Sunday 26th March 2017
Returning to Guatemala is always exciting and having Lorena, from the Manuelito Children´s Home, with us we knew would be a full and encouraging week. Lorena had been invited to Guatemala to participate in the mentoring training course as she has plans to launch the programme in Honduras.
That night a phone call returned me to the reality of life in Guatemala. A neighbour of one of the families we support was calling me to let me know that the mother of the family had been beaten up by her husband and had been left with a very swollen face. We headed over to see her and when we arrived it seemed like all the neighbours tried to hide their faces from us in embarrassment. We knocked on the wooden doorframe as the door was just a thin sheet of cloth and are welcomed in.
The mum is lying on the bed and trying to hide her face from me. Her daughter is sitting at her side and her youngest son, who is about 3-4, tells me that his daddy has hit his mum again. The mother then allows me to come closer and shows me her face. She has endured a huge amount of pain and one eye is now closed over and the rest of her face is purple and very swollen.
Her 9-year-old son comes into the room and tells me that he had to try and protect his mum because “it´s not right to hit a woman”. He looks down at his feet and for a moment I think he is going to burst into tears. I enquire as to the whereabouts of the father and I am told he has run away as he knew his wife was going to make a formal complaint to the authorities.
I know that it won´t be long before he is back pleading forgiveness and once again she will take him back and then the abuse and violence will return to this family.
The next day we head to the streets but decide to check up on the family we visited the night before and I am pleased to hear that the father has not returned home and that they have begun to make plans for life without him in the home.
A few minutes later we are sitting on the streets with Brandon who is complaining that one of the older boys on the streets had fought with him and left him with another injury to his neck. I clean his wound while Lorena gets stuck in with cleaning the feet of some of the guys. Her gentleness and compassion touches their hearts and they begin to talk with her about their lives on the streets. While this is happening one of the older guys who is visiting the group to buy drugs steals a packet of wet-wipes we are using to clean feet.
When I realise the packet has been taken I stand up and inform the guys that unless it is returned we will not be visiting them and certainly not bringing more first aid supplies to them. There is a lot of commotion as the finger is pointed at the man sitting closer to where it went missing and then Gerson identifies the same person. It only takes a couple of seconds for the group to set on him and recover the packet of wipes. I know it must seem that a packet of wet-wipes is not worth a fight but in the streets you must have limits and those we work with must know we trust them and they must trust us. I am hoping this will help the trust we have built with them over many years even though a few nasty minutes had to pass.
On our brief return to the Centre, before we head back to the streets, we find the children having fun playing with toys and games we have been given. I so love seeing the children being children and enjoying being together and playing and creating a fun environment where every child is involved in play. Love it!
One little boy is very pleased and so we sit down and have a chat. It´s 9-year-old Moses and he is in mentoring with me and it´s amazing to think we have been together nearly three years now. Last year he was struggling in school but we helped get him into a school nearer the room he lives in and a school that offers very small class sizes. Since his start in late January he has grown in confidence and has achieved so much in the last two months.
I checked through his schoolbooks and see the amount of red ticks and “well done” stamps. I then check his diary and read two notes from his teacher. One is a letter of encouragement of his great behaviour and attitude in school and the other is to complement him on his excellent schoolwork. I am so proud of him and all he has achieved these last three years and what a joy to journey with him and watch him grow.
The week finishes with more street visits that include watching Joseph Soden, a UK volunteer, work on the streets with the young children. They adore him and gather around him the minute we arrive as he takes time to play with each one and they enjoy his attention and love. It is always hard to leave as we know most of these young ones will be on the streets, playing alone or playing with other young children and most times with no adult supervision and care.
Joseph is here learning Spanish and volunteering for the Mi Arca project that Street Kids Direct fund. He plans to return to the UK in May and then return late July to help us setup the new Protection Home and second mentoring programme.
The last visit this week was to see the children on the rubbish dump. Little Jesus (photo) races over and grabs my hand and pulls down on my arm. As I bend down he asks me when I am taking him to a swimming pool, something he has been asking me now for nearly a year. I have no idea of why he and his brother have had this idea in their heads and so offer to plan something soon but convince them to join me one Saturday in visiting Go Guatemala, where they can have a full day of activities and a hot meal. But I still might have to plan a trip to the pool one day and use the time to chat with Jesus and his brother how they could be part of the mentoring programme. Will keep you posted but I am hoping that Jesus and his brother Marcos will allow me to shadow them later this year when I begin a challenging and exciting project called "The World Through Their Eyes". More about this at another time, but it could be one of the hardest personal challenges I have faced since the walk last summer.