Monday, August 2, 2010

Valesca and Katarin Find New Home

They were my two favorite girls at AFE. Maybe it was because of the sassy way they talked back to Rey when he teased them. Maybe it was because they shared my fascination for picture books and loved it when I read stories to them. Or maybe it was because they danced and twirled when they talked.
Whatever the reason, I always looked forward to recess time when Katarin and Valesca Mondragon would come to my office and sit and watch me work on my computer. Today, however, I need to report that they will never again visit me during recess at AFE, and that’s a good thing.

Katarin and Valesca came from one of the most heart-wrenching situations at AFE. Their parents left to work in the United States, abandoning them when they were too young to remember. They left them with an aunt who worked in the garbage dump, along with their older brothers and sisters. This aunt was the only parent-figured Valesca and Katarin knew, but she abused that privilege. She forced her charges to work in the garbage, often at the expense of school, and if they did not bring home enough income, she would beat them.

For a long time, AFE has been working and strategizing to end Valesca and Katarin’s oppressive situation, with a healthy outcome. Recently however, the circumstances deteriorated. Valesca’s older brother and sister had had enough. They ran away to live with another relative in Olancho, a state an hour away from Tegucigalpa. Missing the revenue from the older siblings, the aunt pulled Valesca and Katarin out of AFE indeterminately to work in the garbage dump. Valesca and Katarin were only in the second grade. Despite the promise they were showing at AFE, they had no hope of returning to school. AFE began to enlisting Honduras’ child protective services to seize Valesca and Katarin from their home.

Working with the CPS in Honduras is a risking gamble. Once the children become charges of the state we lose track of them. And stories abound of foster care situations even more abusive than the ones the children were taken from. Yet, there were no other options available for Valesca and Katarin.

Then AFE’s director, Jesy Ordonez received a mysterious call from the United States. The girls’ father had gotten wind of what was happening. He pleaded with Jesy to help Valesca and Katarin escape from their aunt and move in with the relative in Olancho. Jesi graciously obliged.
When I returned to Honduras after a brief trip to the States, Valesca and Katarin were not at AFE any longer. But they also were not living with their aunt. And they were free from the garbage dump. Valesca and Katarin are back in school. The school is not AFE, but it will do. Perhaps they have found another young woman to connect with in Olancho, maybe it’s a teacher who can serve as a positive role model. Although I will miss them, I am happy that Valesca and Katarin will not have to work in the garbage any longer. And I continue to pray that the good work God began in their lives at AFE will continue on to completion, and that they can break free from the cycle of poverty into which they were born.

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