After Fleeing Death, Young Mother Prepares to Meet Pope Francis

Posted on September 11, 2015 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Legs from a friend’s dead body hung from a garbage can wedged along the road near Keidy Marin’s childhood home in San Juan en Tela, Honduras.  A few days later she spotted the head, Ms. Marin recalled, then the torso, of another friend in another garbage can.  All told, five of Ms. Marin’s friends were among the dozens of neighbors slaughtered and dumped in cans along the road, victims of a murderous land grab that has pushed Ms. Marin and fellow Garifuna to run for their lives.

This has long been the plight of the Garifuna, an exiled people whose heritage dates back to a Spanish slave boat that shipwrecked along Caribbean shores stuffed with men, women and children from what is now called Nigeria.  Survivors married Native Americans and, later, French invaders. During this period of French, Spanish and English invasions, the Garifuna time and again chose the losing side in wars.  In response, they were exiled from multiple homelands, eventually coming to reside on Honduran shores.  But now these same shores, once considered worthless, get four-star ratings for palm tree-lined beaches and crystal-blue waters. Gangs vie with corrupt officials for land owned by the Garifuna.

And so violence dominated Ms. Marin’s life.  Violence outside with friends murdered and dumped in garbage cans.  And violence at home; Ms. Marin’s abusive boyfriend tried to kidnap their daughter, Aryani. 

Ms. Marin is one thousands of anonymous immigrants living in the shadows and served by Catholic Charities.  Anonymous, that is, until now.  At Pope Francis’ request, Catholic Charities chose approximately 150 of the immigrants we serve to meet with him during his upcoming visit to New York City on September 25.  Ms. Marin is among them.

She fled Honduras with her young child to New York.  But Aryani, now four years old, will be forever disabled by lead poisoning she licked from peeling paint in their ramshackle Honduran home.

Yet, little by little, in an unlit South Bronx apartment rented by Ms. Marin’s aunt where not even a fan runs on an 88-degree August day, Ms. Marin and Aryani are building a future.  Thanks to a group of Garifuna associated with Catholic Charities, Ms. Marin found free legal assistance and was granted asylum and legal status in the United States. 

Best of all, Ms. Marin just received her social security card and authorization to work.  Now she is getting help finding training and work as a home attendant.  She is also getting help finding services for little Aryani, a smiling girl who skates around the apartment on a rusty red scooter and tries her best to speak.

“Before I was depressed,” Ms. Marin says, flicking on a light switch so a visitor can see.  “But now I feel good, I can work so I can give my daughter the help she needs.”

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