Denis Gabriel has a remarkable story. In a minute I will start from the beginning, but first I’ll tell you about the Denis Gabriel that I know. Mainly because I’m going to read this to him in 24 hours to get his permission to post this and I want to butter him up with all the good stuff. When he wants to be, he has the traits of an ambassador. He is well-spoken, confident and charming. He could probably convince you that he is the Director of Proniño on your first visit. He is perceptive, calling me out when I’ve been sad or angry and I thought that I was hiding it quite well, thank you very much. Along with a handful of others, he has written numerous songs and his is the sweet, melodic voice you’ll hear in the chorus. (One of which you can hear here.)
His life began differently. For twelve years, he was Luis Fernando. The details of how he went from Denis Gabriel to Luis Fernando, then back to Denis Gabriel, are hazy.
The story I apparently made up was that he was abandoned in a hospital. Named Luis Fernando by strangers, because no one knew where this child came from. Lived in a children’s home til he was 10, when he started acting out and was bounced around to some children’s homes before landing in Proniño. Someone at some point figured out his name was actually Denis Gabriel.
An employee this weekend said that he lived at home til he was one. Then was given to another family, who decided new family, new name. He lived with that family for many a year, then was bounced around to different children’s homes before arriving in Proniño. At which point someone figured out that Luis Fernando may not have originally been Luis Fernando.
The story I got from Denis Gabriel (aka Luis Fernando) is that he lived with his mom til he was five (but has no memory of her). Was sent to the government home I also work with because his mom was fighting with someone. Then a foster family. Then bounced around to different children’s homes. He only remembers being Luis Fernando and doesn’t know when or why his name was changed from Denis Gabriel or who found out his true name (which all parties now agree is Denis Gabriel). Since this rendition of the story was coming straight from the source, you’d think this would be the correct one. But as we were working out the details he had to switch around some major details to make the timeline work. Soooo…..
Is your head spinning yet? Yeah. The crazy thing is that no one will ever be able to solidly piece together the details of his history. Which is why I’m thankful that he has a future, which he’ll be able to have some input on. And that’s going to be today’s focus.
Just in case the back and forth with the names got confusing, he is officially Denis Gabriel … and he’s an adolescent. With all of the traits that parents fear. He was going to a good, private technical school on a scholarship. But decided he didn’t like it. And stopped going. Then the attitude came raging out every time an adult would speak to him. I remember sitting in meetings with all of the boys, trying to catch his eye so I could model the look on his face, in hopes that maybe he just didn’t realize what he was doing. That didn’t work. (Are we really surprised?)
In July, I arrived to find that he was no longer in Proniño. The kids knew which house in the neighborhood he was staying in so I went to find him. His story is that he got in trouble, didn’t want to accept the punishment, has friends in the community and a volunteer opportunity with World Vision, was confident he could find a job, and, at 16, decided that it was ready for him to be on his own. When we talked, he wanted to return, but his pride was holding him back.
Facebook conversations were making me more worried as he told me about not having money to pay rent, not being able to find a job, not knowing where to go. And, of course, he has no known family, so he had no one to turn to. Finally, he swallowed his pride and returned to Proniño.
And is a different child.
He now knows that with freedom comes responsibility, and he’s not ready for that yet. He also learned that when trying to get a job, where you went to school matters. And he really, really wants to have that edge when he leaves Proniño in a few years.
I believe in this child. To come from no roots, no consistent support, no identity then become a child full of confidence, intuition and the ability to secure a position with World Vision (as a volunteer, but I still think this shows his people skills) is impressive.
When I first receive the info about education in 2013, he was on the short list of those eligible to attend a vocational school next year. When I talked to him this weekend he said that he was going to go, but there isn’t enough money for Proniño to be able to send him. Kind of perfect timing for a fundraiser for education, eh? And this has put a fire in me to do everything I can to meet that goal of $24,000. The reality is that if only a portion is raised, that portion will go towards ensuring that every child receives at least the most basic education. It’s when we get closer to the $24,ooo mark that specialized and unique educational opportunities become possible. So, if we raise $15,000 this year, Denis Gabriel will be educated. If we raise $24,000, he, and others like him, will be able to have opportunities that will set them apart from the mass of people looking for jobs one day. I really want to make sure that happens!
To donate towards this goal click here. And remember that as a token of appreciation you will receive an ornament colored by one of the boys!