As I write this, there is a caravan of mostly Hondurans migrating to the US border. I understand they are going to surrender and ask for asylum. The advocacy groups supporting them want to call attention to their unbearable conditions in their home countries—high murder rate, gang violence, poverty, and government corruption. I know these things to be true.
I have been visiting Honduras for 20 years. I’ve seen significant improvement since the months following Hurricane Mitch in 1999. I can see a small but growing middle-class. I see improvements in infrastructure. The streets are even cleaner. But I also see the ever-present degradation of abject poverty. And then there is the gang violence and political complicity.
I spend my summers with the “least of these” of whom Jesus spoke. Hogar de Niños Renacer is located an hour drive from the capitol Tegucigalpa. Our Honduran children were orphans, street children, and castaways--the sons and daughters of the poorest of the poor.
Where do dreams come from?
Sometime back, perhaps 2004, I recognized fear--apprehension for their futures in the oldest of the minors at Renacer. When asked of their dreams for the future they would just shrug. I continued prod, coax them to imagine themselves teachers, nurses, doctors and lawyers. Then one day an adolescent girl told me she wanted to be a writer like me. “I want to be a nurse,” said another timid voice.
“But what is the use of dreaming?” asked the girl who imagined herself a writer.
I realized what these young people had in store for them was not much different than desperate lifestyles they had survived before coming to the children's home. They were destined for the crime-ridden barrios of Tegucigalpa. And it wasn't that their providers didn't care. They did the best they knew how on limited resources to help the young people transition.
Our calling crystallized.
Friends of Renacer had been established to be a ministry of presence. And that presence had vested us in the lives of these children. That vestment would need to carry them into adulthood. We wanted for them the same opportunities we wanted for our own children. We were determined to help them realize dreams they had yet to imagine.
There was no government safety net for our Honduran children.
Unlike in the US, these college students cannot count on government programs or even access to loans. There would be no national social safety net or even dependable rules of law and the protection of individual rights awaiting them in adulthood. They had no social networks of established families and friends to help them garner employment. They would have to make their own ways in the world--in one of the most violent cities in one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere.
Vocational and university education became a reality.
Friends of Renacer launched a university scholarship fund. At first, we had no takers—no dreamers. Then one stepped forward, followed by another braving the pursuit of a career. Now we have provided funds to 15+ alumni along with a couple others connected to the home in other ways.
Honduras is in the best of hands.
Today those young people are speaking their minds on social media. They are educating themselves on the politics of their nation. They are investing themselves in their communities. They remain a tight family, encouraging each other and the younger children at Renacer. They carry with them the legacy of poverty—the desperate choices of their parents. They bring empathy and compassion to their careers. They embrace the future and the possibility of being the change that transforms their nation.