ARSENIO An unwanted child. His mother left him when he was 7 months old. And his father was an alcoholic. But he was his papa after all, and Arsenio loved him.
Dad would take him to the bars and the boy would watch him get drunk. He would accompany him to the brothels and wait patiently. His formative years were filled with negatives. And his father would beat the little boy, leaving his face battered and blue, confusing his developing mind; relating violence to love.
But the beatings got worse, and at the grand of old age of eight, his beaten body could take no more. And he headed to the streets. And to the glue… Arsenio quickly fell into the grips of the toxic glue, inhaling the fumes and getting high. With his cute smile and his big brown eyes, people would feel sorry for him and give him spare change with which he serviced his addiction.
But in August of this year, that all began to change. A new program – Casa Alianza – was in town, and he was invited by the street educators to give life a chance. Positive role models, no more beating, no more hurt.
Perhaps a tad more difficult than most, the hyperactive Arsenio tested our unconditional love to the limits. But he started to turn his life around. He started to play. He started to start over. He smiled.
But… The torrential rains started to fall on October 30th. Hurricane Mitch was upon us and all hell was let loose. Bored with being stuck
inside the Crisis Center all day, and after a small disagreement with another resident, Arsenio wanted out. He needed a bag of glue. He wanted to escape reality with a plastic bag full of glue to dream of his mother, wherever she may be.
Soaked. Shivering. Scared. After a few hours the sad creature wanted help. Seriously high, Arsenio climbed the fence of the building trying to reach the sheltered balcony. He made it over the spiked fence and reached up to the fuse box on the highest ledge. The rain fell in sheets. Not even the dogs were out.
And then things took a tragic turn. No-one is sure about what happened next. A spark. A scream. He slipped. And fell. Hurricane Mitch caused another victim. Our little fighter was impaled on the fence, his little eyes facing the troubled sky. The rain mixed with the tears as his spinal cord was severed. His legs fell limp…
I saw little Arsenio in the Aldo Chavarria public hospital this afternoon. Lying flat on his back, in the hallway of this overcrowded public hospital, a tube replacing his sphincter. I stupidly asked him how he was doing. Paraplegic, the little boy raises his arms and we hug. He shows me a photo of the bloodied fence where he once again lost his childhood.
Another shot on the roll showed him playing football…
We have a nurse with our little boy 24 hours a day. His friends from the Crisis Center visit him every afternoon. They realize that but for the grace of God.… He fidgets and drops beans on his pajamas as he tries to eat the tepid beans and rice he is presented for dinner. We hold hands. Few words are exchanged, I don’t know what to say. I fake a smile and he looked at me. The unspoken words of "why me?".
I promised to go back tomorrow. We need better medical care. The
hospitals are washed out. The machines don’t work. The boy child
suffers. Life is a son of a Mitch.
We hug again. We say good bye. And as I turn, little Arsenio still has the courage to smile…
Casa Alianza, a BOES.ORG Partner, received the prestigious Olof Palme Award 1997