Friday 1st September
It has been raining rather a lot in the afternoons in Guatemala City. It´s the last attempt of the rainy season to hang on and provide us with an elevated water table that will sustain Guatemala over the many dry months ahead. However, when it rains in Guatemala it rarely is light rain and if you are caught out in one of the many downpours you have to have a good quality umbrella or take shelter immediately. The alternative, as I found out a couple of weeks ago, is being soaked through by both the rain and the many cars that seem to take great pleasure in hitting the largest of puddles at just the right speed that pelts you and leaves not one inch of you dry. Anyway, I digress!
The street team and me plan to walk through the Terminal and we schedule it well to avoid the coming afternoon storm. There is enough time for us to get into La Terminal and visit some of the families we are working with before the angry skies open and the streets become rivers while traffic grinds to a halt. No sooner had we arrived in La Terminal, in an area called ´Las Casitas, than a young girl comes up to us with her outstretched arms and tells us that she still has the rash she had last week and it is getting worse.
Her name is Naomi and she is six and has grown up in this notorious area of Guatemala City and very rarely leaves it. Once she was invited to a special activity with a team from The Forge in Suffolk who was working with us for a couple of weeks before the summer. As the children settled on the bus and as it drove down the steep mountain leading away from Guatemala City the children asked: “is this England?” Obviously their world is very small and for those children who have never seen outside of La Terminal, life away from it can be one massive adventure.
Naomi is prime for the mentoring programme but still too young to join unless we find someone really special who can offer her the love and support she so desperately needs. Her rash is a common one and we have treated it many times. She is not the only one in Las Casitas who have the rash and it comes from infected bedding and is contagious and can lead to quite serious scaring and open wounds. We have to take Naomi to the clinic and get her the treatment she needs. Her mum is in agreement and so Naomi grabs by hand, after having a good scratch with them under her armpits, and pulls me along the narrow passageway that will lead to the steps and then the road where the clinic is.
We don´t yet have a clinic at our Centre but are able to access a good clinic nearby that always has a resident doctor available and appointments are all walk-in and cost just £2. The doctor knows us well and is always kind and helpful and totally understanding when kids come in half-clothed, covered in fleas, sores and in a pretty bad way. She is very gentle and caring and asks to look at Naomi´s rash. As the poor child removes her top you can see that the rash is over her chest, her stomach, her back and under her arms. I suspect that her legs are also covered but immediately the doctor knows what is needed and hands me a prescription for soap, gel and tablets.
We walk back with Naomi and return her to the care of her mum and then try and visit a couple more families before the heavens open. My hope is to engage Carlos in a conversation. He still hates me for talking with him and his younger brother and sister about the possibility of going in a care home when his mum collapsed in the streets a few weeks ago. Carlos is 14 and was then left to care for his younger bother and sister and a baby. Due to the fact that he abuses solvents I didn´t want to leave him looking after two young children and a baby and so needed to bring up the subject of how he would feel about a home.
The discussion didn´t go well and he felt I had abused his trust and took off with all three children and hid in the centre of La Terminal until his mum came out of hospital. So trying to engage him in conversation was hard work to say the least. He looks at me with anger in his tearful eyes and refuses to open his mouth. He is hurt and, for the moment, is aiming all that hurt at me. I am fine with this as I know he needs time and so tell him I still care about him before leaving to return to our Centre.
It is a sad moment as I feel so much for him and have worked with him for many years and to see him like this breaks my heart. He is depressed, lonely, and hungry and spends his time between sniffing solvents and lying on a bed of rubbish watching TV programmes on a TV that has both a poor signal and very little resolution and colour. It must be hell for him and I wish I could just take him away and offer him something more fulfilling than this.