We live in a society of selfies and status postings; how you look can dramatically affect your self-esteem more than ever before. But add to that being mauled by a raccoon, or left for dead in a horrific house fire, and it can be a living hell. The physical and emotional scars can be unbearable when you are faced with the cruelty of the world. But there’s hope…

Burn survivor Lesia Cartelli is sharing her experience and helping girls navigate the permanent disfigurement left from traumatic injuries. The stares, unwanted questions and rejection are the reality this special group of survivors deals with on a daily basis.

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Lesia knows this is true because she lived through it herself. Her desire to heal from a natural gas explosion at age nine that left her seriously burned over 50% of her face and body, encouraged her to create Angel Faces® for girls and women who suffer disfigurements from traumatic injuries. This year, two retreats will be held concurrently in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, on June 16 – 23, 2019.

Over thirty adolescent and young women (ages 13-26) with disfiguring traumas will come together on a private compound on Lake Winnipesaukee to heal. They come from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma Texas, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Ontario, Canada, and their stories will tug at the hearts of your audience.

During the multi-day retreats, survivors hear first-hand from Cartelli about her injuries and methods she used to recover. Through role-playing, the girls learn strategies on how to handle staring, teasing and intrusive questions, and during daily yoga, art therapy, lake play and intensive sessions, the participants begin to let their social armor down. The truth of the effect of their trauma is exposed so they can begin to heal. Licensed psychologists and clinical cosmetic professionals are also on hand to lead groups.

“Our retreats are only the first component to healing,” Cartelli explains. “Seeing our participants realize they are not the ‘burned or disfigured girl;’ they are a daughter, sister, a good soccer player, etc., first. Their trauma is an experience (a reservoir within themselves they can now access for courage), but it’s not who they are.

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I hear from their families or medical centers that referred them that after they return home with the tools they learned at the retreat, they are much more confident and self-assured in the real world—ending their social death. Now that gets me excited!”

Her own experiences on the long road to healing inspired Lesia to write a book as a way of helping others in their journey. Heart of Fire demonstrates how to discover blessings and gifts within any challenge, and the importance of opening our hearts to deeply heal what blocks our life’s pathway. In her book, Lesia also teaches the power of embracing our fears—something she did herself at age thirty-three when she faced her fear of fire and suited up in full firefighting gear to enter a burning building known as a “control burn.” A beautiful side note to the story is that after she conquered her fear, she married the fire captain who actually led her into the fire.

Angel Faces®, founded in 2003, is a non-profit organization headquartered in Encinitas, CA, whose mission is to provide healing retreats and ongoing support for adolescent girls and young women with severe and permanent disfigurement from burn/trauma injuries so they may achieve their optimum potential and develop meaningful relationships for themselves, their families, and their communities.

For more information, please visit the Angel Faces website at www.angelfaces.com.


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