CBG Building Company Contract Administrator Mayra San Juan co-founded Chula’s Mission in 2010 with Lyndsey Ruiz after losing their mothers, Elvira San Juan and Chula Ruiz. The organization supports young, motherless girls who know the void of losing a mother through mentorship services, basic cooking classes, and grief counseling. Headquartered in San Diego, Chula’s Mission is the only non-profit organization in the country specifically established to help young girls navigate life without a mother.
What motivated you to co-found Chula's Mission along with Lyndsey Ruiz?
“After my mother’s passing, I felt empty. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with my life. I left [CBG Building Company] to move back to Texas so that I could have some time to heal and spend some time with my father. I met Lyndsey in March of 2011, and as soon as Lyndsey told me about her idea to start an organization to help motherless girls, I knew I wanted to be part of it because I thought to myself, ‘What better way to honor my mother?’ I want to inspire young motherless girls the way my mother continues to inspire me.”
What kinds of services does Chula's Mission provide to young motherless girls?
“Currently we offer basic cooking classes, grief counseling, and a mentor program at no cost to the mentee and mentor. As the girls grow, we will introduce new programs that cover skills such as applying for your first job, applying for college, balancing a checkbook, etc. Our goal is for each girl that comes through Chula's Mission to grow into a bright well-adjusted successful young woman. Essentially, we want to provide resources on everything a mother would teach you.”
What have you learned about yourself through Chula's Mission? What have you learned about others?
“I've learned that it is okay to be vulnerable. I'll be honest; I'm a very guarded person. For so long, I've been trying to stay strong and it wasn't until I started this organization that I've been able to release some of the pain. This pain will never go away; it is just going to get easier to deal with. Chula’s Mission has been therapeutic not just for the girls but for me. I see these girls and they inspire. I never knew you could go through something so traumatic at 10 years old yet be so strong. I was fortunate enough to have had my mother for 25 years, and cannot imagine what it would be like to be 10 or 11 and not have hers. It is just amazing to see these young girls be so strong. I admire them. We all have lost our mothers at different ages and in different ways, yet we have all come together and have formed a special bond. We are a family.”
What is the best advice you'd give to people who want to help young motherless girls cope with their grief?
“The longing and mourning will never go away completely, and it will be re-triggered, especially during major life milestones. For example, by anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, weddings, the birth of a child, etc. So, I really try to be there for the girls and help guide them through their major milestones, where a void is often felt without the presence of a mother.”
Is there anything else you'd like people to know about Chula's Mission?
“Chula's Mission is the first-of-its-kind in the nation. There is no other social service program that specifically mentors and nurtures young motherless girls (who need our help not necessarily because of a death, but possibly because of abandonment, incarceration, deployed mother, etc.). Research has shown that those whom have lost a parent are at greater risk for depression, suicide, poverty, and substance abuse. We have formed Chula's Mission to help reduce those risk factors.”
Knowing the emptiness that losing a mother can leave in a daughter’s heart, the founders of Chula’s Mission have created a supportive place for young motherless girls by offering unique and dynamic grief counseling that incorporates cooking classes, which are designed to aid in the healing process, and by providing the comforts found in an age-old tradition shared by many mothers and daughters. Through the generous hearts of volunteers and benefactors, motherless girls will have the opportunity not only to heal, but to thrive. To learn more about Chula’s Mission, visit their website or Facebook Page.