Wednesday 28th December

Every two years a team of very dedicated people joins me to plan, prepare, build, run and clear up a festive charity radio station called Radio Christmas.  The station was born in 2004 because a few friends and me had experience with a radio project called Cracker Radio in Amersham.  The idea of a charity radio station that broadcasts at Christmas was one I was keen not to leave in the vaults of good ideas in history.

This year´s production involved 530 volunteers, many of whom were children and young people.  Together we put out 18 hours of programming per day from the 1st to the 24th December and, at its peak, we had 45,000 listeners per day on our online stream together with many hundreds listening on 87.7FM in the Chilterns.

radiochristmasA huge amount of work goes into getting the station ON-AIR and thanks to the tremendous commitment of the team we managed to raise nearly £30,000 during December together with a further £20,000 in match funding.  The money raised will impact the lives of hundreds of vulnerable children throughout the coming year and I will ensure that I keep you updated with stories of lives changed through the use of this money.

The goodwill from local people and their willingness to host us (thanks Alexis Curson) and the great care presenters put into producing some incredible shows is a testimony to what happens when our local community comes together to make a difference over the Christmas period.

Next year I am hoping to produce shows from Guatemala and Honduras and so stay in touch with for more information later into 2017.

Thank you again to all those who helped build and dismantle the studios, to our sponsors and to all producers, presenters, newsreaders, those who answered the phone and emails, to our hosts and to those who did so much behind the scene with programming, recording, visiting advertisers as well as a host of dedicated people who I will forever be grateful to.  THANK YOU.

Friday 4th November 2016

My final days in Guatemala have been eventful to say the least.  With more disclosures of horrific child abuse and a team of very committed staff and volunteers shaken by the children´s stories we planned the strategy to manage while I am in the UK with Radio Christmas.

diegoSometimes it is easy to help a child but often this proves to be more difficult by those people you would think could offer the most support, love and care – the parents.  One child who we helped just before I left for the UK was Diego.

Diego lives in Guatemala City and is a boy we deem to be at high risk of leaving home and living on the streets.  His story is common; as he has grown seeing things thankfully many of us would never see.  Diego is often beaten and abused and is sometimes seen sitting in the road outside his shack, sobbing and wishing he could chose another life.

Just the other day Diego came to our Centre and it was clear that he was in a lot of pain.  He complained that his arm was hurting and told us how he had fallen.  On further investigation I felt that his arm was fractured and that he needed urgent medical attention.

We called his mother, who was working selling produce in the streets.  She informed us that she was too busy and needed to work.  We made contact with Diego´s father and he came to the Centre saying that he was busy and also needed to work.

broken arm

I must admit I got angry and approached the father and explained to him in no uncertain terms that, at this moment in time, his 8-year-old son was more important than anything else.  Furthermore, if he didn´t take his son to the hospital right now I would make a formal complaint of child abuse.  I left him with no option and called and paid for a taxi to take them both to hospital.

The following day I visited Diego and found his arm still broken and the boy in a lot of pain.  His father told me how there was a long queue at the hospital so they came home!  We took the boy away to a private clinic and found that Diego had a severe fracture but within a few hours he was admitted to hospital and got the attention he needed.  I wished his parents had visited him while he was in hospital but sadly this was not the case.  Later Diego´s sister told me how her father had beaten Diego and that was how his arm got broken.

Diego´s story highlights the need to maintain a constant presence on the streets and do whatever it takes to keep children safe.

On a brighter note, soon after I left Guatemala the British Ambassadors for Guatemala and Honduras, Tom and Carolyn Carter, visited our Centre again but this time joined the street team on the streets in order to understand our work and meet the children and young people we are trying to help.

embassy visitTheir visit was of great encouragement to the children and families we work with and Tom and Carolyn were very moved by what they saw.  They then recorded special Christmas messages, which we will be releasing on Radio Christmas.

I am so very encouraged by the support the British Embassy give to me and to my work together with the children on the streets and those at high-risk in Guatemala and Honduras.  In the New Year Carolyn, British Ambassador to Honduras, hopes to visit the two projects in Honduras that we support.

As soon as I land in the UK I will be full-time on Radio Christmas.  There will be lots to do, including building the studios, presentations to schools, churches and interested groups and generally promoting the festive charity radio station.  Last year £18,000 was raised on Radio Christmas, which came from Guatemala City.  This year we are broadcasting live from studios in Amersham and we will be going live from 6:00am on the 1st of December and going through till Christmas Eve.  I really hope you can tune in and enjoy the festive music and fun.

Sunday 23rd October 2016

pedro on streetsI could not get the image from my mind.  As I left the Terminal the other evening the last thing I saw was little Pedro with a scrunched-up rag in his hand that had been soaked in thinner.  He repeatedly placed the rag to his nose and inhaled the powerful fumes.  For a moment his eyes glaze over and he goes to some distant place in his head and then he returns.  He looks up and sees me waving goodbye and half smiles and then sniffs again.

Little Pedro is now spending more time on the streets every day and he and a small group of children who hang out with him have recently had threats from “The Angels”, (the contract killers) from the Terminal.  His options are few and he has been both dealing drugs and using them and has tried most things.  He is just 8 years-of-age. I chatted with him a couple of days ago when I took him and his brother away from the Terminal for a few hours and he seemed really open to the idea of going into a children´s home. 

At the end of our time he held on to me and said he just wanted to live with me and not go back to live in the Terminal.  Sadly this is not an option as I could fill my room over and over again with kids who need a safe place to live.  I see that when someone offers these kids genuine love and affection they then don´t want to loose it and find it really hard to return to their meager existence.  One day we will have the Protection Home (more about this next week) up and running and then we can offer them something more than just a few hours of care.

soden2The week has been rather busy with the visit of Russell and Joseph Soden from Amersham, UK, who came to visit us here in Guatemala City.  Russell offered us three days of team training, thanks to Giant.  The training really helped the team to identify their working preferences and how we can work more effectively as a team.  It has been a real time of team building and Herbert translated for Russell who works in the UK with Giant to deliver some amazing training for teams and businesses.

Visits to the streets have been somewhat traumatic for us but we continue to try and help make a difference where we can.  During one of the evening trips we found a young girl who needed her hand attending to.  The small cut was obviously causing her pain and so Russell got involved and helped me with a variety of first aid needs.  We must have treated about 15 children and a handful of adults with minor cuts, skin infections and wounds from being hit or from the arduous nature of life in the Terminal.

justinBen Soden has been working out here as a volunteer for the last two months and has been rather challenged by the number of children we are trying to help everyday and the overwhelming nature of the situations we find in and around the Terminal.  One boy Ben has grown found of is little Justin who is keen to come and ask for help with the numerous wounds and infections he has on a regular basis.  We have been helping his whole family who have been through some difficult situations recently and so Justin seems to trust us more to help him when he is sick.

Thanks to Ben for his incredible commitment to helping the children on the streets and we wish him well as he considers how he can come back in the New Year and help us again.

josue graduationOne of the highlights of the week was when we attended Josue´s graduation.  Josué is 16 and has made many really good decisions to not live on the streets and to focus on getting himself through his primary education.  It was rather a moving ceremony and Russell Soden came along with us and then I recorded this video at the end of the ceremony with Russell´s thoughts on the event.  Josué, together with his brothers, is fighting hard to achieve so much with little or no support from the family.  It is amazing to see how hard some kids work to just get through life but Josué has achieved so much and we are very proud of him.

The week finished with the news of a horrific sexual assault on a young girl in our programme and knowing her and her situation I am wondering how she will get through the next few weeks.  The good thing is that we will be alongside her and provide her with the help, counseling and support she will need.  This is all possible due to your donations, so a massive thank you for sticking with us because we appreciate it so much.

The coming week looks as busy as ever as I try and get three children, including Pedro, into a children´s home and head down to Honduras for a day of training for the Manuelito Children´s Home and recordings for Radio Christmas.  Then I head back to the UK and help the team prepare for the launch of this year´s live Radio Christmas from Amersham and will be travelling around making speeches and presentations, so will see many supporters over the coming weeks.

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