I don’t usually post stories of children participating in our programs, but today, I want to tell you about a boy. I’ll call him Luca.
Luca was born in Romania. His mother struggled with mental health-related conditions and had difficulty keeping the family together. They moved frequently. One move took them to Rome, Italy, where his mother worked in a hotel. Another member of the hotel staff was a man from Perú.
This man promised Luca’s mother a wonderful life if she moved to Perú with him. She took a leap of faith and moved to Perú with her two daughters and Luca. Once they got to Perú, instead of stability, they were devastated to realize their hope for a better life had become a grave and violent situation.
Luca started spending more and more of his time on the streets. He fell into trouble because he was unable to navigate the challenges around him due to language and cultural barriers. Luca was 15 years old when he came to live at the Casa Girasoles.
When he came to us, Luca had already been in three foster care homes. These were pilot foster care homes that the government had established to deinstitutionalize the child welfare system.
His third foster care placement was with a police officer, who, as Luca would later tell us, seemed like a nice man at first, but tragically, he perpetuated more violence in Luca’s life. Afraid and alone, the only thing Luca knew to do was run.
When the case worker brought him to us, Luca was not interested in yet another failed placement without his family. He worried about his two sisters, and he worried about his mother. He was 16 years old and just wanted to be a boy. Luca lived with us for about a year, and it was the first time since he was “9” years old that he had experienced a stable, safe, and nurturing environment. We helped him to understand what it would mean to build a life for himself.
Thanks to his resilience and the healthy attachment he developed with his new caregivers, Luca started to find his way in the world.
Take a moment and try to put yourselves in Luca’s experience. It is hard to fully imagine how challenging it must be to be a boy from Romania plopped into the desert city of Ica in Perú. Not knowing the language, not having any fundamental cultural understanding of social factors around you, but being expected to find your way in the world in a family of abuse, violence, and displacement.
Sadly, this scenario has played out and affected many children in Perú.
For kids like Luca, there is hope. Today, Luca is living with his girlfriend. They are expecting a child, and he has a steady job working at one of the large agriculture processing plants. He stays in contact with the Director of the Casa Girasoles. He recently told the Director that the time he spent with us at the Casa Girasoles was the best time of his life.
The story I am telling you is complex. Nothing about this work is simple.
Before coming to Casa Girasoles, there were many places and spaces in Luca’s life where things fell apart. The care and support systems that were supposed to help him did not serve him. We know that targeting only one of these challenges will never change the complexity of the circumstances. And the big picture.
That is why what we are doing is so incredibly important. We care for over 60 children, deliver training to thousands of healthcare workers, and help re-empower young adults who got lost in the child welfare system. We are also an organization building and providing collaborative models for children, youth, families, and organizations to use towards fulfilling and healthy lives for themselves and their communities.
We are championing children and the communities that care for them. Join us!