The United States Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program
A Mini Reunion presented by Sara Prozeller Hartman
Sara and Peter started taking in foster children when their own were six and eight years old. Thus with more than forty years’ experience and NYS certification, when in 2014, U.S. Homeland Security asked them to foster an unaccompanied minor from Central America, they were ready!
Six years ago the Hartmans took a boy who had left his home in Guatemala… Wilson! More recently they “adopted” Jimmy, a boy from Honduras.
Wilson arrived on March 12, 2017. He spoke no English. Nonetheless, he was required to enroll at Fairfield High School, and due to his determination and creativity he made friends and began to have fun in his new environment. Playing soccer helped him to integrate with other students, and being an excellent contender in professional dance competitions (in Central America) he decided to offer dancing lessons to his classmates (and some teachers as well!). “Salsa with Wilson,” imagine!
Today he not only has his high school diploma and his Green Card, but is clearly fluent in English. Wilson’s story of his escape from a dysfunctional household and a father who was a “narco” or drug dealer—was riveting.
His mother struggled financially, so though only 11 years old, Wilson went to work in a shoe factory for three years before earning enough money to come to the US. It was a difficult decision to leave his family behind, but armed with a fake Mexican birth certificate and 5,000 pesos (about $250), and guided by a “coyote” (someone who specializes in human smuggling, bringing people across the United States border from Mexico) he got on a bus. Before reaching the border, it was stopped several times by policemen or even narcos who took his money and beat up and violated some of the other passengers—and he arrived in the U.S. feeling “empty” inside and out.
But Wilson was determined, and some of the other migrants gave him some money, so after two days in California he went to Illinois and thence to the Bronx for six months before entering the URM program, and, finally being placed in the Hartman household.
The US Department of Health and Human Services funds 100% of room and board, clothing, activities, health care and anything school related. However, the nurturing is provided 100% by the foster parents, who so obviously in this case, helped Wilson become a part of their family and of the community that today he calls them his “Grandma” and “Grandpa”.
What a wonderful story! Gracias!
Review submitted by Sallie Wright Abbas and Sunny Eaton Steadman