Saturday 24th August 2019
I had to laugh this week with Damaris who told me that she was getting annoyed with her little sister Jackie for waking her up early in the morning. Damaris is 14 and lives with her mum and dad, two young sisters and two younger brothers in a room that her parents rent at the rear of an alcoholic bar. It is not a great place to be honest, but it is home and is safer than being on the streets.
I discovered, as I have already written about this in a previous blog, that the youngest child, 4-year-old Jackie, was working in a restaurant for 10p a day. Thanks to the support of a person in Amersham, we were able to get Jackie into a private nursery and this has obviously changed her life quite dramatically.
The only issue is that Jackie has to get the school bus before 6:45am every morning and Damaris has to drop her off and then rush to school herself. Jackie, all very excited about being in nursery, has been waking up before 5am, getting dressed and then waits by the door to be taken to the bus. Damaris complained that she wanted to sleep a bit longer and was annoyed with her sister for waking her up.
It was all quite funny, but I could see she was annoyed and so sat down with her and held her hand and said: “remember the day we found you all on the streets?”. She had been wandering around with her four younger siblings all day in La Terminal in order to stay safe and find food. She worked hard as an 11-year-old girl looking after her siblings and began to cry when she remembered how hard she fought to keep them all alive. Surely taking Jackie to the bus was a big step forward and she agreed that it was a trivial complaint given the desperate conditions they used to live in and was crying and newly committed to helping her little sister have the chance she wished she had at that age.
My weekends usually start at lunchtime on Friday when I pick Moses up from school and from then on it is full-time mentoring till Sunday evening. It is one of the three things I enjoy most about my work here and one day I hope to dedicate more time to this area of work when Alex Denton moves out here for a year in January to help me with the admin load.
The Saturday gang, self-named “The Adventurers” have been mainly hanging out in the Protection Home on Saturdays and resting as their school weeks have been much more demanding as the school term comes to an end in October and many are involved in the school marching bands (more about this in the next blog). The boys enjoy getting out of the city and so a climb up the Pacaya volcano, an active volcano an hour drive from the capital, resulted in their energies renewed and because it rained and they all got wet it was “the best time ever”.
Sundays are usually spent visiting individual boys and every other Sunday a visit to Santa Fas, a slum area on the outskirts of Guatemala City. My trip this past Sunday was a challenge as the two boys I visited there were desperate for us to accept two other boys in the mentoring programme. So, I had to visit their families and begin the evaluation process as well as a social study we do of each of the families we work with. It is hard to say no to new children, but when I met them and heard their stories I could not say no and so the group has now grown to four!
The first boy I visit is called Ludvin (photo right with his mum) and he is 9 and lives with his mum, dad and younger sister in a shack that is so close to the edge of the mountain I found it hard to look down at the ground below. If this side of the mountain ever gave way… well, I don´t even want to begin to think about what could happen. Ludvin is a vulnerable boy to be sure and his living conditions are not that great. The most urgent thing is to see how we could help repair his roof, as he and his sister get wet when it rains in the night.
The other boy is called Jonatan, which is easy to remember as the second boy in the group is also called Jonatan and the first is called Jonny. It would be cool if Ludvin could change his name to Jonatan, but since I have told him about Ludwig van Beethoven, he prefers to keep his name and enjoy me calling him Beethoven. Jonatan is more on the margins of the risk scale and his connection to the streets is not as great as the others, but we begin the evaluation and see if we can help him also.
The first Jonatan, and I understand this might cause problems now with the number of boys with similar names, has done so well in school this year and has really focused on getting exceptional grades and making positive choices in his life. However, his living conditions are not that conducive to study or to a stable life, but he does have a caring and supportive mum. We just need to deal with the abusive uncle living next door!