Duglas Antonio is one of thousands of innocent victims of war. It shows in his crippled arm and on his small hand. One finger is missing.
But thanks to Utahns' generosity, hope for a brighter future shines in the eyes of the 7-year-old El Salvadoran.At least part of Antonio's nightmare will diminish when he arrives in Salt Lake City Thursday to undergo sophisticated orthopedic surgery to make his arm functional.
The boy is one of 12 wounded children, each accompanied by a guardian, coming to the United States to receive free, specialized medical care not available in their native land.
Their injuries are classic war injuries - ranging from severe burns, loss of limbs, neurologic and orthopedic damage from gunshot wounds and bomb fragments, serious vision and hearing damage, and other problems most Americans don't associate with children.
It's the second year frightened, war-injured children have been brought abroad through Medical Aid for El Salvador, a non-profit organization that developed the Children's Project. The project is an ecumenical effort coordinated by the Archdiocese of San Salvador, which screens injured children for treatment in the United States.
The children, diagnosed before their trip, are matched with participating hospitals and local support committees throughout America. They and their parents receive travel documents as well as pediatric and psychiatric support in advance.
"The children and their stories are compelling witness to the effects of this war on the poor in El Salvador. They give a face to the war," said Dee Rowland, director of the Peace and Justice Commission of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City. The commission is participating in the program for the first time this year.
"Too little attention has been focused on this country in its eight years of civil war that now receives over $1.5 million U.S. tax dollars a day in military and economic aid."
Rowland was contacted for help last February, and with the financial support of other local groups and religious organizations, the commission has raised the more than $2,500 in donations to cover transportation costs for Duglas, whose personal story has tugged the heart strings of many.
Duglas and his family, including four younger siblings, are from the countryside, an hour's walk from the coast in Usulutan - not far from the destroyed Puente de Oro Bridge.
For one year there has been a military presence in the area. With it has come the harassment of local residents by the soldiers who pass through the village daily.
Sometimes they enter the town with their rifles cocked, ready and eager to intimidate the villagers. The communities are told that they will be bombed if they do not "join" the Army's side.
Their lives are in constant disarray. People are not allowed to fish in the nearby lake and must ask permission from the soldiers even to work in the fields. Their roadways are mined and only disarmed when the International Red Cross visits the area to bring medicines and to take testimony.
Duglas, a typically playful youth, was naive of the danger of the explosives. On Jan. 1, he and a friend throwing rocks, ignited a mine.
What lay in the dirt as the dust cleared was Duglas, his right hand and forearm injured, a finger lost. He was taken by bus to the capital where he received limited treatment for his traumatic wounds.
Now, eight months later, Dr. Peter M. Stevens, a local pediatric orthopedic surgeon, will operate to make the arm usable.
Holy Cross Hospital has volunteered to treat the child free.
After periods of treatment, ranging from three to six weeks, the 12 children will go home. But Rowland hopes the humanitarian project will continue.
"Duglas is one tiny positive response to an overwhelming problem. He is a symbol," Rowland said. "We wish we could help every child in every war around the world.
"But we have to begin in tiny increments."