Milton is another child that I first met at Nueva Esperanza. He was one of the biggest kids in the center but wouldn’t hurt a fly. He’s a gentle giant at 5 feet 4 inches. Slightly developmentally disabled he seems a lot younger than he really is. And amidst all of the chaos and fighting in Nueva, more often than not, you’d find him smiling.
In May, to my joy, he was transferred to Proniño. And as I loping his way to give him a congratulatory hug you can imagine my surprise when he stopped me with a frown and slightly desperate question.
“When are you going back to Nueva?”
(What I thought:)
“Why would you ever want to think about that horrible place ever again?!?!”
(What I said:)
“Um, probably Thursday.”
“Can you get the stuff I left there?”
“Sure. What stuff?”
“Two pairs of shoes, a shirt, a coloring book, and a picture of me and my grandma.“
1) It still always amazes me when I realize how little the kids have that is their own. The things he listed are the only things that are his.
2) Pictures and memories of family are so important to the kids. No matter how old, blurry, of poor quality. It’s proof they have somebody. One of my absolute favorite things is when I can be at one of the centers on visiting day so I can take pictures of the kids with their visitors and they can have a tangible memory of that day and that person. But I digress….
I told him that of course I’d get him his things and went on my way. Now, because of his disabilities, he has a really hard time remembering simple instructions or information that he receives. So, I kid you not, the rest of the day, every 10 – 30 minutes he would ask
“When can you get my stuff from Nueva?”
“Thursday, Milton. I’ll get it on Thursday.”
When I arrived at Proniño the next day:
“Did you get my stuff from Nueva? I have a picture of me and my abuelita.”
“Sorry, Milton, but nope. Today is Sunday. And I’m not going til Thursday.”
We finally got to point that when he would ask when I was going I’d stop what I was doing and ask him to think about it and tell me when I was going. He’d think for a minute, then say “Thursday!” For the next few days, every time I saw him (and sometimes shouted from afar) I would hear
“Thursday! You’re going to get the picture of me and my abuelita on Thursday!”
Thursday finally came. I went to the Social Worker at Nueva and we chatted as I went through his plastic grocery bag of belongings.
Two pairs of shoes. Check. One shirt. Check. One coloring book. Check. One picture of Milton and his grandma. Che….wait a minute…. This woman is NOT Milton’s abuelita. She could potentially be mine, but definitely not his. I flipped the picture over to see a letter written on the back. This woman had written about how much she cared about him and would be praying for him. And that she would never forget him. Throughout the letter she referred to herself as his adopted grandma or gringa grandma.
I returned to Proniño later that day and gave a delighted Milton his things. I told him that I thought I was getting a picture of him and his real grandma. He smiled and said
“She’s my adoptive grandma. And she said she’s not going to forget me.”
So can you make a difference? Stephanie did with Manuel. And the gringa grandma did with Milton. So, yeah, I think you can too. I leave you with two things.
1) Please come meet these kids. Brighten their lives a little bit. (May 20-27. $700 + airfare. Contact me with questions.)
2) If you have met these kids, I am ALWAYS willing to bring your letters, photos, whatever to them. If you are reading this and thinking about that one kid that you just can’t forget about, please, take a few minutes and tell him that. I’m leaving again on March 22nd, and am completely willing to translate letters as long as I get them a few days before I leave. It matters to them. Really. Scouts honor.