In this limited podcast series, Melanie Thompson, survivor activist and advocate, leads discussion around what life can look like after being trafficked. Touching on both the challenges and the opportunities for young people who have experienced human trafficking, Melanie, in conversation with other survivor leaders, bring their perspectives to help inform and empower young people who are on their own journeys of healing. These podcasts were created to supplement the newly released graphic novels for young people who have experienced trafficking, published by the Office for Victims of Crime.
Cristian Eduardo, survivor speaker and student, joins Melanie Thompson to discuss building community and creating opportunities for the future. Cristian brings his perspective on establishing relationships with supportive people, practical advice for young people on establishing boundaries and learning how to trust others, and thinking about future goals.
The following is a transcript of the podcast:
Healing is very individual. It's just in the core of yourself, in your heart, in your soul, in your body, your mind, in your own universe. That's the first thing that you need to learn. Never compare your healing with other person. You don't need to 100% heal. And to be honest, I'm still healing. You don't need to heal or to be full heal, and open to be able to smile, to enjoy things. Don't give up. It's hard. Trust me.
MELANIE THOMPSON: Hi, my name is Melanie Thompson, a survivor activist and advocate. I’m partnering with the Center for Court Innovation on the Child Witness Materials Project, funded by the Office for Victims of Crime. The project was created to empower and support youth, who have experienced human trafficking, by providing them with materials and information to better understand the criminal legal and child welfare systems. This podcast series focuses on discussions around life after trafficking, including both the challenges and opportunities there are for young survivors. Today I’m joined by Cristian Eduardo, and we’ll be talking about building community and opportunities for the future.
MELANIE THOMPSON: Hi everyone. So today we’re here with Cristian Eduardo. He is a survivor, speaker, and student. Thank you so much for being here, Cristian.
CRISTIAN EDUARDO: Hello. Thank you, Melanie. No, thank you for having me.
MELANIE THOMPSON: Absolutely. I'm going to jump into these questions for you. So as you know, it can be very difficult for young people who have been trafficked to envision what life might look like after they go to the justice system, whether that's on the criminal side or on the child welfare side. Can you tell me, what helped you begin to look towards the future? What has life, after the entire court process, looked like for you and what do you enjoy doing now?
CRISTIAN EDUARDO: Yes, of course. The first thing that I want everyone who is listening this, is that, no, everything right now, it's really bad. That's the reality. When I came out of the lab, after all these crazy things that happened, I was like, "I don't want people to touch me. I don't want people to ask me more questions. I don't want people to listen to me. No one is supporting me. People are doing whatever they want to me." I think the first thing that you need to do is acknowledge that.
Acknowledge how are you feeling. Things are going to get better. Just do your best. You're like, "Duh, I've been doing my best. What is the meaning of doing your best?" So I think that be very real with yourself. Have that space to be angry, to be sad, to be disappointed, to be upset. That's the first step. You don't need to put a fake smile on you. You don't need to hold those tears. Feel it. Specially because the more you avoid those feelings, the more painful that is going to become.
Five, six years ago, when I came out of all these craziness, one of the first thing that I was forcing myself, was trying to understand. Take your time. Don't force yourself to understand why this happened to you. There's no rush. There's no need also to being around explaining what happened to you. A lot of times, there are parts that you cannot share with people. And I think that that's the painful part.
That people want you to do your best, without really knowing you. Be very compassionate toward yourself.... Ask yourself. Now it seems that people is really taking care of me. That they really want to help me, so what I want to do from now, and it doesn't need to be school. It doesn't need to be what adults are always telling you. Ask yourself. What do I want to do? Do I want to write? Do I want to paint? Do I want to learn computer skills? Do I want to go to school? Do I want to learn to cook? What do I want to do right now to myself? Because this is about you. It's not about all the people who are supporting you. You are a human being. That's the first thing that you need to remember. You are a human being. It doesn't matter how old you are. You deserve respect, love, compassion, and to fight toward your dreams and goals. Create that space to feel whatever you're feeling, cry, yell, run. Whatever you are feeling right now, let that sink. Let your body feel it.
And the second part, after letting all the things go. Close your eyes. Forget about all the people that are around you and all the questions that they are throwing at you. What do I want to do right now? Don't overthink about it. The first thing that came to your mind, write it. Write it down. Go with these people that are helping you. And ask them, "Right now, I want to do this? How can we achieve this? How can you support me to do this?" That's the way to go.
MELANIE THOMPSON: Speaking of support, you just touched on something really great. Tell me what is the general importance of having support? Why do we need that in this process?
CRISTIAN EDUARDO: I think that the reality is that somebody your age, when you're coming from a very hard situation, we want to do everything by ourselves. We want to like, no, I have survived all the many things. I have been on the streets. I have been surviving all these stuff. I don't need help. The reality is that we cannot achieve everything just by ourselves. We need support because sadly, we don't know everything around the world. We don't know all the opportunity that we have in front of us. And the people that are there to helping you, they can help you to open those doors, those windows for you to go through.
It's not about people telling you what to do. It's more about people walking alongside you. When you are seeing people around you, trying to support and help you around, don't see them like, oh my God, they are coming again here asking question like what I'm going to do, why I'm not doing this. No. See them more like, okay, no. I can ask the same questions like, how can you help me to do this? How can I achieve this? How can I pay for this? How can I get this? All the question that you have, ask them. Don't be shy. They are there to support you. They have all their tools. You have maybe the skills, but you don't know how to get the tools. That's how support and help looks like. That's why we need that. To really move forward... To move from our past and to really achieve our goals and dreams, we need tools. Even if we want to do everything by ourselves... Now I need to go to school. Now learn to this. Now, I need books, clothes, money for transportation. How am I going to achieve it? Through help and support and through all these things that are around you. So keep asking, keep asking and keep asking.
MELANIE THOMPSON: Absolutely. And it's interesting that you say that, because I know for a fact that when I was younger, and I was just leaving the court system, I had a lot of trust issues with a lot of people. So when there were genuine folks, who did want to indeed help me, sometimes, I would shut them out, or feel like they were trying to attack me or abuse me because that's all I knew. So I think just having a little bit of that open mind can be really helpful in that, which brings me to my next question, where I think that you were touching on this. What are some of the difficulties in building this community? Why is it difficult for young people to find the support and what advice you have for them to build more supportive communities?
CRISTIAN EDUARDO: I remember myself even when I was younger. It's not that I'm super old. I distrust adults. I was like, you don't know what's going on here. You are old. Things don't work the way that you think. We are different generations. There's no way that we can connect. You say it, Melanie. Is this fear of adults inflicting pain or not again? It's a fear of adults ignoring us. It's the fear of adults just seeing us as kids and that we don't have a voice. I want you to break that stigma. I want to break that paradigm. It's not that. You have a voice. You have the right to being heard. You have the right to explain yourself. You have the right to let people know what you think. So instead of putting all these barriers, and I know that it's hard. I know that it's difficult. We don't want to show adults that a lot of them have hurt us. It's not about them asking you question. It's not about them coming to you. Change it. You ask the questions.
What are we doing here? Tell me. Can you explain me? How are you going to support me? Because a lot of times, I think our resistance is coming because we don't understand what is happening. It's like, oh my god, again? Another meeting? Why do I need to go every week? Why? I don't understand. I think that sometimes when people explain those, like you know what? I want to meet with you. They really care about you. They really understand all the complexities that went through. Even if they weren't there with you when all these things were happening, the moment that they start working with you, alongside you, they want to support you. And that's the reality.
MELANIE THOMPSON: I get you.
CRISTIAN EDUARDO: I never imagine me coming back to college, working again, trusting people, but I needed to start making the change. I was like, okay, how can you help me achieve this? How can you really hear me? How can you see me? Don't just ask questions. See me as a human being. I know that it's hard. But that resistance, just try to move me forward. Ah no, breathe. Even if you don't believe in breathing. I didn't believe in breathing. A lot of times it works. Breathe. Count 10 times, 100, one million before jumping out. Instead of being angry and reactive towards other people who is trying to help you, ask yourself. Why am I angry? Why I want to yell all the time? Why I want to be so resistant? The reality a lot of time is that we are not used to people worrying about us.
We have been fighting for our lives, ourselves all the time. We don't want someone to be asking us. They're not asking you because they want to gossip or think about, oh I want to know about your life just because. They have the tools to help you achieve your dreams and all the goals that you have. And remember that even if things look dark, even if things look hard, things are going to get better. It's not going to be easy. But it's the best that things are going to get better.
MELANIE THOMPSON: That's amazing. Yes, it is difficult. We all know that it's not easy, especially coming from the situations that we've come from, but it's about trying to find that person in your life that could be the social worker that you come across. It could be a biological sister, brother, family member. Maybe it's a friend that you met in a program. Maybe it's a friend that you met in court. I've definitely seen kids my age that were also going to the court system and just having that connection in the bathroom, can turn into a relationship. It's more about just grounding yourself and opening your mind and recognizing that not everybody in the world is out to hurt you.
I want to know, who was that person for you? And how did they help you build relationships outside of court, if they have? Were there any difficulties in maintaining supportive relationships after court, or was this person for you, somebody that helped you see relationships in a more healthy, like?
CRISTIAN EDUARDO: Yes. That's a very good question because actually, the first person that I trusted, was my lawyer. Of course, in the beginning, I was like, you are just asking question because you're maybe crazy and I don't have hope and I don't even know what I'm doing here. But she continued reaching out to me, even if I was resistance or I was like, let's just reschedule this meeting, or I cannot do this meeting or things like that, she keep following up with me through email, text, phone calls. Phone calls that a lot of times I didn't answer. She didn't give up.
If you've got someone in your life that is doing that right now, I want you to ask yourself this question. Why is this person continue doing this? What is the benefit for them? Because I ask the same question to myself. How is this person benefit from calling me or emailing me? I don't have anything to offer. That's the reality. That's when you know that there is people out there who really worries about you, who really see you through all your experiences, all that you went through, and it's like, well, I am calling you because you are a human being, because I care about you, because I want the best for you even if you don't want to see it.
When I ask that question to myself, I was like, okay, I'm going to give it a shot. I'm going to share a little bit more. And if I see that this person freaks out or something change, I am going to close the door. One shot. No more opportunities. For my surprise, actually, the more I trust this person, my lawyer, the more she was able to help me. The more she was able to understand me. The more she was able to remind me of my goals and my dreams. And I was like, wait! This is interesting. I can trust people and they're going to help me without abusing me or without giving me to give them something. It blew my mind. I was like, wait! Is this really happening? Is this real? And the reality is that after so many years, now I am such a good friend with my lawyer. She was the first person that saw me as a human being. I am so grateful for her to do that and also I am so grateful for myself also to take the risk. Take the risk to trust people, take the risk to be open, and take the risk to ask for help. I know a lot of times it is extremely hard. We don't want people to see our pain. We don't want people to see us vulnerable. We want to show ourselves as strong and that nothing can destroy us, but a lot times, we need that support and if we don't open up, if we don't turn down those barriers, no one is going to be able to help us.
MELANIE THOMPSON: Absolutely. So I want to transition a little bit, because we know that some of the issues that were talking about, relates to all youth that have gone to the system, but we know that there are some young people that have additional difficulties that they have to face. Some of those things are immigration, visa issues, issues that are specific to the LGBTQ+ community, and not every youth experiences those issues. Can you talk about some of those difficulties and how they're different from the ones you just talked about?
CRISTIAN EDUARDO: Yes. Look. When I escaped all these trafficking situation, all these exploitation, I was a gay man, living in a city, without friends, without family, without money, without the legal status. And I was diagnosed HIV positive, so just to think that I mentioned, it's crazy to me. Who can I trust? I wasn't open about being gay. I wasn't open about being HIV positive. I wasn't open about being an immigrant, even if it was a little bit obvious because my English wasn't as good as now. I'm pretty sure that people can tell that I have an accent. My Mexican accent, I like to call it.
Every single one of you is very, very different. For you, that you're listening this, like maybe you are Latinx. Maybe you are a black person. Maybe you are an Asian person. Maybe you don't have a legal status. Maybe you don't know how to really communicate in English. Don't be afraid of all those things. I know that it is super hard to trust people, but you don't need to share everything with everyone. That's the first thing. Even if people ask questions, take your time. Make sure that you are comfortable when you're going to share something. I know that it's hard.
It took me years to be open about me saying now that I'm a gay man, living with HIV, that I'm an immigrant, that English is not my first language, that I'm not a citizen yet. All these things? It took time. Even myself, being vocal about I'm a survivor of sex and labor trafficking. It takes time. So don't force yourself to feel comfortable. Ask around like, " Have you heard about the LGBTQ+ community. Have you heard about HIV? All these people that are supporting and helping you... ask these questions before disclosing yourself. And the other part, you don't need to disclose your sexuality. You don't need to disclose all these thing that are very personal. You can ask for help without the need to disclose.
MELANIE THOMPSON: Absolutely. You know what I find this happens a lot especially in the queer community because people have a tendency to fetishize things that are not innate to them. So many people that are not part of the LGBTQ community, usually don't take the time to actually understand what the issues are in our community, but instead want every little detail to fill their curiosity, so I definitely hear what you're saying on that. I also hear that you have to work through this yourself. You have to take a second and say, you know what? I'm not comfortable saying this yet, but you work through the steps and you got yourself to a place where you're comfortable in doing that. That says to me that you had to work through some boundaries that you had yourself. Am I right?
CRISTIAN EDUARDO: Yes. Absolutely. Look, set boundaries. That's super important. I know that a lot of times it’s easier just to yell and give attitude and all these things, there's no need for that, to be honest. When you start to feel that your body or something does make you angry, sad and you don't want to share it, you can say, “can we change the question? I'm getting uncomfortable” or “I'm not ready to talk about it.” Or you can say like, “this topic is making me feel sad. It's making me feel angry. I don't want to talk about this thing.” You can start to create this space with time and you can start thinking about what make me feel uncomfortable? How can I talk about being gay? How can I talk about being transgender? How can I talk about my name? How can I talk about my culture? I'm feeling comfortable. And that's the work that you need to do. Knowing yourself is going to help others knowing you.
MELANIE THOMPSON: Absolutely. You know one of the things that I struggled with when I was angry? You know I got into talking about my life and advocacy, very young. When you are introduced to advocacy and you're going to the court system at a really young age, you feel this moral responsibility to be depended on. You want to be relied on. You want somebody to need you. And oftentimes, whenever somebody ask me to do something, I didn't know how to say no.
Somebody asked me a question that made me uncomfortable, I would still try to find a way to answer it. So I definitely understand what it's like to go through that process. Starting to set those boundaries for myself, saying, “Hey, I don't think I want to answer that. I don't actually want to talk about that.” So that is definitely spot on. Moving forward, are there any resources or thought processes that you found really helpful when you were working through building those supportive relationships?
CRISTIAN EDUARDO: Yes. The first thing, and again, I never get tired to say it. Know yourself. Know why you are angry. Know why you're sad. You don't need to share it. But know yourself. Write it. Draw it. Compose a song. Identify how are you feeling, because if you don't do that, what is going to happen is even if you try to interact, a lot of times they're going to say things that are going to make you sad or upset and you're going to react in a bad way. You're going to be like, why am I even angry? Why am I even fighting right now? I don't know but I don't care right now. Get to know yourself. I think that it's very, very very important.
The second part is that, it's okay if you don't understand what is happening. It's okay. It's a lot for you. Don't force yourself to make sense of what is happening around you. I think that, especially when we start receiving help, there's so many things around you, like wait! I think that I was in a better situation before. I didn't need to think about all these stuff.
Now, people want me to think about my health and my education and my finances and going to court and talking with the lawyer It's a lot. Express your needs like, I don't have money to go this place. I need transportation for this. It's hard for me to go and meet in this space. I remember that in order for me to really start creating trust and all this interacting with people, they send me to a place where they were offering hot meals. I was so uncomfortable going there. It was driving me crazy because I was... I'm hungry. I don't know where else to go. I don't like how people look at me. I was so angry because I don't want to be here but I don't know where else to go and I don't want to do the same thing that I was doing before, because it's going to give me trouble with court or with law enforcement or with police. What can I do? So guess what? I discovered that by explaining and telling all these things to the people who were there helping me, I was able to find another place where I was able to go for hot meals. People don't looking at me super weird.
I was even able to start having conversation with people around me because they were people around me about my age. They weren't asking weird questions. They were more in resonance with me. Every single story you're receiving and you're uncomfortable, ask like, can we change? Is there another place that I can go? Because that is going to impact a lot of you, and ask if you enjoy to play football? Did you enjoy to play basketball? Running? Anything. Writing, whatever thing. Ask. Is there a place that I can go to do these things? That is how you start taking care of yourself.
When you start taking care of yourself, you're going to see, how it's going to be easier to start trusting other. It's going to be easier to start relating with others. And it's not going to be directly. It's going to be through something that you like, and enjoy to do. Ask yourself. What do I enjoy and how can I start doing it?
MELANIE THOMPSON: Absolutely. So let's talk about when you started to think about your future. When you started to see your life outside of the court system, having to go through different organizations and places. What kind of tools helped you think about planning for your future. What kind of things helped you along that journey?
CRISTIAN EDUARDO: The first thing that I did, when I was more stable, quote on quote. It was like, do I want to live like this all the time? In shelter? Do I want to lawyer, social worker be behind me all the time? What do I want to do right now? I start to asking these question, and I was like, no. I don't have to live in the shelter all my life. I don't want a social worker behind me all the time. Okay, so what can we do now?
You need to sit down yourself to be honest. You're the only person knows better about you. Even if people ask you 100 times, 1000 times, things, you are the best person that knows yourself. Ask yourself, what do I want to do? Don't be pessimist. Don't be negative like, nah, it doesn't matter My dreams or my goal, I'm not going to achieve it. If you say that to yourself, trust me. That is going to happen. Let's change a little bit, the narrative. What do I want to do? For myself, it was I want to become and engineer, help people and educate people about human trafficking. In that moment, trust me, I was like, well, that's crazy right now. I'm living in a shelter. I don't have food. I'm learning English. And I was like, how am I going to achieve that? That's impossible.
But I start to ask around myself. Do you have resources for me to get back to college? How can I improve my English? The reality is that I start volunteering in organization that matched my dream. I started to look for activities that match my goals and my dreams and at the same time that opened new doors for me.
That is why I started to gather resources. I discovered that through time, when you start doing that, you are planting a tree. You are the seed and when you start reaching out and asking all these questions, you start growing the roots. The roots are growing. The more doors and people you know, the trees start growing, like grow and grow and grow but everything is going to be rooted around what do you want to do and believing that you are going to achieve your goals and your dreams.
MELANIE THOMPSON: I like that. I especially like, that you went and tried to volunteer in places that match with your dreams. Oftentimes, we have all of these dreams when we were younger, and we feel like either it's so far away or so far fetched or we're not going to be able to reach it, but volunteering in these places gets you closer to that. And it helps change your mindset, so I really like that.
For the youth feel like they may not ever get to a place of long term healing, and we all know that healing is not an overnight process. I consider the life long process. But I remember when I was younger, I felt like I was never going to be healed either. I felt like I would never be able to overcome all of the things that I've went through. What advice do you have for any young people listening to this, that maybe feeling that same way right now?
CRISTIAN EDUARDO: Listen. Listen very careful. You are not the only one. Do you think that I'm not suffering anxiety and depression, sometimes panic attacks? Healing is very individual. It's just in the core of yourself, in your heart, in your soul, in your body, in your mind, in your own universe. That's the first thing that you need to learn. Never compare your healing with other person. I think that we associate healing with smiling, having energy. You don't need to 100% heal. And to be honest, I'm still healing. You don't need to heal or to be full heal, and to be open to be able to smile, to enjoy things. Don't give up. It's hard. Trust me. Six years ago, five years ago, all the transition started. I was having panic attacks on the subway. I wasn't able to use the subway. I was afraid of speaking to people. So afraid to making a phone call.
To be honest, a lot of times I even encounter myself after years. And this is years, that I am thinking about what happened to me. But there is a huge difference. In the beginning, I was blaming myself. I was the one to be carrying the guilt. I was always like, you weren't enough to taking care of yourself. But you know what? Now, I'm more compassionate on myself. I have love for myself and I understand that it wasn't my fault. That it wasn't because I was doing the wrong choices. It was because I was in a vulnerable position, that I was exploited, that people with more power, with privilege, were taking advantage of me, and I didn't have the tools that I have now to protect myself. That's the reality and I think that every time that I look back on my trafficking situation, even if I'm afraid, a lot of times of being trafficked, I asked myself, how can I avoid it? How can I help others to don't go through that? That really helped me to change how I feel around my trafficking situation. Because I have been opened to heal and now I am able to ask for help, even when I'm feeling very badly, I ask or call my friend like, you know what? Can we come out? Can we speak? Because I'm feeling bad.
Because I was open because I was able to ask for support and receive support. Now I have all these people around me and when we say all these people, it can be one person or two person that I can really trust and I can be there with them, be myself. Your trafficking situation is going to give a scar on you, but it's also a scar that shows how strong you are, that you didn't give up, that you are resilient and that you are such a powerful human being. Never forget that. Man, I have this scar. And imagine that scar. To be honest, I imagine that scar across my chest, I was having this amazing fight and you know what? I won. I am still here. That's why this is given me strength. So it depends on you how you want to see your scar. Don't give up. Keep going and trust me. You're stronger than you think. Healing is a very gradual process. A lot of times, it was very slow. A lot of times, you're feeling like, oh my God! Finally, I think I can do all these things. Suddenly you discovered that you're having healed so many other things. Healing is going to take time. I will say that as Melanie said, healing is going to take probably your lifetime. But you don't need to see it as, oh my God! So I'm going to be always suffering, I’m going to be always sad. I believe that to be honest, the universe around us, I think that we are conditioned to believe that the world around us is ready to give us trauma. It's always giving us pain. It's always giving us sadness.
But I personally believe that the world is always trying to heal us. But if we are not open to be healed, then we are just going to see trauma, sadness, pain. For real, every movie that I see, every book, every conversation that I have, every single new person that I know, I'm always asking myself. What can I learn from this? And every learning opportunity is a healing opportunity for me because I can connect things that I didn't understand before and allow myself to feel, give that compassion to myself. That's a love. I know that it's hard a lot of times, but taking care of myself for real. I imagine myself as a tree. Winter is coming. Drought is coming. The sun is coming. Everything is trying to destroy you, but at the same time, around you, there is water, there is soil, there is energy that you can take to continue growing and continue healing.
Healing is not only about going to therapy and doing yoga. That's what do we see in movies, but that's not the reality. Healing can be present in so many ways, so be open about it. Let yourself connect with the universe, with the world, with people and start that process of healing.
MELANIE THOMPSON: I love that. That's really beautiful. What message would you tell a young person who's currently going through or just recently finished going through the justice system?
CRISTIAN EDUARDO: I am here and I want you to hear that. Don't give up. I want you to share a little bit of hope, energy. Don't give up, even on your darkest day. Wake up. Shake it. Move around. Stand up and just shake it and say, “Okay I know that it's very bad. It's very bad but I need to change it.” If you start taking a step, things are going to change. Never forget your dreams and your goals. You have all the rights, and we're going to give you all the support to achieve all those dreams and goals. You have everything to achieve your dreams. Never doubt yourself. Put yourself in front of that mirror. Stop looking for the hero that is going to come and help you. Look at the mirror and say, you are the hero, because you are the one who saved yourself. You are the one who survived. You are the one, who, even after all that craziness, are still here breathing, standing up and you are going to achieve everything that you want.
MELANIE THOMPSON: Amazing. Let's talk a little bit, really briefly. Tell me something that you're doing now in your life. What are you doing, with other advocates around the country?
CRISTIAN EDUARDO: I am an advocate about human trafficking and not only that. I'm working on different states, including Louisiana, Maine, Washington DC, New York. Actually about all this legislation laws about human trafficking. And also, I am a co-founder for an organization called United immigrants of New York. I'm helping also older immigrants, older people through resources, like recording videos about how can they do better, giving them information. And at the same time, I am Mechanical Engineering student. So never be afraid of your goals. It doesn't matter how far they look like, you're going to achieve it. Ask for help. Don't hesitate about yourself.
MELANIE THOMPSON: Absolutely. Are there any national current advocacy efforts that young people should know about?
CRISTIAN EDUARDO: Yes. I think that it's very, very important to read about the equality model. If you want to do this in the future, there are groups that can advocate, learn about all this legislation. What is human trafficking and why aren't we doing the best. So if you want to do it, especially around human trafficking, read about what is equality model. Ask about what is happening in your state, in your city. Is there any conversation about it? Because I think that that's very, very important.
MELANIE THOMPSON: Is there any place young people can go to read about the equality model?
CRISTIAN EDUARDO: Yes, if you put New Yorkers for the equality model, you are going to find a lot of information. There's another site that is called Equal Non-Exploitive, that you can read also a lot of information and you can also look for me on Instagram, Facebook, Cristian Eduardo and you are going to see some of the work that I'm doing, who I am right now, all the things that I'm working on. And always super happy to talk with you or if you have any question, if you want any resource, I am always super happy to share with you some resources.
MELANIE THOMPSON: Lastly, is there any last messages or ending thoughts that you would want to tell any of the survivors listening to this? Is there something that you would have said to your younger self?
CRISTIAN EDUARDO: Yes. When I was at my darkest moment, I never believe that I was going to make it. To be honest, I didn't want to live. I didn't want to continue. I didn't want to follow up, but you are worthy. You are worthy. You are more than enough. It doesn't matter what you went through. It doesn't matter what you did. You deserve love, respect, and compassion. You deserve to be treated as a full human being. Never, never forget that. It’s like you have a flame inside, in the middle of you, in your soul and that flame has been always there. It's just that sometime, you cannot feel it. There's a lot of time that you cannot see that light, but that light and that flame is always inside you. Go for your dreams. Don't be afraid of dreaming. Go for those goals, even if they look so far away. Never, never, never, never, never, never give up. One step at a time. One step at a time. You are going to achieve it.
MELANIE THOMPSON: One step at a time. Thank you so much Cristian Eduardo for your time today.
This has been such an amazing conversation. I want to thank you Cristian for your wisdom, for your boldness, and for your incredible work. To learn more about the work that Cristian is doing with the United Immigrants of New York, you can visit their Facebook page or their Instagram page. And if you’d like to hear more podcasts like this, we encourage you to check out the rest of the series that covers topics such as building connections and trust within the justice system, creating a community of support, and the opportunities for the future.
CRISTIAN EDUARDO: Thank you so much.