The boy in the crumpled photo is smiling; he looks happy with his mother’s arm around him and his older brother standing close by. His name is Sergio*. He’s shy and quiet, but his smile is warm, slightly mischievous, and reveals much of what he chooses not to say.
I first noticed Sergio silently watching his brother and some of the older boys play soccer on the field in front of the hogares.
It wasn’t until later on when I saw him practicing in the goalie position that I realized what a good player he is—good enough to play on a team with the older boys in the Torneo Navideño.
Sergio is fast, agile, and determined, all very necessary qualities when you are playing soccer with the older boys and young men at Amigos.
He is intrepid as well as determined; all of us had to cross the river on foot on the way back from Mass in Macuelizo.
Some of the smaller boys bringing up the rear were being ferried across by Padrino Carlos and another of the older boys.
But not Sergio.
He was putting his shoes back on by the time I had crossed, and when I said “Todo bien, Sergio?”
He responded “Si!” and ran to catch up with a group that had crossed much earlier.
Sergio is brave in class as well.
He does not hesitate to raise his hand and participate in English class, even when some of his classmates are slightly distracted and rambunctious.
He seems ready and eager to learn, even though he’s capable of joining in the shenanigans at times, as most middle school boys are.
Sergio and his classmates are affectionate with one another; one day he and one of his classmates were play fighting and ended up hugging.
Sergio’s shyness with me is slowly dissipating with time.
Once he was sitting with Madrina Ruth while she and I were having a conversation.
He was so engaged in the soccer game going on that he didn’t see that she’d gotten up from her seat.
When he did realize her absence and that he was alone with me, he practically jumped up to move closer to another group of people.
When I first ate dinner in his hogar, he could barely look at me, but now he will smile and return my greeting.
The turning point came when I came upon him and some friends playing soccer.
The kids called me over to show me that Sergio had cut himself on a rock and to ask me if I had a band-aid.
I walked with Sergio to his hogar and then ran and got a band-aid from my room.
When I returned Madrina Carolina was cleaning the cut on Sergio’s leg.
I applied the band-aid, asking if it was now better, and was rewarded with a big smile from Sergio, who promptly went back outside to rejoin the game.
Sergio is quiet and thoughtful; however, once you earn his trust, his smile is a window into his heart.
~ Genevieve Volpe, 2015-16 volunteer
*name changed to protect privacy
Selvin (right) trying out Ledin's headphones