These young men are technically residents, relationally, they are my sons. Like my own children, they bring unique joys and challenges into my life. Unlike my own adult children, they will need support and assistance for the rest of their lives. For this reason they are central to the ministry of Reason to Hope.
Fidel has been my friend for more than ten years and was the reason we began Casa de Esperanza. He has Cerebral Palsy and has lived 21 of his 32 years of life institutionalize. Fidel has changed from being and angry "patient" watching the world go by into a delightful young man who has recently started his own small recycling business. His dreams for the future are to expand his business and someday have his own home. If anyone can do it, Fidel will.
We met Roberto in July of 2015. We were asked by a local pastor to visit a young man who was paralyzed and abandoned by his family. While we had no intention of bringing Roberto home with us that day, that's exactly what we did. The conditions he was living in were so deplorable we could not leave him there another night. Roberto came to us with a number of medical problems including horrendous bedsores and malnutrition. Over the past two years and a number of surgeries he is finally healthy. Having been sent to work in the rubber plantations at age eight, he is now beginning to learn to read and write.
I have know Moises, who also grew up in Hermano Pedro Hospital, for the same amount of time as I have known Fidel--but Moy was only 9 years old when I met him. I have watched him grow from a little boy into a sometimes challenging adolescent, and have enjoyed (almost) every minute of it. The day after he turned 18 he called to ask to come to live with us. Still facing the challenges of adolescence, Moy's goal right now is to finish junior high. School is a challenge for him, so he studies in a special weekend program in Santa Maria de Jesus.
Again, while these people work for me, they are so much more than employees. They are the heart of Casa de Esperanza and my friends and support team. If not for them, Casa de Esperanza could not exist. Here you can meet three of our seven staff members.
Brenda is the House Manager for Casa de Esperanza and one of my closest friends. I can confide in her and receive her wise counsel in navigating the systems of Guatemala. She is my strongest and ever present prayer-warrior. She has had numerous health problems in the past, but for the year and a half she has been with us, she has been remarkably well. She credits that to the love she has for her job and her "kids" (our guys). Besides providing a regular income for her family, I'm not sure how we have changed Brenda's life, but I know she has changed mine.
Cesar is another long-time friend. We sponsored his tuition to attend elementary school, and he even lived with us for one year of high school. Now he is grown, married and has a family of his own. We provided tuition assistance for his wife, Gema, to continue her university education and recently they both graduated as fully accredited physical education teachers. Cesar is our anchor staff for weekends.
Mario, a young man from Santa Cruz Balanya, a village about two hours from our home, came to work with us at the recommendation of his pastor. Mario's parents are divorced, and he was caring for his alcoholic father. While not physically abandoned, he surely was alone, bearing burdens no twenty year old should have to face. An excellent companion-caregiver to our guys, Mario lives with us four days a week and has found a family among the staff and residents of Casa de Esperanza. We love him, too.