Manuel was only 12 years old when his parents were killed. He was left alone in the small mountain village in Guatemala, in a very unstable environment. For two years, Manuel lived in fear and poverty often begging for food from villagers. When he was 14, he decided that his only chance for survival would be to travel to America to find his aunt and uncle who lived and worked “somewhere in Texas.”
Manuel traveled for two months with strangers under treacherous conditions. He mentions hearing the screams of children as they were abused, and some killed, by the men guiding them all across the border. He was spared and is still not sure why.
When Manuel finally made it into Texas – after traveling more than 1,200 miles, alone and mostly on foot – he was apprehended by authorities and taken to Bokenkamp Children’s Shelter in Corpus Christi. He arrived at Bokenkamp hungry, tired and scared, identified only by a number written on a piece of duct tape placed across his chest. Staff at the center immediately gave Manuel food, water, a shower and a chance to tell his story.
For the next month, Manuel stayed at Bokenkamp while staff worked to locate his aunt and uncle. While at Bokenkamp, Manuel experienced many firsts. He ate three hot meals a day. He attended formal school. He was given a Bible. He received therapy to help him deal with the trauma of his losing his parents. He was safe. Manuel was united with his aunt and uncle and cousin in Houston, Texas, on June 20th. He left Bokenkamp a healthier, happier teenager, with hopes and dreams of a promising future.