Back in Honduras, when Karenina Antunez was three months pregnant with her second child, one of her brothers, Neptaly, suddenly went missing. After asking neighbors and searching for hours, Antunez decided to visit a morgue. There she found that he had been shot dead.
About seven months later and just 40 days after giving birth to Ronald, another of her brothers, Julio, fell victim to gun violence.
Nearly four years later, in 2015, Antunez had almost returned life to normal when her husband, Ronald Sr., was also murdered. By then she had two children and a third on the way. They were left without a father.
Finally in 2017, news came that a third brother, Oscar, had been run over intentionally. Antunez fell apart.
“I was constantly in fear, and we knew who had killed my husband,” Antunez said. “There was just nothing we could do. … I got tired of being strong. I collapsed.”
So she gathered her three children, Keyrin, 10, Ronald, 6, and Peyton, 2, stuffed what little she could carry into bags and loaded everything and everyone onto a bus. They spent the next three days and three nights on the trek to safety, asking for help along the way before reaching South Florida, where Antunez’s sister-in-law lived.
Over the last few years, she’s given birth to two more kids — Kensy and Leonardo — and found a home in Hollywood. They feel safe from dangers past, but are missing resources that could help them thrive in a new place.
Life in a completely new world has been particularly difficult for the two eldest, who have received counseling.
“I never realized how much it was affecting my children,” Antunez said. “You know how back in our home countries, we don’t pay any mind to therapy and mental health. I didn’t know how much of it all they were carrying.”
September 2021 made it all the more real. Her eldest, Keyrin, was in the hospital for five days for observation after a suicide attempt.
The hospital put Antunez in contact with Sergio Villada, a member of the family skill builders team at Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services. Villada nominated the family for assistance from the Miami Herald/el Nuevo Herald Wish Book program.
“Mrs. Antunez left Honduras to start from scratch,” said Fabiola Gutierrez, who also worked with her at Family Skill Builders. “She realized she was not able to continue living in that unsafe environment and decided to move to the States for the safety of her children.”
Ronald hopes Wish Book will give him his very own computer to do his school work. With his birthday in February approaching, he’s been begging for one to facilitate learning.
Ronald’s grades, along with those of his siblings, have also been affected by the lack of a laptop.
“I can’t lend him the phone every time,” Antunez said. “They sent me a notice about low grades and when I asked about it, my daughter Keyrin replied that it was because the homework had to be done online. … I’m sure the teacher would understand, but they’re shy and get easily embarrassed.”
Antunez has worked hard to ensure her family succeeds.
“It is so hard to get a job because I just don’t have time,” she exclaimed. “If it’s not one kid’s appointment, it’s the other.”
She had a job as a cashier in Honduras for 10 years, but has been unemployed here.
Not being able to provide for her children’s learning has broken her heart, Antunez said. “My kids are so humble and strong, but they bottle everything up and don’t ask for help.”
How to help: Wish Book is trying to help this family and hundreds of others in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook.
The pandemic, which hit two years after the family’s arrival in Miami, shook things up for everyone. Antunez blames quarantine, at least partially, for the spike in mental health struggles.
“Mrs. Antunez is a hardworking mother, a relentless advocate for the well-being of her family, a very dedicated and hands-on parent, and has been very insightful throughout this process, rediscovering herself, and working through past trauma,” said Villada of the family skill builders team. “She is eager to be better, always learning, asking questions, and thriving.”
How to help
To help this Wish Book nominee and the more than 100 other nominees who are in need this year:
▪ To donate, use the coupon found in the newspaper or pay securely online through www.MiamiHerald.com/wishbook
▪ For more information, call 305-376-2906 or emailWishbook@MiamiHerald.com
▪ The most requested items are often laptops and tablets for school, furniture, and accessible vans
▪ Read all Wish Book stories on www.MiamiHerald.com/wishbook
This story was written for Florida International University’s South Florida Media Network.