There’s something about bringing a kid off the street that gives you a special bond with him.  For me, Awner is one of those kids.

187 Awner y yo

He ran away early 2012.  It’s such a helpless feeling to get word that a child has left and you have, let’s see, 52 days before your next trip.  Dang it!  But then there are these amazing things called Facebook and cheap internet cafes.  A few days after he left, there was a little green bubble next to his name.  Man, I love technology.

We chatted through Facebook on and off for the next two months.  If I tried to talk to him about returning, he would go silent for days.  Mainly, we talked about soccer and his family.  And we made a lunch date for my next trip.  The day of our date rolled around and I headed to Central Park feeling more than a little defeated.  I had spent the morning with


006 Rogerand then Roger.

Both of whom I care deeply for.  Both had refused my help.  And both boys remain on the street.  So, I may have cracked a few ribs with my crushing hug when Awner said “It was a mistake for me to leave Proniño” in response to my question “Where would you like to eat?”

A quick phone call to obtain permission for his return followed by lunch with some 016 Awnerof his friends and we were back in Proniño.  As far as I knew, things were going well until a day in October that he just disappeared for about 12 hours.  He said that he got some lunch, walked around downtown, got on Facebook, then returned.  We talked some more and he said he was lonely.  He also said that he gets stir-crazy and just needed a day out of the center.  (Because he was on the street at the start of the school year, he attends Proniño’s on-site school.)  But he thinks he’d get a better education if he went to school outside Proniño.  Which brought us back to his loneliness again and he wants to be able to meet more people.  With so many of the boys, I worry that their histories with drugs will pull them back to the street.  With Awner, I worry it will be the pull of wanting something more.

One evening in December, I had dinner with Bas.  Who’s Bas you ask?  Oh my, this004 Bas could take a while.  Bas is a Dutch fundraiser/mentor/ advocate/homework helper/exciting experience provider/Facebook trainer/supplier of reading material who has been in integral part of the boys’ lives for over a decade.   I asked Bas who he thinks is the smartest kid in Proniño.  Without hesitation, “Awner.”  (That’s pretty darn impressive, right?)  This led to me sharing what I’ve written in this blog with him.  I expected nothing from our conversation.

This is where the story gets exciting.  (For me anyway.)   A day later, I was forwarded an email sent from Bas to Proniño’s administrators and psychologist.  He shared some of our conversation with them and requested approval to take him to do something fun (to break up the monotony of The Mountain) and started a conversation about ways to better engage his intelligence on a regular basis.  During the ensuing day o’fun, they talked more about what he wants to study and how Awner feels like he’s not being provided the opportunities he would most like to have.  This began a flurry of emails about his grades (80% from a kid who is highly intelligent!), if he could go to private school, what he would need etc.  I read these emails and (yes, this sounds cheesy) my heart just welled with joy.  To see the powers that be put their heads together to figure out what is best for this ONE individual child just reinforced to me all over again why I love Proniño.

So, here’s the plan.  Because of his grades he won’t be able to go to private school THIS year.  But, if he is able to maintain a minimum grade of 90% for the 2013 572 awnerschool year he will be one of the chosen few to attend private school in 2014.   (Insert loud clapping!!)  By no means is 80% failing, but since they know he is capable of so much more, they must see him show more discipline and stability before giving him this opportunity that so few receive.  And I’m excited for this year of being able to encourage and remind him of what the future holds.  A year might seem like a lifetime for a sixteen year old, but he’s smart and mature enough that I have faith he’ll stay focused and motivated.

And I’m sure that in a year he’ll be featured in this blog once again.  And I’ll be asking you to sponsor his education.  But in the meantime, I’m going to bring this back around to Ornaments for Education.  This year we’re trying to raise 100% of the education costs for 2013.  That’s 90 boys in the proper uniforms with the correct books and sufficient school supplies in a safe vehicle with enough gas on their way to a school in which all their fees have been paid.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Today we at 49% of the goal.  A mere $12,000 left.  =)  To donate, click here!



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