Monday 4th April 2016

I woke up this morning laughing!  I was having a dream about a situation I thought was incredibly funny and found myself laughing so much I woke myself up.

Soon after I had got up ready for the day I heard lots of laughing coming from the lounge in the Centre, where I live in Guatemala City.  Two children were enjoying some playtime with their mentor before heading off to school.  I just love hearing the laughter here and since it is now mid-afternoon here in Guatemala there are more children downstairs enjoying being children and all this has been made possible by your support.  So thank you all so much.

Selvin AprilOn my return to Guatemala one of the boys I am mentoring was waiting for me at the Centre.  It was clear he had missed me and wanted to hear all about how my time had been in the UK.  The following morning Walter (photo), one of the boys that I wrote about in my last blog from Guatemala, was so pleased to see me he shouted out “Dad´s home”.  Walter is doing well and has recovered from his head injury.  I had warned him that his employer had to provide him with a helmet for the motorbike he has to ride around La Terminal delivering dough for making tortillas.  He was keen to show me that he was now wearing a helmet as his boss didn´t want me to make a formal complaint to the authorities, so a good result at last.

Then, Walter (one of our street team) informed me of the very sad news of three deaths in the rubbish dump in La Terminal.  We had been asked to help cover the funeral costs of two people, one being a little girl.  All three had eaten soup that was contaminated and died soon after.  It was a terrifying experience for those who tried to help.

The choices so many of those we work with seem so few especially when they don´t have the luxury of choosing what they eat.  The risks involved in just living each day are high and we are so sad to hear of their deaths.

This morning a boy sat near to me in the Centre and told me that it was his cousin that had died of food poisoning and wanted to just be near to someone and say he was sad about what had happened.  It was a touching moment and I hope I had helped bring some comfort.

Despite the sad news there has been some good news.  Over the last few months we have been working hard to help two families leave the streets.  One family decided to make the move from years of living on the streets after the girl became pregnant.  We have been amazed at the great decisions they took to get a small room, find some basic food and have managed to just get by each day.  Marcos and Rosa are doing well and despite Marcos being offered a job as a manual laborer and working two weeks to find that his boss could not pay him, they struggled on because they wanted a better life for their unborn child.

One of my friends at church had offered Marcos an interview and that followed by a job offer that will mean him having a stable job, good training and some great employment benefits also.  At the same time he and one of our workers, Frank, were invited to represent the charity at an all-expenses-paid Consultation in Mexico.  The pair left on Sunday and will be in Mexico till Thursday and then on Friday Marcos starts his new job and he and Rosa will start their new life.

april1Our regular readers will know of Selvin.  Selvin left the streets a couple of months ago and is doing really well in the rehab centre.  I took some time out to visit him last week (yes, still wearing the same shirt!) and he seemed a new person from the bloody-faced young man we had rescued off the streets.  Selvin was a transformed person and showed me the figures he had been making from paper and talked about all the new things he has been learning.  It was so great to see him so happy and full of life.

We are very encouraged to see more leaving the streets and so I will be updating you more soon about how he and Rosa are progressing and to introduce you to Christian who left the streets with his pregnant girlfriend and all that has happened to them.

There are always more to rescue but we do know the numbers of those living on the streets are continuing to decline and are grateful for the opportunity to help make a difference.  Thanks again for your support.

Wednesday 30th March 2016

I have recently returned to Guatemala from the UK and was there for three weeks of presentations, assemblies, meetings and our annual Family Quiz Night fundraiser.  It was a hectic but rewarding time and so good to spend quality time with family and friends again and catch up with news and events.  So very sorry I could not fit everyone in!

A massive thank you to all those who hosted me (especially the Curson family), those who fed me, helped arrange meetings and assemblies, worked their socks off for the Quiz Night and to Emily for loaning me her car.

It is always encouraging to travel around to schools and see the interest still alive in so many staff and pupils.  In one school the teacher invited the children to come and talk to me after the assembly and so a small queue formed.  Some children wanted to tell me they liked the assembly, one boy just gave me a hug and then a little girl told me that she had been into London with her mum and dad and they had seen some homeless people.  She commented that: “I saw a homeless man and he had a really ugly dog and he looked just like you”, and with that walked off.  I was left asking myself if she meant the man or the dog!

Quiz Night2Our annual Family Quiz Night was a sell-out and we even had two families who so wanted to be at the event but when they found out it was full booked decided to run our Quiz Night in their own home.  The evening was a great success and £1,600 was raised to help further the work.  Well done to Steve Poulson and his team for "winning" the Quiz Night and despite calls of foul play their one bribe did not help dent their rather large lead throughout.

Thanks to Peter Rushforth who spoke on the evening about his experiences in Guatemala in January and how vital the work we do is to the many children that now rely on the teams in Guatemala City.  I cannot begin to list all those who came to help on the evening but will say a massive thanks to Jo Soden and her team for the decorations and food, to Ken Harratt for the live music and to Martin and Robyn Hughes for hosting the evening for us.  I hope you will join us next year for our themed family evening.

While I was away the team kept me informed of the work in Guatemala and how one of the families we had been helping had been through a tough patch.  Cesar and María had found life difficult having their two children living back with them and so contacted the authorities and they were taken back into care again.  It must have been a very difficult decision for them to make and a decision that would have traumatised their two young children who were just getting used to living back with their mum and dad.

Now back in Guatemala the work begins a pace as we head towards the summer months and the sponsored walk I am doing from Costa Rica to Guatemala, more about this in another blog.  Thanks again to everyone for your faithful and incredible support of our projects in both Guatemala and Honduras.

Monday 7th March 2016

A boy asked me this week if I would adopt him!  It is not something that happens that often and I was not expecting it from a 14-year-old boy.  As I asked Walter why he wanted me to adopt him he tells me that he knows I care for him and that his parents don´t.

We had spent a few hours together in a hospital due to a very deep cut he received on his head after falling off a motorbike.  Walter, like so many his age, is trying to support himself by working at the same time as studying.  He starts work at 4am most days and rides a motorbike around La Terminal delivering tortilla dough to various locations before heading off to school.  After school he continues to work and earns just enough to pay for his food and lodging.

Walter HospitalWalter´s boss does not provide him with a helmet or any protection and he is still paying back money to his boss from another accident he had, which damaged the bike.

Walter arrived at the centre and it was clear he needed hospital treatment quite urgently and so we took him to a private clinic, as taking him to the national hospital would have been a waste of time.  The first-class treatment he received and the time we had to talk during cleanup and stitching demonstrated to Walter that we cared for him and was important enough to spend £150 on medical treatment.

The following day he asked me to adopt him and started calling me dad before I explained that I could not adopt him as he has parents.  This led to a previous conversation about his upbringing and how he had worked hard from the tender age of three to feed himself and stay alive.  The numerous scars on his body tell a story of years of abuse and neglect and just how hard life has treated him.

Walter remains in our programme and I have given his boss a week to provide Walter with a helmet before we have to make a legal complaint about his employment status.  In the meantime we hope he stays safe.

Ashley Alison

Last weekend I was asked to help accompany three children and one mentor to a shopping mall.  The three children live in La Terminal and this would be their first trip away from the routine of home, school and being on the streets.  Our day begins by a visit to my church and then we head to the mall.

Guatemala has developed numerous shopping malls over the last 10 years and the Oakland Mall is probably one of the most luxurious malls that would rival any in the UK or US.  It does seem like you step into another world when you enter and the whole experience is a shock, albeit a most pleasant one, for most first time Guatemalan visitors.

The three children ran into the mall and were overwhelmed by the sights, smells and sounds of the bustling Oakland Center.  A quite magical afternoon followed as we pretended to shop in expensive shops, tried out tester perfumes and ended up by the Lego shop, which just happened to be next to a princess experience who were offering free face painting.

Goodbyes

The two girls picked out their face designs while I joined the boy at the Lego shop and talked about how he was coping with his life.  It was a special afternoon and the children returned to their world somewhat different and with memories of one superb day.  I asked them later to tell me about the happiest day of their lives and I am told that it was today!

It has been a hectic week and having to say goodbye to everyone as I head back to the UK was also difficult.  On my last visit to the streets some of the guys made me promise I would be back with them after Easter and that I should remember them everyday by taking a photo and carrying it with me.  It was a special time and I will miss them all including Gerson who phones me everyday now to tell me that I am his dad and to ask me if I slept well and when am I going to buy him some new shoes.

American AirlinesI am now on my way back to the UK and was one of the lucky ones to be offered a free upgrade to business class.  This opened up a chance discussion with the pilot who came to talk to the passengers and then invited me to take control of the plane!  Well, it was stationary at the terminal in Dallas but good to share with him and the co-pilot something of the work we do.  The photo will be now shared with Sergio, the boy we rescued off the streets two years ago, who continues to dream of being a pilot and I am sure one day he will be sitting in such a seat and living out his dreams.

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