Monday 12th August 2019
My visits to Santa Fas are always ones I look forward to as the work we do here in this deprived area of Guatemala City is rewarding, but it always comes with its challenges as well as excitements. Yesterday was no exception!
Because I had to stay home last Sunday, due to man flu (very serious as we all know!), I was unable to visit Johnny and Jonatan last week, two boys who live in vulnerable situations and who are in our mentoring programme. So, yesterday I head off to Santa Fas, a flourishing area of Guatemala City that is still prone of gang battles and all manner of crime.
I find a “safe” place for the car and walk down the two dark alleyways and then down the steep steps and along the path that precariously clings to side of the mountain. One slip and you would certainly be carried off to hospital or worse.
Eventually I arrive at Jonatan´s house, a large tin shack with dirt floor while mosquitoes try and get their pound of flesh and chickens and a duck run around, and a big welcome and hug from Jonatan and his mum. His 4-year-old younger brother has now got to know me and so doesn´t hide under a piece of cardboard like he did when I first arrived. Johnny is also there and the two boys show me the swing they have made.
The smell is pungent and the rotting rubbish that accumulates with every downpour creates a dangerous and very unhealthy environment for any child to play. But these boys are just so used to living in this environment that having a swing over the sewerage and rubbish is just normal.
Today Jonatan´s mum invites me into their shack and Jonatan shows me his bed and the few possessions he has. I bring out a small gift I have brought them from the UK and they are overjoyed. The little tins of mints are not that exciting for kids I know, but the tin with the Queen´s guard on is and so I know these will be treasured for many years to come.
Just as we are talking about the boy´s school results I hear an increase in volume from the man I saw standing outside their shack. He is a visiting uncle and is drunk and shouting at Jordie, a slim 11-year-old boy who does not seem to have done anything wrong apart from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The uncle takes off his belt and marches into the next-door shack, swaying from the effects of alcohol. I come out and see Jordie´s little face hiding in the corner and he is crying. His uncle is becoming more abusive and so I decide to intervene, first by inviting Jordie to join us for a trip into town while explaining to the uncle and the rest of the family that is it illegal to hit a child. The uncle tries to tell me that the boy must respect him and I wonder, as he talks, how much respect he will actually develop by being drunk and trying to hit a small boy with a leather belt.
The altercation ends with everyone calm and the uncle being reminded that I will not hesitate to prosecute anyone I find abusing a child and remind Jordie of his rights and to contact me if there are any problems.
Jonatan and Johnny then accompany me for our mentoring session entitled “Making a Difference´, a study of a child King in the Bible who made a massive impact in his community and of a 12-year-old boy from Canada who founded a huge child movement to help children suffering from being sold into slavery in Pakistan and India. At the end of the session and with the challenge for them both to think about how they could make a difference they both said they wanted to help a family they knew who lived in poverty. Both boys live in extreme poverty and yet they could still think of people who were poorer than them. A plan will be hatched over the next week!
We return back via a shoe shop where I need to buy both of them trainers for school. I know I have moaned enough in my blogs about the Guatemalan education system, but maybe just one more moan and then I will leave it there. Both boys are expecting good schools results this week and on Monday they have a PE exam and if they don´t come with trainers then they will be marked down. It is a miracle enough that both boys are still in school and doing well and coping with the daily requests of homework based on their time on the internet, something that is almost impossible for them. I am waiting to get their school results and if they are good then they will choose a special activity we can do together next week.
Mentoring is a special relationship built on trust that is developed over time and one that must involve the mentor and the whole family in order to understand the child´s school, community and home environment. I always return home feeling very blessed indeed and today I have just one more boy to visit on my way home, 12-year-old Danny.
Danny is expecting me and I can hear his feet running down the alleyway as he hears that I am in the street outside. Today I find Danny a little down as his “mum” is unwell and is lying on the bed and in need of medical help. Danny´s mum is an inspiration as she was studying English and had just received her visa to go to the US to live out her dream when a neighbour knocked on the door late one night and said she was leaving. She left not only a few clothes and an old bed but also three young children who she decided to take as her own and care for.
A few years down the line and with all the legal forms in place Danny´s new mum cares for three young children on a very low income. She walks the city streets everyday selling nuts and does so coping with the heat, the pollution and with a walking stick. She just about earns enough to provide two basic meals per day. Danny never complains and is always happy to have time with me and hear stories of many things he will never hear of in school.
It is getting dark and so I need to head home as today has been a long day, but one of great blessing and opportunity to serve. Thanks to your support all this is possible, thank you.