by Camila Sotela, Communications Team volunteer

stones faith hope loveAt 12 or 13 years old, I was convinced that no one in the universe could understand my suffering. Pain had never been felt so deeply, so desperately by anyone but myself…you know, just like any other 12 or 13 year old.

In my lifelong search to understand my humanity, I completed a graduate research degree in applied sociology. Let me spare you two years of my life coupled with student loan debt, and tell you instead the single lesson taught in every course: social connection builds resilience.

Whether in measures of mortality, like life expectancy, or matters of the spirit, like feelings of belonging and personal fulfillment, social connection is the single most powerful predictive factor in improving quality and duration of life.

Of all the latent effects of COVID, I had not expected a collective second puberty experienced by all of America. Yet I hear people saying that they feel powerless, hopeless, and exhausted. We may forget that this struggle is not unusual.

Our suffering is valid—a natural reaction to the events unfolding around us.

This doesn’t make it easier. It does, however, mean we are not alone. During this time of continuous loss fueled by rapid change, we are forced to find alternatives for our usual means of connection. This expands beyond masked outdoor gatherings. We have the opportunity to look at our whole selves, now integrated with that inner child, and say “What do you need?”

As part of the AfA community, we have a chance to extend connection—and by extension, resilience—to vulnerable youth. And in that way, we show up for our own adolescent selves. We can keep youth expression alive through the greatest symbolic exchange of power we have: giving.

Through the repeated, continual practice of giving, I see the layers in which empowering others directly empowers me, my desire for a sound nation, and my hope for better days ahead.

Writer Ian Caldwell noted, “Hope…which whispered from Pandora’s box after all the other plagues and sorrows had escaped, is the best and last of all things.” So when everything else has escaped you, when you are empty of nearly all you had, look at the very bottom of that box and find hope. Give hope to the youth.

In a bleak world, poetry—the language of metaphor—continues to bring healing. During these difficult times beauty is reborn.

With restrictions and social distancing guidelines still in place, Art from Ashes continues to bring virtual workshops into schools and other programs. We have continued to deliver the Phoenix Rising Writing Kits to youth without internet access. When you support us, your donation makes a difference in the lives of struggling youth through the power of poetry and the gift of hope.

writing kit*For a $100 donation, you can give a gift of hope to a youth and receive one for yourself (or to gift another). Any amount will help us collect what we need to provide more kits for young people. To donate with a bank draft or credit card, please visit or ColoradoGives, donate via PayPal (fee free with a PayPal account), or mail a check to Art from Ashes, 1310 West 10th Ave, Denver CO 80204.

Please include a comment that your donation is for a writing kit for you and a writing kit for a youth.