NPH El Salvador: The Light That Changed My Life

Melvin says NPH El Salvador saved his life after he was abandoned at a young age by his parents. He now has his sights set on studying at university. Read how NPH breaks the cycle of poverty.
October 23, 2019 - El Salvador

Melvin arrived at NPH at the age of nine.

The NPH family has different children and young adults. As in any family, each individual has his own story. There are some stories that are very difficult and personal to tell. Melvin, a 17-year-old high school student wanted to share his story in order to show the world how much his NPH family means to him.

“When I was a little, I wondered what the purpose of my life was. I did not expect any sort of future; thinking about it brought sadness, worry, and fear. I saw many children with their parents and I didn’t have that. I lived in a gray world far from God and people who cared about me. I used to think my life would be like that forever because I did not have the love of a family. But now I know that God had a bright future for me,” says Melvin.

His life had a difficult start. Melvin never met his father. His mother abandoned him and one of his brothers, who is just a couple of years older than Melvin, leaving them with a friend of hers when Melvin was four years old.

Despite El Salvador’s reputation as a country known for traditional family values, there is a relatively high rate of broken family linked to divorce and children being born out of wedlock. The causes are poverty, unemployment, or an absent parent who has emigrated to the United States. Unfortunately, Melvin doesn't know where his parents are.

“I used to wonder where my mother was because I never saw her around. My brother and I stayed with this lady and her family. At the beginning, she was nice to us,” explains Melvin.

“Then everything changed for the worst. Every day, they left the house and locked us in a small, dirty, messy yard with nothing to eat under the hot sun. I remember my ‘toy’ was a ladder that was there in the yard. But it was not only my toy, it was our opportunity to beg for food from the neighbors. We would climb the ladder and ask the neighbors to share something to eat with us.”

Life was full of challenges for young Melvin and his brother. They went hungry and lacked many things like a decent place to live, good nutrition, education, healthcare, and love. Living with this family represented pain and solitude for the two boys. They had to work selling fruit and vegetables on the streets in order to earn their meals, which sometimes consisted of just bread and water. Every day they were threatened with violence at home or food would be withheld if they didn't sell all the produce—a lot to ask of a five-year-old, in addition to being a form of gross mistreatment.

Sadly, Melvin and his brother weren’t alone. Child labor is an unfortunate and common phenomenon in El Salvador. According to UNESCO, in 2017 about 5.9% of children 5-14 years old were working, totaling more than 68,000 children, with the majority working in agriculture, sometimes putting in hard labor. Meanwhile, 6.1% of children both work and attend school.

Even at a young age, Melvin knew this was wrong. He couldn't continue living this way. So one day, he ran away. He begged his brother to come with him, but he said no. Little five-year-old Melvin ran as far away as he possibly could. Little did he know he was hiding on streets known for gang problems and violence. Luckily, a police officer soon found Melvin and brought him to a government-run childcare institution, where he remained for four years.

Melvin was then sent to live at Casa Sagrada Familia with NPH El Salvador and he began to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

“I arrived at NPH in March 2011 when I was nine-years-old. Wow! I noted the difference straightaway. I started to live new experiences. I was happy. I started in a special class where they helped me learn to write and read, which I achieved in a couple of months. I also started spiritual instruction, where NPH prepared me to receive my baptism and first communion sacraments. I made friends and I felt loved by the staff. I saw the doctor and ate three delicious meals a day,” remembers Melvin.

Melvin’s life changed for the better when he walked through the doors of NPH. His grades improved year after year, and eventually he graduated from the ninth grade with excellent scores.

He also discovered that he possessed an array of talents, such as dancing and singing folk music. He soon became part of the choir and dance group at NPH and he had the opportunity to travel to the U.S. perform with the NPH group in 2016 and 2017.

Melvin is now completing his second year of high school at Colegio Bilingüe Lidia Salman de Vargas located in Santa Ana and his grades continue to be outstanding. He hopes to achieve the distinction of “top of the class” by the end of the school year, just as he did the year before. He will graduate in November and his dream is to study journalism or tourism at university.

“I would like to continue studying music as well, but I am sure that whatever I decide to study, I will do my best and I will motivate people around me who might have suffered similar circumstances to continue fighting for their dreams,” adds Melvin.

“In the past, I saw my life as a blank page that was going to be filled by different people who would direct my life. But now I see myself as the author. I am writing my new life at NPH supported by all the blessings God has given me.”

Children’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.

Enjoy learning about Melvin? Visit your local NPH office to learn how you can support NPH to break the cycle of poverty with our nine homes throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

Carmina Salazar   
Communication Officer

You may be only one person in the world, but you may be all the world to one child.
—Fr. William Wasson




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