Please join us for the Richmond premiere of this moving documentary featuring the girls at Our Little Roses in Honduras! This will be Richmond’s only 2017 chance to see Voices and will be at the Byrd Theater the afternoon of October 15th, 2017 at 4:30 p.m. For almost 25 years, members of the St. James’s have traveled to OLR and have come to know and love the girls who live there. Every dollar, from ticket sales to donations, goes straight to the fund of sending a girl to the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras. Even if you have not visited OLR, you can make a difference in the lives of these beautiful girls. Buy advance tickets here.
About 30 years ago, Diana Frade, the American founder of Our Little Roses (OLR), moved to Honduras to teach at a bilingual school in the capital, Tegucigalpa. While there, she visited a home for boys and saw first-hand the abject poverty that destroys the lives of Honduran youth by depriving them of the basic necessities for survival. Though boys were placed in homes like the one Frade visited, girls seemed to be an afterthought, and were left at the women’s penitentiary to be looked after by inmates. Taken aback by this neglect, Frade founded Our Little Roses Ministries, an organization dedicated to rescuing Honduran girls from abject poverty, abuse and abandonment. By the end of its first year, OLR became a home to 23 girls. To this day, OLR remains the only home for girls in Honduras, a country of over 170,000 orphans. This sanctuary has grown significantly since its founding. Today, OLR houses nearly 70 girls and shares its space with a bilingual school that provides education for 22 girls at the home and over 200 children in the surrounding community. The compound itself, surrounded by a 10 foot wall with serpentine wire, is nestled in a neighborhood in the outskirts San Pedro Sula, a city dubbed “The Murder Capital of the World,” due to gang violence and drug trade. The OLR mission is to provide food, shelter, medical attention, education, and love to Honduran girls in an attempt to shape them into self-sufficient women and break the cycle of abject poverty in which two-thirds of the country lives.
In 2012, Spencer Reece, a poet and an Episcopal Priest, landed a Fulbright scholarship to travel to Honduras and teach poetry at the bilingual school at OLR. The documentary, Voices Beyond the Wall: Twelve Love Poems from the Murder Capital of the World, directed by Brad Coley and produced by James Franco, chronicles the OLR girls’ and Reece’s incredible journey together. Voices captures his interactions with his students and follows the girls’ personal stories through poems that expose and mend wounds of the past with words of forgiveness and hope for the future. Upon his return from Honduras, Reece compiled an anthology of these beautiful poems, entitled Counting Time Like People Count the Stars, which will be published on October 15, 2017, the same day that Voices premieres at our own Byrd Theater. Copies of the anthology will be available at the Byrd for purchase.
Some thoughts about Our Little Roses from Grace Locke, missioner.
Behind the Iron Gate
San Pedro Sula, Honduras is the murder capital of the world. I spent seven days there last July  at Our Little Roses, the only all girls’ orphanage in a country of 170,000 orphans. Our white bus circled around the street corner and into a city just as neglected by the outside world as its children are by their parents. On the bus ride, I remember a Coca-Cola sign hiding in the green mountains that hemmed us into this forgotten sanctuary of gang violence and abandonment. I remember brown-yellow plantains that cloaked the protruding ribs of a horse trotting down Bulevar Morazán. I remember a small boy who tapped on my window, cupping his hands for food as our bus drew closer to the red light. Tears held the edges of his dusty eyelashes, but then the light turned green. His tears fell and so did mine.
Our Little Roses sits inside a large, rectangular complex. If I stand on the roof, I can see over the cement walls and serpentine wire into the surrounding neighborhood. The girls painted the walls yellow, but I bet they wonder what lies on the other side of the yellow cement, why their mothers left them here, and who their fathers are. The girls cannot climb on the roof.
I pushed open the rusted iron gate with a pack of bubbles in my right hand and a picture book in my left. The steps to the patio where the girls played after school used to bear a yellow color, like the walls, but time and shoes have caused the yellow to fade into brown. I hesitated before finally stepping into the courtyard. About ten girls between the ages of three and nine sat on the patio, braiding each other’s hair or working on their times tables. They all froze like statues as this light-skinned, light-haired stranger approached them. With a smile on my face and a crack in my voice, I managed to mutter an “Hola.” They giggled. I walked closer and I began to look in the eyes of each of the girls, who were now glancing at each other and speaking so fast in a language that I assumed was Spanish – it was impossible to know for sure. In their eyes, I expected to see neglect, abandonment, confusion, pain, fear, and every negative feeling the world can force on us. Instead, I found so much love that I did not know what to do with it or how to react to it. I dropped the bubbles and the coloring book on the tiles of the patio, and the girls ran over and hugged me.
Yamileth is seven years old. We played a game where she called me madre and I called her hija. Then, I held her in my arms and sang to her until she pretended to fall asleep. She called it a game, but I knew it was a wish. Heidy is nine. She wears glasses, but one lens disappeared years ago and a temple fell off. She made me a bolsa out of plastic, and she never let go of my hand. Vanessa is eleven. She attends a special school because she does not get along with the other girls in the home. They call her names and tease her, but I told her “Te amo”. Mauda is my age, 15, and she has dreams of becoming a physical education teacher when she grows up. She knew her mom once, but she wishes the pain of abandonment would leave, too.
One night after the little ones went to bed, I sat on the cancha with Mauda and we listened to the rain on the red tin roof. Six days had passed since my arrival through the iron gate, and I was not ready to say goodbye. I wanted to stay with my girls, watch them grow up and make it over the yellow cement.
“Don’t leave,” Mauda whispered. I thought for a while about what I should say. I was strictly instructed not to make promises to the girls saying I would return or keep in touch because they would count the days, waiting for something that might never happen.
“Why?” I finally asked.
Mauda responded with a question, “Do you really love us?”
That moment stung. There was something painful and realistic about her words to me because I understood exactly where her question came from: the neglect, abandonment, confusion, pain, and fear in her life that I had expected to see in her eyes on my first day at Our Little Roses. Then I came to a realization. Love, I presumed, takes longer to feel than the quick, bullet-like shock of a negative emotion.
“Sí, Mauda.” I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes just like last Monday driving away when the light turned green. I knew how I felt, but, until she figured it out, it would have to remain between the yellow cement walls, the rusted iron gate, and me.