Friday 24th February - Just an average week!
My week has been rather eventful and so I thought you would like to know of the progress as well as the frustrations of living and working in Guatemala City with high-risk children and youth.
Apart from having four people with us from the UK and one from the US, I have seen new mentors join the programme and enjoyed the squeals and laughter from the children coming to our Centre in Guatemala City. I can never underestimate the impact the Centre has on the lives of these children and young people and know that, in the years to come, many will give great testimonies of how this place has impacted their lives.
Out on the streets the reality is just so starkly different and the contrast as we walk from the Centre to visit the children at risk in the streets and those living there full-time takes some getting used to.
We head down the 5th and find a small group of young adults abusing solvents and engage them in a conversation while three of their dogs sniff us out and check that we are not a threat. Having passed their test, we sit and hear the stories of how their week has gone. I am always sad to hear just how boring it all sounds as I know that each person is packed with potential but those childhood dreams of a happy future seem to have been robbed from them many years ago.
As we move down the 5th we walk into a brothel and begin to say hi to the adults and children, who are all very happy to see me and ask how my Christmas was and if I had brought them anything from the UK. My standard response is “yes, I brought you a hug”, but despite this provoking smiles they live in hope that one day I will come back from a trip with something very special. I have this before but not many remember and whatever I bring is either lost or traded.
Sitting chatting with the children I wonder how long it will be before they are involved themselves in the business of prostitution. One 9-year-old girl sits at the entrance and takes money from clients and hands then a wad of tissue paper and then returns to a conversation with me about her schoolwork.
Moving on to visit another group, we head to La Casona and I am expecting a negative reception as I have been away a lot recently and I know, from all the missed calls on my mobile, that some have been desperate to talk with me. However, as we turned the corner into the road where around 20 young adults and children live it was comforting to be welcomed like a long lost friend with hugs and a huge smile from Gerson.
Mark, Rosalie, Claire and me begin to wash feet, attend to wounds, play games and chat about their lives. Gerson tells me that he is losing his sight and that he was struggling to focus on objects and people as they became blurry more often now. He sits and sniffs on a small rag that he clenches in his sun-scorched hands and looks at me and smiles and tells me it is good to have his dad back.
Our last visit is to a group of families living in the heart of La Terminal. We come across an 8-year-old drug dealer, a little 4-month-old baby with her young teenage parents, little Justin (photo with me) who was suffering greatly last year with impetigo and various young children crying and hitting each other. I knew this would be a challenging time!
The talk was of one of the young girls who had apparently been arrested last year for running a child prostitution ring in La Terminal. When the 13-year-old girl was placed in a secure home we thought that the situation was under control. But sadly I was told of how the business was now continuing and how people were worried for the young girls they knew who were being tempted into the trade.
It breaks your heart and you can´t help but look around at the faces of the children and see the loss of innocence and I wish I could just take them to a much happier place where they can enjoy swings, toys, rolling around on green grass and a hundred and one other things that I would love to see children doing. I wish the world could be a safer and kinder place for children.
I pop into a shack where two boys are waking up and preparing to wander the streets and abuse solvents. One of them is keen to see me and that is surprising as the last time I saw him he wanted to hurl rocks and abuse at me for not taking him on a special outing. I would have taken him but his behaviour was just too risky. Anyway, he smiles and is so blown away that I had remembered to bring him something back from the UK – a small toy double decker bus. For a few moments he knows that someone has been thinking about him and you just can´t wipe the smile off his face.
It´s now time to complete our street work and head back to the Centre for a meeting with a group of boys who would like to start their own business rather than get into, what they term, “bad behaviours on the streets”. And then home to bed!im if hishaves and m if he have t me for not taking him on a special outing. I would have taken him if he hadnethem is keen to