Tuesday 16th May 2023
It´s a 12-hour drive from Guatemala City to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras and last week´s drive down was a great time to think, reflect and pray. This time I had Sony, Danilo and Sergio with me as Danilo and Sergio had been invited to spend two weeks in Talanga, Honduras, where the Proyecto Alas mentoring centre is. Their time in Talanga I know will be filled with unforgettable times of working with the Alas team and the children and sharing something of their lives and stories with the 60 at-risk kids in the programme.
While I was there I needed to spend time thinking about the mentoring session I had with the older boys on my return. Our theme was ´How we see the World´ and the basic idea is that we all see the world and other people through our eyes of culture, race, religion, experience, age and gender. I wanted the boys to begin to explore how we could consider seeing the world through “other eyes” and also to see people as God sees them. Stick with me!
Our text was from John´s Gospel and recounted the time Jesus met a woman at a well. From all perspectives she was a Samaritan, a woman and someone who was drawing water from a well at the hottest part of the day. So many questions came from this encounter. But Jesus was able to see something far more profound in her and that led us to talk about how we could also look around us and try to see people as God sees them. What is it we can see when we begin to look more profoundly at a person´s life. What can we learn? It was a very interesting session indeed and we finished by watching the same scene on The Chosen and if you haven´t see this I would recommend it highly.
The thought came to my mind this past week while in Honduras as I sat and watched the kids that come into the mentoring programme in the Alas centre in Honduras. One group was watching a cartoon on TV and enjoying it thoroughly, the rest were sitting at a large table and colouring and doing homework, all being helped by staff and volunteers. But, one little boy sat alone.
I sat next to him and watched him colouring a sheet of paper. It was interesting observing him work and I studied his concentration and couldn´t help but notice the black dye on his hands and face. The dye was also on his clothes and he had obviously been using dye for his or another person´s clothes or for colouring wood. Maybe he was a worker. It was interesting just watching him for a while and asking the question of what more could I see about his life. Why was he sitting alone? Why was he so dirty, not just his clothes but days of ingrained dirt in his skin. I guessed his age at around 6/7 and this was later confirmed to be 6. I wondered what he would tell me about his colouring and maybe more information about his life and family.
Children have this amazing way of telling you so much without even speaking and I was keen to listen and learn. His concentration was intense and he would not be enticed to play a game that two children were playing near him and was not drawn to the loud noises that came now and again when new children came into the centre. Not once did he smile or look at me.
After a short while I decided to engage and asked if he would like some help. He nodded and I picked up some of the colouring pencils and started to sharpen them for him. I was then invited into his world and now I was allowed to join him in colouring the sheet, with a special attention to stay within the lines, something he was also very careful to do.
I then learned his name; Jefferson and he was 6 years-of-age. He remained focussed on the sheet and would not look up or look at me. He seemed content and felt safe and I wondered if he had come alone to the centre, how long he had been coming and why he was there.
It was sometime later that I was told a little of his story. When he was much younger his mum left the family home and took him with her to live with another man. He now had a new dad and like any young child this transition is a very hard one to make. Also he was now living in the mountains and so was isolated and powerless to contact his father. As time went by it seems his mother lost interest in him and he found himself being shipped to his grandmother in town. Another move and another loss.
Jefferson had come to the mentoring centre with his two aunties, both of whom are young children and not able to look after him. So he spends his time in the streets begging and trying to get by – and he is 6!
I spent a very special hour with a very smart, resilient and focussed kid. He is packed with potential and I am sure with some love and care would eventually come to smile. For now the project is doing what they can to get him into the mentoring programme, but the spaces are few and the budget tight. I am hoping they will take him in and offer him what his demeanour and behaviour are shouting out loudly for – I want to be loved.
My time in the centre did end on a happier note when I was asked to play connect four by little Derek (photo at the top of the article) who is 5 and can´t stop smiling. Despite his infectious laugh, engaging personality and winning streak I could not stop thinking of Jefferson who was now nowhere to be seen.
The work we do in Honduras and Guatemala is vital and reaches kids that many overlook. Your support really does make a difference and can change the trajectory of a child´s life. Thank you for your interest, for reading the blogs and for your support. It´s good to know you are there.