Do you remember what it was like to be a nine year old during summer vacation? For me, life was carefree, and our family owned a cottage on Lake Champlain in Vermont. We played all day and night with our cousins and friends…swimming, boating, softball, bonfires and sleeping on the beach.
It is quite different for nine year old, Noel, visiting from Honduras. Although we offer him lots of fun including trips to the beach, playing in the pool and attending summer camp, his mind is not completely at ease. He is continually thinking of his family back home…Mama, Papa, Lizzie, Maicol, as well as, a large extended family. Are his parents working? Do they have enough food? Are his pets still alive?
I’ll never forget Noel’s first trip here when he was four years old. There was some leftover food and he looked up to me with a very concerned face asking, “can we send this home to Mama?” Since then, he’s been determined to earn as much money as he can, to bring home to his family. He’s constantly looking to empty the trash, clean the cars, water the plants, feed the dogs or return bottles/cans. Family and friends have “hired” him on, knowing this money isn’t for candy or toys; it will be used to buy another deer (which he hopes will produce offspring), and food for his family.
Noel talks to his family on a regular basis. Most calls are filled with updates from both ends and then requests from home for something to be purchased in the U.S. Noel is their “hope” and often times, “provider.” I often wonder what this feels like to him. I imagine it’s an array of emotions…responsibility, pressure, and hopefully, pride.
Noel will be returning home in a few weeks and beginning third grade at the end of the month. His bilingual school is rigorous, and we depend (and our grateful) to our friend, Ana, for his success. We are constantly telling Noel that this educational opportunity can make the difference of a lifetime…we hope he takes advantage of it.