Tuesday 26thFebruary 2019
It was a fairly short walk to collect Brandon and I knew that at 5:45am La Terminal would be already heaving with traffic and commerce and a lively place to walk through. The sun was just about to peak through the tallest buildings on the far side of the Terminal and illuminate my path a little better, but for now the dimly-lit street lamps and passing traffic will guide me. However, the flashing lights ahead and the crowd of people blocking the road could only mean one thing, and as I approached I could see the dead body of another person who had been assassinated by, we can only presume, the angels.
La Terminal is a noisy and over crowded market area that turns over $4 million, mainly in cash, per day. With just over 40,000 traders jostling for trade in an area the size of a large village and with 500 lorries loading and unloading at any one time it certainly is a place that demands some form of control. Traders pay into a scheme whereby they are kept safe from thieves and extortion by the contracted services of “The Angels”, who are a group of contract killers and they diligently patrol the Terminal day and night.
In one of our recent visits to La Terminal we met two of The Angels. One was keen to show of his full magazine for his semi-automatic, while angel number two discussed the shift patterns they work and what challenges they face. Quite a surreal moment in a busy day, but on the whole, we know they are not planning to harm us as they have many years seeing the work we are doing to help children here.
I walk on past the dead body and turn the corner into a road that leads to Brandon´s house. Brandon is 12 and today I have arranged the personal trainer from the gym to spend time with him before I take him to his dance class. I squeeze my way through the market traders, mothers dragging children along while carrying huge baskets of fruit and vegetables on their heads, and numerous people looking for the day´s bargains. The entrance to the room that Brandon and his family live in is always dark and if you didn´t know about the step halfway along the pitch-black alleyway then you would certainly end up on the floor.
Brandon hears me coming and pops his head around the corner where the “pila” is and smiles. The pila is a large outdoor sink and Brandon tells me he has to wash all the pots, plates and cups from the previous day before he is allowed to go out. This provides me a good opportunity for helping him wash the pots whilst chatting about his week. It is amazing just how meticulous he is with the washing and how carefully he uses water. Here water is costly for these families and so it all has to be used sparingly. We chat as we wash together and I help stack the washed items neatly in a large bowl that Brandon then lifts into their small room where his brother and sisters are asleep. He grabs his shorts on the way out and we head back to where my car is parked outside our Centre.
Despite it being 6:15am we arrive at the gym, change and arrive in plenty of time for his one-on-one session with Vincent, the trainer. Our trainer has given up his Saturday morning rest to setup the dance room with cones, steps, mats and balls. It looks alluring for Brandon and he begins to run around and shows Vincent some of the dance moves he has been learning. Having huge mirrors along one wall makes this the most ideal place for the boy and he revels in the attention he is getting.
When the training session is over, and I am exhausted as he is, we head for breakfast and then to the dance studio. I watch him like an anxious but very proud parent. This is now his 4thdance class, funded by Mike and Chris who visited Guatemala recently. They left enough money for me to pay for his classes for the next two months. After that I am not sure where the money will come from but I am keen to encourage his desire to dance.
Mentoring, as we say rather a lot, changes lives. Seeing how Brandon´s life has changed since joining the programme is so rewarding. I remember his first days with us and can only imagine what his life would be like if we had not come across him, his little brother and three sisters in the streets one day. They are all now in school apart from the youngest, Jackie, who is only four. Jackie told me back in December how she was now working in a kitchen for 10p a day, and yes I did say she was only four! We know she has been spending more and more time in the streets and so this week we are getting her legal papers in order so that we can put her into nursery and keep her off the streets.
Brandon is loving the dance class and it seems that this is most favourite time of his week. He loves the attention and support and it makes me so happy to see him enjoying his dream and growing in confidence and ability.
A good day ahead as I have been invited to take the 5 boys I mentor on a Saturday, which includes Brandon, to a pool in the afternoon with Russell and Joanna Soden who are visiting Guatemala for the next two weeks.
Good news and good times at last and this weekend I will be heading to Honduras to meet with Steve Poulson to introduce the SKD mentoring programme to a community living in poverty on an idyllic island on the Caribbean coast that was once infamous for pirates and slaves. My next blog should be interesting!