It has been more than 32 years since Martha Lucia Lopez last saw her son, Sergio Melendro. He was just five years old when the volcano at Nevado de Ruiz erupted, in moments destroying her town of Amero, Colombia, and killing more than 23,000 people.
Sergio was momentarily separated from his mother and lost in the tragedy. But unlike many of the victims, Sergio’s story was different. All accounts reported that Sergio died in the tragedy, and Martha Lucia lived the next 30 years of her life with the guilt and anguish of losing her child.
But Martha Lucia never believed it. She held out hope that her son was still alive. She had heard stories of other families from Armero reuniting with their children they had lost.
Then, three years ago, thirty years after being separated from her son, she learned it had all been a lie. Sergio had made it out alive. But nobody knew what had happened to him next.
Francisco Gonzales is a journalist who has been covering the events of Armero. In his research, Francisco recently discovered records and archives that had been concealed for years. These records document 300 children who had reportedly died, but had actually made it out alive.
Sergio was one. But what happened to Sergio next is a mystery. What happened to the other 300 is also a mystery. Three families have been reunited with their lost children thus far. The few available facts indicate that many of these children were placed into illegal adoptions, where we don’t know and by whom we don’t know.
Of the few clues that point to Sergio's whereabouts, one points to Italy...once Martha Lucia learned the truth about her son, a distant friend of hers came forward to say she had information.
She had been traveling in New Orleans after the tragedy when a man attending to her in a clothing store struck up a conversation with her. When he learned she was from Colombia, he became excited and said his brother who lived in Italy had just adopted a young boy from Colombia. He pulled a photo out of his wallet to show her. The child in the photo, a young latin boy with unmistakable blue eyes, was identical to Sergio.
The friend told him that the boy seemed to be the son of her friend who had been reported dead in a recent tragedy, but no one had known for sure. When the man heard this, he abruptly ended the conversation and disappeared. When the friend arrived back to Colombia, she discussed what happened with some mutual friends and they determined to not approach Martha Lucia with the information. They didn’t have any information how to find this man, nor did they believe that Sergio was still alive anyway. So, to not add to Martha Lucia’s grief, they decided to leave the trail alone.
In this day and age, where we are connected to 99% of the world within 5 connections on Facebook, there is no need for a mother to live the rest of her life wondering where her son is, wondering if he thinks she abandoned him, wondering how his life has turned out…but having no way of knowing.
We have created this page to help build a campaign to find Sergio and reunite him with his mother who has never given up hope. We are approaching the search in several ways:
Trailer and short film
We are beginning work with professional film makers to create a video that can be widely distributed, especially in Colombia and Italy to both spread awareness and help find someone who can connect the dots. What we need: We need donations to help with the production of the film. We also need social media strategists to help devise creative campaigns to distribute the media.
Social media search
Through Facebook, we are reaching out to every blue-eyed Sergio that looks to be in his 30’s in Italy. What we need: We need creative ideas or connections into Facebook/Instagram to see if we can create a broader, more effective search via these platforms.
We plan to begin investigations into (1) people in Colombia who may have information about what really happened, (2) employee records for the store in New Orleans, and (3) adoption records in Italy around the time of the event. What we need: People or resources that can help with these investigations.
Is there something we are missing? Another avenue we should explore? Finding Sergio will come down to the concerted effort of many.
Donate or Help
We will be setting up a Go Fund Me page shortly. Until then, email Jared at email@example.com to let us know how you are interested in helping.