More than 300,000 American girls are growing up without their mothers, a situation that puts them at high risk for poverty, depression, substance abuse and even suicide. Chula’s Mission, a San Diego nonprofit, is the first to offer programs to help these girls, teaching them the same life skills that a mother would. Times of San Diego spoke with Lyndsey Ruiz, founder and president, about the organization’s mission and programs.
What’s the goal of Chula’s Mission?
The goal of Chula’s Mission is to mentor and nurture motherless girls through our many different programs and grief therapy sessions. Chula’s Mission is a safe, supportive place where every motherless girl can grow into a well adjusted, successful young woman. It is the first of its kind in the United States, and the organization’s programs are specifically aimed at addressing issues young girls may face after losing their mothers. Hope Edelman, author of “Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss,” calculates that about 330,000 girls under 18 years old in the United States have lost their mothers, and her research shows that those who have lost a parent are at higher risk for depression, suicide, poverty, and substance abuse. Chula’s Mission was developed to provide cooking classes, grief counseling, and a mentor program, all specifically aimed at addressing the issues that put these girls at a high risk. Chula’s Mission was created to teach coping and life skills that a mother would. We are here to help make the void of not having a mother a little easier to deal with.
Why are young, motherless girls uniquely at risk in our society?
Young motherless girls are uniquely at risk in this society because of having to grow up without a mother at such a vulnerable age, and to not have the proper coping skills to deal with what has happened. Grieving children are at much greater risk than their peers for depression, suicide, poverty and substance abuse. Mothers teach us about self-esteem, love, how to manage the difficulties of puberty, and how to have relationships with other girls. Without the guidance of a mother figure, these important life lessons might not be learned.
How do your classes, counseling and mentoring programs help?
The therapy sessions we provide allow for a safe place where the motherless girl can share her emotions and receive therapeutic advice. Chula’s Mission offers group counseling to help aid in the grieving process that so often comes with the loss of a loved one. Our groups aim to offer a safe place in order to explore the thoughts and feelings around the abandonment, absence or loss of a mother. Our groups offer a unique dynamic, allowing each member to be part of a bigger whole, which consists of peers who can directly relate to what each another are experiencing. Sessions consist of a variety of therapeutic activities, as well as group discussions focused on meeting each individual where they are on their journey through grief.
The mentor program allows the girl to share time and experiences with someone who lost their mother like they did and to remind them that they are not alone.
Our mentor program consists of adult women volunteers who are committed to supporting, guiding and forming a friendship with young motherless girls. The program matches young motherless girls with inspirational adult mentors who can guide them in developing life skills.
Realizing the special bond that is made while learning to cook with your mother, Chula’s Mission has created therapeutic cooking classes for motherless girls. While learning the fundamentals of cooking and baking, we also teach coping skills in dealing with the absence of a mother. Not only will these young girls learn to cook, they will also bond with other motherless girls.
What challenges does your organization currently face?
The challenges we face today are the need to expand our numbers through community outreach, and the lack of resources.
How can interested San Diegans get involved?
There are several ways you can get involved with Chula’s Mission.
- Refer a young motherless girl who needs support
- Become a board member or executive volunteer. We have monthly meetings where we discuss upcoming events, ways to help the San Diego community, and our financial goals.
- Join us at an upcoming event. Chula’s Mission will hold their annual fundraiser, the Sugar & Spice Soirée on Jan. 26.
- Become a mentor. Chula’s Mission is always looking for women who want to help make a difference in a motherless girl’s life.
Times of San Diego regularly writes about nonprofit organizations that are making a difference in San Diego. Organizations wishing to participate in this question-and-answer series may contact firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
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