Life on His Own

Mar 27, 2018

Steph Duff

“Antonio!” Lorena, a Hope Program parent, called for the Hope student. “Antonio!” But her calls went unanswered. Then she heard a low murmur in a nearby room where her husband, Jose, kept carpentry projects. She smiled to herself, knowing now why Antonio wasn’t responding. She walked the short distance to the small workshop and found Antonio and Jose with their heads bent over their current project. She slowly backed out of the doorway, returning to the house. She felt relief somewhere within, grateful for the ways Antonio was growing in confidence and maturity.

Antonio arrived a quiet, self-conscious 15-year old boy. “He entered the Hope Program with a special needs diagnosis,” shared Aracely Flores, Back2Back Hope Program Director. “The Hope Program team began our own evaluation and research on the reports with which he arrived in order to best serve him.” The next step for Antonio was to see a psychologist, and create a reasonable plan for his future.

Jose and Lorena started working with Antonio every day, to help him grow and reach his potential. They first worked on building trust and developing rapport, with the end goal of him living sustainably outside their home. They encouraged Antonio to try new things. Jose’s carpentry work piqued Antonio’s interest, and he began working with Jose on different projects. As he matured and grew, he also helped with chores around the house. “Soon after that, where Jose went, Antonio was close behind,” shared Aracely.

Antonio started looking for a job at 17; he was feeling confident in his abilities to do more outside of the home. Jose and Lorena told Antonio, “When you turn 18, when you have a steady job, you will be ready to live on your own.” Jose and Lorena have a small apartment from their life prior to moving into the Hope Program as house parents. They agreed to allow Antonio to “practice” independent living with their home.

This was really just the beginning of Antonio’s transformation. He found a job at Wal-Mart and started to exhibit self-sufficiency. “Once he started working, he learned even more about responsibility, he became more concerned with his own self-care,” explained Aracely. Antonio attended a karate class and, as a result, lost weight. “Jose and Lorena could see physical, emotional, and social changes,” shared Aracely. As a result of this growth, Antonio truly began to consider what his future could look like.

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Antonio started staying at the apartment on his days off. He’d go for the day and then return to Jose and Lorena’s Hope Program House at night. As he grew comfortable, Antonio rotated between staying at the apartment and staying at the Hope home.

“When he turned 18, Antonio told his house parents he wanted to buy his own things for the apartment,” said Aracely. He carefully saved his Wal Mart salary until he could afford to buy a television, refrigerator, and a fan, and with Jose’s help, he built his own bed.

Antonio’s social skills grew, as he talked more significantly than before. He developed friendships at work and started dating. Jose, Lorena, and Aracely count this all evidence of his incredible growth. “Seeing Antonio being actively social, setting goals, and working towards them shows he is more than capable of accomplishing self-sufficiency,” shared Aracely.

This spring, Antonio, now 19, is ready for life on his own. Antonio has behind him the Hope Program staff and God’s hand as a reminder he has the ability to tackle any goal. “I know if I ever need anything, Back2Back is always on my side,” shared Antonio. “They are my family.”

Thank you for partnering with Back2Back’s Hope Program in providing family-style care integral to the success of each and every Hope student.

Steph Duff is a writer, daughter, sister, and really loud laugher. By day she lends her voice on behalf of orphaned and vulnerable children with Back2Back Ministries. By night she is readily found with her nose in a book and spending time with her dachshund, Addy. At all hours, she can be found consuming copious amounts of coffee. She feels most herself in the heat of India and prefers her mugs big, her books long, and her words intentional.

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