Mira Galanova writes, on the BBC, about the fire that took place in the care home, Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asunción, on March 8th 2017, and the stories of those left behind. There were 41 deaths of young women and girls and this is harrowing and sad.
Vianney Hernández remembers how powerless she felt on the day in December 2016 when a gang came to take away her 13-year-old daughter Ashly.
Its leader, who was in a relationship with Ashly, threatened to kill the entire family if she did not let Ashly go live with him.
Ashly had met the boy at school in a poor neighbourhood of Guatemala City where they lived. “He was handsome, a bit older than her,” Ms Hernández recalls, adding that her daughter was rebellious and with an appetite for adventure.
Vianney was determined to wrest Ashly from the hands of the gang. She told the police, and after they found Ashly, Vianney sent her to a state-run home for at-risk children so she would be far away from the boy and his gang.
Ashly had been to the home once before and Vianney knew that the rosy picture officials painted of the Virgen de la Asunción home in San José Pinula was far from the truth.
Before Ashly’s first stint in the home, Vianney had been told that her daughter would get food, clothes, an education and psychological care.
Instead, “supervisors would send older girls to beat Ashly up and when she resisted, they would punish her,” Vianney recalls.
The home was overcrowded and dirty, and the food was often spoiled. But with the gang unlikely to leave Ashly in peace, Vianney thought that sending her daughter back to the Virgen de la Asunción home would be the lesser of two evils.
Otherwise, “one day I would find her dismembered body on my doorstep”, Vianney says of her fears at the time.
Like Vianney, many families sent their children to the home with the best of intentions, unaware of the criticism it had come under from organisations in Guatemala and abroad, including the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
This is a sad story about Ashly, and other young women and girls and families left behind, and you can read the full piece here, Children’s home fire: ‘The souls of our daughters are still there’.