Sunday 8th September 2019
I love my work and yesterday was one of those days when all the recent difficult times just disappeared when Lorenzo came to stay at the Protection Home in Guatemala City.
On Sunday evening I went with Pete Silverman, who is currently visiting from Tunbridge Wells in the UK, to see 15-year-old Lorenzo and to check on how he is doing. I had been very impressed by his daily attendance at our mentoring centre, coming every day this year to do his homework in the morning before heading off at noon to school. His grades had improved quite substantially, and all this despite Spanish not being his first language.
Lorenzo and his family are from Quiche, an isolated area in the northern jungles of Guatemala. They came to Guatemala City, like so many have done over the years, to find work and follow the dream of a better life. Mostly they end up living in marginalised areas of the capital, where poverty, violence and lack of resources begins to define their daily lives.
Entering into Lorenzo´s house is an experience that any visitor says they will never forget. Their house is a tin shack, built alongside 20 others in a space most people would consider building one family home. It is squashed and the lack of electric and water compounds the suffering of the families there. But they are resilient and work hard to try and find ways to not only sustain their lives, but to find alternative accommodation. In Lorenzo´s family, this won´t be possible for many years to come.
His mum works when she can, as she has to look after a growing number of children, many of whom are now grandchildren, and find ways to entertain them in such a small space. The home is about the size of two queen-size beds and with 13 people sleeping on the dirt floor, it does become a very crowded place indeed.
I sit with Pete on little plastic stools and explain to the family how Lorenzo will spend his time with us and why we are giving him the opportunity to enjoy a night in the Protection Home. They all listen intently and Pete explains where he is from while the children become excited by the little games we play while we talk.
The conversation takes us to a discussion with Maria, Lorenzo´s (not much) older sister, who is breastfeeding her little baby. She tells us that Alex, who is just 7 months old, is crying all the time and recently had to spend a short time in hospital. It was while she was in hospital with him and with her 4-year-old son, who had been suffering from convulsions, that the doctor informed her that the baby has the genetic disorder Down syndrome. She asked me what is was and went on to ask if the baby was like this because she used to argue with her husband. There are so many tales of how indigenous populations, and Guatemala has a very high percentage of them, suffer from lack of information and tales passed down through the years. I knew we would have to do something and so agreed I would look for a charity in the city that would offer her the support she needs.
We return to the discussion of Lorenzo and his night in the Protection Home. All the forms completed and signed, even though no one apart from Lorenzo can actually read or write, Lorenzo can prepare himself for a night in the home and then the following day to visit a friend of mine who is a doctor. I am hoping this will keep Lorenzo focused on his studies and on his dream of becoming a doctor.
We have been testing out our systems for when children start coming most days into the home and this will be a great test as it is only one boy and one who I know will pose little difficulty for us.
Lorenzo arrives at the home and is taken through the short induction that includes how to use the bed, the toilet, the shower and the rest of the house. This will be his first night in a bed and so we want it to be very special for him. When I showed him how to use the shower he was keen to try it out and discovered the joy of hot water for the first time. Most things from this point on are a first for him! About 40 minutes later I need to check on him as it seems a rather long time in the shower. He is just having fun and enjoying the experience and then comes out and changes into the pyjamas we bought for him. It will also be the first time he has not slept in his day clothes and shoes!
We move on to cooking dinner and then have a great evening watching a movie that makes him laugh and relax. He is enjoying all the attention and we finish by settling him into bed and praying with him. This will also be the first time he has slept alone, but with three guys just up the corridor he does not seem that bothered and, in the morning, wakes looking like he has just returned from a long relaxing holiday.
The home will soon be open all the time, as soon as we have found the funds, and then many more girls and boys will be able to benefit from enjoying all manner of things for the very first time.
His time with us ends with a visit to the doctor´s clinic where he learns what it means to be a doctor and how to treat patients. He tries his hand at ultrasound treatment on my knee and is full of questions about injuries and healing. I think his heart has been greatly encouraged and I am hopeful this will lead to many more opportunities with the doctor when school is over in October. I drop him back to our centre and he gives me a hug, something he could not do last year. His smile is infectious and I am grateful that I can serve these kids a see real change in them. Thanks for your support.