When I was introduced to the world of children’s homes in Honduras, I was thrown into the very worst example of what ‘protecting a child’ could look like. (Ahem, Nueva Esperanza.) I found Proniño and vividly remember the earth shattering news I received during my tour.
“And each of the boys has a box where they keep all their clothes, toys, photos and stuff like that.”
WHAT?? The boys have things that BELONG to them AND they have the right to PROTECT these things? After the time I had spent in Nueva, a child having his own shirt or his own bed to sleep in seemed like paradise.
After months of baking and sweating alongside the younger than 15 year old boys in Las Flores (the flowers), I finally worked up the nerve to visit La Montaña (the mountain). This is where the 15-18 year old boys live who I deduced spent 80% of their time looking tough, cool and aloof and the other 20% restyling their overly gelled hair.
((That being said, don’t let them fool you.))
(((The vehicle they’re leaning on belongs to a visitor, not Proniño. This detail will be important later…)))
I traversed the dirt roads with Corolla sized car eating potholes, and I discovered my favorite place on earth.
As it turns out, these adolescents drop their façade when you’re in their house. And they are at the perfect age where they’re mature enough to really analyze what they have been through and how that has shaped them; while also hungering for guidance about what their future’s could and should look like. Ok, they’re teenagers, so they often make really bone-headed decisions, but when you happen to be there at the point when one is feeling pensive, magical conversations take place.
But there are more reasons why this is my favorite place on earth.
It’s always roughly 10 degrees cooler.
The mosquitoes are more polite.
The dogs are well fed.
And the land itself is therapeutic for the kids. There is something intensely calming about nature. It’s not uncommon to arrive at the mountain on the weekend and find that a few boys have spent their morning hiking to the cross or diving into the waterfall. Even though I love every moment I get with the kids, it’s a gift at times to arrive and find that they are still in their workshops. This means I can pick a quiet area to journal and pray about the boys and write over and over again about how darn thankful I am that I know them and that I know this place.
Sadly, the purpose of this post is to tell you that this peace and tranquility is being shaken up.
Situated outside the boundary lines of Proniño, there is a collection of shacks, many of which would remind us of the forts we built with sticks and branches during our childhood adventures into the woods. In these shacks live people who watch our confident and comparatively well-coifed boys walk by on a regular basis.
Animosity has developed.
In the last few months, threats of physical harm have been written and posted on the desolate road that is the only way to and from the gates of La Montaña. Eleven boys and an employee were robbed at machete-point by young men from this neighborhood with their faces concealed. “Call the police!” you say. Police were called. Nothing happened. In April, the tension in the mountain was palpable. The happy-go-lucky banter was curbed and this slice of paradise felt merely like a holding tank until it was necessary to venture outside the gates on foot, which is often. There has been talk about buying a new piece of property and permanently moving the boys elsewhere. But to raise the hundreds of thousands of dollars and then build the buildings will take years, and the boys are anxious now. There has been talk of recognizing the fact that the people causing this fear are actually poverty stricken and desperate individuals who could use some help as well. But developing a plan, building relationships and earning mutual trust may also take a year or more, and the boys are anxious now.
What is the imminent threat? Passing this neighborhood on foot. What would greatly decrease the threat? A vehicle that can carry the boys past this point of danger (since Proniño doesn’t have access to that fancy white SUV at the beginning of this post). We’ve committed to raising $9,000 to buy a vehicle by July. This seems daunting. And tough. But then I think about all of the things that the kids have experienced that I wish I could’ve prevented. It’s too late. But it’s not too late to do everything possible to assuage this current threat that we know is very real. And it’s not too late to return my favorite place on earth to the source of safety, peace, therapy and joy that it could and should be.
Will you help protect the boys? If you would like to donate please click here.
Pass this on to friends, family, coworkers, the person in line behind you at Starbucks that you think would be interested in ensuring that these boys, who have already experienced too much fear in their short lives, can stop worrying about whether that bush is rustling because of the wind or because someone is lying in wait as they walk by. That would be such an incredible gift.