I'll start this blog with a wonderful update on the Proniño Christmas sponsorship. As of December 12th, ALL of the kids are sponsored! (That's 3 days before the cutoff date.) And there were at least 10 other people that were planning on sponsoring a child, but they had already been snapped up. Thank you to everyone that sponsored a child, wanted to sponsor a child or just wanted to talk to me about these kids. I never get tired of it. =) And for everyone that sponsored, I'll be coming back with pictures and videos for you in January. So fun!
But there was something else going on at the same time that I didn't want to blog about because it was so opposite the joys of the sponsorship program. In the first week of December my very worst fear happened. Richar ran away, along with Edgar and 2 other boys I don't know very well. I couldn't believe it. And I felt so helpless being here in the States. The first day I was in a bit of a fog. I think I spent a lot of time staring at the computer screen. The second day I got mad at them for making poor decisions. Mad at Edgar because I took him off the streets less than two months ago!! I just didn't understand how he could forget how much he hates the streets so quickly. And mad at Richar for putting me through the emotional ringer. It's a selfish reason, I know. The third day I emailed everyone I know in Honduras asking them to look for the kids and telling them where they might be able to find them. And then I just waited and prayed and hoped and hoped that I'd get an email telling me that they had been found. There were some encouraging moments - like when the Rink family in Texas decided to sponsor Edgar for Christmas even though they knew he wasn't at the home. They decided they were going to pray for him to be safely returned to Pronino by Christmas and they wanted to make sure that he had some gifts waiting there for him. So awesome. But in general, I was spending a lot of time worrying. Worrying that they were hungry, cold, would turn to drugs and that I'd never see them again.
Two weeks after they ran, they were found outside of a grocery store in San Pedro by the efforts of a few amazing Pronino employees that drove around and around and around the neighborhood trying to track them down. I finally got that email I'd been waiting for - telling me they're safe and spent the next hour jumping around the house and calling people to share the wonderful news. I'm heading to Honduras in less than two weeks and am so excited that I'll be able to see them, but there is this nagging voice in my head saying "It's probably going to happen again."
So many people have asked me why the kids run away. And I really wish I knew the answer. All I have are lots of theories. So, I thought I would share them with you and maybe we can get a discussion going. I would love to hear other people's insights. My number one theory is that the kids make decisions based on how they are feeling right now. Pronino is a home full of street smart pre-teen and teenage boys and they tend to resolve problems with their fists as opposed to talking about their feelings. I think that when they are mad or upset they just want to remove themselves from the situation. So they leave. I think Richar is a perfect example of this. When he's angry, his anger takes over everything and rational thought just goes out the window. There is no thought of what am I going to eat tonight? or where am I going to sleep? It's just a thought of I don't want to be bothered anymore!
Theory #2 is a desire for adventure. Things can get pretty dull when you eat, sleep and play in the same building all day every day. And the first day on the street, going wherever you want, doing whatever you want, is probably appealing at times. Once again - very little thought about the day after or the day after that. I think Edgar would definitely fall into that category. He's bored and sick of the kids making fun of him (the back of his head's pretty flat and some of the kids like to pretend that it's a landing strip, which Edgar really doesn't like) and someone whispers a plan to run away. I could see him being down for that.
Theory #3 is that they want to return to their families. Many of the kids have parents and siblings and some live nearby. And absence makes the heart grow fonder. No matter how bad things were with the family, it's still family. It's your identity, your roots. And that desire to be loved and cared for by your parents doesn't go away. And no matter how much we tell them that they have the opportunity for a good future by going to school and getting an education and that their parents will make them beg on the streets or sell vegetables from a cart for pennies, they aren't at the stage developmentally that they can really make a good decision. One of the boys that had run away 3 times in the 4 months I was able to go regularly kept leaving to find his mom. I talked to him one day after he had been found and returned and asked him what he was going to do when he was 30. He looked at me with shocked eyes and repeated incredulously "30?!?!" That's when it really hit me that it's hard to think that far ahead. And not just for "these kids". Few 12 year olds in any country could consistently make good life decisions! He just wants his mom.
So what's the answer? This is the part where someone reading this writes a comment and solves everything. Please. I don't know that we'll ever have an answer that works 100% of the time. But I have a theory for this, too. =) We keep going out, looking for them and bringing them back. It's like the parable of the lost sheep. One is missing, so we leave the rest and search high and low for that little sheep until he's back with the flock. Show them that even if their family isn't going to fight for them, someone is. And even though they don't fully understand it, keep telling them that there is a future for them and they deserve to be given a chance, sometimes over and over again. And there are stories of kids that were so unstable, kept running away, kept being brought back, then stabilized. There's an amazing kid in Pronino that was on the streets, addicted to crack at age 10. He was brought to Pronino, then ran away. A worker found him on the street again, but he wasn't willing to return. Finally, he was convinced to come back and now he's drug free and in school. And he's so smart! Someone told me that the kids call him the scientist because he's so inquisitive and always wanting to learn. Can you imagine what would've happened to him if people weren't persistent in bringing him back?
So I fear that they'll run again, but I also hope that with some persistence, this will become their home, even if it's not the one they would've chosen!
Only 9 more days til I can see this wonderful child again!