My third child that I was supposed to visit, Ludvi, wasn’t at the church, because somehow along the way she got left off of the list of children whose sponsors were visiting. But another sponsor had teen girls there that day who lived nearby Ludvi and knew where her home was, so they said they could show us. Ludvi lives in the small, very in need community of Ollada in Mercedes. I had known a little about Ollada before the trip: basically that it is an area of very high poverty and the children have a very long walk to get to the church. But experiencing it for myself was a completely different story…
I piled into the back of the Land Cruiser with 4 children and one staff member while my translator and another staff member, who was a driver, got in the front. I was told early on in the trip how the Land Cruiser was the worst ride, probably because it has just two long benches that face each other for everyone to slide around on. I also mentioned earlier how Mercedes has the bumpiest roads. Now I’ll mention that the drive to Ollada has the worst and bumpiest roads in Mercedes! So you can start to imagine what this trip was like.
As we were bumping along, my knuckles white with my grips on the bench, getting air time over the biggest bumps and getting actually stuck on the biggest hills, tires spinning, I had a little time to also register just how long of a drive this was. And if it was a long drive, it’s SOO much longer of a walk- a walk that these kids are making. That Ludvi is making. The kids in the Land Cruiser with us were having a great time, laughing and smiling, as they obviously aren’t used to being transported home like this. I noticed that they didn’t need to hang on as tightly as I did either. I’ll blame it on my higher center of gravity 😉
Finally, the girls told us we had arrived. We got out of the vehicle, and I was relieved to be on the ground. Then they directed us down a very very steep hill. The girls were sweet, a hill like this being commonplace to them, and they stayed close by as we went down. I was bound and determined not to fall and hurt myself this trip, especially as I’m entering the home of one of my sponsored children, so I took it very slow, holding onto tree branches or the barbed wire in between the barbs whenever I could. That starts to paint a picture…
As we arrived and introduced ourselves, Ludvi’s mom called for her. When she came out, I noticed how tiny she was for a girl who had just turned 10. Yes, everyone in Honduras and Central America as a whole are smaller than in the US, and malnutrition is a real and common cause of this, but she was remarkably petite standing there, with her sweet smile, just like in her photos. Her mother graciously invited me into their very small home, even though we came unannounced. There were children everywhere! Ludvi has 9 siblings, but not all of the children there at the time where her siblings; some were neighbors. Not even all of us could fit inside the main hall of the home, but they put chairs out for my translator and me and everyone stood around us. Ludvi’s toddler brother playfully smiled at me and touched my leg throughout our visit. Her mother was holding a sweet child with cerebral palsy, who I believe is a cousin of Ludvi’s.
In talking with Ludvi and her mom during the visit, what stood out to me the most was how much Ludvi’s education meant to both of them. I realized that she was another child who would not be able to be attending school if it wasn’t for being registered in the Manna 4 Lempira program and receiving the backpack with school supplies and school shoes. Her mom asked if I would continue supporting her in school, and I said absolutely I would. She wants to be a teacher, and I was happy to tell her that I’m there to support her in that and any goals she has. She thanked me many times during our two days together for the school supplies. It’s something that most kids here in the US take for granted. Many even dread going shopping for them. And here, they meant everything to this beautiful girl.
We got some more time to talk, but we didn’t stay as long as some of the other home visits, because we did come unannounced and her poor mother had a lot going on with a lot of kids. I knew that she didn’t have a father, and I found out that he died. It wasn’t until the next day at the pool that I would find out more details. God bless this beautiful woman raising her 10 sweet children on her own.
Before we left, we asked about taking a photo, as always. There was actually not enough space outside of the home for all of us to stand. So we went down another, smaller hill, while my translator stayed up above to take the pictures. I realized that this lack of space meant lack of opportunities for the children to play outside the house.
The first picture started out serious, but quickly the smiles evolved!
Thankfully, the walk back up the very very steep hill was easier than the walk down. You may think this is where my adventure in Ollada ended, but actually, it was far from over. Because, due to a miscommunication among the Sowers staff, I actually ended up spending another at least 2 hours parked in the Land Cruiser in Ollada with several of the children. When we first parked, the girls and the boy who had ridden up with us curiously climbed back in. As time went on, though, more and more siblings and neighbors started joining. What resulted was 2 precious hours that I wouldn’t trade for the world in the back of a hot vehicle with children whose language I barely could speak any of. But smiles and laughs are universal, and we shared a lot of those. I got out my phone, and they each wanted their picture taken.
Then they took the reigns on my phone, even learning how to play some of the games. Their favorite app was snapchat, though! I wish I could have taken video of them experiencing it for the first time! There was so much laughing coming from the back of that Land Cruiser up in the hills of Ollada that afternoon.
By the end, they figured out how to save some of their snapchat pictures.
Finally, the staff figured out no one was coming to meet us, and it was time to go. Looking at these kids, it’s easy to see the need. This is the most needy community I saw in my time in Honduras, and it’s probably the most needy that Manna serves. But I got to see way past all that, to the smiles and personalities and hearts that are so big! And for that, I wouldn’t have had the day happen any other way.
Driving out of Mercedes in the rain: