It is with great, great excitement that I write this post. Let me give you a little background info leading up to yesterday. After meeting Richar in May I started researching private homes around Honduras. I heard about one called Pronino that is for street kids and supposedly is pretty good. I planned on contacting them about Richar, but then one day Richar was ‘singing’ a bunch of Michael Jackson songs to me. (Keep in mind that he doesn’t speak English, but was singing to me in ‘English’ which was more like babbling to the tune of “Billie Jean is not my lover”. Priceless.) I asked him where he learned these songs (since there is NO music at NE). He said he learned them when he lived in Pronino. (Excuse me???) I asked if he liked it there and he shrugged his shoulders. So I forgot about it.
Then about a month and a half ago a coworker, Sue, emailed me a link to the website. I spent a few hours reading everything I could about it and got angrier and angrier that he was sent away from there. These kids go to school, have a computer lab and are part of an organization that has a goal to “rehabilitate, educate and reintegrate” these kids and provide education so they can have a future. It’s not a family, but it’s a definite improvement. So, I emailed them and politely asked why they sent him to Nueva. A month later I received a response saying that he wasn’t sent away, but ran away in January. They’ve been looking for him and would love to have him back if Richard wants to return. Two reactions – If it’s a great place, why did he run away? BUT I liked that Kevin (street outreach worker from Pronino) was giving Richar the option to come back. Kevin was also very frank with me – this is a place that works with kids taken off the streets. Although it is a nice place, some of the kids can be pretty rough, they’re survivors, and fights aren’t uncommon. If you read this blog in May, then you know how Richard responds to getting in a fight so there’s a good chance he got in a fight, then bolted in his anger. So, Monday I was excited. Tuesday, I was confused about why he would run and if this truly is a good place for him. Wednesday and Thursday I spent worrying about him running away again. Nueva is not a nice place, but at least I know where he is. The streets? Not an ok option. Friday, I decided that Pronino will give him options in life, IF he can stick with it. And he has to be given that opportunity.
On Thursday I went to Nueva to talk to Richar about if he wants to go back. All the boys were watching a movie (a rare treat) so I was having a hard time getting him to focus on our trivial conversation about where he would live while Toy Story was on. =) But in general, he said that yes, he wants to go back and no he won’t run away again. (I hope, I hope, I hope!) So, my plan was to visit Pronino Monday morning, then go back to Nueva to talk to him again (without a TV distracting him) to make sure he still had the same answer.
Ok, now I digress for a minute to tell you about another boy. (This is related to Pronino, I promise.) His name is Roger and I called him mi payaso (my clown). One day in early July I went to Nueva and he wasn’t there. I asked where he was and the employees told me he ran away. I asked where to and they said to the street. Gulp. So for the next month, every time we were in San Pedro I was constantly scanning the corners where street kids beg or wash your windows for a little money trying to find him. I was so worried about him. How can a silly kid survive on the street? Last week after I received the email from Pronino about Richar I spent some time looking at their website again. Kevin has a blog and I went to it to look for pictures of any kids that I recognized. This is the story I found: www.pronino.org/page14201948.aspx. It’s a story about 3 brothers in Pronino. One ran away in June of last year and they couldn’t find him. They tried one last time at the end of July and found him. Then I saw the picture – the found kid was Roger!! I was so happy he was in a safe place. And this made me even more excited to go to Pronino on Monday.
My understanding of how Pronino works is that when the boys are taken off the streets they spend 3 months to a year in the ‘intake’ center called Nueva Vida – new life. Many of the boys are addicts so there is a detox process. These kids don’t leave the property for school or field trips. When they have proven that they can handle more freedom, the younger boys move to a house called Los Vencedores – the overcomers and the older boys go to Amor y Paz – love and peace. I know there is another center up in the mountains where they learn a trade like welding, electricity, carpentry, etc but I’m not sure what age is in La Montana. So, we arrived at Pronino yesterday morning to find a big field with a handful of buildings. There is a fence, but it’s not threatening like the 20 foot concrete walls with barbed wire on top like they have at Nueva. Some of the boys saw us coming and opened the gate for us. Little things started popping out to me. The kids had long hair. (They shave heads at Nueva.) I asked Kevin if everyone shared clothes or if each kid has their own. Each child has their own. We found Roger in Los Vencedores. It was everything I could do to not just immediately grab him up in a huge hug. He recognized that he knew me, but didn’t remember my name and or why he knew me, so I thought it would probably be weird for some gringa to squeeze all the air out of him with my hug! I successfully resisted. We continued the tour and Roger tagged along. As we were walking I kept tussling his long hair since I had decided that this wasn’t the time or place for bear hugs and had another wonderful realization. His hair was clean! Again, this is not the norm at Nueva.
We got to the classroom in Nueva Vida (intake center) and Kevin cries out “He’s here!” I had no idea who he was talking about until the classroom door opened and there was Richar’s smiling face! He gave all of us hugs then immediately went back to his seat and kept working on his school work. Kevin talked to him for a minute and Richar said “I’m never ever leaving this place again!” (Oh, I pray that that is true.) We continued on our way so that they could back to class. After a while I asked the question I was the most nervous to hear the answer to: Can we come visit Pronino? Kevin said “Sure!” (Huge sigh of relief) Hmm, but I think it’s only on Sundays. . . and only once a month. (Punch in the gut) I quickly tried to explain that we wouldn’t be coming just to see Richar. That we would want to be volunteers that would be working with all the boys – seeing Richar would just be bonus. He said, “well, if you can commit to 3 months…” I explained that we do actually have other jobs! He told us to write up a proposal of what we want to do and he’d present it to the director. Pray, pray pray that this works out!
We stayed til Richar was done with class and then talked to him for a few minutes. He was just so happy to be there. And seriously, after 3 days of brushing his teeth (no toothbrushes in Nueva) they are literally whiter. I made him show me his teeth again and exclaimed about how white they are and he dug in his pocket and proudly produced a new toothbrush! AND when he left us to go to lunch he ran to the outside sink and washed his hands first. I know that I’m making a very big deal about some small things but I just love that he’s being treated like a human with a future as opposed to an animal in a holding tank. And Pronino has a sponsorship program so we are going to try to find a way to sponsor him at least in part while we’re here and then in full when we get home. I know there are going to be many hard days ahead for him, but today I’m just feeling so much joy and hope!
(I really wanted to take a picture of him yesterday. Especially since he was wearing oversized swimming trunks with the Incredible Hulk on them. They may not have fit, but I’m pretty sure he specfically picked those shorts – the kid’s obsessed with superheroes! But I would’ve had to interrupt lunch and since he’s new I don’t want to draw any more attention to him than is necessary. So next time I’ll have a picture of him – probably still in the Incredible Hulk shorts. And a picture of Roger with so much hair!)
Thank you to everyone who has been praying with me for this wonderful child. But don’t stop! Don’t stop praying for him or the other kids at Nueva. There is still much to do!