Jeska Sta.Teresa and The JAYU human rights award


Maternal Support Practitioner Certification Scholarship – Fall 2021

Jeska the JAYU human rights award

What makes me different is my advantage

My name is Jeska Sta.Teresa, from the Philippines. My mother is the head of our household, alongside her twin who is a 2nd mom to us. I have a sister. I’m younger but people call me the “big-sis”. We have different fathers, mine is Nigerian and was completely absent from my childhood. Growing up, I was the only one here with an afro, darker skin, and a different figure. I couldn’t help but stand out and I was always made aware of it. People always ask me “Where are you really from?”, and A LOT of questions about my hair. One day someone asked me if I could model for their new clothing line and my career grew from there. I’ve been freelancing for 3 years now. It’s teaching me a lot about the art of communications and marketing. I’m also a student of Humanities & Social Sciences. I had to take a couple of gap years from formal education due to personal challenges. In retrospect, It has a lot to do with my suspected ADHD. I’m hoping a professional will be able to confirm it soon.

I loved learning so much, I actually wanted to quit school.

My main reason to take a break was the need to start working to help pay the bills. I also couldn’t help but notice I was learning more outside of my high school. I was no longer in a formal classroom setting, but I didn’t stop learning. Fortunately, we live in the Age of Information, and I’m able to take advantage of open-source resources. Interest-led learning got me to choose integrative community development as my main focus. “Why do we do what we do, the way that we do it?” is my favorite question to ask every chance I could. Some people might call it nitpicking or complaining, I say it’s being aware that there is always room for improvement. Always having a vision of a better world in my mind, my mission is to turn that dream world into reality.

Always room for self-improvement.

My current living situation isn’t ideal, challenged with limiting beliefs and bad habits. As “middle class” in a nation with a large wage gap, familiar with people from both the higher and lower end of the economic spectrum, I grew up witnessing the difference having reliable access to resources has. Psycho-socioeconomic factors have so much control over someone’s quality of life. Research explains the mechanisms and consequences of adverse childhood experiences on adult health. ACEs range from abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction linked to premature death as well as various health conditions. ACEs can also result in an increased likelihood to repeat toxic behavioral patterns, perpetuating generational trauma. Enduring adversity and trauma while lacking much-needed support is difficult. I’m healing from my fair share of personal struggles as well. In the early stages of healing, mindfulness and gratitude allow me to become more resourceful and empathetic. For the most part, everyone is trying the best they can with the knowledge and experience that they’ve gathered.

It’s difficult to compete with current power structures but that’s exactly what I want to change

Considering the gaps, obstacles, and barriers of entry we have to face, some of us need to try even harder. I’m concerned for marginalized, oppressed, and under-served communities. We shouldn’t have to live like this because the knowledge and resources to solve these problems already exist, we just need order. We need to act as a collective with a common goal in order to overcome structural and systemic roadblocks. I want to break barriers that hinder our community from thriving. I want us to break free from the generational cycle of adversity, trauma, and poverty. Would we be able to do that if we allow the very system that we aim to change, hold us back? We must find a way to transform what’s holding us back into something that will propel us forward.

Each day is an opportunity to learn, heal and grow

To develop resilience, drive, and compassion. I practice self-compassion by affirming myself with these words:

I don’t have to see the whole staircase to take another step
It is safe for me to let go of what is no longer serving me
I am patient with my progress; I am exactly where I need to be
I love my faults because they help me learn to become a better person
I take the time to heal and rest when I need to
I am not alone; I receive the support that I need
I am supported, I am loved, I am free

I’m beyond grateful to receive the Jayu Human Rights Award for Bebo Mia’s Maternal Support Practitioner fall 2021 cohort

I met two Filipino doulas who went through the same training with Bebo Mia. Aren Czerin Arguelles-Dandan, MSP of Kaligtasan Parental Support Services and Ria Magundayao, MSP of Gracious Birth Philippines. They were introduced by tita Owie Dela Cruz, mentor and executive director of Abot Tala, a self-directed co-learning hub in the Philippines. There is strength in having a community that offers a unique educational support system. With mentorship, apprenticeship, and training, Launchpad is a program for young adults where access to resources to “launch” careers is granted. It is a space to develop future-proof skills, build a professional network, and cultivate passion projects. Sharing space with a supportive community with various backgrounds and interests is beneficial. We’re empowered to learn to navigate the multiple pathways of our potential.

Innovation is found in the intersections

One of my biggest interests is the concept of interconnectedness itself. We have the power to make an impact to change our environment, vise-versa our environment has the power to change us. When we overlook this connection, we are left with destructive behavior that produces unsustainable practices and generations of suffering. We must tackle problems from the root, investing in trauma-informed community development and regenerative permaculture. Our brains are malleable. Experiential feedback loops create connections in our brain that affect our response. Relationships, parenting, and caregiving dynamics are crucial.

If it takes a village to raise a child then somebody must take care of the village too

community development organization HalubiloHalubilo, a Filipino word for “to socialize”. For our organization, it means interaction with intention that aligns with the impact of positivity for the community. Our mission is to heal and prevent adverse childhood experiences despite psycho-socioeconomic disadvantages. March 2020, the beginning of lockdown in response to Covid-19. We had to take action and serve as a bridge between people in need and people willing to help.

No matter how little our resources may seem, we have time, talents, connections

Through rough times, my sense of security remained because of my family’s support. I’ve met people who might not have that support, who are surviving below a living wage. Being unable to find work outside for one day means immediate hunger for a lot of families. With help from friends, families, and strangers too, we raised enough to offer micro-funding and feeding programs for hundreds of families, prioritizing young children and single or pregnant parents. Some needed medicine and somebody started their own mini-store. One mother decided to conduct a feeding program for 20-30 neighbors.

While another bought her family a new roof to improve their makeshift home.
That was under $100 for each. Imagine what else we could do with access to more resources?

The dream is to practice a more integrative approach.
I want us to escape extreme poverty and achieve holistic well-being. Everyone deserves abundance beyond extra zeros in bank statements. This scholarship puts me in a better position to help on an even wider scale. By virtue of birth being one of the most sacred, vulnerable, and transformational experiences, birthwork is integrated into this network of development programs. Given the gravity of the experience of giving birth and being born into this world, we could provide more concern for everyone with direct or indirect involvement. It is our responsibility to protect the sanctity of this space. A birthing person and their child deserve a warm welcome into the experience of birth. To enter new beginnings with as much genuine care, love, and support as possible.

Reproductive justice is our birthright

We deserve autonomy and body literacy. Well-informed decision-making is important. It hurts to hear stories of trauma and suffering in reproductive health— from birth, fertility, pregnancy, post-partum and beyond. A lot of this hurt can be avoided. Education can empower us. Reconnecting with our intuition helps us embody confidence, awareness and security. Today, I reconnect by learning how to chart my cycles and how to advocate for myself.

Being a parent starts beyond birth

We are our own caregivers, doulaship begins in self-care. With genuine self-love, you get to know yourself. You then recognize that your environment is an extension of yourself. Knowing this will allow you to have a deeper concern for the environment. This includes the community that you are a part of, as much as it is a part of you. I end with one of my favorite quotes:

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”


Learn more about MSP Scholarship here!




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