What does Pisos Tutelados mean, you ask? You know, I’m not actually sure. Piso is floor. Tutelado is…uh…no clue. It always reminds me of ‘tooting your own horn’. But I’m basing this solely on the beginning of the word. And there’s a very good chance I’m misspelling it. Anyone want to take Spanish classes from me? No? Moving on then…
Even though I can’t translate it, I’d like to tell you what it IS. Pisos Tutelados is the newly opened transition home for the oldest Proniño boys who will soon be on their own. But for now, these five boys are living in a four bedroom house, learning what it means to be a responsible adult. But they’ll learn little by little. Over a period of time, they’ll take on those super fun adult duties like paying rent, finding a job, grocery shopping. Oh what a joy it will be! (She says with her tongue in her cheek…)
People often ask what happens to the boys when they turn 18. From what I’ve seen and heard, they tend to join the military or go back to family and look for work. But there was usually a reason that they spent the majority of their childhood apart from their family. A long while ago, one of the boys told me he was going to live with his dad when he left. Flipping through my mental Rolodex to remember his story, I asked about his step-mom, whose fists had sent him to the streets. “I’m not worried. I’m bigger and stronger than her now so she can no longer hurt me.” This statement may be true, but this is not what we want the boys to face when they enter ‘the real world’.
Now they have another option.
As I was inviting myself over for dinner before my March visit, I asked one of the boys if he had found a job. His plan is to finish studying his trade in La Montaña (where the 15-18 year olds live) and then start looking for a job at the beginning of the summer. He lives in a country with an obscene unemployment rate. The ones lucky enough to find something are often strapped with back breaking work and very long hours. I asked if he’s nervous to be entering this phase in his life. Nope. Thinking Proniño must be planning on getting first jobs for the boys (because I know I’d be incredibly worried) I asked if he already knows where he’ll be working.
“No, but I’m confident I’ll find a job based on my character and responsibility.”
Wow. Now, how do we replicate this amount of confidence in the multitude of boys that have been beaten down by their families and then society? Sure, some of his confidence may be coming from the fog of teenage invincibility. But if he discovers that his character and responsibility aren’t enough to land that job after all, he has help, but having confidence is half the battle.
In April, I was able to visit their home a few times, including that dinner I invited myself to, which turned into two dinners. But my most remarkable moment came when I swung by the house to say my goodbyes on my last night in Honduras. One of the boys had just finished his first day of work. I expected to need to leave a note for him. It was his first day of work! Surely he’s exhausted and already asleep at 7:00. My first summer job with full-time hours was as a janitor in the high school where my mom worked. I remember sobbing in the living room because it had just dawned on me that I had less than 12 hours til I had to start this whole thing again. And that would happen again the next day, and the next. I would have to wake up at 5:30 AM five days in a row. I’m pretty sure that my 16 year old self didn’t think it was possible for anyone to suffer more than I…
Imagine my surprise when instead of sleeping or weeping, I found him washing a huge pile of clothes. (You’re thinking about a washing machine right now, aren’t you? That’s not how it’s done in Honduras. Instead, picture a washboard next to a big concrete tub. Water is drawn from the tub in a bowl and poured onto the clothes. You scrub, scrub, scrub the washboard til the clothes are clean, clean, clean. It’s quite a workout. Lesson in Honduran culture over. Back to the story.) He was nearly ecstatic about his first day of work. He babbled on about the two women he worked with on the assembly line and how they were so nice and easy to talk to. He already had a plan for how he is going to move up the ranks a bit so he can start doing the more strenuous work of harvesting with the guys in the fields. My first day ended in tears and discouragement. His ended in eagerness and excitement for the next day.
This is exactly what we want to see.
Want to find out how you can help these kids succeed? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.