I am sure we don't all remember everything we say or even the advice we hand out to people and even less do we hear how that advice or what we have said made a person think about the direction of their life.

YeseniaWell yesterday on the streets I was made to think about the words Yesenia spoke to Juli Voncannon.  Juli and her husband David joined me and Jose (local volunteers) as we wandered around the city and met up with groups of street youth and adults.

When we found Yesenia she was so pleased to see us and the last time I saw her was about 3-4 years ago.  Then she was a few stone heavier and living on the streets with her two girls.  Actually I took a photo of both girls as I was deeply saddened that at such a young sage they were living on the streets.  The photo of the girls was then put on a large board and placed in a business in Amersham.  It is still there today next to Carol's in Hill Avenue!

The transformation of Yesenia's life from 3-4 years ago to yesterday was incredible and Juli asked her more about what had happened and I only caught the first part of the conversation as we were walking around the market area in order to find a shop that sold a book her youngest daughter needed for school.

Apparently the night I took the photo of her girls I had sat down and talked with her about life on the streets.  I can say with all honesty I can't remember having said anything profound but what I had said made Yesenia think about her life.  The following day she went to a church and began to laugh at the way the Christians were worshipping God and saying that Jesus was with them.  Then she heard a voice speak to her and realised it was Jesus.  She broke down and asked Jesus into her life and from that day her life was transformed.

Yesenia allowed a local organisation to take care of her older daughter whilst she tried to care for her younger daughter.  She began begging at the traffic lights to earn money to rent a room rather than live on the streets and little by little she managed to gather enough to find a place for her and her younger daughter.  Yesenia was fortunate enough to find work and continues working today.  Her youngest daughter is in great health and studying at school.

When I asked Yesenia what had happened to her all she could say was 'Jesus'.  Her life is so different after 17 years on the streets and I will try and get hold of the book her daughter needs for school next week and see how they are doing.  The school book costs about £10 so if anyone fancies dropping £10 into Alexis Curson I will make sure it is used well.

lamuni1It's amazing how much you can fit into one day!  One minute I am sitting among the Guatemalan elite singing happy birthday to the city mayor and the next moment I have changed in the car and am working out on the streets.

It was great to receive an invitation by the city Mayor and his wife to celebrate the re-opening of their primary school for children whose parents work on the city rubbish dump.  The kids put on a great show for us by dressing up as city workers and singing "you are the city".

lamuni2I remember visiting the dump 20 years ago and seeing hundreds of adults and children trying to make a living off the stuff we so easily discard.  Many children have died in the dump over the years and then the Mayor's wife decided to do something and constructed an official entrance for the dump and made sure no children were allowed to enter.  It took a few years to change the habits of a lifetime but little by little the community responded and saw the benefit of seeing their children grow up with an education.

The refurbished school hosts over 500 children each day and other schools have been established by the Mayor's wife Patricia de Arzu.  I am meeting her again next week to discuss a city-wide strategy for street children and hopeful that the change that is sweeping the city will eventually reach those on the streets.

Talking of those on the streets I thought I would add a few photos that were taken on our most recent visit to a couple of groups in the city.

streets5On arrival we found 11-year-old Gerson asleep (yellow top).  When he woke about an hour later he found that someone had stolen his cap during the night.  Jose, a Guatemalan volunteer from Youth Challenge, had given Gerson the cap only last week and he had really treasured it.  We talked with him about how the way of life on the streets means that you can lose all you have when you fall asleep.  The fragility of life on the streets made him think but not for long as he was excited to receive a trendy scarf from Jose and he promised to hide it inside his clothes at night.  Last night someone had also tried to steal his shoes but he woke up in time to punch out and scare off the thief.

streets7I had made some worksheets with mazes on and so sat down with Gerson.  The first maze was easy and the second one much harder.  Unlike the way others had attempted the maze Gerson studied it first and then mapped out the way through the maze with a pen and handed the pen back to me with a smile.  It gave me a chance to talk a bit about how life is like the maze and how we sometimes make wrong turns but can decide to go back to the point you made the wrong turn and try again rather than keep going down the wrong path.

streets6David and Juli Voncannon came out again with me and it is such a blessing to know these guys and to David enjoyed taking some photos (like the one of me, Tanya and Gerson) while Juli had brought some coloured wool with her and began to teach the guys on the streets how to make pulseras.  Not everyone had the patience for it but those who persevered began to make some amazing friendship bands.  David and Juli have come out with Jose, from Youth Challenge, more and more over the last couple of weeks and I am sure they will continue the work after I have returned to the UK - something I don't want to think about just yet!work with them.  David is from the US and Juli is from Guatemala, they have two young boys and live in Guatemala City.  David and Juli have worked for many years with YWAM, a Christian youth organisation, and are now considering setting up their own organisation to help street youth.

 

streets4Back out on the streets today with David and Julie Voncannon from Street Invest and Jose from Youth Challenge who wanted to see what it was like to visit the streets first thing in the morning.

We headed out to zone 4 and came across a group of about 15 adults and 2 kids, some of whom were still sleeping but quickly woke up when they heard our voices.

It is encouraging to know that some of the adults I have known since they were kids a fact they remind me of each time I visit.  Maybe they have known very few people in their lives that long but the longevity of the relationship they have with me means a certain level of trust and respect is evident.

GersonI spoke with 12-year-old Gerson (photo left) who has lived with this group for the last year.  He was born in El Salvador and when he is not high on solvents he is a pleasure to chat with.  It is still early days for me to discuss some deeper issues with him and so for the moment we play games and laugh about the little incidents that take place while we are with them.

It took me 10 washes before I eventually got the smell of rotting feet from my hands but the pleasure of washing feet and rubbing in cream is instant for those we can help on the streets.  So many suffer from really badly infected feet and so any care you can give is greatly appreciated.

 

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