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Dec 23, 2013 6:08 PM by Samantha Ptashkin

Tucson family helps give Honduran girl life-changing surgery

TUCSON- Eleven-year-old Silvia may speak a different language, but when her laughter fills one Tucson home there is no translation needed.

"She's a part of our family," Leah Shoemaker says.

Shoemaker is currently Silvia's "host" mother. Through an organization called Healing the Children, she helped Silvia travel from Honduras to Tucson in November, for a life-changing surgery.

Silvia had a severe case of scoliosis and her widowed mother, who sells bread back in Honduras, didn't have the money to get her daughter the surgery she needs. "It takes her more than four hours to get to the nearest city, which has the only doctors who would be able to help her," Shoemaker says. "Her family doesn't have a car, so they'd have to borrow a car to get there."

At the end of November Silvia underwent surgery at Tucson Medical Center. She has been recovering with the Shoemaker Family ever since. In that time, she has been able to attend classes at Emily Gray Junior High School.

While not in school, Silvia enjoys playing with her three young host siblings.

While she may not realize it, they need her as much as she needs them. "I want to teach my kids that having hot water is a privilege," Shoemaker says. "When you bring these children into your house and they learn to love these children like their siblings and realize that things like hot water are really special, that's great and it helps them define the wants and the needs a lot better."

Silvia is the third child Shoemaker has welcomed into her home over the last few years. She says she was inspired to do so after reading an article in People Magazine about an Iraqi boy who received medical attention in the U.S.

Silvia will most likely return to Honduras in February. The family plans to keep in touch with her and help her through school.

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