I’ve never been very good at getting accurate first impressions of people. Often, the people that I have the least interest in getting to know end up being my favorite people. After meeting and spending time with the 10 on my Americorps team, Sean definitely was the last person on our team that I spent any time with. True story. And we know how that ended up working out…
Last Christmas, Proniño did a sponsor a child for Christmas fundraiser to be able to buy gifts for all the kids. You could go online, look at all the kids pictures and choose your child. My mom wanted Maynor. She said he had kind eyes. My reaction was something along the lines of “Maynor?? Why in the world would you choose Maynor??” He’s the biggest and the oldest kid in Proniño and intimidated the heck out of me.
In January I had one, brief conversation with him. In March, I was impressed by his ability to do backflips into 4 feet of water. By May he was one of my favorites. Why don’t I ever learn?
In May, we started talking about where he’s going to go when he leaves Proniño. (Which was going to be very soon.) He’s from a town about seven hours from Proniño. He’s been in different children’s homes since he was eight. And he hasn’t had any contact with his family since then. So what is he going to do? This is a country with no safety nets in place and a very high unemployment rate. He could try to find a job in Progreso so he could stay near Proniño, but he doesn’t have any ‘connections’ that will help him get a job. Plus, he’d go from living in an environment where he’s constantly surrounded by dozens and dozens of other kids to living alone. So challenging. His other option is to go back to Colon where he may or may not find his family. They may or may not be receptive to his return. And they may or may not help him get a job. I’ve lost sleep over this. I can’t imagine how worried Maynor’s been.
On my last trip, I set up an interview of sorts for him with an organization in San Pedro. Some day I may blog about how that went, but for now, let’s just say it didn’t go well. Yann, my friend who has a small children’s home in San Pedro, expressed an interest in having Maynor work with him as the handyman for the home. But that wouldn’t start til March at the earliest. And Maynor had to leave sooner. Having seemingly exhausted all of the options I knew of, he started talking resignedly about returning to Colon in December. It’s been a while since I’ve cried so hard saying goodbye to a kid. But I knew there was a very real chance that I wouldn’t see him for a year. And Proniño without Maynor just wasn’t going to be the same.
Thankfully, I’m not the only one concerned about his future. A few weeks after I left, Laura, two kids and an employee, Fernando, piled in a car with Maynor and drove 14 hours in one day to go try to find Maynor’s family. It.went.so.well. The family members he found (I’m still flabbergasted that he was able to find ANY of them!) were so, so excited to see him. Yes, they definitely wanted him to come back. (Just like that, this child who’s been shuffled from one institution to another is wanted.) I got to talk to him later and he was so happy. I was nervous about him living near his older brother who was very violent – including once stabbing Maynor in the stomach – and asked Maynor about it. In the hour or hour and a half he was able to spend with his family before they had to head back to Progreso, his brother asked him for forgiveness for everything that had happened. WHAT???? Incredible. I talked about how important it is for Maynor to stay strong when he’s around him. I started saying that he will either be a good influence on his brother or… and he finished my sentence by saying “Or he’ll be a bad influence on me.” Exactly. He seemed to understand what he was up against. And he seemed ready. My sadness about not seeing him often was dissolved by the fact that he finally had a clear path in front of him.
But THEN! (These stories always have so many twists and turns!) The leadership was simultaneously devising a transition plan for kids as they age out of Proniño. They came to the decision that they will allow the kids to stay for a year after they turn 18. In that year they’ll work part-time for Proniño as a way to give back to the center. They’ll also work part time in the community. I love it. They’ll be able to take a few steps into the ‘real world’ while still having the safety and protection of this place that has been their home for so long. And now, Maynor doesn’t just have a clear path, he has OPTIONS! And he has very happily decided to stay. =) But he has started to develop a relationship with his family again and will be able to continue that even as he stays in Progreso.
And one more thing. Apparently his little brother is in a home in Colon and potentially will be moved to Proniño. In one month he went from his future being a big scary mystery to knowing his family, having options and being able to live with his brother again. Pretty sweet. And he has made about 50% of the bracelets I have…so I’m pretty excited I’ll be able to continue to expand my bracelet collection…
I called Honduras before writing this because I wanted to make sure that he was ok with me sharing his life with the world. And I caught him chopping grass. Two of the dogs that live with the kids on The Mountain had puppies recently. He had found a snake near the room where the puppies are and was chopping the grass nearby so that any other predator would be hesitant to get close to the pups. In a culture that does not value animals, Maynor was spending his free time ensuring their safety. I just thought of about three more stories that evidence his love, kindness and compassion (there are reasons he’s one of my favorites!) but I’ll stop here. It always amazes me that a child who has experienced so much violence and abuse can be so calm, nurturing and caring. Kids like Maynor will always inspire me.
Supporting Proniño’s fundraiser is supporting very good decisions like this. Legally, Proniño could’ve said adios to Maynor the day he turned 18. I’m so glad they didn’t. Please click here (before November 24th when the fundraiser ends) to support this home that loves and protects kids like Maynor!