One year ago today I moved back to the States. I remember how much I cried and how fearful I was that this was going to be the beginning of me closing the chapter of my life that intensely involved orphans and street kids. As I sit here a year later, with at least 8 emails from people interested in learning more about the kids and how they can help that I STILL haven’t responded to, planning the details of the 5 trips I’ll be taking in 2012 and thinking about how much closer I am to the kids today than I was when I lived there I’m in awe of the sometimes surprising path our lives can take. Knowing this date was coming I’ve been thinking a lot about how in the world I got to this place. And really the point of the story is that we really shouldn’t say things like “I could never….”
Sean and I didn’t go to Honduras to work with kids. He was going to build a camp and I was going to work with teams, or teach English, or …. who knew? We had been there about a month when I stumbled onto the website of a organization in Tegucigalpa (the capital) that works with street boys. No idea how I got there. I mean, I was probably googling ‘recipes’ so I have no clue how it happened. But I remember being fascinated by this website and this ministry and looked at so many pictures of skinny, dirty boys with bags or bottles of glue pressed to their mouths. But it was the same type of fascination that I looked at National Geographic photos as a child – drawn in by the strangeness, but slightly thankful that I wasn’t anywhere near it. After reading about the Micah Project I remember thinking that I was glad that someone was moved to work with these kids, but that person definitely wasn’t me.
Three or four months later we randomly received a tour of Nueva Esperanza from the Director of Orphan Helpers. It was overwhelming. It didn’t smell good. We had brought our still very sick dog with us (not the greatest idea, but it’s a long story…) and nearly the entire time I was there I just wanted to get Chamaco back to the safety of our truck. Looking back on my very strong reaction – why did I then blog about it, publicly inviting my mother-in-law to spend a week with us in the center? All part of the plan…
In May of 2010 Edna and her sister came and we spent the week with the babies. I ONLY wanted to be with the babies. I finally gave in to Edna’s suggestion to do something with the older kids even though it would be chaotic. And, man, was it chaotic. But that’s when I met Richar. And my life was literally changed. In the next few months I started contacting children’s homes begging them to accept a sweet boy with slight (ahem) anger problems. I spent more and more time with the older boys in Nueva Esperanza. It wasn’t so much that I automatically liked them better than the babies, toddlers or older girls. They just fought so much. And seemed constantly angry or sad. But all it took was one little hand game or making a silly face and they became kids again. So my afternoons there became mostly filled with distracting the fighting boys with games or silliness.
Then I got a response to my pleas for someone to take Richar in from Proniño. Turns out that Richar used to be in Proniño but had run away. And they said they’d gladly accept him if he wanted to return. I remember reading that email roughly a dozen times to make sure I wasn’t missing the catch that would show me that this was in fact too good to be true…
In August he was moved to Proniño and I started visiting this strange new place once a week. It makes me laugh now to remember how I ONLY went to Proniño for Richar and would get fairly frustrated with the other kids that would hang around us when I was there. Now if I get 10 minutes of one on one conversation with him in the two weeks I’m there – it’s been a good trip!
Of course, as I spent more time there, the kids quickly grew on me. I was going for Richar. Then Richar and Roger and Wilmer. Then Richar and Roger and Wilmer and Miguel Angel and… you get the point. But this was another life altering step in this process. I wasn’t just in a children’s home. I was in a home for former street kids.
In October, roughly a year after I first read about street kids, one of the kids I was closest to in Nueva Esperanza, Edgar, ran away. About two weeks after he ran, I found him at a gas station in San Pedro. So dirty. Obviously high on glue. But this wasn’t a strange boy in a picture. This was Edgar. A year after I thought I could never work with those kids, I had dirty and high Edgar in my truck on our way to Yann’s house with boxes of pizza on his lap.
It really is incredible how much can change in a year.