When the Landslide Can’t
Sweep Away Your Smile

Story and photos by Josela López, Honduras Field Communications Specialist

A boy and his family in Honduras lost their home to a massive landslide that affected more than 50 houses in his neighborhood. But their Hope Center and friends ensured they didn’t face their loss alone.

Despite his home being damaged in a landslide, sponsored boy Owen is grateful his family is OK and together.

Grief is defined as intense sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death — a strong, sometimes overwhelming emotion.

But you don’t have to experience the death of a loved one to experience grief.

There is grief after many kinds of losses — a ruptured relationship, the loss of a job, or even the loss of a house.

More than 50 families in Honduras recently experienced grief when they lost their houses to a massive landslide.

I won’t say “homes,” because a home is wherever you are with your loved ones. But these families were left with no roof over their heads.

Owen’s House Is Cut Off

Owen’s family was one of those. Owen is enrolled in the OneChild Hope Center in his neighborhood.

Their house, where Owen lives with his mom and grandmother, did not fall completely like most of the surrounding houses. But due to the way landslide occurred, Owen and his family are unable to enter their house because the street that gave them access disappeared.

The ruins of Owen’s neighborhood.

When the OneChild staff in Honduras were told about Owen’s house, we asked to visit him. His mom, Denisseth, answered our call and was willing to welcome us, so Owen’s Hope Center Director Henry went with me to meet her.

We originally thought that Owen and his family were in a shelter, but Denisseth said she didn’t feel safe there.

“I have two young boys and there is a lot of people there who I do not know who they are,” she said.

A Surprising Smile

As we walked farther through the neighborhood, it was easier to see the massive landslide.

Some people were sitting on the street corner near the cliff left by the landslide. We realized they were homeowners as we heard them saying things like, “We never thought this could happen to us. We don’t know if we will receive the help they promised.”

Owen points to his damaged house.

We saw a truck delivering sodas and a woman coming toward the truck. It happened to be Denisseth.

We greeted her with a hug and helped her with the bottles of soda. She explained that she decided to buy and resell sodas to make a living during this difficult time.

We walked less than two blocks to the house where she and her children are staying. The house was lent to her by a friend who moved to another house she owns so Denisseth and her family could stay there.

Owen, who is a bit shy, came out of the house to greet us.

To our surprise, he welcomed us with a huge smile and a big hug. The first thought that came to my mind was, “How? How is he still smiling?”

I would learn later that his smile comes from a grateful heart.

Getting Out in the Nick of Time

As we talked, Denisseth took us to where her former house is — or was — less than two blocks from where she is living now.

Walking through the rubble is difficult.

We walked through irregular terrain and down metal stairs with Henry’s help. Once we got to where the landslide occurred, we saw how impressive and terrible it was.

It was heartbreaking to think that we were standing in what was once some family’s house. Where they built memories in houses bought with lots of hard work.

We saw dolls, shoes, couches, clothes, frying pans, and many more things on the ground between the ruins.

Owen’s mom told us that she and her mother were able to buy their house by selling tortillas. When Denisseth showed us their ruined house, her tears started to fall, and we couldn’t hold ours back either.

Pictures are impressive but they don’t tell the whole story.

Owen’s house did not fall, but the street in front of their house seemed to have been completely sucked up by the earth.

Owen and his mother Denisseth.

Denisseth told us that one night at around 1 a.m. small tremors started. The family knew things were not OK. Owen’s grandmother went to stay elsewhere because the situation was too hard for her emotionally.

Three days later, they heard the earthquake alarm and decided to leave the house. Denisseth and her mom started carrying their belongings out of the house, and they saw that neighbors were doing the same thing.

They saw one of the lampposts spark and then it burned. The trees started to burn as well.

“Praise God we were able to get out in time,” Denisseth said. “If not, we would be there still today. Because there is no way out of or into our house.”

That day they were able to move all their belongings to her friend’s house.

Many personal belongings were destroyed.

The houses at the beginning of the row were the first ones to fall. Most of the families were able to remove their belongings, but some were not.

The only things that Owen’s family left were the toilet, zinc roofing sheets, and windows. Denisseth told us that thieves have taken advantage of the situation and robbed some houses, taking the zinc roofing, doors, toilets, faucets, and other fixtures.

But because there is no way to access Owen’s house, thieves have not been able to steal from them.

Denisseth said that the first days after the landslide she just cried and cried.

“This is really sad,” Denisseth said, “but it is thanks to God’s grace and mercy that we are alive.”

Giving Thanks to God

Henry has done a wonderful job encouraging the family, and the Hope Center has committed to providing them with food relief for the next four months.

During a time of crisis, the psychology team is also attentive to any emotional changes or needs that a child might have.

Landslides have continued in the area. Every time the family goes to check on their house, they see new areas that have collapsed.

We were told that some people had built apartments on their land, and one family lost five investment apartments, and nothing was left. Others lost their brick or wood houses.

Damage from the landslide was enormous.

The government has promised to relocate families that have been affected by the landslide. They have registered the families and have been giving them shelter in publics schools close to the area.

“A material loss can be replaced,” said Denisseth, “but a life cannot, and I praise God for this.”

Owen has been the angel that God has used to bring hope to his mom. His smile never fades.

We asked him how he feels about what happened and he said that he sometimes feels sad because of what happened to his “casita” and their neighbors’ houses.

But he adds that he gives thanks to God because they are all together.

“His smile gives me strength,” says his mom.

A gift to the Children’s Crisis Fund brings hope to kids like Owen living in poverty in their greatest hour of need.


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