Ronald's Story from Honduras
Sister Pat Dowling is a Sister of St. Joseph in ministry with L’Arche in Honduras. She tells the story of Ronald, a boy in the village of Choluteca, and how they were able to assist him over the years…
On arriving in Choluteca and visiting neighbours, I found Ronald, a child in the corner of a hut with a dirt floor, listening to the radio and repeating what he heard. His very elderly grandmother was raising him as Ronald's mother had abandoned him and later his father also left him.
The grandmother doesn't know when she was born but said she was 100! She and Ronald lived alone with no income, but as the poor nearly always help those who have less, neighbours had helped them get by. We invited Ronald to come to our little L'Arche school of special education and Grandma said "Not at all. Ronald is blind and he cannot walk.” We noted that he was also quite autistic. These are some of the reasons the boy was so over-protected.
I continued to visit Ronald, with Erica, a core member in our home who loves children and loves to play. In no time she had Ronald reacting to her and playing together. That was the beginning.
After many more months of encouraging Grandma to let him come to school, she said "O.K. but he can't walk.” So we brought a wheelchair and off we went daily to school with about six others.
After many more months of activities at school, one day Ronald walked to school with his first pair of shoes and long pants, bringing tears to my eyes. Eventually we discovered he was not totally blind and started responding to activities in distinguishing objects.
After several years in school, he "graduated" to our workshop where he turns the wheel for braiding the strings that are then used for making hammocks. Also Ronald pounds out the hard layers of the plant that makes the loofa "pastes" (exfoliating sponges) and sandpapers the boards for cutting vegetables.
Melvin and Jaine get the wheel ready for Ronald to turn. The wheel is used to braid the strings for making hammocks.
He also turns the old "meat grinder" which grounds the coffee beans. Ronald and others take these articles to the market to sell, feeling very proud and satisfied with their work.
He takes home his weekly "salary" of $2.50 and buys the tortillas for his grandmother and himself. Tortillas and beans form their basic diet.
Ronald strums the guitar while Tino and Karen look on.
From this little disabled boy years ago, Ronald has developed into a young man with a job who partly supports his grandmother. Of course Ronald still has some disabilities. But his progress was similar to that of a closed bud opening into a beautiful flower — a Resurrection.
And Ronald's story is one of several in Choluteca in a country where the majority of youth with or without disabilities do not have opportunities, much less options.
Pat Dowling CSJ