Saturday 9th July
Having had one year now to reflect back on the official start of our mentoring programme I am so encouraged to see the results and how the simplicity of intentional friendship changes lives.
It has been a busy time since my last blog as we have had more people join the mentoring programme, some serious abuse disclosures to deal with, a trip down to Honduras and lots of preparation and training for the sponsored walk this summer. So I will take you through the events and thank you now for your interest and hope you get through the blog without falling asleep!
David and Marco are two brothers and live in La Terminal in Guatemala City. David is 13 and Marco is 10 and both are in a situation that necesitates some of my time each week until we can find mentors for them.
On a recent special visit we went to Antigua, it was their first time here and their second time out of La Terminal. For those new to the blog, La Terminal is the largest market area in Central America and where hundreds of children live in poverty and at risk and where we focus a lot of our time and attention. They could not contain their excitement during the car journey and less so as we wandered around Antigua where everything was “amazing”, “cool” and new for them.
Both boys are doing well at school and not involved in street life but could easily become so as most children in the block where they live have already started that journey. Prevention is easier at this stage and will mean fewer children living on the streets in the years to come.
I meet them every Monday and we usually spend some time cooking together as they enjoy this activity and then have the joy of eating what we have cooked but will always save some food to take back home with them. Their basic diet is not that good and so I tend to spoil them a bit.
Two week´s ago Frank, who coordinates the mentoring programme, asked the boys to help him complete an evaluation form about how they felt about mentoring and then I was sent their replies. I had no idea Frank was doing this but was very touched by what both boys had to say. David had written in the comments section “Duncan has always been there in the most happiest moments of my life”. He went to say his happiest day in his life so far was going with me to Antigua.
David has been in need of a bit of extra help with a speech difficulty and I was able to ask for Emma Perez´s help. Emma (photo) and her husband Hector live here in Guatemala and volunteer full-time for the Mi Arca project and work with us on the streets. Emma just happens to also be a speech therapist and so got stuck in with David who is already speaking much clearer and enjoying the fact that we can understand him better.
Mentoring is costly as it takes up a lot of time. You need to prepare for the mentoring session, be in the mentoring session and then feedback through the diary your thoughts of how it went and what could be improved. As issues come up in the lives of the kids you have to get involved and that means taking them for check ups, rushing them to hospital, visiting their home and school and being available for them as and when they need to talk or just turn up and cry.
So, seeing new children and mentors begin the journey together is of great personal encouragement. We are nearly half way through the year and still need to find another 25 new mentors in order to help the 25 most vulnerable children enjoy this experience and get the support and encouragement that they need.
On Father´s Day recently I was given a rewarding surprise from 16-year-old Oscar who had worked very hard in the week in a tyre factory to earn money to support his family and the little he had for himself he brought a football shirt. When I saw it I thought he looked great in it and then he turned around to show me what was on the back. Words cannot describe what I felt and am very grateful to God for what I am seeing of how the lives of these kids are changing.
One of our newest mentors is Sergio, a very successful businessman in Guatemala City who showed great interest in the mentoring programme at the beginning of the year. Recently he signed up for the training programme and then was paired with 12-year-old Lorenzo. We are in early days but I can see how Lorenzo looks forward to spending time with Sergio each week and reviewing his schoolwork. Sergio is totally focused on Lorenzo and it is great to see how this mentoring relationship is developing trust between them and keeping Lorenzo off the streets and in school.
On a different note, a few months ago I was informed that the British Embassy had decided that all the funds from their charity ball this year would go our work with Mi Arca. I had to give a speech in front of hundreds of people, ambassadors, government officials, heads of business, etc. and seemed to have won many over to our cause.
When all the funds were counted we were invited to the British Residence with eight children from the mentoring programme to receive a cheque for Q82,000, that is about £7,000. We are so grateful for this money as it will help us keep going over the next few months and help fund our mentoring programme and the prevention work on the streets. I wanted to take this opportunity of thanking the British Embassy and community for their support this year and in particular Tom and Carolyn Carter, British Ambassadors to Guatemala and Honduras, for their enthusiastic support of our work.
Last week I had to pop down to Honduras in order to prepare the Manuelito and AFE projects for the sponsored walk this summer. On my arrival at the airport I was met by a TV crew who wanted to cover the story and was then invited by another station to be featured on a TV programme that evening. It felt somewhat surreal but managed to get through the interviews and plug the walk. We had instant responses from people who offered to walk with us and one cycle group said they would cycle with us part of the route. The TV station offered to cover the story daily when we arrived at the Honduran border.
The AFE and Manuelito projects both have their own fundraising pages and so please do consider donating to them directly if you feel an affinity with their projects specifically or please do support me through the Street Kids Direct giving page as all the money I raise their will be distributed to the various projects we support in Guatemala and Honduras.
Yesterday I hobbled back from a 73km walk from Guatemala City to Antigua and back again. I will be walking only 40km a day from the 25th of July, from Costa Rica to Guatemala. The 1,200km journey will take me through 5 countries and will mean me finding a “safe” place to camp each night, but I will have two support vehicles now thanks to a friend in Guatemala and the AFE project in Honduras.
Recently we invited four of the fittest kids in the mentoring programme to join me walking from Antigua to Guatemala City. At the halfway point two had left us for football training and two soldiered on. Only one boy made it all the way to Guatemala City and is seen here in this photo with Herber and me. 12-year-old Danilo (photo) has had his life changed around through the mentoring programme and so wanted to walk as his way of saying thank you. He trains everyday and so managed to keep up with us all the way and was of great inspiration to us as his total determination to finish brought us all to tears.
Today the Centre is full of kids running around, having fun, painting fingernails, cooking popcorn, watching TV, playing on the computers and just enjoying being children. Their squeals and laughter are all around me as I write this blog and I am grateful to Frank and Jonathan who continue to give up their “free” time to organize events here together with the growing team of volunteers. It´s all going really well!