Boy in 4,500-mile trek to find father

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The Independent Online
ALL OF New York is waiting. Will Grebi Sabillon Vasquez, believed to be living as an illegal immigrant somewhere in Queens, please come forward and make himself known to the police? There is a gift waiting for him - his 13-year-old son.

Edwin Daniel Sabillon, a slight boy with big brown eyes who arrived in the city on Sunday with a paper bag containing $24 (pounds 15), a change of clothes, three biscuits and his birth certificate, needs his help - and his love.

He wants so badly to find the father he has only ever seen in snapshots that he travelled4,500 miles from Honduras to find him.

Over 37 days, he rode buses, walked and hitchhiked, often through dangerous territory. In spite of hunger and the loss of his wallet and his father's phone number, he was carried along by luck and by the charity of strangers.

This epic voyage was born of last November's Hurricane Mitch.

When it tore through Honduras, it unleashed a mudslide that smashed the home of Edwin, killing his mother, his brother and his grandfather. Alone, the boy wrote to the father he knew was living in New York. Several months later a letter came back with $200 and an arrangement for a roadside rendezvous.

It seemed a little haphazard, but Edwin knew he would make the meeting. In the letter, his father said he would be standing by an entry ramp to La Guardia airport in New York on three successive days: 25, 26 and 27 June. He told the boy he would be wearing a white shirt and black hat.

And so, on 22 May, Edwin waved goodbye to his friends in the village of San Francisco de Yojoa Cortez, and headed north on a trek that took him through Guatemala and up the east coast of Mexico to the edge of the United States. There, as best as anyone can surmise, he was smuggled for free across the border into Texas by a gang that would normally have charged royally for its illegal services.

He then began a road trip through a land he did not know, via Houston, New Orleans and, inexplicably - Edwin's geography appears to have failed him at this point - down to Miami, Florida. There, last Friday, he wandered into a scruffy cafeteria and asked for directions to a bus that would take him the short distance - or so he thought - up the I-95 highway to New York.

"He came in with a $5 bill and asked for change so he could take the bus," recalled Emilio Jose Jiminez, a regular patron and the Natasha Cafeteria. After explaining that the trip to New York was a very long one, diners had a whip-round, collecting $105 for a ticket north.

Sunday morning found the young boy at a bus terminal in upper Manhattan.

For a while, he strolled the unfamiliar streets until he approached the driver of an unmarked taxi, Jose Basora, who agreed to drive him to La Guardia and, they hoped, to the meeting with his father. When they found no sign of Mr Vasquez, Mr Basora took the boy to his home and alerted the police.

And now Edwin, who is in city foster care, can only wait and hope that his father shows. "We'll do the best that we can try to help him," promised Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, indicating that the authorities will turn a blind eye to the illegality of the boy's entry into the US.

The heroes of the story, meanwhile, are the taxi driver and, of course, Edwin himself. "What he did was incredible," said Mr Basora. "Now he needs some help."