“I was in the USA,” Manuel told me, “but one day immigration caught me and deported me back here.”
“How was it in the USA?” I asked.
“I liked it there. One day I hope to go back – the work is a lot easier there than here. In the US, I just had to wash dishes and mow lawns. Here in Honduras, I have to carry bricks and other heavy stuff all day. It’s a lot harder.”
We landed into another world today – a world completely unknown to us.
Weeks ago, when we were in Omoa, we met some volunteers for a center for street kids here in Comayagua.
“When you pass through Comayagua,” they invited, “please come stay with us for a few days. Our kids have never seen anything like what you are doing!”
And so it was that, four weeks later, we showed up at the center and were immediately welcomed by the staff and kids. All four boys immediately ran out into the field for a rousing game of soccer with the kids, while we adults tried to figure out exactly what it was that we had stumbled into.
As it turns out, Horizontes al Futuro is a home for street kids – kids that come from families too poor to support them. They are not orphans, but their parents have approached the center and asked for help. Some of the kids have simply been approached on the street by staff at the center. The kids are allowed to live at the center for as long as they need to – provided their behavior is in line.
“My mother brought me here when I was nine,” seventeen year old Hugo told us. “I had never gone to school up til then, so I started first grade when I was ten years old. I stayed here two years, but then my behavior went down the drain so they kicked me out. I went back to La Ceiba and spent two years there.”
“What did you do in La Ceiba?”
“Nothing,” came the reply. “I lived in the streets again and went right back to my old ways – smoking marijuana and stealing. Then I decided I didn’t want that, so I came back. Now I’m in school – but I still have many, many years to go.”
Each of the 42 kids here in the center have their own, unique story, and I’ve been fascinated to learn some of them.
On our way into town, we saw what looked like a refugee camp – but there are no refugees here. I asked what that tent city was all about.
“It’s what we call an invasion or occupation,” the director of the center told me. “One of our boys spent two years in one like that. The families live in inhumane conditions – sometimes for years on end. They find an abandoned piece of land that is not being used for anything and set up camp – in the hopes that they can eventually get the land. They can’t build anything, but they can plant a small garden – they grow their own corn and beans usually.
“But they live there on the land in makeshift tents – made of plastic tarps, cardboard, or whatever else they can round up. When it rains, they get wet. When it’s cold, they get cold. Nobody should have to live like that. Our boy who lived there with his mother eventually got kicked off – after two years of suffering in order to try to get the land. It’s horrible.”
When dinner time came, all nine of us (Anja is back with us again) were invited into the dining room to eat with the kids. I found myself at a table with five kids under the age of ten. Four of them handed their stack of tortillas to one boy who surreptitiously snuck them into his pocket.
“What are you going to do with all those tortillas?” I asked him.
“I have cheese in my room!” he told me with a mischievous smile. “We’ll eat tortillas and cheese tonight.”
He had spent the day with his mother, and she had bought him a bit of cheese.
“I’ve got a mountain of cheese!” he declared. “It’ll be really good tonight!”
But the kid I was most fascinated with was Manuel – the one who had gone to the USA.
“How did you go there?” I asked.
“In bus and train,” he told me. “I saved up about 2500 lempira to pay for the fares to get to Tijuana. Once I got there, I set out walking through the mountains to get into the USA. I walked all night – all night. By the time I reached the highway in the USA my feet were bleeding and I was crying. I met a woman and begged her to help me. She helped me find work. I wanted to stay there, but then immigration came and sent me back. Someday I’ll go back. I’m trying to save money for the journey now.”
We will stay here tomorrow as well, and I’m looking forward to learning more about the kids. They seem very willing to tell us their stories, so I can’t wait to sit down with them and listen!
Kilometers today: 37
Kilometers to date: 12963
The whole caravan makes its way to Comayagua
Creativity. Poverty leads to some creative thinking – check out the stove where she is cooking tortillas.
The invasion outside Comayagua
The boys played soccer with the kids from the center.