Sunday 25th February
Yesterday was a blast. I had driven to our Centre on the outskirts of La Terminal, parked the car and walked to collect Brandon, Fredy and Jonathan. Walking through the hustle and bustle of the crowded streets in the market always hits your senses hard. I wonder how it is that large numbers of people weave in and out of the slow-moving traffic without being run over. Small children tap on the windows of some of the cars expectant for a coin while others run around the traffic like it was a playground and where no harm would come to them. Today our time of mentoring was going to be different. We had all agreed to go and visit Go Guatemala.
I arrive to collect Brandon and walk up the dimly-lit alleyway to his “house” and I am pleased to find him dressed in his one smart shirt he got for Christmas and with a huge smile on his face. His hair is gelled and styled into what he tells me is all the rage for 10-year-old boys. The last two times I collected him he was running around about to go into the shower or just coming out of it. He lives in one room with his mum, dad and three siblings. They share a sink and shower with a few other families and so he can´t always time the shower to fit in with me visiting. Today, however, he was ready on time and so we head off to collect Fredy and his brother Jonathan. A few minutes later we pile into my car and drive out of La Terminal and head towards zone 18.
Every Saturday Go Guatemala runs an outreach club for children who live in zone 6 and zone 18 - two zones in Guatemala City that have very high rates of gang membership and childhood homicide. The club is run by Pastor Alex and his wife Evelyn together with some very dedicated mums and teenagers. When I first moved back to Guatemala 5 years ago I volunteered here every Saturday and helped run the games and activities out in the sports field for up to 120 children while the rest of the team ran educational activities inside.
This was the boys first visit to Go Guatemala and they quickly engaged with the other children and started to play and enjoy themselves. The programme starts with breakfast and then a time of signing worship songs, with all the actions, followed by everyone being divided into age groups for the various activities. It always amazes me how much this project relies on casual donations and the team are hopeful there will be something arriving this morning to provide the children with lunch.
One of the main strengths of this project we help fund is the school support. In Guatemala the levels of school dropout is high and from our experience this can be down to the fact that children just can´t access the information they need to get their grades. It costs 30p to have 30 mins access to the internet and then extra for every page that is printed. Every single day teachers ask children to investigate a certain topic on the internet and then write it up and print out pictures and illustrations for the following day. For so many this is impossible. Go Guatemala offers this service free to the children and the help they need to understand what they are looking for.
After lunch we listen to another inspirational talk by Pastor Alex on how so many young people just slip easily into the labour market without considering further education or how they could setup their own business. We then drive back to La Terminal making sure we stop for an ice-cream on the way and the boys begin to discuss what they enjoyed about their exciting day out. They love getting away from La Terminal and realise that the world is much different than they first imagined.
A few days later our street team, headed up by the amazing Ben Soden, organises an activity for one of the groups of mums of the children we work with in La Terminal. The evening is a great success and the mums talk about how special they feel now we are doing activities for them and not just their children. I love many things about this event, but most of all I love the fact that I had nothing to do with it. I am encouraged by the way the team is growing in ability and confidence and expanding the work.
Two other things to tell you before I sign off. Firstly, Sergio is back with us. Some might remember that a few years ago we rescued Sergio from the streets and he was given the chance to study and a scholarship to train as an airline pilot. His life didn´t work out exactly as he had hoped, and he came to see us and asked for our help. We received him with love and welcomed him back and soon after he was in the emergency ward of the state hospital. A metal plate that had been fitted to his leg due to a severe brake had broken free and had caused the leg to break again. Sergio was in agony, but we managed to get him the operation and now he is recovering and planning once again to resume his studies and pursuing his dream of becoming an airline pilot.
And finally. I am heading back to the UK on the 1st March for some fundraising events and I hope you will be able to consider coming to join me on the 17th March in Amersham for our Family Quiz Night. It is for anyone of any age and it’s a lot of fun. Ben and Joseph Soden have been busy filming for this event and so if you are able to come along you will hear the story of one of the girls who is benefitting from your donations. Ashly lives in Guatemala City and her story is quite an inspiration and I hope that in hearing it you will be encouraged to know your support really does change lives. I will also be making the important announcement at the Quiz Night of this summer´s crazy idea – a sponsored walk like none other! Stay tuned for more information.