Thursday 12th October
The last couple of weeks have been rather stressful. I think psychologists say that moving house is stressful but when you add that to the many other things that have been going on its no wonder I feel rather drained at the moment.
I decided to move out of my room at the Centre in Guatemala City to make way for a medical clinic we are preparing there, thanks to the funding and support of AFE and Grace Honduras. The move was quick but having everything once again boxes and black rubbish sacks is not easy to deal with as I don´t seem to have the time or willingness at this point to unpack as I will be heading to the UK in three weeks and so it doesn´t seem much point really.
I have moved into the house we are renting for the new protection home we would like to launch in 2017. Ben Soden, who is visiting from the UK and Frank join me in the house at the moment. The house is rather large and very well situated for a protection home and so we are rattling around in it for the moment until we get the funding sorted to buy and refurbish the home.
Talking of Ben, I thought you would like to see this short video he made yesterday. We had travelled out to the outskirts Guatemala City to visit two children we are trying to keep an eye on. 12-year-old Dyana and 8-year-old Jorge lost their mother earlier this year when she was gunned down in the streets whilst begging at traffic lights. He tragic death has affected both of them who now they feel drawn to live on the streets themselves. I am not sure if it is just to get away from abuse or if its to feel a connection with their mother, but the course of action they are taking is now leading them down a very dangerous road.
We spent time with them and their cousins and then Ben recorded a short video. Little did we know that a few minutes after we left a battle began between police and one of the prominent gangs here kicked off. One of the gang members ran from the police and passed by the front of the shack where Jorge and Dyana live. Jorge looked into the man´s eyes and says he can recognize him should he be asked by police. The man turns to him and says “if you say anything I will come back and cut you into small pieces and leave them out in the streets”.
Their grandparents, who also have the wider family and their children living with them, care for both Dyana and Jorge. They tell me of their fears for them both and how a lady up the road is recruiting vulnerable young children and taking them into her home where, according to them, “really bad things happen”.
Later that same day Dyana goes missing and then Jorge goes out to look for her and returns having been beaten up. Being a child here is not always the best time of your life and these two little ones are suffering greatly and we need to do something to help them move into a happier place.
After the last 24 hours and the pain we feel of knowing how things are with Dyana and Jorge (Dyana returned a few hours ago and then disappeared again) I need to remind myself that with some children we are seeing success. It would be helpful to me, and hope you enjoy reading this also, to hear of some good things going on here in Guatemala City.
Little Moses turned 9 last week and I have now been his mentor for the last two and a half years. Despite setbacks and tough situations at home and school he has made it to 9 and so I took him and his family out for pizza. Moses loved the attention and the two presents I bought him and spent two very happy hours eating pizza and running around a play den inside the pizza restaurant with two friends who he wanted to invite to his party.
The two friends turned out to be Ashly and Alison who come to the centre most days and have been in the mentoring programme for nearly a year now. I know how much they appreciated being part of this party and how different their lives are when they are with us. Two days later I take them, and a small group of kids, to the local park for a few hours. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the children so happy playing together and this photo was just one I grabbed as they played, ran around and ate ice cream.
Back at the Centre I find young Juanito with a huge smile on his face as he is having his weekly mentoring session with Diego, a newly trained mentor. Having a trusted adult in his life is making a difference and the conditions in which his lives means he is at very high risk of taking to the streets, so this prevention work I know will help support him make good choices and enjoy just being a child in a safe and encouraging environment.
Carlitos is doing well and having got through the recent fire and loss of his home and possessions he continues to go along to my friend´s restaurant each week to learn the skills of being a chef. This is Carlos in the photo securing his bike after I drop him off one day last week. He is happy, fulfilled and cycles back later that day with some food he has cooked for me. It´s delicious and he takes real pride in telling me what he has learnt and is so happy to see me enjoying the food. It’s a start and one I hope will lead to greater things for him.
And finally to Go Guatemala. This inspirational project in zone 18 of Guatemala City working with high-risk children and youth offers a packed programme every Saturday for around 120 children. I have missed coming here and the walk through Central America and trip to Honduras recently meant that most Saturdays I was unable to visit.
So with a Saturday free I headed down to this conflict-ridden zone and arrived to a welcome by many children who hugged me and told me they missed me. I wanted to come and present them with a cheque from the funds raised during the summer´s sponsored walk together with a framed autographed t-shirt from Jeony and me.
The work at Go Guatemala continues to inspire me as they reach some of the most vulnerable children in that area and offer them hope. Some of the stories of how these kids have survived can overwhelm you but when you see them just being kids, enjoying the games, the talks, the worship and the food you can´t help but think it was worth walking 1,400km from Costa Rica.
I appreciate your support for our work here. Lives are being changed and we need to hold onto that truth, especially when we are faced daily with so much desperate need and sadness.