In the fall of 1998, Hurricane Mitch destroyed much of Honduras. 1/3 of their highway system was totally gone, isolating 1.5 million people out of a total population of 6 million. 6,000 died, 8,000 were missing, 1/2 million were left homeless, and in the case of a little 70 family village, they were left without a town. Much of Honduras is unstable and prone to mudslides in extreme rain. And the town of El Porvenir was washed away, down the mountainside and into the river.
When I went to Honduras in November 1999 on a Church World Services sponsored work trip, we were assigned to help the townspeople of El Porvenir rebuild their homes in the "new" El Porvenir, downstream a few miles and across the valley in a flat land. We couldn't get all the way there in the van that carried the 14 of us. The road was gone, and we had to walk the last few miles through the mud. It rains a lot in Honduras and it was raining the day we arrived and the day we walked out to go home again.
I'm not going to bore you with the details about how there was no water fit to drink or bathe in without boiling, or how livestock wandered around the mud bath that was the town and that we worked every day in a mix of ankle deep mud and animal feces, or how they had no town dump until we arrived because they made no trash, or how the kids made toys out of our trash because they had no toys of their own, or how their temporary homes were sticks driven into the mud and wrapped in Tyvek, or how I couldn't eat in the common area they made for us knowing they were themselves starving from a one meal-a-day life. That would be boring.
I want to talk about Miguel. He's the little kid in the photo I took back in 1999, the kid who was always covered in mud because everything there was covered in mud all the time, including us. His hair, a light brown is all wrong. He's a Mayan. His hair should be black, but malnutrition does that. I gave him most of my food. I tried to be friends but I didn't speak much Spanish other than hello and goodbye and he spoke no English. I keep his photo in a place I can see from my desk here in the office at home.
When I got back home, I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, and I couldn't be who I was before I went to Honduras.
So, Miguel, I was just thinking of you today and wondering how you were doing. I hope that you've put on some weight and that your hair is black again. I wonder if you still have that Special-K cereal box I gave you that you made into a toy.
Maybe someday I'll find out.