Valentin doesn’t waste his time. He had an interest in Russian, so he learned to speak it. He was fascinated by technology, so he studies computer engineering. He likes anime, so he’s planning to visit Japan. At 21 years old, Valentin has accomplished more in his young life already than many ever will.
Originally from a small, rural town in Honduras, Valentin had the same passion for life even as a child. At an early age, he heard about the opportunities one could have in the United States. He would have to make a 1,600-mile trip to the U.S. alone.
“I’ve dreamt about the U.S. since I was nine years old, and when I was 17, I decided to make my dream come true.” he said. “I had no opportunities in Honduras, no future. If I made it to the U.S., I had nothing to lose.”
In the last three years, more than 30,000 unaccompanied minors have fled Honduras, seeking relief from rampant gang violence and political instability. Many have come to the U.S. with no belongings and speaking limited English. Some, like Valentin, have no family nearby.
Valentin moved to a foster home in Washington State in 2012 through a smaller agency that collaborates with Lutheran Community Services (LCSNW). After going through the immigration process, he became eligible for the LCSNW Refugee and Immigrant Children’s Program and was placed in a group home. After nearly two years there, he transitioned to Faith House, a semi-independent living home for foster youth.
Faith House is a transitional living space for foster youth 18 to 21 years old who are moving toward independence. At Faith House, residents are selected by LCSNW staff as individuals ready for semi-independent living. Residents learn group dynamics, work, go to school and are responsible for cooking and cleaning. They gain valuable life skills.
A joint venture between LCSNW and Faith Lutheran Church in Seattle, Faith House seeks to ensure the long-term success and well-being of each young adult. With the support of a dedicated social worker, an understanding group-home staff and a positive environment, Valentin thrived.
“I feel like I have grown up a lot. The way I think now is not the way I used to think before,” he said. “I have been able to accomplish many of my goals through the Lutherans.
“Number one is graduating – I finished high school. I learned to live on my own, and improved my English skills.”
At Faith House, Valentin learned to pay bills, balanced a part-time job and found ways to prioritize school with a social life. Now at 21, he has aged out of the foster care system. He had to find an apartment. Living with friends, he is still focused on what’s most important.
“First of all, I want to finish my career in computer programming,” he said. “Once I’m done, then I want to do public speaking, like an inspirational speaker.”
His long-term goals are to have a family and a home. For now, Valentin has a youthful appetite for life. He is tempered by the obstacles he has overcome.
“If you fail at something, try again and keep trying,” he said. “And don’t do it alone, there are people out there to help you. Keep dreaming, keep dreaming big. And don’t just dream, but do it.”