Friday, August 27, 2010

He was right outside the gate.

Everything was ready. Today was going to be such a good day. We were going to get a baby the medical attention she desperately needs. German was right outside the gate, talking to the guard. Then we found out that a little piece of paper stating that the government has legal custody doesn't exist. And we had to cancel the appointment.
This is Maria. She is the youngest of a family of 6 six kids currently living in Nueva Esperanza.
When my friends Megan and Debbie were here in July, Megan spent a lot of time with her and quickly noticed that something just wasn't right. Mainly, she was incredibly listless. Had no interest in doing anything.
Megan and Maria

By the second week that Megan was here we were seriously concerned. She had lost a significant amount of weight and could barely hold her head up. When I came back the next week I was happy to hear that she was in the hospital. Perfect! She'll get the help she needs. Two weeks later she was back and looked no better. She was actually worse. So last Friday I decided I really need to do something about this. I went to a malnutrition center in a town near my house to plead her case. They said that as long as she didn't have any other serious illnesses (that they aren't equipped to treat) then she could come. I just needed to get her medical records sent over there. In my mind this was all going to be taken care of by Monday. To make a long story short, I found out that she has bronchitis and may have a heart problem, but she has been waiting for about 2 months to get in to see a specialist. And in the mean time she is getting skinnier and skinnier. The nutrition center said that they wouldn't take her til she's seen a specialist. (Which is frustrating because they have babies dropped off on their doorstep sometimes and they still start to treat them before they have a diagnosis from a specialist. Why is this case different!)

She referred us to a place called Fundacion Bernabe down the road that has a cardiologist. We went and were warmly received by the Doctor. She said that we had to bring the girl to Bernabe today or Monday to have an initial appointment, then they could refer her to a specialist and be seen on Wednesday. Sean and I have a very full day on Monday so it needed to be today. We were ready to drive to San Pedro (about an hour and a half one way), get the child and an IHNFA worker (chaperone), drive them back to Bernabe, be seen by the doctor, and return them both to San Pedro. It was going to be a whirlwind day, but this child NEEDS some medical attention. Then I realized that one of our co-workers, German was in San Pedro. Perfect! We made arrangements for him to pick up Maria and the worker and bring them here and Sean and I would take it from there. Except there was a glitch. Bernabe needs a copy of the paper that says that IHNFA has custody of Maria. But Maria and her siblings aren't in Nueva Esperanza because they've been orphaned, abandoned or abused. They are here because they have a very loving father who unfortunately cannot provide for them financially. So it's essentially like the government is babysitting them for a while. So they don't have legal custody, and the father lives in a town 3 hours away from San Pedro and even though he'd be happy to give consent, we couldn't get to him in time for him to sign anything. We begged and pleaded with Bernabe to just see her today and we promise we'll get the consent form by the time she sees the specialist on Wednesday. Nope. No consent, no appointment.

So we had to tell German to come back. He was literally on the other side of the gate. He was 100 feet from Maria. He had a vehicle to transport her. But he had to turn around. Because of one piece of paper.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


It is with great, great excitement that I write this post. Let me give you a little background info leading up to yesterday. After meeting Richar in May I started researching private homes around Honduras. I heard about one called Pronino that is for street kids and supposedly is pretty good. I planned on contacting them about Richar, but then one day Richar was 'singing' a bunch of Michael Jackson songs to me. (Keep in mind that he doesn't speak English, but was singing to me in 'English' which was more like babbling to the tune of "Billie Jean is not my lover". Priceless.) I asked him where he learned these songs (since there is NO music at NE). He said he learned them when he lived in Pronino. (Excuse me???) I asked if he liked it there and he shrugged his shoulders. So I forgot about it.
Then about a month and a half ago a coworker, Sue, emailed me a link to the website. I spent a few hours reading everything I could about it and got angrier and angrier that he was sent away from there. These kids go to school, have a computer lab and are part of an organization that has a goal to "rehabilitate, educate and reintegrate" these kids and provide education so they can have a future. It's not a family, but it's a definite improvement. So, I emailed them and politely asked why they sent him to Nueva. A month later I received a response saying that he wasn't sent away, but ran away in January. They've been looking for him and would love to have him back if Richard wants to return. Two reactions - If it's a great place, why did he run away? BUT I liked that Kevin (street outreach worker from Pronino) was giving Richar the option to come back. Kevin was also very frank with me - this is a place that works with kids taken off the streets. Although it is a nice place, some of the kids can be pretty rough, they're survivors, and fights aren't uncommon. If you read this blog in May, then you know how Richard responds to getting in a fight so there's a good chance he got in a fight, then bolted in his anger. So, Monday I was excited. Tuesday, I was confused about why he would run and if this truly is a good place for him. Wednesday and Thursday I spent worrying about him running away again. Nueva is not a nice place, but at least I know where he is. The streets? Not an ok option. Friday, I decided that Pronino will give him options in life, IF he can stick with it. And he has to be given that opportunity.
On Thursday I went to Nueva to talk to Richar about if he wants to go back. All the boys were watching a movie (a rare treat) so I was having a hard time getting him to focus on our trivial conversation about where he would live while Toy Story was on. =) But in general, he said that yes, he wants to go back and no he won't run away again. (I hope, I hope, I hope!) So, my plan was to visit Pronino Monday morning, then go back to Nueva to talk to him again (without a TV distracting him) to make sure he still had the same answer.
Ok, now I digress for a minute to tell you about another boy. (This is related to Pronino, I promise.) His name is Roger and I called him mi payaso (my clown). One day in early July I went to Nueva and he wasn't there. I asked where he was and the employees told me he ran away. I asked where to and they said to the street. Gulp. So for the next month, every time we were in San Pedro I was constantly scanning the corners where street kids beg or wash your windows for a little money trying to find him. I was so worried about him. How can a silly kid survive on the street? Last week after I received the email from Pronino about Richar I spent some time looking at their website again. Kevin has a blog and I went to it to look for pictures of any kids that I recognized. This is the story I found: It's a story about 3 brothers in Pronino. One ran away in June of last year and they couldn't find him. They tried one last time at the end of July and found him. Then I saw the picture - the found kid was Roger!! I was so happy he was in a safe place. And this made me even more excited to go to Pronino on Monday.
My understanding of how Pronino works is that when the boys are taken off the streets they spend 3 months to a year in the 'intake' center called Nueva Vida - new life. Many of the boys are addicts so there is a detox process. These kids don't leave the property for school or field trips. When they have proven that they can handle more freedom, the younger boys move to a house called Los Vencedores - the overcomers and the older boys go to Amor y Paz - love and peace. I know there is another center up in the mountains where they learn a trade like welding, electricity, carpentry, etc but I'm not sure what age is in La Montana. So, we arrived at Pronino yesterday morning to find a big field with a handful of buildings. There is a fence, but it's not threatening like the 20 foot concrete walls with barbed wire on top like they have at Nueva. Some of the boys saw us coming and opened the gate for us. Little things started popping out to me. The kids had long hair. (They shave heads at Nueva.) I asked Kevin if everyone shared clothes or if each kid has their own. Each child has their own. We found Roger in Los Vencedores. It was everything I could do to not just immediately grab him up in a huge hug. He recognized that he knew me, but didn't remember my name and or why he knew me, so I thought it would probably be weird for some gringa to squeeze all the air out of him with my hug! I successfully resisted. We continued the tour and Roger tagged along. As we were walking I kept tussling his long hair since I had decided that this wasn't the time or place for bear hugs and had another wonderful realization. His hair was clean! Again, this is not the norm at Nueva.

We got to the classroom in Nueva Vida (intake center) and Kevin cries out "He's here!" I had no idea who he was talking about until the classroom door opened and there was Richar's smiling face! He gave all of us hugs then immediately went back to his seat and kept working on his school work. Kevin talked to him for a minute and Richar said "I'm never ever leaving this place again!" (Oh, I pray that that is true.) We continued on our way so that they could back to class. After a while I asked the question I was the most nervous to hear the answer to: Can we come visit Pronino? Kevin said "Sure!" (Huge sigh of relief) Hmm, but I think it's only on Sundays. . . and only once a month. (Punch in the gut) I quickly tried to explain that we wouldn't be coming just to see Richar. That we would want to be volunteers that would be working with all the boys - seeing Richar would just be bonus. He said, "well, if you can commit to 3 months..." I explained that we do actually have other jobs! He told us to write up a proposal of what we want to do and he'd present it to the director. Pray, pray pray that this works out!

We stayed til Richar was done with class and then talked to him for a few minutes. He was just so happy to be there. And seriously, after 3 days of brushing his teeth (no toothbrushes in Nueva) they are literally whiter. I made him show me his teeth again and exclaimed about how white they are and he dug in his pocket and proudly produced a new toothbrush! AND when he left us to go to lunch he ran to the outside sink and washed his hands first. I know that I'm making a very big deal about some small things but I just love that he's being treated like a human with a future as opposed to an animal in a holding tank. And Pronino has a sponsorship program so we are going to try to find a way to sponsor him at least in part while we're here and then in full when we get home. I know there are going to be many hard days ahead for him, but today I'm just feeling so much joy and hope!

(I really wanted to take a picture of him yesterday. Especially since he was wearing oversized swimming trunks with the Incredible Hulk on them. They may not have fit, but I'm pretty sure he specfically picked those shorts - the kid's obsessed with superheroes! But I would've had to interrupt lunch and since he's new I don't want to draw any more attention to him than is necessary. So next time I'll have a picture of him - probably still in the Incredible Hulk shorts. And a picture of Roger with so much hair!)

Thank you to everyone who has been praying with me for this wonderful child. But don't stop! Don't stop praying for him or the other kids at Nueva. There is still much to do!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Long time no blog...

I can’t believe that it has actually been months since the last time we’ve posted. Those months literally feel like days. Well, maybe more like weeks. Hmm, and months are a combination of weeks so ok, it’s been months! And boy oh boy have we had some full ones! After my last post I wanted to keep everyone constantly updated on the orphanage, but frankly, I think I got into a bit of a rut. I wanted my next post to be in all caps, RICHAR HAS BEEN MOVED TO A HAPPY AND SAFE HOME AND WE HAVE SINGLEHANDEDLY ENDED ALL SUFFERING IN NUEVA ESPERANZA! When that wasn’t how things were unfolding, I didn’t know what to do. And more than anything I just wanted to BE there. I wanted to be hearing the kids’ stories and breaking up fights and teaching them stepping routines and being a consistent person in their lives. But I have many, many other responsibilities. A month or so ago, Sean had a sit down with me in which he said that he knows how much I want to be there but if I really want to make a difference in the lives of these kids I need to form a plan. Ugh, totally right. So, I’ve spent a lot of time since then thinking about how I really need to start coming up with a plan. And thinking about it. And thinking some more. I guess I should actually call it daydreaming because my thoughts were completely without direction!

The jump start that I needed has finally come – I recently gave a tour to a small Heart to Honduras group and one of the guys, Keith, was greatly moved by his experience there. And thankfully, Keith seems to be more of doer than a thinker! The goal is to have groups of Honduran volunteers visiting the orphanage one day every week to teach VBS, play with and get to know the kids. This will hopefully start in September. I visited yesterday with a Pastor from Choloma, Honduras and he and his wife were shocked by the scarcity of resources and the fact that the kids are kept in their rooms for hours during the day instead of being outside playing. Their response was “When can we start?” It’s so encouraging to see a need and immediately know that they want to be part of meeting it. Please pray for us as we talk to other Pastors about getting their church involved in the center. I want to continue bringing groups of North Americans whenever I can but the reality is that these kids need to have some people consistently coming back and forming relationships with them. And that can only happen with Hondurans!

Some photos of recent happenings:

The 2nd week of July brought 2 amazing blessings. Debby Skidmore and Megan Elliot, girls I graduated with from Malone came here for 2 weeks to work with the kids. I've talked to Debby once since graduation - Megan not at all. Megan and I became Facebook friends in June. She read this blog and sent me a message saying "This may be crazy, but I want to come." A month later I was picking her and Debby up from the airport! Totally amazing. We had such a great time reconnecting and serving together. It's amazing how you can lose touch with people for 5 years, then pick right up where you left off. Such a blessing. Debby and Megan - Thank you so much for coming!!!!

Megan with Richar, Jaison and Domingo. At the beginning of their time here I said that they might be surprised by which group of kids grabs their heart the most. When I first came I wanted to work with babies, only. Then these darn boys totally stole my heart and now everything I want to do for Nueva Esperanza is because I know if I help all the kids, these guys will also be helped. Megan made it pretty clear that she was interested in holding babies and she didn't think the same would happen to her. By the end of her time here, here main focus was also the boys. =) You never know what to expect!

Debby with one of her favorites - Elly. Debby was also amazing to me. There are many, many kids in this center with special needs. (Which are going completely unmet.) There are about 10 kids in the nursery ranging in age from 1 to 15 that are severely handicapped and are unable to do anything on their own. Debby had a really hard time with these kids. Their situation just really affected her deeply. And yet, as soon as she got back to the states she emailed asking for more information about two of the kids because they were so on her heart. I just love that instead of being relieved that she was away, she embraced the fact that this made an impact on her life and she wanted to know their stories.

The three of us at Pulhapanzak falls.

Day of the Indian:
July 23rd was the Day of the Indian here in Honduras. It is a celebration of a man named Lempira (now this is the name of Honduran currency). He fought against Spain (I believe!) for Honduras' independence. Or something like that. I'm awful at history. Especially when I'm getting the history lesson in Spanish. But the point is, all the kids at Nueva were little indians on this day. They had a performance, and all the kids dressed up. It was amazing. Isn't she such a beautiful little indian princess? Thanks to Orphan Helpers for making this day happen!

All the kids that weren't in the performance still had special hats and their faces and chests painted. They were so cute!

10 kids performed a cultural dance. It was all very awkward since they are at an age where they are awkward with boys and awkward with their bodies. Which of course, just made the whole thing endearing. =)

Some of the boys that were part of the dance performance. Keep in mind that most of the boys were at least the a foot shorter than the girls. Oh, to be 12 again! Towering over all the boys!!

And now for Richar
Here he is at the Day of the Indian celebration. I wish I could say that so much has happened since our last blog. But, alas, he's still here. After doing lots of research and contacting privately run centers I hit dead end after dead end. The Director told me that if I find him a family in Honduras to live with she'll try to work it out that he can go there. A foster parent sort of situation. So I talked to a Pastor of a large church here in Honduras thinking that surely a family could take him in. The Pastor's response? Taking a boy of that age (his file says he's 10, he says he's 14) is dangerous. Haven't heard anything since. So for now, I'm trying to go as often as possible and am always looking for opportunities to have one on one conversations with him. He has started asking me to take him to live with us in Lake Yojoa. Which breaks my heart a little bit. Especially because I've actually entertained the thought quite seriously. God has a plan for this child. I really want to be part of making it happen!

I really love this picture because it captures him being a silly child. I want him to have a life filled with this! Not fear.

His past is still a complete mystery to me. I know that some of the details from the last blog are wrong. He wasn't separated from his family when trying to get to the US. He was taken from the home when he was 4 because his parents hit him with a belt. When he was 7 he escaped from a center and tried to get to the US via train. But unsuccessfully. He was 'adopted' by a family in Honduras for 3 years, but he can't remember the name of his adopted father, which seems strange. And then recently he told me that when he was a baby he lived in Nueva Esperanza. So nothing really makes sense. And the Director let me see his file. It consisted of the fact that he was male and that they found him wandering the streets when he should have been with his adoptive family. They weren't even sure of his age.
The good news is that the other kids aren't picking on him nearly as much! I've only seen him get angry one time and that was when someone took his spot at the window. And he simmered down pretty quickly. The boys that were such bullies to him before now just sort of ignore him. It's probably been 2 months since he has had a significant bruise or wound, which sadly, is saying something. AND I've never once seen him take advantage of a weaker child. Which for some reason makes me swell with pride. =) It also gives me hope for him. Somehow he's managing to not play the game. At least when I'm around.

I pray that the next time I blog (3 months from now? Ha! Just kidding!) I will have better news about Richar and about all these kids in general!!