Juan Manuel and Lesly wait in Tijuana. Photo Courtesy: Caravana Historica-Deskgram
Three months ago, Juan Alberto Matheu, a Honduran father, made the difficult decision to leave Honduras on foot to get to the U.S. border to ask for asylum. Juan Alberto is part of the caravan that left Honduras two months ago in search of hope for a new life. What’s extraordinary about Juan Alberto’s odyssey is that he headed out on foot with his daughter Lesly, age 7, who uses a wheel chair. Lesly suffered a stroke as an infant and cannot walk, talk or eat on her own. Juan Alberto has raised her as a single-parent.
The migrant father wants a better life for Lesly. He told Jorge Ramos from Univision that in Honduras children with disabilities are bullied and discriminated. Raising Lesly in Honduras has also presented medical challenges. He has not been able to find the right specialist for Lesly’s condition and he says Lesly has been prescribed the wrong medications aggravating her health.
“Lesly started having seizures when she was 7 months old. We interned her in a hospital and when they gave her back to us, she was not the same. We have always had to carry her like a baby, as she does not walk, sit up, or talk. She uses diapers and needs help eating, moving, and bathing,” explained Juan Alberto.
The father told that the long journey from Honduras to the US has been especially challenging because caravan sojourners walk into uncertain routes, sleeping on the streets, riding on trucks, dangling atop trains and borrowing rides in whatever transportation they can find. Lesly uses a wheel chair:
“The trip has been very difficult. I have been afraid to lose her. Thankfully, God sent us the help of kind strangers. People we met helped me raise her wheel chair on trucks, trains and trailers. On many occasions I was very afraid that she would fall off. I prayed and asked God for the strength and protection to get us to the US border. Thankfully, we made it. God opened doors through good people.”
Along the way, Juan Alberto and Lesly have faced many challenges. One of them, has been bathing Lesly:
“Not all shelters have what we need for bathing Lesly. My daughter uses a chair to take a bath and she also needs warm water. Changing her diaper has also been a challenge. Since I am a man, I cannot go into the ladies’ room.”
Juan Manuel hopes to apply for a humanitarian and political visa. Primero Dios, God first, he prays.
“We need help. Lesly has seizures every 3 to 4 days and she needs treatment.”
Juan Manuel left Honduras with no medication for Lesly and survived the long journey through the help of generous Mexican people, who gave them water, diapers and soft foods:
“I am afraid something will happen to her, and I could not bear it. She is the love of my life.”
Juan Manuel and Lesly’s mother separated 3 years ago and Lesly’s mother sent her to live with her father:
“She did not want her back because she said that the child was a lot of responsibility. I have done the best that I could. I am her father and every day, I fight for her with love. It’s not much what I can give her. But I fight for it with love. We left Honduras because of the poverty and violence in which we live, not because we want to. In this caravan there are many good people. We travel out of necessity.
When asked to describe his daughter, Juan Alberto chocked up: “Lesly is my daughter. She is a beautiful girl who fills me with a love that has no price. When I hug her, I feel I am holding a little angel. “
They left Honduras on September 15 and arrived in Tijuana on November 20. Juan Alberto and Lesly were released by immigration authorities after requesting political asylum. Father and daughter were locked in a cell for three days with access to a bathroom, mattresses, blankets and three meals a day. Although the treatment they received was good, the situation in detention was complicated.
“I had to calm her in my arms.”
Juan Manuel and Lesly’s asylum application is still in process. As they wait, Juan Alberto must wear a shackle on his ankle. Lesly gives him strength to get through each day.