by Elizabeth Alex
Reina and her husband Luis were young and happy, despite the harsh life they lived.
Poverty is just part of life in Honduras. Work is scarce. Education is not guaranteed. People who cannot afford food simply don’t eat.
But Reina and Luis dreamed of a bright future. They worked hard, loved each other, their 5–year-old son Luis and the new baby that was on the way.
Reina’s tough life became almost unbearable when Luis was killed in a motorcycle crash.
Luis had been a day laborer. The small income they had died with him. Following his death, Reina, who was 21 years old and four months pregnant, had a hard time securing enough food for her little family; covering the school fees and providing supplies for her growing little boy was even harder.
“Without his dad, it was hard to even buy a pair of shoes,” Reina said.
She was also depressed. But life in extreme poverty allows for little time to process grief.
“I missed their father,” Reina recalled. “He was very responsible. He always tried to give the best.”
But Reina discovered she wasn’t truly alone. Outside of her parents and siblings in Honduras, she had friends in an unlikely place — Stilwell.
“It was like God put us together,” said Pam Brown.
The two moms’ lives are quite different. Nothing about their homes, their incomes or opportunities is the same. But the common bond of motherhood seemed to bridge all differences.
“I’m really kind of blown away,” said Pam. “Thinking about her children and a mother’s love and her loss and her desire to do her very, very best by her children.”
Pam, her husband Dr. Randy Brown and their kids — Alex, Evan Will and Anna — already sponsored young Luis through Unbound, a Kansas City, Kansas-based humanitarian organization that was founded by lay Catholics in 1981. The Browns were inspired by a visiting priest saying Mass at their parish, Church of the Nativity in Leawood.
“We just felt this call to say yes,” Pam said. “It wasn’t much more complicated than that.”
When they heard Reina lost her husband, the Browns offered to sponsor the new baby, Angel, too. The extra money made the difference financially and gave Reina comfort during those dark days.
“It felt so nice to have a support for me and my children,” said Reina, tears running down her cheeks.
“It does my heart good to know that she is able to protect her kids from further suffering,” Pam said.
The Brown family knows they are helping. But Pam says appreciation goes both ways.
“What strikes me is how little it takes for us to help and how much it helps them,” she said.
“[Reina’s] humility to receive and allowing us to do something . . . I think is an honor and a privilege for me to be a part of it.”
While the entire Brown family is supportive of Reina and her kids, Pam says her 12-year old daughter Anna has a passion for her friends in Honduras.
“She has a real heart for this,” Pam explained. “It broadens her perspective about what real need is. It makes her heart grow for love of others. Who can’t use that?”
Reina sees the Browns and the local staff of Unbound as a gift to her children. They are especially appreciated during these desperate times that have many Honduran families selling everything they own to pay strangers to smuggle their children into the United States.
“Thank God we have Unbound in our lives so we don’t have that need to send our children to the border,” she said.
Now 27, Reina has remarried. She and her husband Jaime have added 2-year-old daughter Daniela to the family.
Life is looking up for Reina, though nothing in this part of the world is ever easy.
Jaime is a mason, but goes months without work. During those times, he hauls firewood from the mountains to sell on the street.
Luis, now 10, will tell you exactly how his mom helps the family.
“Sometimes we don’t have food,” he said. “That’s when my mom goes to do laundry.”
Despite the difficult life most Hondurans face, Reina is moving ahead with life. She has healthy children, a loving husband and she hopes to get an education for herself and become a teacher.
Reina says she will always be grateful for her friends from Unbound in Stilwell.
“That support gave me strength,” she said with a smile as she looked at her sons. “I want one day for them to say, ‘I lost my father, but my mother did her best for us. My mother was there for me.’”