The bullying began when Wilson was still very young. Neighborhood children taunted him, mocking his darker skin color. Adults treated him as if he simply didn’t exist. The shy little boy retreated further into himself, afraid to say or do anything that might bring him unwanted attention.
Wilson’s feelings of isolation worsened when his father abandoned the family. His mother, Melba, would rise at 4 a.m. every day and work long hours just to feed them, still only managing to make about $125 a month to feed the family of eight.
Wilson and his family are part of the Garifuna community in Honduras. Today’s Garifuna descended from the survivors of a 17th-century shipwreck of slavery-bound Nigerians, many of whom were eventually exiled to the Honduran coast. They are the third largest minority group in Honduras, and they regularly face discrimination and exclusion from mainstream society.
“There are many humiliations for being a Garifuna,” Wilson, now 16, shares. “Being the color I am is not simple because you have to put up with mockery and rejection.
A ray of hope
Desperate to help her son, Melba enrolled Wilson in Children International’s program when he was 3 years old, and he would wait nearly two years for a sponsor. Once sponsored, Wilson’s quality of life improved through his access to medical care, educational support and gifts for his birthday and Christmas.
Despite the help he was receiving, Wilson still hung back in social settings, too nervous to participate in additional activities. “I was afraid I would be seen differently,” he says. “But one day I made up my mind and went [to the community center]” to become more involved in what the program had to offer.”
It was then that he began to, as he describes it, “unwrap.” He observed others until he became confident enough to contribute. Over time, he began to feel accepted and valued as a person. “[Children International] looks at everyone the same,” he says gratefully.
What lies ahead
Always willing to do more, Wilson is now a program volunteer in his community. When he’s not in school or leading a tutoring session, he’s helping younger children write letters to their sponsors. “It’s nice that people come to me asking for help to write a letter,” he says.
Wilson’s 22-year-old sister, Dilsy, supports his efforts: “We tell Wilson to make the most of this opportunity because we didn’t have it,” she says.
Wilson now looks forward to graduating from high school, and he is ready to work hard for whatever comes his way. “I have been taught that you can get ahead and that no job is bad,” Wilson shares. “You can move forward humbly, even with little.”
Our diversity is our strength
Wilson’s story exemplifies Children International’s approach to intolerance and bigotry. Through our programs in the U.S. and globally, we work to address the inequalities that children and youth face, because we know racial injustices, colorism and gender inequality negatively impact mental well-being and opportunities for success.