See the beautiful kites these kids designed after their parents were deported.

It was a family living in constant fear of deportation that inspired Rosalia Torres-Weiner to shift the direction of her art from commercial to social activism.

The members of this family, who also lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, were terrified of being deported, Torres-Weiner told Upworthy. She wanted to find a way to make them feel safe and for the couple's three children to know everything was going to be OK.


Rosalia Torres-Weiner. Image by The Red Calaca Studio, used with permission.

In 2012, Torres-Weiner created an organization called the Papalote Project. "Papalote" means "kite" in Spanish.

The organization allows the children of deported parents to work through their feelings of hurt, confusion, and fear by channeling those feelings into art. As part of the program, children are given the supplies to create a kite and encouraged to include a piece of clothing from a loved one who was deported.

Image via Papalote Project, used with permission.

Why kites?

Torres-Weiner said she sees the kites as part of a symbolic process. The children can attach their emotions and fear and trauma to the kites, and by setting the kites free, they are left to heal in a safe environment.

Image by Papalote Project, used with permission.

Torres-Weiner says the entire kite workshop is filled with symbolism.

In many ways, the kites symbolize caterpillars that turn into butterflies and fly away. The "caterpillars" are made of paper and filled with painful memories, before turning into beautiful paper butterfly "papalotes" which fly away, taking those memories with them.

Some of the kids have never even flown a kite, so that in itself gives them a sense of freedom, fun, and wonder — allowing them to liberate themselves from the past.

Image by Papalote Project, used with permission.

The goal of Papalote Project is to give a voice to those left behind when friends and family are deported.

It is estimated that half a million parents have been deported from the U.S. since 2009, which means roughly 5.3 million kids have been affected so far.

Children of deported parents typically have less access to health services, including help with mental health issues, early education, and other social services.

Image by Papalote Project, used with permission.

Validating and working through feelings of neglect, fear, or confusion that anyone — but especially children — may be having after their parents or loved ones are suddenly gone is an incredibly important part of the healing process.

The Papalote Project helps them do that.

Image by Papalote Project, used with permission.

Eventually, Torres-Weiner hopes to bring Papalote Project to even more kids through an app that allows them to design their own kites and upload them to a website.

These kids deserve to know that they are not alone.

The incredibly personal and colorful papalote creations are a way for them to tell their heartbreaking stories and heal from them at the same time — together.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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via Matt Radick / Flickr

Joe Biden reversed Donald Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the military earlier this year, allowing the entire LGBTQ community to serve for the first time.

Anti-gay sentiment in the U.S. military goes as far back as 1778 when Lieutenant Frederick Gotthold Enslin was convicted at court-martial on charges of sodomy and perjury. The military would go on to make sodomy a crime in 1920 and worthy of dishonorable discharge.

In 1949 the Department of Defense standardized its anti-LGBT regulations across the military, declaring: "Homosexual personnel, irrespective of sex, should not be permitted to serve in any branch of the Armed Forces in any capacity, and prompt separation of known homosexuals from the Armed Forces is mandatory."

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