was hands down my favorite!  The guajiros welcomed me like one of their own.  The highlight of my trip was my visit to Consolación del Sur, the city where my paternal family is from.  I was able to find our family friends, Las Jimaguas Cabrera, who burst into tears when they realized who I was.  One of them, Teresa, lived in my family’s house for 43 years after they left.  She took me to “our” house and I was cathartic! I cried in disbelief, my two feet were actually planted on my family’s soil…right there right then.  Before leaving, el viejito Juan said, “esperar es tiempo…nosotros no esperamos, tenemos esperanza” and then he cried.  I sobbed uninterrupted the 45 km from Consolación to Viñales.

Varadero was beautiful but unfortunately had torrential rains and mostly cloudy. Cienfuegos and the famous El Nicho, pristine waterfalls in the middle of the mountains, were amazing!  I partied with some locals there, the WiFi card dealer, who had made two attempts to leave in a balsa, his wife and the vianda vendor who had done 8 years of hard time for robbing a tourist.  He said he did it out of la necesidad.  The WiFi dealer’s wife, said my father’s mother had brought me here and that she loved white flowers.  I cried.  Indeed, Abuela Clota loved gardenias and my Abuelo had even planted a tree for her in their house in Miami.  Although, Abuela Clota died when I was 2, they say the night she died I woke up screaming her name.  Abuela Clota, gracias por acompañarme en Cubados gardenias para tí!



Open letter to Cubans & Cuban-Americans

Open letter to Cubans & Cuban-Americans with love and respect,
I’m the granddaughter of Sargent Juan Medina from Consolación del Sur, Cuba who served under Batista and retired when Castro assumed power. He later joined the MR-15, the contra-revolutionary movement against Castro, when they took our family’s properties. My abuelo was very well-respected, some say even feared, and high in the ranks of the movement. I’m the daughter of Jorge Medina, who fearlessly joined the MR-15 at the young age of 15. Both were imprisoned for fighting for freedom and at 17 when the regime sought after my father to send him to a firing squad, he fled. With that being said…
If you left in the 60s or you’re a Cuban-American who has never stepped foot on the island, then maybe you should re-consider your position on Obama’s visit & his attempt to restore a relationship with Cuba. Yes, Cuba oppresses its people, yes they violate human rights, yes there is no freedom of speech. Similarly, China, another communist country, oppresses their people and US Americans have been doing business with China for decades. There are approximately 62 MILLION Chinese girls missing due to their 1-child policy law who are literally left on the doorsteps of orphanages or even on the street but who cares right because we are not Chinese? Well, I care and so should you! So, if you’re an advocate of human rights then be fair and be an advocate across the board, go ahead and throw all your electronics and half the clothes in your closet in the dumpster and moving forward only purchase fair-trade items made by people who are truly FREE! Bienvenidos to capitalism my friends, a not-so-perfect system where divide and conquer is our foreign policy and a land where most of us pledge allegiance not to “god” but to Benjamin Franklin, a country whose national anthem should be changed to Wu-Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M.”
Perhaps, Obama is having a dialogue that could potentially give people an opportunity to rise above, not just financially but maybe even with a revolution. Indeed, with or without the embargo the Castros will continue to benefit financially BUT without the embargo the people will have a chance to rise above and have access to technology. Fax machines changed the course of history in Germany and Twitter did that for Egypt. There is hope for Cuba.
I agree with Presidente Obama, let’s leave the past in the past. Us Cubans should pat ourselves in the back for all we have accomplished. Miami is proof of that. The past was unfortunate…don’t forget but let it go and let’s think about how we can help the Cuban people rise above!
And before you give your opinion about a place that you haven’t been to or lived in for 50 years, I encourage you to go to Cuba yourself and have an open dialogue with a lot of people who are surviving due to tourism for one. This is not black or white, it’s grey and all 50 shades of it.
Don’t think for a second that the situation in Cuba doesn’t break my heart because I was there 9 days and cried every single day…but fair is fair, so if you’re going to stand for freedom then let’s be a voice for ALL who don’t have it.
Loren Medina

“HOld That Thought”

It wasn’t until I met 107 girls as young as 6 years of age who had been victims of sex trafficking in Cambodia and teenage girls who were conned into prostitution in the Philippines, that I started to empathize with women “in the life”, strippers, prostitutes, and those pigeonholed as “hoes.” During the 10 days I volunteered at the three shelters, I got to spend time with these beautiful girls, ALL who had been victims of rape, who were incredibly loving and resilient. I also witnessed how hard life is for people in general in an impoverished country such as the Philippines where for grown women, prostitution is a viable option to stay afloat economically given the high demand for it. And it was on that 33-day journey through southeast Asia in 2014 that my entire perspective about “hoes” changed, an experience that would mark me for life.

Most of my adolescent life I, along with almost everyone I grew up with that went to Catholic school, was quick to point the finger at the other girls deemed as “hoes” who were sleeping around with boys they weren’t in relationships with or lost their virginity in middle school. We made fun of “hoes” and frowned upon them. The guys who seriously dated “hoes” were considered weak and dumb because it was common knowledge that “you can’t turn a hoe into a housewife.” Looking back, I feel ashamed that I perpetuated the mistreatment of girls who were most probably victims of child molestation or rape, didn’t have great role models, were neglected, or whose low self-esteem led them to make decisions that lost them the respect of their peers.

Coming from a place of compassion towards myself, I now understand that I can’t blame myself entirely for having grown up feeling this way about “hoes.”  In part, my Catholic school girl guilt got the best of me, it only took 30 years to shake it off and not believe I was a horrible human being for having pre-marital sex and sex with more than one person. Beyond my personal experience, this ignorant widespread belief about women who sleep around being “hoes” has very very deep roots.  Since the beginning of “man”kind the double standard rule, which overtly rewards men and punishes women for having multiple sex partners, has been at the forefront of societal values.  In fact, it is still very much alive and well today despite what the feminist movement accomplished in America in the 60s and 70s. It still stands in most corners of the globe that women who sleep around, strip, or prostitute themselves are worthless “hoes” and deplorable human beings. At the end of the day, does it matter how many sexual partners a woman has had? Does that really define a woman’s character? What about the women who have had no prior sexual trauma and feel liberated acting like their male counterparts and sleeping with who they choose whenever they want? Personally, I know women that have this attitude about sex who are exceptional, educated, and kind-hearted human beings. How sad is it that we as humans have forgotten how to empathize? How sad is it that we are quick to throw a stone at someone that causes no harm to others?

There’s a popular proverb that says, “you can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” And so I’m asking you to walk with me…walk with me through the life of a 14-year-old-girl who endured close to two years of being sex trafficked and raped by hundreds of grown men. Since October of 2015, I’ve been mentoring a 16-year-old girl who was previously trafficked by a pimp who recruited her through Facebook. The pimp, who was a 23-year-old gangbanger, told my mentee, who was 14 at the time, that he was 16. He courted her; she fell in love with him; he bought her all the things she never had, took her to places she had never been. Then one day, he told her the money had ran out and that she needed to help him make money. Initially when he proposed that she sell her body she refuted the idea but he took advantage of her love for him and manipulated her into doing this one favor for him, after all, he had done so much for her. Confusion and the fear of losing him set in. Reluctantly she agreed, marking the onset of what would be the worst moments of her adolescent life.

Her first day, she made her pimp $900. She came home that day and cried in the shower for hours as she scrubbed her body almost to the point of making her skin bleed. Little did she know this was not a one-time ordeal. He asked her to do it again and at first, out of the fear of losing him, she agreed. Her pimp sold her during the day when she was supposed to be in school; he sold her on Craigslist, Backpages, on Sunset and Hollywood Blvd, in Vegas, and out of different houses (brothels) all over Los Angeles. When she finally resisted, he kidnapped her for four months instilling fear in her and destroying her family. She was devastated, broken and alone in a world she could not escape. Her mother couldn’t find her anywhere because her pimp moved from house to house so she never knew exactly where she was nor did she have access to a phone. One day it was downtown and the next day it was the valley. Ironically, the best thing that ever happened to her was that she got arrested one night while she was on “the track” and taken to jail.  Shortly after, and thankfully, her pimp got arrested for doing a home invasion and currently, mind you, he’s still in jail for the home invasion but not for statutory rape, kidnapping, and prostituting a minor. And it was those two events, which occurred back to back, that eventually catapulted her on the “right track.”

My mentee is back in school and excelling with perfect attendance. She completed a court program called “Ending the Game”, is in a mentorship program with me and soon will be joining a job academy program to help her get ready to obtain a job. I see her twice a month and do a series of activities to empower her and take her to do things she’s never done before, both fun or outside her comfort zone. She recently got an ID card because she had never had one and we are working on getting her to pass her Driver’s Ed course so I can teach her how to drive. Step by step and through time it is my hope that I will be an integral part of her restoration. But unfortunately, there are a lot of things beyond my reach. And so I ask that you keep walking in her shoes…

I think about her going forward and how much shame she must feel at the very thought of being in a relationship with a young man in the future and having to tell him she got pimped for two years. Imagine how difficult it would be for her to confess to a potential love interest that she was forced to sleep, or better yet, raped by hundreds of men. Or would a better option be never telling him what happened to her, keeping that very dark past hidden? What about all the post-traumatic stress that comes with being raped, especially that many times? And all the psychological issues she has which she is not being treated for at the moment? I’m no psychologist but with a B.A. in Psychology and two decades of street smarts, I can already see some of these issues manifesting. Sit with this for a moment…because this is the case of about 100-300,000 children in the U.S.

Please continue to walk with them…

  • 1 in 5 girls is a victim of child sexual abuse
  • Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident
  • Children are most vulnerable to sexual abuse between the ages of 7 and 13.
  • Many women who become prostitutes have been victims of childhood sexual abuse. To cope with the trauma of sexual abuse and the stress of prostitution, many turn to drugs and alcohol, which further complicates their problems.
  • Sexual abuse can cause the following: sexual anxiety and disorders, including having too many or unsafe sexual partners, difficulty setting safe limits with others and relationship problems, poor body image and low self-esteem, and/or unhealthy behaviors, such as alcohol, drugs, self-harm, or eating problems. These behaviors are often used to try to hide painful emotions related to the abuse.

Molestation or rape at a young age can lead a girl to make some pretty bad decisions in their adult life. Because there is so much shame and sometimes even threats to keep quiet when sexually abused, in many cases the victims do not receive adequate treatment when it actually happens. Instead, these issues start revealing themselves during adolescence and adulthood. Young women who choose to strip and prostitute themselves have a story…and most of the time it’s a story rooted in abuse, rape, neglect, low self-esteem, drugs, and/or violence. So before you call another woman a “ho”, HOld that thought, and imagine why she may possibly be acting that way and know that there’s a possibility she was a victim at some point in her life of some pretty horrible circumstances.

So I ask that you please don’t stop walking in her shoes until you reach that mile…

Ayiti (Haiti)

I never thought the 39th country I would travel to would be the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Ayiti, Haiti in creole would also mark the first country I was to visit that I would not vacation in.

The sole purpose of my trip was to meet Cherie Abbanot, C.E.O. Haiti Projects, the NGO I am partnering up with for Travel With Purpose’s next mission. I found Haiti Projects on after almost 8 months of researching and reaching out to different non-profits and getting no responses or no thank-you(s). I emailed Cherie on a Sunday evening and received a response the very next day, which is rare when dealing with NGOs. A week later between our travels and busy schedules we managed to get on a call. I instantly felt a connection to her. Not only did I already have respect for her being she is a lecturer at M.I.T., instinctually I knew she was genuine. Moreover, the work Haiti Projects is doing not only resonates with my NGO’s mission, it really resonates with me as a woman and entrepreneur. And so I let my instincts lead me and without doing a vast amount of research on her or Haiti Projects, I made a verbal commitment to enter into a partnership. And just like that, three weeks after our initial phone call, I jumped on a plane from Los Angeles to Ayiti.

I arrived in Port-au-Prince on a Monday afternoon in 90-degree weather with 90% humidity. Being from Miami, I figured I would be prepared for this heat but standing outside the airport in the blazing sun for an eternal 15 minutes, while we waited for the other two guests to arrive, generated a river of sweat from the back of my neck down to the soles of my feet and into my flats. But I knew what I was in for even before I arrived and I was okay with it. This is always the challenging part of volunteering in a 3rd world country, being outside your comfort zone in respect to weather, food, cleanliness, bugs, and bare accommodations and subsiding that inner dialogue of incessant complaining. But I was here, in Haiti, on a mission that would later impact me on so many levels.

We hopped in a 4×4 driven by Annius, a haitien that works with Haiti Projects as a driver, Jimmy the structural engineer and Tasnuva the young architect whom were both from Boston and working on the construction of the new library, Cherie and myself. It took us roughly an hour to get out of Port-au-Prince as Annius zigzagged through oncoming traffic and pedestrians. The sights were disheartening at best. There was garbage in every corner, dilapidated buildings, rivers of murky waters comprised of mud and filth flowing between every major street, goats, pigs, and chickens running loose, and smoke polluting the air from all the garbage being burned. And on top of it all, you could still see the remnants of a massive earthquake that occurred 5 years prior in every corner of this city.

Cherie had warned us the A/C didn’t cool much and by the time we reached Fond Des Blancs, nearly five hours later, my feet and hands were so swollen from the heat they looked like Vienna sausages. The last 15 miles of the trip were definitely the most challenging. We had to ascend an unpaved dirt road with moderate to large sized rocks and potholes; hence, the last 15 miles took us a bit over an hour to traverse. Taking pictures and filming seemed an impossible task and I nearly cracked my glasses after bumping my head on the window. The ride was seriously so bumpy my organs were playing musical chairs and I could feel it. But again, none of this fazed me as I had been in so many similar situations during my previous journeys abroad. Regardless of all that I have seen, Haiti is in a league of its own, as I had never seen poverty on such a mass-scale.

We arrived in Fond Des Blancs close to 7:30pm exhausted and hungry. There was still some light in the sky and tons of people out and about on the street on foot and motorbikes. The town center in Fond Des Blancs, a city located in the southwestern part of the island in rural Haiti, has one church, one restaurant/bar, one apartment style hotel of which half was under construction, a few lottery stands, a market that sprouts on Fridays, wooden shacks lined along the main road with different vendors, a moderate sized hospital, and an embroidery shop and library ran by Haiti Projects.

As soon as we arrived we dropped off our luggage at the hotel and crossed a cemetery in sheer darkness, led by the light of our LCD screens, to have dinner at Molly’s house, Haiti Projects’ country director. Upon arriving we were greeted by Molly and her very racist dog, specifically towards white-skinned people, that barked at us loudly, very loudly. I thought it was hilarious when she explained to us that her dog was racist towards white people. We ate a meal comprised of rice and beans, bonan, salad, and fish. It was amazing! Ronange the cook, a middle-aged plump woman with a sweet face, had had a restaurant in Port-au-Prince that was destroyed by the earthquake and later moved to Fond Des Blancs to look for work. Luckily, she ended up in good hands and so did we.

We all talked for quite a bit at dinner about ourselves and why we had all come to Haiti. It was really beautiful to meet people that had come to donate their time and expertise for the construction of the new library. Cherie, of course, was here to meet all of us and I was here to reassure myself that the decision I had already made to work with Haiti Projects was the right decision. We talked for a long while about our cultures and travel stories and after getting mauled by mosquitoes, which I swore would result with me contracting dengue or chikungunya, we headed back to the hotel. As soon as we stepped out of Molly’s house we entered pure darkness once again with the exception of a few lights here and there from phones or motorbikes passing by. You could hear all types of people talking across the street or as they passed us by and smell the wood being burned in the air. For a moment I lost track of where I was. This felt like Africa. It didn’t feel like the Caribbean I knew, the Caribbean in my blood. Lost in thought, I started looking up at the sky and discovered a constellation of stars. The view was majestic. It dawned on me, I’m in Haiti, this is Haiti.

Back at the hotel I started to unwind, as I was exhausted from not having slept for days and being jet-lagged. I jumped in the shower and the water that came out of the shower-head was half the girth of the faucet’s stream. Not surprisingly there was no hot water, not tonight and not for the rest of the days we would be here. But I needed that cold shower anyways and was grateful we even had water, given Haiti is currently enduring a major drought. I worked till late as I didn’t want to fall behind on the other 50 things I have going on and then finally laid my head to rest on a bed that could have easily been mistaken for a springboard and a pillow with the same stuffing as a cheap stuffed animal one could win in a county fair. And between the mosquitoes devouring me and the not-so-comfortable bed and pillow, I slept two hours at best.

We got up at the crack of dawn to start our very busy day and I was already so exhausted I could barely open my eyes but there was no time to feel sorry for myself, things needed to get done today. I jumped in the shower, got dressed, picked up my hair and was ready and out the door in 15 minutes. We were advised to dress accordingly so I wore a dress, as Haitians are very much about formality in every sense of the word from how they speak to what they wear to education being a top priority. We arrived at Molly’s house to have breakfast: coffee, bread, peanut butter and a banana. And we were off.

Cherie and I went to meet the staff and women at the Artesana Cooperative, which is set up between two buildings, one with offices and the other mostly for production. Upon arriving at the main headquarters I was introduced to the staff and the women that were working. I was introduced to the director of the Artesana Cooperative, Jean Rene, who would play tour guide for the next few hours. I was taken to every room in both buildings and given a thorough explanation on each department and/or the purpose of each room. In the main headquarters, there were several rooms for storage, one for production and the main room where all the sewing machines were.


Next, we headed to the other building where there were about 25 women working. When I asked if I could film and take pictures, Jean Rene got a bit of resistance from the women. At first they came across as standoffish but later I came to discover that Haitians in general could be quite shy with strangers and it’s more of a formality than anything else. For instance, most people wont smile at you or greet you but when you walk past them and say “bonjour” their faces instantly light up and reply “bonjour” in a sweet songlike way. Hence, the women resisted having their pictures taken because they weren’t dressed up or had make-up on. I laughed at the realization that all women are the same.



After the tour of the facilities I was invited to attend the staff meeting, which was half in creole and half in English. I understood a couple of words here and there but nothing to even get me by. So basically everything my Haitian college sweetheart taught me were words I could definitely not use in this situation unless I wanted to make people laugh hysterically or completely offend them. Cherie was nice enough to translate and give me an overall summary of what was being talked about. It was great because I got a glimpse into how the organization was ran and what every staff member’s role was. And then came my favorite part of the day, lunch!

Lunch is traditionally the most important meal in Haiti and that’s why I was so looking forward to it. We went back to Molly’s and feasted on goat, rice and beans, vegetables, salad and this natilla type of custard for dessert. There wasn’t any lambi (conch in a creole sauce) but there would always be tomorrow or the airport. I was hopeful. We went back to the hotel after lunch to get some rest before going on the tour to the library and clinic. The power was not on in the hotel; therefore, we couldn’t turn on the fans and had to either open the front door and enter into a war with mosquitoes or asphyxiate slowly. Plata o plomo. I opted to go to the restaurant/bar and do some work there even though a nap in 90-degree weather and humidity seemed like the better option.

6pm rolled around and we walked 2 minutes down the street to Haiti Projects’ library. It was a very small library with books on one end, a pop-up shop that sold random things in the middle and a computer room on the other end. There were a few timun with gorgeous faces in the library being taught how to read and use the computer. Currently, Haiti Projects is working on building a much bigger library, which will be open to all the residents of Fond Des Blans so they can all have access to computers and Wi-Fi. We walked another 5 minutes up the street to the hospital that Haiti Projects’ partner organization St. Boniface had built. The hospital is a moderate sized building that’s very well kept with its own maternity ward and a garden. We met some other ex-pats there that were living and working or volunteering at the hospital. They gave us an extensive tour of the hospital and all its wings.

When the group decided to climb up a not-so-sturdy looking ladder onto the roof I opted out because I’m afraid of heights and well, because I’m afraid of heights. I hung around the courtyard outside along with 30 other Haitians that were either waiting for someone in the hospital or possibly waiting to get treated. It was hard to say. Bachata and kompa were blaring interchangeably from the radio from someone’s motorbike providing some entertainment for those waiting. And there I was for an hour just observing the life of the average person from Fond Des Blancs on a Tuesday afternoon.

Restless as I am, I got up to walk around. I came across a two-year-old boy who smiled at me as I greeted him, “bonjour!”, he waved at me and uttered “bonjour!!” I turned around and approached him, asked him to give me 5. Intrigued, he gave me 5. His parents, who weren’t a day older than 22, laughed and the father, who spoke Spanish, instantly knew I was a Latina and spoke to me in Spanish. I started to tickle the baby boy and he was cracking up. I was in and I was in love! I asked his father if I could carry him and he said of course. I motioned him to jump on me and the boy didn’t hesitate, as he was thrilled to play with me. They started taking pictures of us and then I pulled my phone out. I recorded me talking to him in Spanish as he repeated everything I said perfectly. I swear this was probably THE cutest boy I have ever seen. I felt so much love for him it made my maternal instincts came to life. If he were an orphan my life would be heading in a different direction right about now, no lie. But I had to let him go as everyone was climbing back down from the roof. I hugged him and gave him a big kiss and put him down and waved goodbye. (I later watched this video about 47 times and still watch it like once a week!)

Watch video here

Back to Molly’s for dinner…hot chocolate, bread, jam, butter, and Laughing Cow cheese. After dinner, I stayed up until I nearly became blind from working on my new website. I showered and went to bed. Tonight I was so exhausted no mosquito, heat, hard bed or pillow would disrupt my sleep. And just like that, I was out in a profound slumber in the midst of my discomfort.

The next morning I woke up around 9am feeling like a new person. Cherie had her morning booked with meetings so I walked over to the hotel’s restaurant and had breakfast, which was pretty much the same exact thing I had for dinner last night but with a lot of coffee instead of hot chocolate. I worked until one of the staff, Fenol, showed up on his motorbike to pick me up. I had to sit sideways because I was wearing a dress and explained to him that I had to hold on to him even though this wasn’t normal behavior in Haiti. When people ride in the back of motorbikes they don’t hold on to the driver. But I’m Latina and I don’t play that, so I held on to him but I’m pretty sure he was thrilled about having this tifi blanc clutching onto him on the back of his bike.

He drove me to the main building where I was to meet with Molly and Cherie about the campaign we were going to launch for Haiti Projects. I went through their inventory of products to select the perks I would offer my donors, captured testimonials on video from a couple of the artisans and then worked some more alongside Tony, the new accountant’s intern. We talked music for a bit…Drake, Sweet Mickey (Haiti’s current president whose music is comparable to that of Uncle Luke from 2Live Crew), Kendrick Lamar, Top Vice, T-Vice and so forth. He showed me some type of Haitian reggae music, I was digging it. I told him reggae was my favorite music of all time, he was in shock. I laughed, he had no idea about this Miami girl.

And then, my favorite time of the day…lunch! No lambi for lunch but regardless it was amazing. I couldn’t bring myself to try the baked pasta with Spam but everything else was great. I told Cherie to please tell the cook she was incredible, she thanked us and smiled with confidence because she knew how good her food was. After lunch I headed back to the restaurant and worked for a few more hours until right about dinnertime. Fenol showed up to see if I was going to be too busy or if I was open to hanging out. I told him I couldn’t hang out this time around but when I come back we would go dance kompa or to the beach. He was stoked. I jumped in the shower and as usual, headed back to Molly’s to have my last dinner in Fond Des Blancs, hot chocolate, bread, butter, Laughing Cow cheese and jam. We called it an early night, as everyone was pretty beat. When we got back to the hotel, I worked and started putting the wheels in motion for this campaign. I was part spent part stoked and tired myself out so I would sleep soundly. And I did.

The next morning we had an early start because we needed to get on the road to Port-au-Prince by 7:30am. Breakfast at Molly’s, some goodbyes and off we were. Annius, our driver and Fenol’s older brother, arrived in his 4×4 to take us back to the capital. Everyone was pretty quiet at first as the rain came pouring down, which was a blessing given Haiti’s drought. I checked my emails and already had messages from people asking me how could they help or get involved. I couldn’t wait to get back and get started on my new campaign. We were incredibly excited just talking about the next steps. Then Cherie started talking to Annius in creole, something “Loren” something “bunda” and he started laughing. I knew she was telling him about the fact that mosquitoes had bitten me all over my butt last night. I told her to tell Annius that the mosquitoes were obviously haitien and new exactly what they were looking for in a woman. We all laughed really hard. See, this I knew how to use in a sentence…tifi blanc avec bunda guo to get a good rise out of a Haitian.

Along the way we picked up one of Annius’s friends, a shy girl in her mid-20s who needed a ride to the capital. I spent most of the ride filming b-roll for my campaign video and observing life in all the towns along the way to Port-au-Prince. The girl and I exchanged smiles but no words. I could sense she was hungry so half way through the trip I offered her one of our Kind bars and bottled water and she gladly accepted, as she didn’t bring anything to eat on this 4-hour journey. She thanked me and smiled and continued to chat on Watsapp and I continued to look out the window at life in Ayiti.

We finally made it to the airport. Annius told Cherie to tell me to please come back soon and that I was always welcome in Ayiti. I gave him a big hug and thanked him. From the moment I met him I liked his energy, he was a sweet and religious man who you can tell was a great person just by the way he smiled. The airport was my last attempt to eat lambi but no luck instead I had griot, my second favorite. I changed my flight to get on Cherie’s flight, which was an hour earlier and instead of working on the flight I spoke to this amazing older couple who made my day. He was French and she was a Jewish Haitian and together they had lived in Haiti but now resided in Miami. An affluent couple who showed me pictures of all their houses in Haiti, including the beautiful beach house they spent a week in with their entire family. The best part about them was not their energy but how deeply in love they still were and how they talked about each other. They asked me what I was doing in Haiti. My mission moved her and she said she needed to do something and that she wanted to get involved so she gave me her contact info.

And just like that I was back in the richest country in the world but this time I didn’t feel guilty about the life I live. I didn’t come back from Haiti heartbroken like I did when I came back from Kibera, the second largest slum in Africa. Instead, I felt inspired and empowered that I have so much to give and that I, together with my family, friends and colleagues and extensive network, can create some lifelong and powerful changes in the lives of women and children in one of the most devastated places on earth.

America, our borrowed land


I am an empath when it comes to immigrants. Perhaps it’s because I am the daughter of two brave immigrants.

I was born to a pair of fighters, a Cuban father who risked his life for freedom and a Colombian-Palestinian mother who left everything behind for the man she loved. They were far from perfect but they made it work. They did their best at assimilating the culture, at learning the language and adapting to a new life. Together they built a small empire, gave me life, raised me, taught me to be tough and not to fear anything, to work hard and to respect others. They broke their backs to send me to private school and two reputable universities. These immigrants taught me that there was no room for failure. Pa’tras ni pa’ coger impulso. Push forward; it’s the one thing I learned to do incredibly well.

And so today we celebrate America and its independence. But today, I’m thinking about the Native Americans whose land we borrowed, whose land we stole…the true “Americans”. Today, I’m thinking about all the slaves who were usurped from their homelands and forced to build this country through blood, sweat, and tears. Today, I’m thinking about Tonia, my Vietnamese nail technician, who works a consistent 6 day / 70 hour work week, who alongside her family invested every single dime into their business. Today I’m thinking about Javier, the Mexican maintenance man, who works the night shift as a cook in Denny’s 4 times a week, sleeps an hour or two, and goes to his other job from 7am to 5pm doing repairs in three different buildings. Today, I’m thinking about all the Asian masseuses I frequent who work 12-hour shifts 6 days a week for peanuts, who dedicate their entire lives to make ends meet. Today, I’m thinking about that man from Bangladesh in his late 60s I spoke to last week who works at the gas station under the blazing sun making sure the car wash line runs smoothly.

And so today, on the 4th of July, I will raise my glass to all the immigrants who are as American as the Pilgrims, who were brave enough to cross our borders and sail across oceans to touch our soil. A toast to all those who came here in hopes of a better life. America, you are far from perfect but indeed you are the land of the free and the home of the brave. May you continue to welcome all the brave hearts that have made you the beautiful and powerful country that you are.


I believe in transparency, I always have. When I launched Travel With Purpose, transparency was always intended to be my North Star, a reference in setting the course for TWP’s journeys. My first campaign was a campaign based on trust. I asked my family, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues to trust me with their donations. I asked everyone to trust the fact that 100% of their donations would be used to help others. And everyone did; hence, I was able to raise over $10k USD and be a conduit to help 107 girls victims of sexual trafficking. I will always be grateful that so many people trusted and believed in me. And so, today I am publishing my bank statements (itemized) because I want to continue to foster our relationships based on trust and transparency. – Loren Medina, Founder of Travel With Purpose

TWP Bank Statement May 2015 (2) TWP Bank Statement May 2015 (1) TWP Bank Statement April 2015 TWP Bank Statement Mar 2015 TWP Bank Statement Jan-Feb 2015 TWP Bank Statement Dec 2014-Jan 2015 (2) TWP Bank Statement Dec 2014-Jan 2015 (1) TWP Bank Statement Nov 2014