It feels like forever ago that all of ‘this’ started. Yet the first memories are still vivid. I remember where I was in the Nueva Esperanza dining room when I gave Richar my first hug. I remember where the huddle of rubber necking kids surrounded Richar’s fight. I still have some of the rocks that Richar hurled at all us after he broke away. I remember where we were sitting in the boy’s dorm after all of the tormenting boys finally left. (Sean, with his back to the door. Me on his right. Richar completing the circle.) And of course, I remember what he said.
I don’t want to be here.
I want my mommy.
God please help me.
The words pierced me so deeply that I asked Sean later if Richar had been speaking English. I remember which bunk he was laying on when we left and the feeling that I was abandoning him to who knows what for the evening.
The Children’s Home Project exists because I wanted Richar to be safe. I spent weeks daydreaming about adopting him. He deserved a family, stability, safety, love. Sure, it would turn our lives upside down, but why was he not worth that?
Instead of living with us, he went to live in Proniño and the rest (of TCHP) is history. Most kids struggle with stability and his was one of the most severe cases. He ran away constantly. He got in fights constantly. But we were going to have success with him. We had to. He is why TCHP exists.
He got older and it became harder to get him to come back. (More of that in the next post.) But I have learned to trust the process. Trust the ups and downs. Wilmer is an example of a hopeless situation turning itself around when the child is ready. So, Richar. I haven’t seen him in two years, but…this isn’t over, right?
Last year, one of our boys, Denis, returned to Proniño after spending some time in another home. This home happens to be the last place that I saw Richar. Denis….Our relationship has greatly improved, but a year ago, he searched for ways to punish me. And he has quite the memory. He knows I love Richar so one day he drops a bomb on me. “Richar is dead.” After reminding myself to show no weakness, I feign lack of interest and ask him how in the world he would know that? “The director of Crea told me.” Ok, tell me how to get ahold of this guy. What’s his name? (I don’t remember) Why would he tell you about it? (He just did.) How can I get more info? (I don’t know. I don’t think the director is there anymore.) Oh Denis, I will not allow you to twist that knife in my heart…. His lack of info allowed me to let it go as an attempt to manipulate.
Two weeks ago, a picture of Richar popped up in my Facebook memories. I shared it with the comment that I wished I knew where he was. A Proniño employee bluntly commented “He was killed in San Pedro some time ago.” (#yesthatwasinappropriate)
This was a much more reliable source. But what was her source? So I dug and from what I can surmise, Denis was not lying.
Richar, the one child that I wanted to help, was killed on the streets of San Pedro.
There are so many unfilled blanks that will remain that way regardless of how infuriating this is to me. He had no identification. I’m sure he was seen and treated as one more addict, thief, animal that got what was coming to him.
But he wasn’t. He was Richar Rodriguez Fuentes. Age 14 or 17. (No one really knew.) He had a story and a past and his life had a purpose. He loved fantasy. (Often lived in his own little made up world.) He once fell ‘in love’ with a girl named Dulce who was so far out of his league that I just wanted to squeeze him. (Remember…his handle on reality was not awesome.) He told stories of grandeur in which I could rarely parcel out fact from fiction.
He was a child that was so severely wronged by this world. I hate that so much of him will forever remain a mystery. And it’s hard not to see this as the ultimate failure. Again I say, HE should have been the one that above all else, was a success. But he wasn’t. And there literally is not a darn thing we can do about it.
But Richar, you left your mark on me. A mark that will never go away. Any success that we do have, is because of you. We exist because of you. I’m so sorry we were unable to find the key that would unlock what you needed to heal. But you were loved, so very much.