Hola, padrino" (Hi, godfather) said Keyla, my now 19-year old Honduran sponsored child, as she embraced me on arrival at the Medical Ministry International Clinic (MMI) at La Esperanza, where I was working for two weeks as a volunteer.
The SOS Honduras Office and our MMI Co-ordinator had made it possible for her to travel with her brother from the capital city of Tegucigalpa to see me that weekend since I couldn't have made the round-trip in the time available. Keyla had already met me at work eight years earlier when she came with an SOS Honduras employee. All told, this was our fifth meeting in as many towns in Honduras.
Keyla graduated from high school last December and now lives semi-independently in a so-called Community House, sharing chores with ten other girls her age and going to university full-time – quite a success story! We spent Saturday afternoon sight-seeing and shopping, and Sunday morning attending a service and talking about concerns and plans. All too soon Keyla and her brother had to leave to return in time for their classes on Monday morning.
I then travelled to San Pedro Sula by bus, and next morning to the airport for the short flight to San Salvador to see my Salvadorean sponsored SOS child José at the SOS Village Sonsonate-Izalco. Even though I had written to the Director there several weeks ahead, I couldn't be sure whether I would be picked up. After all, the Village is almost 100km from the airport. Pondering the situatioin in a heavy downpour as I stood among the dense crowd, I searched in vain for the SOS van. I phoned the Village and was told the van was waiting for me there! Sure enough, after a while, I was spotted. Soon here we all were, José and all ten of his brothers and sisters from Casa [House] #1, hugging and jumping around in the rain!
SOS Mother Doña Ana remembered a similar scene from my previous visit, and even though Driver Roberto was new he had still heard about me. Passing through the capital city, we all stopped at a Campero fast-food place for a late lunch and lively chatter.
Once at the Village I spent the remainder of the day with José's family. He is now 15, still small for his age, but doing well in school - remarkable for the malnourished, unschooled boy I took on six years ago! On Sunday we went to mass in Father Flavian's big church at Agape nearby. He was the founder/director of the original SOS Village in Sonsonate and was incredulous when I showed up there on my bicycle in 1982! I then enjoyed time with the children at the Agape playground.
Back at the SOS Village I had a delightful evening with veteran SOS Mother Gloria, who remembered me from my first visits by car (1979) and bike (1982), and some older teens who also recalled some fun we all had on previous occasions-it felt like home! Doña Ana, José and a couple of other kids accompanied me to see me off in San Salvador, and 24 hours and four planes later I was back home on Canada's West Coast... It was a tiring itinerary but a refreshing experience seeing the SOS concept at work, and the children so obviously benefiting from it.
- Paul Loofs