This is the first picture I have of Michol and it’s from when we first met in November 2010. I was driving through San Pedro with friends when we noticed a little boy hitching a ride by jumping onto the back bumper and ducking down so all the driver could see was his little hand holding on tight. After getting shooed off of a few trucks, he jumped onto mine. We opened the window and told him he could sit in the bed of the truck and struck up a conversation with him as we drove. Thankfully my friend had the foresight to take this picture. We took him to the grocery store, bought him some food and tried to convince him to go to Proniño. He had no interest. We begged and pleaded but eventually he just walked away. On one hand I was glad that he refused to go to a strange place with a complete stranger. On the other hand, it killed me to watch this tiny child with no shirt, shoes, home, food, or future just walk away. He said he had been on the street for two years. What horrible things had he experienced in that time and what more would he experience in the years to come? This was the first child I had met that I had to ‘let go’ and it definitely affected me.
When I arrived at Nueva Esperanza in March 2011, I found that he had been picked up by the police and brought to the center. Theoretically, Nueva is a better place than the streets, and I was so happy to see him, but he was absolutely miserable. Since he’s so small, he was picked on a lot and his food was constantly being stolen. But he remembered me. He even remembered the exact food I had bought him. And he spent the week begging me to bring him to Proniño. (It figured that now that I couldn’t do anything about it, he wanted to go!)
In May, I arrived to find that he had been moved to a private home that his brother Stephen had been moved to. This home usually accepts only kids under the age of 5 and DEFINITELY won’t accept street kids. Somehow he slipped past their guidelines. But he said he didn’t like the home and he was intimidated by the girls…so within a week he ran.
I had a team working in Proniño that week and one day our plan was to go to Nueva and then spend the rest of the day driving around looking for him. When we arrived at Nueva, I was shocked to find that the police had already found him! At that time I found out that he also has a brother in Proniño, which greatly increased his chances of being accepted there.
I returned in July and for the month leading up to the trip I had been talking to the Directors of both Nueva and Proniño. Both approved the transfer, it was just a matter of working out the logistics. In the meantime, he was still telling me he wanted to go, with a dejected little sigh at the end of the sentence.
And then finally it happened – he was moved to Proniño! This is his reunion with his brother, Denis. (A little awkward, but still cute!) I’ve been trying to make this post as interesting as possible and I fear that it reads more like a list than a story. But I’m just so amazed by how long it took and how many different places he had to go before he finally ended up at Proniño. I had no idea when I met him in November that it would take eight months to get him there and that there’d be so many detours along the way. But the reality is that so many kids have similar stories. Sometimes, I sit there and listen to them talking about being with one family member, then another, then years on the street, then a kind neighborhood lady that took them in, then drug addiction, then finding a job peddling something for pennies and then it hits me that he’s 10, or 8, or 13 and has already experienced so much…so much instability…inconsistency. And there’s this part of me that feels honored that I’ve been able to partially walk with Michol through parts of this. To be at least slightly consistent in the last 9 months of his life.
And I’ve been able to watch him blossom. He went from this skinny, scared kid with his bag of glue in his pocket to a playful child.
I kept trying to capture the moments I found him playing, laughing and learning with the other boys. ( And I ALWAYS love to capture moments like this picture when one of the older boys is being kind to a little one!)
And I wish that I was sure that this was the end of his long and windy road, but the reality is that he is very accustomed to the ‘freedom’ of the street and he’s struggling with an addiction. And so many kids succumb to this pull. I pray he’ll be able to overcome. And you better believe that if he’s ever on the street again, I’ll be searching high and low for this adorable face!!