Tales of Greasy and Grubby: When Good Comes from Bad

The morning dawned hot and sunny, but somewhere over the Gulf a hurricane was brewing. Instead of boarding a plane to Miami, we were routed through Los Angeles...the next day! What could we do with an extra day in El Salvador? Attend a celebration, of course.

The Casa de la Juventud, or Youth Center, in Guazapa was celebrating an anniversary and honoring the short life of a little girl named Wendy. The center was built in response to the needs of the community: for a safe place in which children and youth could sing, could dance, could play music, could express themselves through drama, could create works of art, could play sports, and could talk about the challenges of growing up in a society in which bad things sometimes happen to children.

The youth center was built in Wendy's honor. There had been other children who had been murdered, and the community had grieved deeply, but it was Wendy's murder which became the catalyst for action. Wendy's grandmother wanted her granddaughter's life to mean something, and her strength and mission became a call to action for advocacy for the rights of children in the community.

On that day of celebration, dozens of young people shared their gifts of dance and humor and spirit and life with a crowd of family, friends, community leaders and two stranded travelers. After the speeches, entertainment and refreshments, we took a few moments to talk with Wendy's grandma, who held a photograph of her granddaughter who had died on that day seven years ago. Then we paused to look at a sculpture which stands in the front yard of the center - a work of art dedicated to a program "Weapons or Toys" in which children bring in toy guns and weapons and trade them in for notebooks or stuffed animals.

A few years ago, we received this poem which was written on the 13th anniversary of Wendy's birthday...


I am the voice of a child that no longer can speak…

I am the echo that will non longer be expressed,

More now in sadness in exchange for happiness…

I am the voice that can no longer cry;

I am the tears playing in the sea, running in the sky.

I am the one for whom my mother prays at night…

I am the ghost that came to stop at this tomb.

I am the emblem of childhood that today they begin to forge…

I am the heart that one man in your society stabbed.

I am the dream of my family…

I am the memory of almost two years now…

I am the dreamer who would have celebrated 13 years…

I am the illusion of my sisters and brothers;

I am the little girl reflected in yesterday.

I am Wendy who non longer will see another sunrise or sunset.

I am the little flower in the bouquet that you gave today…

It is the garden of a child...who from heaven gives you thanks.

Wendy (May 30, 1988—August 19, 1999)


  1. Maravilloso y tristísimo. Espero que podamos continuar la tradición de intercambiar pistolitas por juguetes menos violentes este año.


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