What is changing are the lives of girls who have gotten a new start here within view of the Arenal volcano.

Fejervary, who directs and oversees the day-to-day operations at the home, admits that living in a house of teenage girls is difficult, especially given the unique challenges many of them face. Some have never had a formal education. "Some of these girls have never used utensils before," she said.

"At the same time I feel so honored and so blessed to be able to provide these girls with a life," she said.

Most are discovering they have dreams of their own. "Linda" (not her real name), is an accomplished long-distance runner who dreams of having her own coach. "Anna" is a real history buff. "I can't buy enough books for her," Fejervary says. "When I bring her a book, she is just so happy. But she just reads through it in a day and a half. And books are so expensive here."

Another girl loves to cook and dreams of going to culinary school. One wants to be a photographer. Still another wants to be a veterinarian.

"They are amazing," Martinussen said. "The one thing that really blew me away about these girls is how much love they have to give even though they have never been loved properly in their lives."

Fejervary also is encouraged by the amount of attention the organization has been receiving of late. In fact, Salvando Corazones has been asked to play a key role in a first-of-its-kind conference on sex trafficking in Costa Rica on Nov. 4. But the attention is not paying the bills. So far, they've been waiting on federal grants that have not materialized.

"If we don't find a way to fund this, it's going to go away," Fejervary said with a sweep of her arm. "And where are these kids going to go?"

If the safe house is going to make it, "it's going to be the work of a lot of people," she said, walking back up a hill toward the residence.

A lot of courageous people.

<i>Paul Gullixson is editorial director for The Press Democrat. Email him at paul.gullixson@pressdemocrat.com or call him at 707-521-5282.</i>