I’ve sat here for a while trying to figure out how to begin this post. I usually try to make the intro at least slightly creative, or I try to hook you and want to get you to want to read more. But for this post, it just sort of seems wrong. I will say that this is probably the saddest and hardest one I’ve written. During my last trip, I found out that one of the kids that ran away in December has died. I’ve been trying to prepare myself for this for a long time. I’ve heard stories from other long-time volunteers about kids I never knew who have left us way too soon, and I knew it was most likely going to happen again. It’s not like trying to get the kids to stay in Proniño is like trying to get them to stay in a club that we want them to be part of. It’s so dangerous on the street and this is always a potential consequence when they run away. And it’s so, so hard.
If you’re reading this and thinking “why in the world do they run away?”, I wrote a little bit about it last year. Here’s a link to that post. But so often it seems to be a rash decision because they’re angry. One of the kids that we talked to on the street in October said that he had been in Proniño for a year and a half. I asked him why he ran. He said it was because a volunteer wanted to take him to some show in San Pedro, but he couldn’t get permission from the employee in charge. He was so angry and disappointed that he ran away. And now he’s too old to return, has a severe drug problem and is living in a shack in a slum with about 15 other addicts. His life is indescribably awful because he couldn’t see a movie. (And I know there were so many other factors leading up to this, but this was the catalyst.)
But this post is about Geovani.
Apparently, he had been on the street with the same group of kids that David was with and a few months ago he was hit by a car. The night I found out, the part that made me cry the hardest was knowing that he isn’t buried somewhere with a headstone that we can visit. Nor are his ashes scattered in his favorite place. He was a street kid. His death most likely is recorded as a John Doe accident. Case closed. But he was so much more than a street kid. He was one of the first kids I got to know in Proniño. In my mental picture of him
he’s wearing this woman’s red Christmas sweater – you know – the kind with Christmas trees sewn in with green ribbon and pom-poms glued to it in various places as clumps of snow, that always had dirty sleeves because it was roughly 4 sizes too big on him. And he was constantly at my side pulling rapidly on my arm saying “Yeni!Yeni!Yeni!Yeni!”. And when I’d finally stop the conversation I was having with another kid to see what he wanted, he would just smile at me. Then I’d go back to the conversation and the arm pulling would start again… It’s one of those things that drove me a little crazy at the time, but now is so incredibly endearing.
A few weeks before he ran away I did an interview with him. I thought instead of telling you how old he was and how many sibling he had and what he liked in school, he could tell you himself. Click here to see his video.
I waited so long to write this because Geovani has a very special place in the heart of a friend of mine and I wanted to make sure to tell her this face to face before blogging about it. Kelly spent a few days in Proniño last October and she and Geovani hit it off right away.
When she got back to the States she even looked into Honduran adoption laws because she had this crazy idea that maybe her and her husband could adopt him. Although I knew it was going to be hard to tell her, I was also so glad to know that she was going to grieve when I was feeling so overwhelmed by the anonymity of his death. We got together on October 31st. November 1st is a holiday called Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) and is a holiday that “focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died”. Her husband had the idea to make a memorial for him so they could remember and celebrate him. So sweet. So touching. So thoughtful.
On my last trip, I had a long and encouraging meeting with Proniño’s Honduran Director, Reginaldo. At one point in the meeting we were talking about finances. He told me the bare bones minimum that they need on a monthly basis to keep the center running (which is what they’re currently operating at.) Then he told me the monthly amount that they would need to be a step above that and be able to afford the full time psychologist and more meat in the kids diet. Then he started talking about his dreams if they were able to go beyond that second amount. He talked about having an employee whose job would be to arrange visits with the kids’ parents and siblings so they could see them regularly and more frequently. He talked about having an employee whose job would be able to keep sort of an inventory of what the kids have and he’d know when a child needs a new pair of shoes or a new bottle of hair gel. And this person’s job would also to keep track of birthdays and make sure the child has a small gift and something special on their day. (Right now they celebrate all the birthdays in a given month on the same day and he said that’s just not good enough.) And the best one – a person whose only job is to recover the kids soon after they’ve run away. The longer they’re on the street, the harder it is to get them back. And every day on the street is a day their chance of victimization, drug abuse, injury or death is right around the corner. But I was encouraged by this conversation because I so badly want these things, too. And I’m so happy they they’re not going to stop at the bare minimum to keep the center going. They want to be constantly improving and they want to change these kids’ lives.
There’s only two more days left of the fundraiser. Please, please give whatever you can. We don’t want Proniño to have to be constantly scraping by at a bare bones level! We want it to grow and flourish and one day be able to have that employee that could’ve been looking for Geovani immediately so I never would’ve had to write this post. Please donate here.