Rosany is a petite, brown skinned girl with a beautiful smile and the face of an angel. Her eyes are soft and wisps of black hair frame her fine features. She was guided into our office by an officer of the court. Her head was down because she was shy, confused and too scared to contribute any details of her story.
About a year ago the parents gave 14-year-old Rosany to a lady in Iquitos to “use” as a baby sitter for a Down’s syndrome boy and another toddler. The parents were simply too poor to provide for her. Rosany’s owner was supposed to have put her in school but instead washing clothes, cleaning house, cooking meals and caring for a special-needs child became her life. The neighbors took notice when the physical abuse began, and after the authorities were notified, People of Peru Project became her home.
I just returned from Cusco and was eager to meet our new little girl. The first night in Iquitos, I went to the facility in Santa Thomas to make her acquaintance. During the weeks of my absence, the father was brought from another city to formally relinquish his parental rights to us. This was his decision. There were other options, but he was simply finished being a father. While he was in our facility saying a final farewell to his daughter, he ended up in a group photo of a birthday party happening simultaneously. The good-byes were said. He left for his own city, and three days later died a sudden death from a brain aneurysm.
On Saturday night, we had planned an evening of popcorn and a DVD for the girls, but Rosany cried through the first ten minutes of the movie, and then went to her room. Two of our staff followed, and after about thirty minutes I quietly slipped in to see what was happening. This is what I saw:
Rosany was sitting on her bed with the photo of her father in her lap. One of our staff had her arms around her, and the other was kneeling on the floor in front of her, pouring her heart out in prayer. All three had tears running down their cheeks. They were asking God to comfort this little girl and support her through this difficult time.
When they were finished, I sat down beside Rosany and told her that I couldn’t possibly understand how she felt but if she wanted to stay, this would be her new home, and we would be her family. Her mother has five other young children and could not provide for Rosany while the father was alive, now it would be impossible. The court said that she is ours.
I feel certain that the impact of this life-changing experience will not be felt for quite some time.
As I stood to leave, I asked her if she understood that we had made a serious commitment to care for all her needs. She simply leaned over and hugged me and shook her head yes.
Later in the evening, I was telling everyone good-bye and when I started toward Rosany she jumped up and threw her arms around my waist and asked, “Is it okay if I call you daddy?” I answered yes, not only for me but for all of you who have made it possible for little girls like Rosany to be safe and loved. I could very well be the luckiest man alive to be the recipient of these tender moments, but I have never once forgotten that you who support us so faithfully are the absolute reason that literally thousands of lives have been changed in Peru.
You will find many of these stories on our web site. Some of the details and circumstances of these kids’ lives are so graphic and horrible that decency dictates we refrain from crafting any mental images. I can only tell you that my breath has been sucked from my lungs, and my stomach tied in knots as I have listened to the saga that some of these kids have called "life".
This is the time of year when our hearts turn toward family, friends, blessings of the year, and perhaps some of the only moments of reflection that we can squeeze into our busy lives.