Monday 28th August 2017
Quite often our work is reacting to the situations we face in Guatemala - families in crisis, abused children and homeless children, threats against us, children going through a tough time, hospital and prison visits and so many other situations. It does make it very hard to plan your week, which I love to do, but the nature of the work here necessitates speedy reactions to what comes to us each day.
This was highlighted when we made plans on Friday to do certain things and then had to change everything, as we needed to help support a family in need.
As I was already in our Centre when the news came I could react quite quickly and, as it turned out, it is a situation we really needed to secure the safety of five children and their mother.
Doña Anna (named changed) had informed us that she had just been hit again by her husband and was also worried about how he might react to the five children. We do have a few years of history here with this family so know how things could turn out. Together with two of our team we went to the room where they all live in La Terminal and found Doña Ana sitting on the bed crying. Lying next to her is her husband who has obviously been drinking. The room is lit only by one small bulb and the tiny window is covered with cardboard and rags, but a small TV is on and so that gives the best light into the room. There is just one bed, a wardrobe and small table with some basic food supplies piled on it and a bedside table. The family shares the room with two teenage cousins who are seeking work in La Terminal.
We spend time listening to Doña Ana tell us what happened and then begin to help her explore the options about what she could do. As we discuss whether or not she wants to make a formal declaration of what happened, know locally as a dununcia, her husband wakes up and joins the conversation. At this point I am aware that the situation can get very heated and so begin to tell the others that if the dad becomes violent that I will get in between him and his wife while they get the mum and kids into the street. I am pleased, however, that this is not needed as he only talks for a short while before falling back to sleep on the bed.
His response is rather shocking though and it is clear that he is appealing to me as a man who would understand and support his corner. His argument is that he came home from work and gave his wife some money and “told her to cook”. He then went out for a drink and when he came back, the food was not ready. He then said: “So that is why I gave her a beating, you can understand that can´t you?” I had to say I did not agree with his reaction and now needed to take the mum and the children with us as his two daughters were in our Centre and were very upset.
On safe arrival at our Centre the more formal investigation begins and our friend Juan Carlos begins to write out a short report and then it is planned that he and Ben take her and the youngest girl to the court to make the allegation and seek an injunction so that the husband is not able to return to the room where they all live. We know it will take about 6 hours and, at this point, it is already quite late.
The two older girls are coping but distracted as there is a girl’s sleepover in the Centre tonight and so they can stay there and enjoy the activities planned with the other girls. I pop my head in to say goodnight and am swamped with lots of hugs and kisses and have to say I am sorry I can´t stay and talk about girl things but maybe another time. This leads to squeals and excitement and I back out of the room and close the door.
I now need to get the two boys, 8 and 10, to our Protection Home as the mum has agreed we can offer them all a safe place to stay for the weekend until the police go to their home and inform the father that he needs to vacate and allow them to return on Sunday.
The boys have no other clothes to wear and so they will have to put up with wearing the same clothes, which I don´t think will be too much of an issue until we get them something to last through till Sunday. They both look filthy and so we take them into the shower and the excitement of having their first shower with hot water is evident as the two dance around in the shower for ages before coming out and climbing into bed. I find two teddies and go back in to ask them if they wouldn´t mind looking after them for the night as the teddies have nowhere to sleep. The outstretched arms said it all and soon they were fast asleep and I could return home while staff and volunteers watched over the boys until the mum joined them from the court.
The next day I am told that the boys woke up when the mum got in around 4am and went and had another shower. The mum then had a shower and told us of her joy of having her first hot shower in 29 years. It was a special time indeed and good to know they were all now safe, and thanks to your support for this home we could make this happen. The home is not yet open but we are able to use it for emergency situations like this.
Thankfully we were able to take the family back to their home yesterday, as the father had already moved out and so we know they are now much safer. The challenge is how they are going to live as I am sure the father will not be that keen on bringing in any money for his wife and 5 children. It is our task for today as well as check on many other families and children at risk, but we love what we do and thanks to your support can do this every day. THANK YOU.