You never know how things will turn out, until you dedicate yourself to trying.
Our work with the Girasoles Sanos Program for formerly abandoned youth started over 20 years ago. Actually, our work with children on the streets started almost 40 years ago.
In early 1980's Ernesto and Margaret Zavala were missionaries living in Lima. Ernesto was born in Lima and moved to the United States to pursue his education. While studying and working in Long Island, NY, he met and married Margaret. Wanting to reconnect with his roots - he moved his wife and new family back to Perú to work as a missionary with the faith-based organization Union Biblica. They focused their work on the deaf community.
One night, while searching in the center of Lima for a deaf child in their program, Ernesto and Margaret witnessed something that would change the course of their lives . . . and become the start of Health Bridges International. They found the deaf child on the street. He appeared cold, hungry, and lonely. Ernesto and Margaret learned that the boy was one of thousands of children living on the streets, the victims of a social and economic fracturing that had been effecting Perú since the terrorist movement of the Shining Path.
That night, Ernesto and Margaret took the boy to their home. Thus started a program of outreach to children living on the streets. Fast forward to the 1990's and Wayne Centrone took his first trip to Peru and was introduced to the street youth program of Union Biblica.
In 2010, uncertain where to go with her life and seeking a meaningful way to make a difference, a young woman leaves Long Island, NY and moves to Lima. She starts working with a faith-based organization helping with volunteer groups. She teaches English. She gets involved in as many activities as she can to find a place in Perú. One day she meets Health Bridges. That meeting leads to a position. Today, she is the director of HBI in Perú. That young woman's name is Carmen Elena Zavala Thompson - and she is the daughter of Ernesto and Margaret.
Today HBI runs two homes for formerly abandoned youth. Sometimes you never know where the future will take you. We are so thankful for connections. Connections that lead to true, meaningful change.
The HBI Blog is a rotating journal from our staff. Our Blog is a series of messages from the field, insights from our work, and lessons in service.