Featured Profile of Resilience: Carina Isabel Ruiz

These words are unedited, and are some of the most moving of all the stories we’ve heard thus far. We introduce to you Carina Isabel Ruiz:

“Hello Project Resilience,

I’d never thought there would be a organization/project out there that would be willing to help young girls with hardships achieve their ballerina dreams. I used to think that people like me would never be living such a beautiful dream; but I soon came to learn that I am just as worthy and beautiful as anyone or anything else. Today I will be sharing with you why I am a resilient dancer, person, and soul. This is my story.
I’d like to start out with the beginning of my life and existence. My life starts with my mother, Yolanda Carolina Ruiz. She’s the most beautiful and strongest women I have ever met. I don’t know all of her story but I know enough to recognize her pain which has molded her into the strongest mother I know. Mama was born in Santa Ana, El Salvador. She was very poor. She lived in a house made out of mud and water with dirt floors and no running water. She stopped going to school after the 8th grade, I believe. She was forced to work at the age of 7 making bricks with no pay. She walked miles to work and miles back with no shoes. She was treated like a slave and my grandfather was very abusive to mama and to grandma. Mama was young when the civil war of El Salvador happened. She was on lock down at school and hours later she was released. To get back home she had to go through a park… Here is where she had to jump her way through the park to get home. She jumped over bloody bodies everywhere. She said that she couldn’t even look at blood with out throwing up for months after that. Later on mama had to come to the United States to help support her family. She left my half brother when he was 3. She hasn’t seen him since. Carlos, my brother is now in his twenties. 
This is a very tiny portion of why my mom is such a resilient soul. A couple years after she migrated to the United States, I was born. My father tried to kill my mother when she was pregnant with me. She ran away, thank God. At the time she didn’t know I was living in her, but she says she’s glad because if she would of known she was pregnant than she probably would of stayed with my father. I was born before I should have been. I was a miracle baby. I had a huge bump on my back, the size of an egg. I should’ve been dead since day one of my life, but God had a bigger purpose for my life, that’s why I’m writing this email! 🙂 Anyways, I survived! But my whole life has felt like fighting for survival more than just being and living. At age 3 I began to be physically abused by my babysitter. And as I got older I started to get sexually abused by different babysitters. I grew up being afraid but very strong. I never got to see mama much. She was always working and to this day she’s still always working. I grew up having nightmares and being completely brainwashed, but at the time this was my reality. Fast forward a little: when I was 12 my mom had a few surgeries. On one, the doctors took 28 minutes on a brain surgery that should have really taken 3 hours, that caused her stroke and I watched her lay on her death bed. I have no family, just mama. She was my life. She is my life. I found her almost dead but I smiled every time I went to visit her. I had to be strong for her. She had 10% chance of living but I told people that that was more than enough. Even if she had .1% chance of living that was still enough to save her life. God only asks for a muster seed of faith, and I believe that 10% was a pretty big number if you look at it through the right perspective of faith. The doctors told me that if she were to survive she would loose her memory, speech, ability to walk or move. That was not ok with me. If mama was going to survive so was her body, mind, and soul. Sure enough she survived and her faith allowed her to do everything the doctors said she wasn’t going to be able to do. Her speech gets better everyday and she gaining strength to write and do all the things she used to do. She used to read me bed time stories every night, I miss it. But watching her struggle to read is the most beautiful thing in the world. It teaches me persistence and true resilience. After that I soon became to fall into a depression, life was hard and I had been so independent and alone most of my life. I was in so much pain from all that I had to see and feel on my own body. I fell into eating disorders and self harm. I later found myself going to the hospital for mental health a lot. At the time I was a sophomore in high school and I had started opening up about my past. Towards the end of my freshmen year I told my mom the truth about everything that went on behind closed doors while she worked. I thought I would be ok but I had no clue that it was time to really dig out all of me and build myself up. As I sat in the hospital bed I realized that no one was allowing me to take my life away. I wasn’t allowed to die so I decided that if I had to live I might as well live for something I absolutely love and know wouldn’t hurt me. At the time I was going to a free performing arts high school with also a full scholarship to a dance studio named TU Dance. “I’ll live for dance”, I said. And the thought of being the Latina Misty Copeland someday made me get out of my hospital bed and do a few pliés and tendus to help me get back up. I got myself together and was able to get out of the hospital after 4 days. Life after that was hard because I didn’t want to go back to the hospital but there was still a lot of work that needed to be done with me. But I worked my butt off for my dancing dreams and I’ve been working even harder ever since. Therapy didn’t work for me at all but finding my beauty, dancing, and a spiritual connection with the divine became my life style. 
I’ve been only dancing in a studio, training, for almost 3 years. I wanted to be a ballerina since age 4 but my mother could never afford classes so I just learned to be content with my tutus from Kmart. I don’t have much pointe training but I am a very advance student for a 17 year old who started Wednesday, August 23, 2012 in high school. I have made an organization with my best friend Destiny called Bellas in Brown. My purpose in life is not to just dance, it’s to mentor younger girls with big dreams but who also have big hardships. I strive to be the best I can be for them. I also just got accepted into DTH’s summer intensive which is a dream come true. DTH is my dream company! I plan to live in NYC for my senior year and need help finding a home, someone who would be willing to take me in. I hope to be taken under a ballerina’s wing and be molded into the beautiful dancer I desire to be. Hopefully I find a home soon here in NYC since school starts in August and also a mentor who could help me achieve my ballerina dreams. I DM’d you guys on Instagram and I was told that you would speak to your colleagues for housing, if there’s any luck of finding someone it would be amazing to know!
I plan to establish my mom here after a year of living here and then we could live together. She deserves the world. I will never forget her working 5 jobs at once just so I could have ballet shoes and tights (this was last year in January). My mom makes about $800 a month so my dreams are a little expensive but fundraising has saved my life. I know I can make it. I just need the help and support from anyone who is willing to believe in me. Thank you for listening to part of my story, there is still so much more to share but I plan to use it to help inspire and motivate baby girls out there just like me. I may have been bent but never broken, today I stand as a resilient dancer and forever a resilient soul.

Thank you so much for all the inspiration. Today I am different person because of dance and all pain has been transformed to beautiful movement that flows out my limbs. I doubted my dream at some point but the day I came to realize that this was really for me was the day I found out that the house I was babysat in soon became a sex trafficking home a few years after I had left. I went to dance with that information and cried through adagio because I realized that I really had a purpose and though I was abused at least I had to go home to mama, and wasn’t taken away from her. I realized that if dance wasn’t for me than I would have been trafficked and dead a long time ago. I was saved from death way too many times. Dance is a gift from above and my strength is a blessing to help me embrace my gift to move through emotion to tell a story, my story.”

 – Carina Isabel Ruiz


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