At the end of the last post, we still had 3 kids on the street. Read the first post here.
(Actually, according to this site, there are roughly 20,000 kids on the street in Honduras.)
But back to Antony, Carlos and Walter. The story continues…
Today is all about Walter.
Oh this face.
Walter has been on the street since running away in June. Anita, his madrina (sponsor), was on the team in July and she was adamant that we find him. After a few afternoons of asking around, we found him, and brought him to dinner with us.
He swore up and down that he wasn’t living on the street. He said that he takes a bus every day to a nearby street corner where he juggles for the cars at the stoplights for tips, and then takes a bus back before dinner. Hmm. But there was no sway in his decision not to go back. We’d seen him twice and he didn’t seem high either time. Every once in a while I’d catch a whiff of the glue that so many kids huff to get high but it was more in his hair or clothes than in his mouth. I knew that the older boys he was with frequently get high, hence the smell. (I hoped.) It seemed that he was definitely on the edge, playing with fire, but wasn’t all the way in quite yet. And he was adamant that he didn’t want our help….
Back to that day on my last trip, we found Carlos sleeping under a tree with five or six other kids. As I woke him, a dirty little boy in the corner rolled over and sat up. Walter. It seemed that he had now stepped over that line and was making the street his home. As the team shopped at the market, I talked to Walter. He wanted to know how Anita was doing and when she was coming to see him again. (I’m sorry Walter, but she can’t visit you if you’re on the street. – Only a partial fib…) Later he said that he wants to go back, but other kids steal his stuff. I told him that I would buy him a lock if that’s really all that is keeping him on the street. He needed to discuss this with Antony. Nope, not going to go back. Then we talked about his older brother. Sometime in the last few months he had died a gruesome death. And Walter saw the body. This was the event that pushed him fully onto the street. I hugged him for a while as he cried.
( There are so many reasons why a child shouldn’t be on the street. The danger. The drugs. The lack of education. But sometimes it’s the lack of a trusted person to comfort them that gets me the most. To experience a trauma like seeing your murdered brother and not be able to safely grieve…)
A Honduran Pastor that we had worked with earlier in the week came to the airport to say goodbye to the team. And afterwards, he wanted to talk to the boys. He was very polite. He asked where they were from and how old they were and why they were on the street. But watching the boys’ attitudes change so drastically you would’ve thought that he was screaming obscenities at them. It was so strange. (Sean’s theory is that even though he was kind, he seems like a strong authority figure.) I knew chances were slim that any of them were going to come back with us before the talk, but recovery was absolutely not possible after the talk. And Walter was the most belligerent.
And then the part of the story happened where they all started walking back to San Pedro.
I was leaving the country on Tuesday and just couldn’t leave without looking for these three one more time to see if they had regretted Sunday’s decision. I shared my plan to go look for them with Adonay. And he immediately asked if he could come with me. I was hesitant after the disaster with the Pastor. But he said that the kids know him, trust him and he’ll be coming with more wisdom than me since he knows what it’s like to be a child living in Proniño. Good point, Adonay. I’ve talked to some kids before about who
they have in their lives that they can trust. Adonay’s name has been mentioned more than once. So I thought I’d give it a try. Because of their school schedule, Juan Carlos was available to come as well. As evidenced by past posts about him, I am constantly impressed by this child. BUT, being a very typical teenage boy, when he’s around the kids who have just arrived from the street, he’s indifferent and aloof at best. I told him he could come, but he might have to wait in the car as Adonay and I talk to the kids. He gave me his best ‘stop being ridiculous’ look and said “I can be kind when I need to be.”
We hit the road early Tuesday morning and found Walter right away. I woke him up and asked if he wanted to get breakfast with us. As we walked to the car, Juan Carlos and Adonay each put an arm around him. They immediately started asking about why he ran, what he’s doing on the street and why he is choosing to stay. I was really wishing I had had my camera with me. To see dirty little Walter absolutely beaming in between older, confident and clean Adonay and Juan Carlos as they gently chatted with and encouraged him….goosebumps.
While I drove, I asked him where he wanted to eat. (I don’t care.) I asked what he’s doing today. (I don’t know.) I suggested going to Proniño. (Vehemently shakes his head.) Then Adonay leaned over and said “Come on kid, why would you choose the street over Proniño?” To which Walter responded “Vamanos!” (Let’s go.) Seriously? That’s it? That’s all it took?
I immediately changed course and headed for Progreso. As we drove, Walter was asking questions about anything that has changed since he left. Then he started complaining about having to do chores. At that moment, Juan Carlos turned around and said, “One day you can become like me or like Adonay. We are studying in a private school, we have more freedom and we are heading toward success. All you need is a little patience and strength.” What 16 year old says that?? I felt like I had just stepped into an award winning after school special. (Those exist, right?)
So, after a quick breakfast at Burger King,
Walter is safely back in Proniño.
I do believe I found myself a little street outreach team.
And I left the country at 50%.
(This is part 2 of a 4 part story. To read the next part, click here.)