Sunday 26th June 2016
Growing up in Guatemala can be a tough ride for many children, but if you are born a girl the odds seem to be stacked against you even more. The statistics of just how tough life can be for girls can be rather overwhelming and demonstrate clearly that girls suffer disproportionately. The biggest threat to live for a young girl is death in pregnancy and with an increase in the number of girls ages 10-14 dying in pregnancy. Every 7 minutes a young girl becomes pregnant in Guatemala! Add to that the upsurge in general violence and murders of women with sadly fewer than 10% of all those crimes actually being fully investigated and even fewer prosecuted. Furthermore, abuses against girls and women seeking to flee Guatemala to the USA via Mexico have increased by 70%.
Being and growing up a girl in Guatemala is a journey many find difficult and when two girls came to our Centre last week and sat in tears to tell me that they had received threats on their lives by a gang member I felt helpless. Threats like this in Guatemala are always taken seriously and so some form of legal response is now needed but the 10 and 11-year-olds were fearful of the threat of being raped and killed.
Their situation is not unique but does highlight our need to find a safe place for these children to go when at most risk. We are exploring the option of having a short-term protection home but this would require rather larger sums of money and to find a wealth investor to purchase a property for us to use.
In the meantime we need to find creative ways to keep them safe as well as investigate how making a formal complaint to the police will either make things worse or make things better.
One 11-year-old girl came to us last week and had been through a difficult time that resulted in her cutting her arms in order to feel something. Another girl of the same age has been invited to come into the Centre because when she is with us she is not being abused. She only goes home now when she knows her mum will be there and the rest of the time comes to us rather than having to face the man who abuses her on a daily basis.
Whilst on the streets this week we came across a little 7-year-old girl who was brought to us by her 9-year-old brother telling us she has a love bite on her chest and could we look at it. Sure enough, she had a love bite from a family member. What is a 7-year-old girl doing with a love bite on her chest?
I could go on as there are so many girls in need of mentors and in need of protection that I wish we had a place we could put them all. There is nothing more painful than saying goodbye and seeing them walking slowly up the road with a weight upon their young shoulders that is oppressive and systemic in Guatemala´s macho culture.
The photo at the beginning of this article was taken this week when Sarah, Matt, Sam and Kori came to Guatemala to help work with us on the streets. They are all part of the Forge Church in Suffolk and come every year now to offer some very practical support. Onwe of those practical tasks was to hgejp us last Sunday when we got flooded out at the Centre.
Because of their help and support we have been able to be out on the streets more this week and the team have spent time with the children in the Centre each day. THANK YOU to the team for coming and if you would like to read their own blog of the trip, you can do here here.
Kate Bretherton wrote a very moving comment this past week about the suffering of Gerson, who seems to frequent this blog. We fund Gerson on the streets last week in a state of almost unconsciousness and near death. He was losing his sight and refused to come with us into hospital care saying that bhe preferred to die on the streets. I advised the rest of the group to call the Bomberos (ambulance crew) as soon as he drifted into unconsciousness and knew they would take him into hospital. It was a tough call but a few hours later he was rushed into hospital and is now recovering again from street life. I will leave you with this comment from Kate.
I’m a mum. I have four children. They are all and everything to me. There are times when life isn’t straightforward. There are times when I get it wrong. Spectacularly wrong. And there are times when a 9, 8 and two 6 year olds can be difficult. Incredibly difficult. But, however cross or upset they are with me, or I am with them, we are there. We are there for each other. Always.
I cried when I saw the picture above. Not crocodile tears. Deep, belly sobs of sorrow for Gerson. For a boy I barely know. For a boy I met three years ago, with a glint in his eye and joy in his heart. Who wept in my arms at the funeral of his friend. Who, for a brief period of time, relinquished his glue bottle – the crutch upon which he relies to blank out his daily life – to mourn for another life lost. ?
I am at a loss for words. For those of you who know Duncan Dyason, you might recall these words from May 2013:?“Often people ask me how I cope with all the things I see and hear, and I have not yet found a way to answer the question in a way that satisfies the way I often feel. Sometimes to be human is to enter the pain of another but not so deeply the pain overwhelms you so you become useless and unable to help.”