My Kids: Honduran Children in Crisis
Organized by: Susan White
EVENT DATE Oct 10, 2014
Just to say up front: Although we are addressing endemic, long-term problems, this is not a long-term contribution committment, unless you want it to be. I'm seeking funding of any kind: a one-time donation of $5 is great; regular donations of whatever amount are most welcome. I will update contributors, but feel free to ignore anything you get from me, or to shoot me an email asking not to be contacted. Right now, a few minutes of your attention is all I ask.
The basic information about my Honduran family's situation is described below, where it says "Background Information" in bold. Please scroll down there if you are new to the site. There are some updates here, up front, for those who have been supporting our efforts during a the worst crisis we have faced so far.
Oct. 18, 2014
THANK YOU THANK YOU, EVERYONE!
News from Tegucigalpa from Kimber, age 21, who IMs me:
"Bueno estamos muy felizes el viaje fue algo agotador llegamos alas 11 de la mañana me guzta mucho la casa grasias susan por todo."
Translation: Ok, we are very happy. The trip was somewhat grueling. We got here at 11 a.m. I really like the house. Thank you, Susan, for everything.
THANK YOU TO ALL THE OTHERS WHO HELPED during this truly awful time in my family's lives. I have told them the names of all the friends who contributed to extricating them from a real horror show. Sorry for the hyperbolic language. It is the only way to describe what is going on. They are safe in Tegucigalpa after two harrowing days of dealing with the gang members who hijacked their truck. Day before yesterday (on Oct. 15, 2014), the gang bangers held Suyapa (mom) hostage for some hours (maybe 10?) because they decided that the ransom for the pickup truck needed to be increased from 10,000 lempiras ($500) to 15,000 lempiras ($750). They did finally release her when we got hold of more money. She asked again if she could have her possessions back (all their clothes, medicine, etc. that were in suitcases in the pickup truck when they stole it.) Her "keeper" told her she was "una mierda," so she shut up.
The bad guys actually left late at night. I was surprised that they really left. They probably have plans for more extortion from her in the future. She managed to conceal the source of her money (U.S. friend). Otherwise they may not have let her go.
It was raining so hard that night that Suyapa and the 5 kids couldn't get on the road to go to Tegucigalpa until the next day. But now they have reached their destination, a little rented house, and we are all breathing a sigh of relief. The murder rate in Tegucigalpa is also very high, and the boys are likely to be harassed again by the "pandillas," aka "maras"--the gangs, who want to recruit members. The whole country is run by these gangs and the corrupt police and military. It breaks my heart that they have left their extended famiy behind. I want to find a way to continue helping those people with medical and education costs.
Ultimately, unsurprisingly, I want my family to leave Honduras, which is still the world's murder capital. A US visa is almost impossible to get, although I am beginning work on getting them some kind of asylum. We are still working on getting them visas to Mexico. It's tough, but Suyapa does own property and a business in Honduras (even if she can't live in the house, and the business was making about $25/week). If you own property you're more likely to get a visa to Mexico or even the US because they figure you have something to go back to. Mexico could be a step in the right direction, literally. But I think that a lot will have to be done before we see a visa. So today is the first day of a new life, thanks to all who helped.
All my very best,
URGENT SITUATION: HELP!
OCTOBER 10, 2014. TODAY A GANG SNATCHED BRYAN AFTER HE AND HIS FAMILY LEFT THEIR HOME IN SUYAPA'S CAR. THEY ARE ABANDONING THE HOUSE WITH THE FAINT HOPE THEY WILL BE ABLE TO SELL IT EVENTUALLY. BUT A LOOK-OUT FOR THE GANG RECOGNIZED HER CAR, AND BRYAN WAS PULLED INTO THE GANG BANGERS' CAR. SOME COURAGEOUS PASSERS-BY JUMPED INTO THE FIGHT, AND 15-YEAR-OLD BRYAN MANAGED TO ESCAPE WITH ONLY CUTS AND BRUISES. WE DON'T KNOW WHY HE WASN'T KILLED, EXCEPT PERHAPS THAT THE GANG MEMBERS ARE ESPECIALLY MOTIVATED TO GET HIM INTO THE GANG. THE FAMILY WAS CARRYING ALL THEIR PORTABLE POSSESSIONS IN THE CAR. DURING THE ATTACK, SUYAPA'S TRUCK WAS CARJACKED, ALONG WITH THESE POSSESSIONS. AFTER BEING ON THE STREET FOR SOME HOURS, THE FAMILY WAS OFFERED REFUGE IN THE TINY HOME OF A KIND MAN. BUT THEY MUST GET OUT OF SAN PEDRO SULA, EVEN IF IT MEANS SUFFERING THE PAIN OF LEAVING BEHIND ALL THAT THEY HAVE WORKED FOR DURING THE PAST 15 YEARS. TEGUCIGALPA, THE CAPITAL OF HONDURAS, WILL BE SAFER FOR A WHILE. IT'S FIVE HOURS AWAY FROM SAN PEDRO SULA. SO WE NEED BUS FARE FOR SIX PEOPLE FROM SAN PEDRO SULA TO TEGUCIGALPA, ABOUT SIX THOUSAND LEMPIRAS, OR $300. THE FAMILY NEEDS BASIC CLOTHING, TOILETRIES, FOOD, AND MEDICINE (WHICH SUYAPA ALSO LOST IN THE CARJACKING). THIS WILL BE ABOUT $4OO. SUYAPA'S MEDICATIONS ALONE (FOR MIGRAINES AND SEIZURES) COST ABOUT $150 EVERY SIX WEEKS. TEMPORARY HOUSING IN TEGUCIGALPA IS OBVIOUSLY CRUCIAL. (MAYBE $400 FOR A MONTH.) I DON'T KNOW HOW LONG WE CAN HOUSE THEM, BUT I WOULD LIKE TO GIVE THEM AT LEAST A COUPLE OF WEEKS TO FIND A MODEST, FURNISHED HOUSE. THE FUTURE IS AN UNKNOWN. WE HOPE THE GIRLS CAN FIND WORK WHILE WE TRY TO GET THEM OUT OF THE COUNTRY. THE FAMILY CAN'T HESITATE: HONDURAS, ESPECIALLY SAN PEDRO SULA, IS ESCALATING INTO A WAR ZONE. SOME OF YOU HAVE GIVEN GENEROUSLY. OTHERS: IF YOU HAVE EVEN A SMALL AMOUNT TO SPARE, PLEASE CONSIDER HELPING OUT. MONEY MUST BE RAISED IN THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS. I WOULD LIKE TO SELL SOME JEWELRY, BUT THAT TAKES ABOUT A WEEK ON EBAY AND I DON'T HAVE TIME, ALTHOUGH iT WILL DO SO. IF MY MATH IS AT ALL ACCURATE, I NEED TO RAISE AT LEAST $1100 OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS.
Thank you so much for reading this. Even if you can't donate, please think of Suyapa and her kids. That alone will help.
Oct. 5, 2014 *****NEW ALERT. My 15-year-old stepson, Bryan, is being pursued relentlessly by a gang. They are determined to make him sell drugs for him. In the past few weeks, 20 bodies have floated down the nearby river. These guys would as soon kill you as look at you. Bryan's a big kid for his age, and I think they want him for "muscle." (They don't know he's a just a little sweetie pie who loves doggies.) The gangs have feelers alI over Honduras, so permanently moving elsewhere in Honduras is not an option. I am raising money to get him and his brother, and perhaps other family members, OUT of Honduras on a legal Mexican visa. It will cost me anywhere from 6-to-10,000 dollars, plus a lot of hard work and good luck, to get them to Hermosillo, which is close enough for me to visit them. I will **not** bring them into the U.S. illegally. That's a losing game. But there are immigration attorneys who can help, and I'm determined to talk to all the politicians who will listen to me. It may work!*****
These articles outine the terrible situation in Honduras:
You've seen the headlines. Desperate Honduran youth are fleeing to the U.S., only to be detained and returned, or held in indefinite limbo. Since 1996 I have supported an extended family living in poverty in Honduras, Central America. They were my family by marriage. They are now my own family. But as the situation there worsens, and as my own health and financial situation are becoming more precarious, I need your help.
My involvement with Central America began, technically, when I married a man from Honduras, but my real involvement started when I learned more about those he left behind. I began in 1996 to send money to help educate my very young stepchildren in Colonia Filadelfia, La Lima, Cortes. When my marriage with their father dissolved (and he disappeared), I slowly became "co-mother," and their primary finanacial support. Their mom, Suyapa, is a dedicated and hard-working woman. She has done everything possible to give her children the best educations possible in the face of daunting conditions. Over time, she has had many small businesses, but Honduras, historically run by the United Fruit Co. (now Chiquita) is truly a disaster area, and she has not been able to support her family. Hurricane Mitch wiped out the banana plantations, where the people in this low-lying, disease-plagued area still live, but now without jobs.
After an under-reported military coup in 2009, gangs took over the country, and the police and military are equally violent toward the population. My family lives in the murder capital of the world, San Pedro Sula. At the young age of 41, Suyapa has had two strokes, a result of domestic violence. Her daughter Kimberly has rheumatoid arthritis. Kimber's brothers both suffer from severe thyroid problems. A young cousin has a serious blood disease. Her uncle was thrown in jail simply because he owed $300 to the bank. Everyone regularly gets dengue fever, nicknamed "break-bone fever," because of the agonizing pain it causes. Several extended family members have been killed by the gangs for non-cooperation, or for no reason at all.
Suyapa shares what I give her with the nieces and nephews who need tuition, uniforms, and medicine. We help the homeless families who live by the river, and other people even more destitute than Suyapa's family when we can.
The older Ayestas-Ramos kids (Suyapa's children) are in apprenticeships for various practical professions. Kimber is studying to be a beautician and takes computer lessons; her older sister Jennifer is an apprentice car mechanic. Bryan, age 15, is on a factory floor learning to be a machinist. The other kids are just starting to grow up. It hurts so much when I have to say "no" to buying books, medicine or supplies for them or those around them.
Many, many times I have been asked if they are "taking advantage" of me. I just laugh. I've been to Honduras twice, and I talk to Suyapa weekly. I know her heart and she knows mine. I have had to learn Spanish: she speaks no English. She is a woman of enormous courage and watches every centavo. Although I certainly couldn't "afford" it, I did buy them a small house to get them away from the slum just below, but now that the gangs are demanding a "war tax," and home invasions are daily occurrences, the concrete wall and razor wire around the house offer little protection.
Please read these articles for further information. The first photo I've attached is from Kevin's last birthday. The love is palpable. (Don't worry about the knife. Kevin vows to harm no one but cake.) More photos to come!