streets1It was great to see familiar faces in zone 4 yesterday.  One of the younger boys who had been missing for a while has come back into the zone 4 group.  His nickname is ‘the clown’ and looks about 13 years of age (photo).  He is able to bend his legs around his body and has a smile that he seems to never be without despite his street existence.

Two of the older girls seemed to be rather down and one of them confided in me that she was sad because her brother had been arrested and sent to prison.  She asked me if she could use my phone to call her mum.  When we eventually got through to her mum her sister joined her in crying down the phone to their mum.  When I spoke to the mum she told me they were both welcome back with “open arms”.  Both girls cried a lot down the phone saying things like “mummy I am sorry” and “please can I come home”.  Both left to catch a bus to Jocotales and I said I would call by their home next week to see how they are doing and maybe we could visit their brother in prison together.

Matt, Becky and I then joined a Guatemalan volunteer called Francis and headed to ‘El Hoyo’ which is probably the place I enjoy visiting the most.  El Hoyo means ‘The Hole’ and is situated between the city bus terminal and main market and an area that is renowned for its bars and prostitution.

The crumbling streets and pavements are littered with excrement, bags of open rubbish which are a great source of food for the many stray dogs, and many drunk men sleeping off the alcohol.  In the midst of this are the many kids we are working with.  Some of whom are kids who live on the streets and many who are ‘at risk’ of becoming street kids or have a strong sense of connection with the streets.

streets3Last week Moises (photo), a young man who has grown up on the streets but was now renting a room in the market, came and asked me for some medical help for himself and his little son.  We went to see where he was living and in order to find his room we had to make our way down a labyrinth of narrow passageways in total darkness.  The room was eventually lit by a candle and revealed a wooden bunk bed and a pile of clothes.  Five people were living in the room and no wonder that the children only sleep there and then spend the rest of their time on the streets or in the market doing odd jobs.  Moises was so happy we had visited and we were able to give him a small wind-up torch for his house which I hope will be treasured and used rather than sold.

Moving on into the market area itself we already had a small posse of children following alongside of us and some fighting for the chance to hold our hands.  Most of the stalls had now closed up for the night and so the empty passage ways and piles of crates made for a make-shift area for us to gather the children together and play a game of LOTTO.  Some of the children I had met the week before and so knew that they needed some treatment on their feet.

cleaningfeetThe foot washing was certainly needed as many of the young children had no socks and very black feet with sores and infections.  After the cleaning came the bit the children seemed to relish – the application of cream and foot massage.  Finally some foot powder and for three young children some socks.  It was amazing to see the smiles afterwards and one little boy was so proud of his clean feet and new socks he couldn’t help but show everyone.

Matt, Becky and Francis were great at playing with the children and providing them with crayons and colouring sheets, so thanks guys for coming and helping.

afe2So I have grabbed a few minutes to report back from my trip to Honduras last week.

Mark and Rosalie Balfour, from St.Peter's Church in Maidenhead, met me in Honduras and we spent the next 10 days together.

Two days were spent with the AFE project working with the kids and families on the city rubbish dump.  The AFE project is such an inspiration and it was great to see the progress since my last visit. 

A group of students have now graduated from the AFE school including a boy called Rene who was one of the first kids to be rescued from the dump nearly 10 years ago.  He and another 8 students are now studying hard in college or in university.

I was keen to look at the business potential of the AFE site and what could be developed there in order to help sustain the project in the long term.

Mark and Rosalie (photo above) visited the dump and helped hand out food and water to those working there.  We were able to inform the children that next week a school will start for them on the dump.  The dump school is the first step for the children in gaining entrance to the AFE School across the road from the dump.

ChristmasWe then spent 6 days with the children at the Manuelito children's home in Talanga.

Thanks to Lindfield Nursery, Amersham we were able to give out Christmas presents to all the children.  I know it is quite late in the year but I had to bring them with me on the plane and the kids were thrilled to have Christmas in February.

Mark and Rosalie were able to organise some craft activities for the children in the afternoons and Mark and I led a PE session for the older children, which went down really well.

The home is blessed with a large amount of land and a small farm project has started but continues to struggle for lack of someone to run it.  I was keen to see how the Exagris company in Guatemala could explore options with Manuelito to better use the land and produce a regular harvest for the sustainability of the home.

I am concerned by the number of work teams now coming each year and the number of buildings being built by them with little support of the ongoing running costs.  For example money is given towards the construction of a new building but was little money for food.  This meant that some days the children have very little food and that was very hard to deal with.

transitional homeOur day with the boys in the Manuelito Transitional Home in the capital was such fun.  We took the boys out for a wander around the city centre and treated them to a McDonald's ice cream.  Then we searched around for a football pitch we could hire for an hour and found a brilliant all-weather pitch which hosted a England vs Honduras match.  England won of course!

On our return to the home Santo and Vlademer (photo) made us friendship bands and we played more football before having to say goodbye.

We were then invited to speak in a church in the North of Honduras on the Sunday but Rosalie became unwell and was taken into hospital.  I then had to speak in the church and was given 1 hour to speak!  People responded well to my testimony and they took upo an offering for the Manuelito home.  Thanks to Pastor Luis for the invite and for the lady who owns a petrol station in town who offered me free petrol whenever I was passing!

I left the next day for Guatemala but popped in to the hospital to visit Rosalie who was much better.  On leaving the hospital I got stuck in a lift with Pastor Pinto, his wife and one amazing guy called Carlos.  It was a new experience and fun climbing out of a lift stuck between floors.

Looking forward to going back next week with Matt Levett and Rebekah Green, my last visit before the team from Amersham come out in July.

Returning from a day on the streets leaves you both high and low.  Despite the excitement of seeing the kids and street adults again there is always a deep sadness at having to leave them knowing that you might never see them again.

footballDuring the last week I have been able to get out on the streets more and see how the situation is changing for the street population and how they are responding to the changing times.

It was great to be able to take a small group of street youths to a local park the other day to play football.  When we arrived Matt, Becky, Herbert and I organised a match between us (England) and the young people (Guatemala).  The game reached an impressive 4 – 4 before a group of school children arrived and asked to play with us.  So we formed one team and took on the kids from the school who gave us all a run for our money!

football2What was good about the game was that the young people we brought with us from the streets were able to mix and play with kids from a local school and their behaviour was exemplary.  In fact the only one who caused problems was me!  I missed judged the ball (as always) and kicked a boy in the shin instead.  A good trip out for the young people and a good talk afterwards by Herbert.

This particular group of young people includes a young family we have been trying to help over the last couple of years.  The teenage mum and dad,  Jessica and Jorge, have a young baby called David who is soon to celebrate his first birthday.  I think this boy is a miracle because despite his bad health, diet and living conditions he is still alive.

Herbert has been trying to find an alternative place for them to live but despite his tireless efforts with them it seems that they are not keen to change just yet.  We took Jorge, Jessica and David out for lunch and it was funny and sad watch them eat with speed and bag up as much of the food as they could to take with them to share with others.  When a couple in an adjacent table finished eating it took Jorge no more than 5 seconds to return to our table with a bottle of drink that had been left by the couple.