• Sunday 1st December 2019

    Christmas is a busy time of year for most of us, but with our biggest fundraiser happening every Christmas it is a very hectic time for all of us here in Guatemala.  So, this year, for the first time in history, I am actually prepared!

    I have bought all the presents for the boys who are in the mentoring programme with me and now it´s time to spend time with them and their families doing fun things as they know that when Radio Christmas begins I won´t be available until the week after Christmas.

    It is easier for me to tell you the story of how we are preparing for Christmas through the eyes of the kids I am working with and hopefully you will be encouraged to know that donations are used well here and it really does make a difference to many vulnerable children.

    The Protection Home “Casa Alexis” was very busy in the lead up to Christmas with the kids loving the idea of having a real Christmas tree in the home and excited that they could decorate the tree and hang up all sorts of decorations around the home.  We had planned for groups of them to come for sleep-overs as a reward for great school results and good attendance at the mentoring centre.

    We are joined by a Guatemalan family who have come to meet the children and help out as we prepare for this festive time.  Pete and Ruby, visitors from the UK, came to help and brought a great cooking activity that was a big hit with the children, who wrapped up decorated biscuits in tin foil to take home and share with their families.

    I began my special activities with the boys in the mentoring programme.  Moses wanted me to take him to the Christmas fair that was in town and so five hours of rides, candy floss and all sorts of unhealthy food and drink culminated in a special time with him talking and praying about the meaning of Christmas and what he was hoping for in the coming year.

    The Saturday boys, now known as the Adventurers, wanted to go out for dinner together, but it was not the memorable time they had dreamed about.  I had taken them out to a second-hand shop to find smart clothes for the event and, after a hot shower and all dressed ready for our meal out, we found ourselves in a 2-hour traffic queue and when we got to the restaurant that offers the most perfect view of the city lights, fog slowly formed and all we could see was the lights of the restaurant car park.  One of the boys was then ill with stomach cramps and so the evening ended on a low rather than a high, but at least they have since remembered back and said they thought it was a very special time together.

    The boys I usually work with on a Sunday had a treat in store as I wanted to take them to a up-market shopping area where the boys could enjoy half an hour on a bike, something that was almost too exciting for one boy who told me later this was his first ever time on a bicycle.  I think the adrenalin mixed powerfully with his confidence that he could ride a bike meant that he just sat on it and off he went.  

    For these boys it was a memorable day out with me and finished with us getting their presents bought and wrapped ready for Christmas.  They were keen to choose their gifts this year and not rely on me to buy them something “cool”.  Growing up means greater choices in life and ones that I can see they are navigating well.

    Meanwhile the mentoring centre was being turned into a radio studio again and so Moses was keen to learn how to be a technical operator.  He was my number one in the end as I could always rely on him to turn up at all sorts of hours to help where needed and always did a very professional job.  A couple of days he slept over in the lounge of the centre with either David or Danilo, who were also keen to run shows and help out.

    David is 16 and has been with us in the mentoring programme since he was 11 and is now one of our volunteer team.  David is a very caring responsible teen and flourishes with any responsibility you give to him.  The younger children love him to bits as he always has time for each of them, like the hour he spent with little Cristian playing with toy cars and just letting him talk about his life and worries.

    With just a few days to go before the launch of Radio Christmas we took all the children to spend the day at Mark & Rosalie´s new home.  Mark & Rosalie moved out to Guatemala two years ago and have settled into a pastoral role and rented a rather lovely home about half an hour out of the city.  It is a great place for retreats and a place to just go to and rest or be refreshed.

    The children arrived and ran around exploring the grounds and the house and then the leader-led games began while some made Christmas biscuits and had free time to play.  For two children, Rony and his sister Marleny, it was like being let loose in a sweet shop for the day.  Their eyes were wide open and, at times, they could not contain their excitement.  I showed them a little Wendy House and explained how we could play shops with all the play food and till inside.  They had never played this before and so needed some instruction.  When they got the hang of it they took turns in coming with me to the window, each time in a different disguise and voice, and buying several things from the shop.  “Again, again” they cried when I had bought all the produce and so off we went again.

    Every time I have seen them since they talk non-stop about that day and Marleny keeps asking if she can go and live there one day. Creating great memories is what we love doing and I know how important these events are for the children.

    Benjamin was busy with me preparing a few videos for Radio Christmas. We know how important it is for us to show people the impact of their donations and there are so many stories to tell including how Sergio had been helped to leave the streets again and was now graduating from rehab and starting his life over again.  To begin with he will stay in a half-way home in Antigua, Guatemala and we will help him find work and then a place he can live.  We are grateful to Aaron who helps fund and run the half-way house and are hoping that this will now be the break that Sergio needs to begin afresh.


    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  he first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and was awared an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.

    Duncan Dyason
  • Friday 25th December 2019

    Radio Christmas begins with all the usual problems with software that is out of date on old computers that can´t cope with all we are asking of them and leads that have been stored away for a year that now have decided to not work.  However, the initial teething problems are solved and we crack on with our 12 Days of Christmas broadcasts from Guatemala and Honduras.

    Oli O´Neill, an amazing youth worker from Amersham, had flown out to Honduras to see the work there and then help Steve Poulson with the first few days of the radio before travelling up to Guatemala by bus and helping us here until we finish on Christmas Eve.  Oli was the star that made Radio Christmas this year and his enthusiasm and joy at being able to help be part of the production this year was rather infectious and helped keep everyone going right through until the end.

    I was aware that two of the boys in the mentoring programme with me were rather anxious as they were going to move house in the New Year and be a lot further away from the centre and from the team.  The oldest boy, 14-year-old Fredy, sent me a photo of him working on the construction of their first ever family home.

    The family live in a rented room in La Terminal and they have struggled with many things over the past year.  However, their parents have been working hard and saved up money to buy a small plot of land on the outskirts of the city and slowly started to build their home.  Fredy had worked very hard at constructing them the exterior walls of the home and all they need now is a roof and then they plan to move in.  They have no toilet or shower, no kitchen or divisions and no floor, but they are very happy that this will be their new home.

    I will help them move home at the end of December as I know they would not be able to carry all their possessions on the bus or on their father´s motorbike.  It will also be a great opportunity to spend time with the family and show them we care.

    We finish the year´s activities at the mentoring centre with Christmas parties that are well attended and more memorable days for the children.  We know for all the children we work with they won´t be celebrating Christmas with their families doing anything special, but will see the TV and watch other children doing just that.

    My highlight was finishing the Radio Christmas broadcasts and then helping to run an afternoon of games, crafts and mayhem at the centre with Oli coming up with the “great“ idea of turning me into the now-famous Christmas challenge – making me into a snowman.  It wasn´t the old game we used to play with the children where you wrap the person up in toilet paper.  This newer version means slapping you in the face with cream and then sticking a carrot in your mouth and two chocolate biscuits over your eyes.  Fun indeed!

    We finish with a Christingle service that Mark and Rosalie had planned and a quieter spirit falls over the centre as we reflect on the real meaning behind Christmas and what we can give to the Lord Jesus this year.

    Thanks to all those who have helped make this a very special time for the children.  Now we can all look forward to a few days of rest and then we prepare for the coming New Year and getting 50 children into school in Guatemala and around 25 in Honduras.  The year looks a challenging one indeed, but we trust that God will lead and provide and help us reach the most vulnerable children and offer them hope and a way forwards while supporting them as they navigate a very difficult childhood.  Thank you for your support that makes all the difference.


    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  he first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and was awared an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.

    Duncan Dyason
  • Wednesday 1st January 2020

    The New Year begins with a rather solemn reflection on an experience I had last night, and one that I just need to talk with you about as it has made me feel very sad indeed.

    While the team are on holiday I deal with calls and any emergencies and receive a call from 17-year-old Carlos who wants to see me.  I head to La Terminal to meet with him as I know he has been suffering from all sorts of issues recently, but I have not been able to go and see him due to being on the radio so much.

    Walking into La Terminal here in Guatemala City after a few weeks absence makes me feel alive again.  The busy market is bustling with overcrowded streets and people everywhere trying to sell you fireworks.  In other areas of the city it is very quiet indeed and most shops are closed.  But La Terminal never closes and there are always hundreds of people looking for bargains and to stock up ready for the coming days.

    I step out of the sunshine and into almost complete darkness as I enter into the alleyway that will lead me to Carlos´ house.  My eyes soon get accustomed to the darkness and then further on shafts of light begin to penetrate through the gaps between the tin roofing and illuminate my path.

    Carlos is in bed and seems somewhat pleased to see me and asks if I can do something for him to celebrate his recent birthday and to end the year on a positive note rather than being high on drugs or on the streets.

    His home is a small tin shack that is now shared with his mum, sister and a new dog.  The living conditions are stark and they seem to suck out any hope or joy you might have and leave you feeling, like Carlos is feeling at this moment, – rather down.

    I tell him that I will take him out later and that he needs to meet me at our mentoring centre at 5pm, which will give me enough time to go with him and buy him some new clothes for Christmas and birthday.  For the moment I need to return to our centre as some of the boys had offered to come and help me pack up the radio studio.

    Packing up usually takes me around 5 hours as you have to be careful with all the equipment and cables and pack it all away with bubble-wrap and plastic and store it safely ready for November when we start all over again.

    Four boys arrived and I am pleased that three of them were there to help when we set up the station and so know how to handle the equipment.  Fredy, on seeing my face at how well they are doing in packing things away, says: “this is what being brothers is about Duncan”, and carries on doing the most excellent OCD job of packing things away.

    We finish in record time and so I decide to take them for an ice cream to say thank you.  On our return we find Carlos outside the centre waiting for me.  The boys are very good at making him feel welcome and despite his demeanour and very dirty clothes and body he smiled and could see that the boys were already welcoming him and accepting him into their little group.

    I say goodbye to the boys and thank them again for a fantastic job done and walk with them to La Terminal where they live and start looking for some new clothes for Carlos.  I can see that Carlos is struggling at the choice before him and so goes with the first thing one of the shop vendors offers him.  He tries on the t-shirt and jeans and seems happy and wants to wear them right away.  I advise that he would be better off coming back to the centre and having a shower and then putting them on, but he is already walking out of the shop and so I pay and walk with him back to his little tin shack.

    His mum is sober and is washing clothes when we arrive and seems very happy to see me.  It is already now nearly sunset but is almost always dark in their home and alleyway.  A girl in the alley shouts out saying that she is going to have a shower in the alleyway as that is where the only tap is and so can we all stay in the shacks until she is finished.  Carlos has already prepared a small plastic bath with cold water, is undressed and begins to wash himself.  I try and engage the mum in conversation while Carlos asks me to find him a towel and then shampoo among piles of clothes and recycled cardboard.

    Carlos´s mum tells me that he has not washed for ages and has been either on the streets high on solvents or in the bed watching a small TV and high on solvents.  The water he is using is growing increasingly black, but at least he is now cleaner as he steps out and comes over to me to tell me how much his mum has been drunk every day while trying to find clean underwear and eventually gets dressed.

    I have decided to take him to Cayalá, a rather posh area of Guatemala City that has been created for middle to upper-class people to hang out and spend their money.  It is a private “city” that has been built to help you feel that life could really be like this with no litter, no crime and where everyone around is dressed well and smiles when they catch your eye.  

    We take a taxi to get there as I know that with the huge firework display planned for later this evening, the place will be a nightmare for both parking and coming home afterwards.  The taxi drops us off at the entrance and we walk into this perfect land of designer shops and clean walkways, manicured plants and the most perfect lights above us that make you feel you are walking into a Christmas movie set or on the new set of The Truman Show!

    Already I can see that Carlos feels uncomfortable and when we have to walk down the first set of steps I notice that he can´t do this without holding onto the side rail.  He is trembling and looking around him nervously while giving me a smile and saying he is hungry.  His choice of food is chicken and so I find somewhere that is both reasonable while offering a more relaxed environment for him to eat.

    Carlos looks at the menu and has no idea what he is reading and so I offer to help him choose a chicken dish I think he will enjoy as it comes with mashed potato, something I know he likes.  The waitress takes the order and quickly comes back with the drinks and then the meal, as the queue outside to be seated has grown rapidly in the short time we have been in the restaurant.

    When the food arrives, Carlos looks at the plate and does not know where to begin, so he takes his lead from me.  I pick up my knife and fork and begin to cut the chicken and taste it while he struggles to hold the knife, which then falls to the floor.  He is shaking more now and does not know what to do.  The waitress brings over another knife and he tries again.  It seems like his very first time of using a knife and fork and his embarrassment becomes evident to families on adjacent tables.

    I tell him my newest joke and that helps him settle in a bit and feel comfortable enough to use his fingers now to eat as he discards his knife and fork towards the edge of the table.  I am taken in my mind to the last time I took my aging father out for a meal before he died.  He would have to use his fingers to eat, struggled to drink without spilling it and spilt a lot of food over himself and the floor before saying he would rather not come out to eat again.

    Carlos was able to cope with drinking, but did need two hands to steady the shaking.  I am devastated how much he has deteriorated in the last year and now, just 17-years of age, is a boy in an old man´s body.  He finishes his chicken and the waitress is very good at helping clean things up while he asks me about his book.  To be fair it was the last thing we talked about before I was ensconced in the radio project.

    Because I have known him all his life and seen just how hard the world has hit him and how he has responded I said to him one day that his life is quite an incredible example of how a boy can grow up in the most difficult of circumstances and still be able to smile.  The idea of writing up his story in a book had an immediate appeal and so Carlos brings up the subject again.

    If the book is ever written, and I hope it is, I know it will be one riveting read.  I explain that it would be good to talk about his beginnings and, knowing his father when he was alive, I know that those early years will be quite hard to write about.  Then when he becomes 9 and goes through the most horrific attack that transforms him into a recluse and he withdraws into himself so much that I lose the cheeky, smart, vibrant 9-year-old boy that I have grown to love so much.  It will be tough to write and certainly very hard to read, but it´s a story I think needs to be told.

    We walk around for a bit and can see that all the best seats for the evening´s star performance in the central square have already gone and the team that is in charge of the fireworks are checking and double checking all is in place and can cope with a slight mist that has now fallen on the area.  I treat Carlos to an ice cream and we sit and watch the show begin.  After 10 minutes Carlos tells me he does not want to be here and feels very out of place and could I take him back to his bed.

    We head home and I drop him off at his shack and he climbs back onto his bed and shouts goodnight.  It is only 10pm and there is still two more hours of celebrations and fireworks in the streets, but Carlos wants none of it and pulls the cover over him and curls up into a ball and drifts off to sleep.

    I am home in half an hour and much earlier than I had planned.  But I am very sad at what I had just witnessed and wonder why a boy like Carlos is dealt such a massive blow in life.  Happy New Year Carlos and let´s hope that this year is one of hope and new beginnings for you.

    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  he first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and was awared an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.

    Duncan Dyason
  • Friday 21st February 2020

    Sitting back and relaxing is not something we often do here, but after a very exciting week when we saw donations from US donors come in to cover the salaries for three staff in Guatemala, we felt we would head to the cinema and have a break.  It was a good week and so many amazing things had happened, including having a visit from our friend Darold Opp, who was visiting Guatemala and brought with him two laptop computers for Casa Alexis, and from Sarah Elliot who was visiting from the UK.

    Then we received the news that one of the young people we had worked hard to keep off the streets, enter into rehab and consider how he could achieve his childhood dreams, sadly passed away at the central hospital here in the capital.

    Pablo was only 20 and had been struggling over the last few months with drug abuse and street life.  The SKDGuatemala street team, Benjamin, Hector and Emma had worked hard to get him into rehab and we even made a video of that in December when we hoped he had turned a corner.

    Starting the week with a funeral was not what we had planned, but his funeral was taken by Mark Balfour and we had managed to make contact with his family and so they were present together with all those working with him here in Guatemala.  It is our first funeral of the year and each death is another great loss, but it does continue to strengthen our determination to rescue as many from the streets as possible.

    No sooner had we finished the funeral and had a meeting to discuss various things to do with the charity, than the doorbell rings at Casa Alexis.  It was amazing, given all the recent visitors and events, that I was actually in the home at this time of day.  I answer the door and little Kevin is standing there in the street and looking very hot, covered in sweat and looking down at his feet in embarrassment.

    Seeing him alone in the street triggered the alert system we all live with here and so I invited him in.  We climb the stairs into the kitchen and dining room and I ask him if he would like a drink.  He collapses down on the sofa we have next to the dining table and just nods.  It is clear he is exhausted and so I get him a cold drink of water and lean him forwards and remove his backpack while he tries to gulp down the glass of water and asks for more.

    Kevin is 9 years old and lives in one of the marginal areas of Guatemala City, where poverty and deprivation is all too evident.  I have known Kevin for nearly a year now and he is one of the boys we have been helping stay off the streets, work hard in school and make positive choices about his life. But, why is he here now and on his own?

    After a few minutes of rest and some water Kevin looks into my eyes and I can see this is going to be hard for him.  His eyes well up with tears and he tries his best not to show emotions as I ask him what he has in his backpack.  He tells me he has his clothes, something I was guessing as I was pouring him some water.  He asks if he can change his shirt as it is soaking with sweat and making him feel uncomfortable.  One of our volunteers, David, is in his room relaxing after a day of teaching and so I decide not to disturb him but to call one of our team, Frank, while Kevin heads to the boys´ bathroom to wash his face and change his shirt.

    When we get back together, Frank has informed the team and I take Kevin out to buy some food and then return to the home where Kevin begins tell me why he has run away from home.  It is not always easy for children to tell you about abuse, but if you provide them with a safe place to talk and help them know you are on their side, they can begin to move from fear and secrets towards freedom.

    Apparently, he took the decision to leave his home when he woke up today.  He took all his school books out of his rucksack and filled it with clothes.  While his sister watches him and wonders what he is doing, he leaves his little shack and starts to walk the 7 hours it takes to get to our home.  He has no money, has had nothing to eat or drink and so when he arrives, he is absolutely exhausted. I am still trying to get into my mind how a little 9-year-old boy can walk all that way along three-lane highways in order to get to us.  Amazing that he arrived safely and remembered where the home was.

    Our policies and the local laws state very clearly our obligations to report what he is telling me and so Frank arranges for Social Services to come and collect him.  On their arrival I was rather shocked by their treatment of Kevin, treating him like some stray dog.  All they want is to grab him and bundle him into their van.  I was not allowing this and made it clear that we are to sit with Kevin and explain the whole process to him so that he understands what will happen next.

    Two other visitors join us at this point, a Detective Inspector and a Solicitor from the UK, both of whom are keen to witness the treatment Kevin is about to receive and will help in the coming days to write up their concerns to the British Embassy in the hope they can help us train Social Services in how to deal with children – something you would assume is already in place.

    Kevin joins us at this point and when he sees the authorities sitting at the table, he begins to cry quite profoundly.  We explain to him the situation as Social Services ask him to tell them why he is here and then take some photos of his little body.  It is all rather upsetting to us and for Kevin, but eventually it is agreed that he has to go with Social Services even though he just wants to be with us, with people he feels safe with.  I can see that in his young mind running away from home and living with me is an easy option.  However, it is now getting rather late and I can see this evening will be rather long.

    After Kevin goes, we all meet to pray and write up what we have just witnessed and then get a call from the boy´s parents who have been informed of Kevin´s placement with Social Services.  They ask if I can go and support them as they now have an overnight court session and myself and Juan Carlos, one of our team, leave to join them in court.  As the proceedings progress it becomes clear to the parents that their son had run away from home, rather than disappeared, and that he came to find me and seek safety with us.  This information seems to light a fuse that sets off a rather large bomb!

    Dealing with parents is usually problem free, even if there are issues to confront.  But now I become the target of their anger and when the boy is finally removed from their care, I am the easy one to blame.

    The next day I am invited by a couple of families who live by the affected family to explain the situation.  I can´t give out any information at all and so just listen as they tell me they are very angry because Kevin´s family are going around saying that I had come to their house that morning and kidnapped their son, taken him somewhere and raped him.  You do begin to wonder why people would say such a thing, but they are hurting and need an outlet for their hurt and anger and so I´m happy to be on the receiving end for the moment, but maybe not in this form!

    As time has moved on this week it has become clear that this is a rather complicated situation and one that has a lot more history than I had imagined.  One thing I have managed to do is to go and visit Kevin in the children´s home to see how he is doing.  He had just had his hair cut when I arrived and was very pleased to see me and would not leave my side as he buried his head into my shoulder and told me about his bed, his room, his new friends and that he was now eating three meals a day.  All we can do now is to support him and if he is ever allowed to return home, to keep in contact and monitor the situation.

    Working with high-risk kids does sometimes mean you put your own life at high-risk and this week was one of those times.  If the community had believed the allegations from the parents, I would certainly not be here right now telling you this story.  I, and we here in Guatemala, are very proud of the work we do and are thankful to each of you for sticking with us through the ups and downs.  Because life has been so challenging recently, I am rather behind on my blogs and on many other things and do promise to try and keep you updated in the coming week.  Thanks for being there guys.

    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  He first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and he was awarded an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.

    Duncan Dyason
  • Thursday May 14th 2020

    I still remember the day when my daughter was born and the joy I had driving home from the hospital to tell everyone we had a baby girl.  It was one of the most emotional, precious and miraculous moments of my life.

    So, I do know what it feels like to be a dad and to feel that instant protection towards this new and fragile bundle of love.  For some reason you also start to feel more protective towards any child you come across and so I could understand the pain Doña Lidia and Don Diego were going through and the urge to protect them and their two children.


    Diego and Lidia live in a marginal area of Guatemala City and I mentor their oldest child, Cristian, who is 11-years-old.  As I have got to know them over the last two years, I have grown very fond of them both and their two boys and when they told me they were expecting their third child I was thrilled for them.  However, at the same time, I was concerned as to how they would manage to feed another child on such a low income.

    Two weeks ago, during a regular visit to see Cristian and offer some support for the frustration of the lockdown, Lidia looked at me with such a sadness and confided that her baby had not moved for the last three weeks.  It was due in about 8 weeks and so I took her early the next morning to a specialist clinic in the city.

    Lidia went from one room to another and eventually the doctor came out and asked me to come into the consultation room.  I sat down next to Lidia, who was crying, and I guessed what was coming next.  The doctor explained that there was no heartbeat in the scan and she could see that the baby had passed away about three weeks ago.  Her recommendation was that we went straight to A&E and have the baby removed.

    Despite me going over the option a few times and how we could help look after her boys while she was in hospital, Lidia decided to return home to her little tin shack and wait for her husband to come home.  “He is the one who will have to decide”, she tells me while using ta sodden tissue to wipe her eyes and nose.

    Later that evening Diego calls me to thank me for taking his wife to the clinic, but he felt it was not necessary to go back or go to hospital as he believed the baby was still alive and that all would be well.

    The last two weeks have been difficult for me as I have been very concerned for Lidia´s health and so have pushed for another scan.  This was on Thursday morning and I had to find another private clinic as Diego said he did not trust the results of the other clinic.  Our 7am appointment could only confirm the news that they were both denying, but I went through it with them to try and help them move forwards.

    The doctor called me into the clinic and showed me the results of the scan and explained to the young couple that their baby was dead and needed to be removed otherwise it could affect the health of the mum in a serious way.  It was an agonizing few minutes.  We left the clinic and headed to the car park where I asked them what they wanted to do.  They looked very alone and vulnerable and I could see the agony they were going through and so suggested I wait in the car while they discussed their plan of action (photo).

    The minutes ticked by and I sensed that they were about to make a decision they would regret for many years to come.  Diego said that they believed the baby was alive and so would return home. I invited them into the car and drove them home in silence.  It was a difficult time for them and, as they left and thanked me for my help, they said they would try and make it to their family home, 2-3 hours drive from the city.

    Given that we are in partial lockdown and that those who live in the city cannot travel to any other district in Guatemala due to the virus, I wondered how they were going to get there.  Diego explained that he would take the motorbike and transport the family to the countryside and hope the police would not stop them. I didn´t know he had a motorbike as it is never stored in their little shack.  Diego told me that it was not a great bike and he had yet to get his licence!  How he was going to take them all on the bike the following day I could not imagine.

    I called him that night to see if he had changed his mind, but no answer.  I called the next day and yesterday and still no news.  I can only pray and hope they are safe and that little Cristian copes with this ordeal after seeing his parents go through so much over the last few weeks.  If anything happened to his mum I know he would blame himself and he has enough to deal with as the last few months have been particularly hard for him.

    When Cristian started with me in mentoring, I could see that this ruddy-faced boy was shy and withdrawn.  Slowly, over the last two years, his shyness has been replaced with a confidence that has encouraged me greatly.  However, a couple of months ago he withdrew into his formal shell and so our discussions led to the disclosure of him being sexually abused by a 13-year-old boy who lived nearby.  The description of what was going on was not easy to listen to, it never is, but we had to start asking more questions and this led to the discovery that his younger brother was also being abused by this boy.

    Three years ago, I wrote about how we had uncovered a child-prostitution ring run by children in La Terminal.  As we interviewed children, we also found out that most of the sexual abuse that the children were experiencing was been perpetrated by other children.  So often in our child protection training we talk about adults abusing children and the signs to look out for, etc.  But rarely do we deal with the reality of what seems to be prevalent here, children abusing children.

    Little Cristian has a lot to deal with right now and if they do make it to the country, I hope he can find the space to start to deal with all that has happened this year.  All I can do is hope they answer the phone and tell me all is well.  When Cristian does come back, I know that our mentoring sessions will involve quite a few tears.

    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  He first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and he was awarded an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.

    Duncan Dyason
  • Saturday 16th May 2020

    We recently released a video testimony of one of the girls we have helped over the last few years.  Damaris, for me, is an incredible person and her story of being rescued from the streets and how her life has changed can only bring you to tears.  Her father, who is now a totally transformed person, has a testimony of how his previous life of drinking, violence and abandoning the family home led him to a very dark place indeed.

    Understanding the frequently told story of how alcohol plays a destructive role in a father´s life, enticing men every payday to spend a good proportion of their earnings, if not all, on drink, is both upsetting and often leads to hunger, violence and homelessness.

    When I saw Sofia´s face last week I knew that the presenting story of a loving family had its flaws.  Sofia is mum to two adorable children, Luis who is 11 and Anabella who is 8.  Luis is another one of the boys I mentor and over the last year I have helped him see that making good decisions in his life can only lead a much brighter future and, unlike so many boys from the area where he lives, not start the slippery slope that ends up on the streets.

    Sofia had always tried to show me that the family was united and that Byron, her husband, was loving and committed to them.  But as time has gone by and with many discussions with her son, I have come to see that the issue of alcohol abuse has be tackled head on.

    It was my arrival the other day that triggered all this.  Visiting families at risk is rather limited at the moment due to the curfew, but with a few hours in the day open for me to visit I need to see as many as I can.  It takes most of the week now to visit all the 10 boys I mentor and their families and the emotional toll is sometimes rather hard to deal with.

    I stand and talk to Sofia after getting a big hug from Luis and a hi 5 from Anabella.  I can see in her eyes that she is about to burst into tears and so I ask how things are with her husband.  This time the usual “yes, all fine thanks”, is replaced with a story of the reality she and the children are living with.  They are desperately hungry and have no one to talk to and nowhere to go for help.

    As the tears begin to flow, I ask Luis to give his mum a hug and, as he does so, he bursts into tears together with his little sister.  I leave them to cry for a while and hear Sofia tell Luis that he does not need to cry.  I can´t help but feel the pain they are going through as Sofia tells me that her husband, who earns very little, is now spending every penny of it on drink every Friday.

    The previous Friday Byron was so drunk he never came home and slept out on the streets.  Luis tried to go and find his dad, but the curfew meant he would be arrested and taken into care.  Sofia did all she could to keep him at home, but he did not sleep all night thinking about his dad in the streets.

    I agreed to go along on the Sunday and talk to Byron as it was the only day he was not working.  I wondered how he would react to me knowing he has a serious issue with drink and if there would be repercussions for his wife and children.

    So many of the boys I have seen take to the streets from this community in Guatemala City have done so due to abuse and violence from an alcoholic father.  Our role in mentoring is to prevent more vulnerable children taking this step and offer them a supportive structure that can lead to the child making positive life decisions, where street life is not an option any of them will now consider taking.

    I knock on the door and am invited in.  It is early and many families are still asleep, but I have a lot to fit into the few hours we have before the afternoon curfew begins.  Byron finds a small wooden barrel and invites me to sit down.  Sofia sits on a folding chair and Luis and Anabella lean on her as Bryon thanks me for visiting.  He obviously has no idea why I am here and so I decide to go straight into the discussion stating my concern for them as a family and for him in particular.

    Byron is trying his best to focus on what I am saying, but he is still drunk from the previous night and Sofia tells me that last night he slept on the streets again.  This led to both the children burying their faces in their mum´s breast and crying uncontrollably.

    Today it´s Mothering Sunday and what a day to have to deal with this situation.  Byron begins his tale of excuses and deviates so much that I have to work hard to keep him focused on his behaviour the previous night.  The gentle approach is clearly not working and so I have to speak to him like a father and tell him in no uncertain terms the affect his drinking is having on his life and on his family.

    The invitation to start a new life and leave the drink invites a positive response as he allows me to pray for him and encourage him to start this very day.  Mothering Sunday would be the most excellent day to remember when he left behind the drink, I suggest, and focus now on his wife and family.  I can see that he has sobered up a little and begins to say sorry to his family.

    Looking around the room it was clear they have no food whatsoever and so I ask what they had eaten for breakfast.  Sofia says they have not eaten at all the last two days as they have had no money.  Bryon hangs his head low as he sees the impact his decision to drink is having on the family.

    Since we have little time left, I invite Luis to come with me to the supermarket where we buy some food for the next few days and a special treat of a cake to celebrate Mothering Sunday.  He is nothing but smiles and we discuss the importance of showing our emotions and being allowed to cry.  So many boys are told it is not good to cry and I can only remember my own childhood and the experiences of being beaten more when you cried.  I shared that with him and tell him I am proud to see him cry and show how upset he is as this must be a very upsetting experience for him. I also discover that in order to eat the kids have been going their father´s pockets at night to find any cash, usually just a few pence but enough for a few tortillas.

    We return to his little house and end with lots of hugs and me asking if I can come back next week with a friend of mine.  “Of course you can, you are always welcome” Sofia tells me.  My friend is Damaris’ dad as I know his testimony will speak far more to Byron than my accounts of giving up drinking at the age of 18 after many months of wasting so much money on drink in order to forget the massive pain inside me.

    Hope is rising and what a honour to now journey with a man who was once in the same place as Byron and who, just over a year ago, received the same talk as I had given today.  Will keep you posted!

    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  He first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and he was awarded an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.

    Duncan Dyason
  • Friday 6th March 2020

    It´s been a busy time with visitors from the UK and Bermuda coming to support the work here in Guatemala and the kids are always excited when people come to see them and their families.

    Our first visit was Sarah Elliot, who comes every year now.  Sarah helps review our Safeguarding Policy and practices and helps offer the most up-to-date advice.  Being a Detective Inspector in the Police means she can offer us the unique insight we need to keep our kids, staff and volunteers safe.

    The boys who I normally mentor on a Saturday love being with Sarah and so invited her to a hide-and-seek shootout with Nerf guns.  Sarah, now renamed Sarah Connor, got into her role far too easy and scared the boys to the degree they left happy and recounting the experience so many times over lunch that left me with no doubt how much they had enjoyed it.

    Our next visit was Steve Castree from Bermuda.  Steve was one of the young people in my youth group in Amersham many years ago and it was exciting to have him visit for the first time and see for himself how his support has made a difference.

    I invited him to join me one day in buying a bunk bed for a family we are supporting.  Vicky and her kids were in need of another bed, as the two beds they have can´t offer the room that six children and two parents need.  Vicky has made a real effort this year to leave the streets behind and concentrate on her family and so this would be both a reward for her good decisions and a blessing for the kids.

    As we arrived at the house Vicky and the kids came out to see me and meet my guest.  Her kids are always full of hugs and sweet words of gratitude for each visit.  The 10-year-old boy throws his arms around me and gives me a little piece of folded paper that says “I love you”.  I translate for Steve and Vicky and explain how she was in need of a bunkbed for her kids.  Vicky tells Steve that this would be a dream come true.  We then say that it would be amazing one day to see her with the bed as it would make a massive difference to them all.  

    vickys bed

    You can imagine her joy when we ask her to help us with something in the car.  As the boot opened and she saw the bed inside she looked at us and burst into tears.  It was a special moment and we then took the bed out, assembled it and the kids began to say which bit of the bed would be theirs.  The smallest boy just lay on it and did a snow angel and said “It´s just like sleeping on a cloud”.

    Thank you also to Jeremy Browne for coming to visit us this year.  Jeremy is a retired solicitor from Chesham in the UK and is a faithful supporter of the charity.  Jeremy is also blind and so the kids found him fascinating, asking him lots of questions and waving their hands in front of his face just to be absolutely sure he was blind!  One of the things that intrigued the kids more than anything was his braille computer, an interesting piece of engineering that held their attention for hours.

    We appreciate all those who come to bring joy, share love and encourage us all. 

    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  He first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and he was awarded an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.

    Duncan Dyason
  • Wednesday 1st April

    It´s an interesting day to reflect back over what has happened over the past few weeks and consider all that has taken place in the world as we face the COVID-19 pandemic.

    I had planned a month-long visit to the UK for fundraising, meeting friends, family and donors and to speak at a number of churches, schools and interest groups.

    On leaving Guatemala for the UK I become increasing aware of the growing pandemic that is affecting more countries and how it might now begin to affect the UK.  My first few days are fairly restful as I visit John and Celia Banner in Kent and spend a delightful time with them and prepare for my sermon on Sunday at Christchurch, Tunbridge Wells – my home church.

    However, the news is alarming and rocks my Saturday.  The virus is spreading faster than most people had anticipated and one minute I am planning the following week´s talks and events and the next desperately trying to find a flight back to Guatemala the following day.

    The Guatemalan President had said that the borders of the country would be closed indefinitely on Monday, followed by the announcement from Donald Trump that all flights will be stopped from Monday.  The thought of now spending months in the UK was dawning on me and so I took the difficult decision to return to Guatemala where I know I would be needed more.

    It was not an easy return as flights were few and far between and so I had to take a much longer route and sleep overnight on the floor of New York´s international airport.  I was concerned that when I arrived at the check-in for Guatemala I would be turned away as the Guatemalan Government were now stating that anyone arriving from the UK would be turned back.

    My flight was on time and I was welcomed on board.  On arrival, however, things were eerily different.  Our plane is parked in the waiting area and we now wait to be boarded by agents from the Ministry of Health and everyone would have to declare where they had come from and have their temperate taken.  As the agents boarded the plane, I could see they were taking no chances as all are dressed in full protection gear that made me wonder what had happened in the five days since I left the country.

    I am taken to see a doctor as I have come from the UK and then told I would have to return to the plane and would be taken back to Miami.  I had to protest to the doctor that I was a resident of Guatemala, but he just pointed me back to the exit to board the plane.  I called for an immigration officer to help and then the boss of immigration came over and explained to the doctor that despite me coming from the UK, I was a resident and so would be allowed in, but I have to go into quarantine for the next two weeks.  Fortunately for me I am allowed to be in quarantine at home and not in the hospital where so many others from the plane were heading.

    After my quarantine and during the early days of the pandemic we are trying to come to terms with the fact we are now living in a very different world.  Each night we are glued to our screens to watch the news and hear the daily briefings from the President, who explains new curfews, limits on travelling and how we can access the few shops that are now open.

    Visiting the boys I mentor and their families is now a challenge and I hear their fears and try to bring comfort and say that I will try and keep in touch as much as possible.  With the restrictions now affecting us all it would be difficult to be in touch as before and all mentoring sessions are now cancelled and our mentoring centre would be closed.  We are now living in a very new and different world and who knows when we will come out the other side and what life will then look like.

    We are able to start buying bulk food supplies as it becomes clear that most of our families will struggle in the coming weeks and maybe months.  Contacting all the families is not easy, but we do manage to get to most before further restrictions limit our travels.

    With masks and gloves in place Alex Denton and I begin to distribute food parcels to all the families we support.  All schools are now closed and the curfew means that kids are locked up inside tin shacks or in one room for many hours of the day and all night.  It is clearly having a negative impact on their morale and so we come with the idea of starting a board games library.  This lifts the spirits as kids begin to play more and cope a little better with the lockdown.  Later that evening I call one of the boys I mentor who says “I can´t talk now, we are all busy playing a game”.  It made me smile and great to know we are helping bring relief and joy to so many thanks to your support.

    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  He first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and he was awarded an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.

    Duncan Dyason
  • Monday 18th May 2020

    You can´t help the attachment you feel towards vulnerable children, as you are with them in the most difficult, intimate and happy moments of their lives. Some even see you as either part of their family or, in the case of Carlos, as an actual parent.

    I wrote about Carlos at the beginning of this year and expressed my frustration at seeing how much he had deteriorated during 2019.  His drug addictions and street life were taking him down a track that I feared would lead to his early death.  I was pulling no punches as I explained this to him on New Year´s Eve.  He went missing for the first two weeks of January and so we put up posters of him around La Terminal, checked hospitals and the city morgue, but no news.

    A few weeks later we were informed that Carlos was now safe in a children´s home and hopefully would be until December this year when he turns 18.  I have been to see him a few times, but all that was before the pandemic hit Guatemala and we went, like so many countries, into lockdown.

    My last visit to him was so rewarding as he spoke so clearly about his new-found faith and desire to make something of his life.  He was unusually pensive and held onto my hand almost the whole time I was visiting him.  His reflections on his short life were insightful and I encouraged him to start writing notes as one day I would love to write a story of his life.  I believe it would be a fascinating account of a street child and the factors that both took him to the streets and eventually helped him leave.

    For now, I can only meet him online and now he calls weekly, as he did a few days ago, from the home in the North of Guatemala.  He tells me that his weekly session with his counsellor had gone well and that he was proud to tell him that I was his dad.  He smiles and as he does, shows his missing front teeth.  Once he explained to me how he had lost four of his teeth in a street fight and said “I don´t think I am very good at fighting!”.  I agreed that maybe it was not his strength and that it would be good for him to consider other pastimes.

    His call was welcome and it was so good to talk with him via WhatsApp and see him looking so well and talking intelligently about his plans after the home.  I had to answer his question about how his mum was doing with honesty, which left him feeling sad but, at the same time, thankful I was still keeping in contact with her.  I doubt if she will make it through to seeing him graduate from the home the way her life is going, but that can´t hold him back I tell him and that he must now focus on the new life and opportunity he has been given.

    Despite lockdowns, curfews and travel restrictions we can still keep in contact and, thanks to your support, we have been able to send a small donation to the home to help provide all the boys there with some treats and to cover the costs of food.

    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  He first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and he was awarded an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.

    Duncan Dyason
  • Saturday 30th May 2020

    This blog is very different to any blog I have ever written and I decided that I would let you into our world a little bit and help you understand how we determine which children come into the mentoring programme and what factors help us make this decision.

    On Monday we were asked to help volunteer at the city feeding centre for homeless people in Guatemala City.  Each organisation takes turns to run the centre and Monday was our day.  It was while I was at the centre I met 9-year-old Lucy.  I would like to encourage you to look at her photo (thanks to Chris Dobson for the edit) and to study it for a while.

    What do you see there?  What feelings come to the surface?  Why do you think she is at the feeding centre?  Lucy came with her mum and younger brother and all three looked very tired, hungry and like the world had hit them hard.  But still they managed to smile.  So, let´s explore this a little further.

    When I first developed the mentoring programme in 2014, I did so because I couldn´t find a programme that would help prepare mentors to better understand and work with high-risk children.

    When I first moved to Guatemala City in 1992 there were an estimated 5,000 children and young people living on the city streets and the situation was dire.  I lost count of the number of children we buried, not because they didn´t matter.  They mattered very much indeed.  It was that with each child we buried we all felt like something within us died.  Each child had a special place in our hearts and every death wrenched that away from you, leaving you numb and feeling helpless until the next death.  Another funeral, another time of mourning, another commitment to not letting it happen again and another night without sleep.

    The coinciding of celebrating 25 years of working with street kids in 2017 and rescuing our last child from the streets, 11-year-old Jonathan, was a great time to survey the streets of Guatemala City again.  We celebrated the fact that we could not find one child living alone on the streets and, together with frequent research into the changing patterns of children taking to the streets, we wanted to focus our work more on the prevention of children taking to the streets and so was born the mentoring programme.

    The stage is set with the understanding of the factors that both push a child to the streets and the unique components that entice or pull a child onto the streets is an important place to start.  These factors are the backdrops and props needed for the actors that will now be auditioned for the part of “street child”.

    We draw upon research done by the ACE study in the USA that has given us 10 risk factors that can be applied to our child actors.  If a child, according to their research, has four or more of the following factors in their lives, they are more likely to have very negative health outcomes and therefore will tend to adopt negative behaviours as part of a detrimental coping strategy than only enhances their childhood trauma rather than bringing healing.  The factors are: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, a drug user in the household, member of the household in prison, member of the family who is chronically depressed, mentally ill or suicidal, the mother is treated violently, one or no parents, emotional or physical neglect and lastly the loss of someone close to you.  These factors are traumatic childhood events that many children can navigate well if they have a caring and supportive adult in their life. If not, then they compound a child´s sense of loss, vulnerability and, to some degree, abandonment.

    Moreover, our child actor must now be exposed to street life in order for them to be conditioned to play the part of the street child.  Street life, with its temptations and dangers, lures the child into a world that will both rob their innocence and accelerate their entrance into the adult world.  Therefore, a child´s connection to the street is measured by the street worker and, together with the number of risk factors in their life, enables the worker to evaluate their unique level of risk and so target the intervention at the most high-risk child.

    We return now to Lucy.  Take another look at her photo and stay a while as you study it again.  Knowing what you now know about the risk factors and connection to the streets can you begin to gather together the pieces of the jigsaw.

    What do you now see?  Can you notice the marks on her body?  Can we assume there are more and maybe more serious ones?  The condition of her skin tells us something together with the dirt under the nails.  Are there parts of her body she is trying to hide from us or does she feel comfortable to let you see the pain she might live with? A street worker would also look at her shoes and, if she is wearing any, what they would tell you about neglect.  Is she shy of the camera and reluctant to give you eye contact? She has a dog, as many people on the streets do. What does the dog give to her or provide for her? Her mum stands behind her and you can see she is very slim and begin to assume they struggle to find food.  Why is this? Why is there no dad around?  Lucy´s clothes are interesting as she or her mum has chosen clothes that many young girls her age would want to wear.  Even the text on her beanie states something she is probably unaware of.

    Little by little the street worker begins to put the pieces together and observes, asks questions and looks also at the context the child is living in – where in the street they are? Who is with them? What do they have with them? What time of day or night are they in the street? Who acknowledges them? Do their fast-moving eyes tell you they struggle to concentrate or that they are constantly scanning the scene for signs of danger? Does their breath give away drug or alcohol consumption?  The skilled street worker will be doing the calculations whilst, at the same time, trying to engage the child in play or conversation.

    Lucy, we can now assume, is a high-risk child.  She has a younger brother whose demeanor, actions and appearance gives away his predicament of being highly connected to the streets.  He also has a dog!  Lucy, her mum and little brother are in a queue of people who are homeless and does seem to know many of them. She smiles when she sees the size of her lunch and looks at her dog as if to say “this is for us both”.

    I have tried here to telescope Lucy´s life in order to help you understand how a street worker thinks and how their observations lead to engagement, play, understanding and eventually to action.  I will keep you posted.

    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  He first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and he was awarded an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.

  • Friday 19th June 2020

    The number of cases of COVID-19 has increased quite dramatically in the last two weeks and triggered further restrictions from the government that have limited the outreach we can do for the moment.  Despite the limitations we are able to leave certain days and visit families at risk as well as offer food parcels to the many families we are caring for each week.  Every person who comes to our Mentoring Centre to collect their food parcel, or who receives it when we visit them in marginal areas of the city, does so with great joy and so much gratitude that I am often overwhelmed by it all.  Thank you for helping to make all this possible.One amazing sacrifice

    This week there have been many events to inform you of and so I will try and be brief so as to not make this blog too long, but each event is so filled with excitement and emotion that this will be a challenge.

    I had messaged Jonathan, one of the vulnerable boys I mentor, on Monday and asked how he was.  I knew that things were tough, especially given that his dad was probably out drunk on the streets all weekend.  Thanks to a special fund we setup we could let him have a phone so he can keep in contact with me and the team.  Jonathan replied saying “BAD”.  I called him back immediately and asked what was up and the story came that his dad had been drinking all weekend and had come home with nothing in his pockets and had lost his job.  They had eaten very little and now had no food at all in the house.

    Jonathan (photo above) lives with his adorable little sister, mum and dad in a small house in one of the marginal areas of Guatemala City we have targeted for the mentoring programme.  A good percentage of the children that used to live on the street 15 years ago came from this area and so given that and the many other risk factors that these children live with means they are highly likely to look to the streets as a solution to their problems and if not the streets, the local gang.

    I was with Alex in the car when I called him and so we took the decision to drive over to their home and buy some supplies on route.  Jonathan, his mum and sister met us and were so very pleased to receive a few bags of food, enough for the rest of the week at least.

    father day mug2We returned to visit him on Wednesday, which just happened to be Father´s Day here in Guatemala, and Alex and I were presented with a special mug to celebrate Father´s Day.  It was a colourful little mug and one I know would have cost them a few meals.  No wonder they had no food, they had more than likely gone without so they could buy us gifts.  Just the most powerful present and one that means so much as it represents and expresses love.

    On the way back we drop by to visit a family who are living in a large tin shack and talk with Paola.  Paula is nine and is a girl we are concerned about and seems to be always caring for her 4 young brothers and sisters.  She never smiles and I wonder how much of the worries of caring for the family are upon her shoulders.  But she does have a dream!

    Paola asks me what I think about helping her build a bedroom for her and her 7-year-old sister.  At the side of their shack they have been given a piece of land that they would like to use to house a few animals and also build a small tin structure that will become their bedroom.  Despite funds being rather limited at the moment I couldn´t help but offer something towards her dream and so with some basic materials on the way I will keep you posted as to when her dream becomes a reality.

    We head back to Casa Alexis to make drinks for the builders currently working there on the development of the next mentoring centre.  It has been busy here recently after a donation came in to take the next step in renovating the building.  I am very keen to have it all ready for when the kids are able to come back and visit the centre again.

    Our plan is that the Casa Alexis Protection Home is closed for the moment unless there is an emergency for children or families.  One such emergency came up recently when we had to house two boys and their mum.  The mum was very ill and needed medical treatment here in the capital and so came for her treatment at the clinic nearby and her two younger boys came also to support her and enjoy a short break.

    The home is a great place for children at risk and we are ready to take in any family or child/children as and when the need dictates.  There are many more protocols in place now that govern our daily behaviours and how we deal with emergency situations.  The safety of those coming and of us volunteers is paramount and we feel that we can remain open to emergencies if all the protocols are followed.

    To finish my blog, I would like to tell you a story of a fridge.  Ok, I know it has already started to send you to sleep, but hang in there because this a very encouraging story.

    fridgeI was sent a photo in the week of a fridge.  It was a second-hand fridge and it was in pretty good condition.  The person who sent it to me was Don Rafael, the father of Damaris who was featured in a video testimony recently.  Don Rafael was very excited as he had just bought a fridge for the family and wanted to share the good news.

    A year and a half ago this was a very different story and, as Don Rafael will willingly tell you, he was a mess and so was his family.  Almost homeless again and living in great poverty due to his drinking addictions, the family were staying with us, on and off, at the Protection Home.  They were very dark days indeed and if you have not seen Damaris´video testimony, and can have a tissue nearby, then check out her video here.

    Since Don Rafael´s life changed after becoming a Christian he has worked hard to gain his family back and save money to improve their lot.  When we were allowed, before the current pandemic, to visit the families in their homes I would often see Don Rafael sat on the bed with his wife sat behind him and leaning forwards embracing him the whole time we spoke.  She tells me how much he has changed and how happy they are all now.

    Later in the evening Don Rafael calls me very concerned as he says the bit at the back of the fridge is getting hot and should he turn it off.  I explain that this is normal and he tells me that since they have never had a fridge before this is all new to them.  They are so happy they can keep food cold now and are planning on saving up for other things the family need.  

    Transformation is incredible to watch in people and it leads to a special moment this week when I speak with their son, who is in the mentoring programme with me.  We reflect together on the last few years and how they have been through the most difficult of times and are now enjoying real life, life with hope, with dreams and with love.  Be encouraged, your support really does help us invest for the long term in people´s lives.  THANK YOU.

    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  He first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and he was awarded an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.

  • Sunday 28th 2020

    When the call came through from Bryan, I was very pleased but somewhat surprised that he was now in contact with us again.  Bryan is 14 and has been off the radar over the past 12 months as he began to fall away from the mentoring programme and become further involved in the local gang.

    The huge rise in gangs in Guatemala has been fueled by US policies of deporting anyone from Central America for all manner of crimes over the last 25 years.  There was a time when I remember taking a flight from the US to Guatemala and almost half was full of people in handcuffs!  The alarming numbers of active gang members who had grown up in the US and were now assimilated into the notorious MS or 18 Street gangs in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras slowly increased from 1996 when the US passed new laws to facilitate the deportations.  The Violent Gang Taskforce and the subsequent Operation Community Shield in the US targeted active gang members for deportation.

    In recent years gang activity has diminished in Guatemala due to a very hard line approach to gang membership, but still the gangs operate in many areas with impunity, albeit to a lesser degree.  In one area where the charity is supporting a project in Guatemala City one of the gangs opened up an attractive youth club to recruit young gang members from the age of 10 years.

    lionada4Bryan has been the target of the gang for the last 3 years and a few months ago was caught up in a gun battle in one of the city cemeteries, leaving 20 people dead. His life has changed so much from the first time I met him and he started to attend the mentoring centre.  A fresh-faced 10-year-old who was always full of wonder and questions and who had dreams of doing great things with his life.

    Now it seems that the authorities have caught up with him and he is on some form of house arrest and wanted me to go and visit him so he could talk.  Despite the restrictions I felt that I could not turn down this opportunity and so headed to a barrio that is famous for its violence, gangs and all manner of things that usually hit the headlines in full colour.

    The road into the barrio is narrow and with cars parked at certain intervals on the pavement, meaning that getting to the end of the road takes some maneuvering. I had only passed a few houses and two men, who had been sitting on a doorstep, stood up and began to follow my car, one on one side and the other on the other side of the road.  At the end of the road I turned the car round and found a space to park where I guessed it was at less risk of blocking other cars passing.

    I got out of the car and could see the men walking up, but just where I had parked there was an alleyway that led to Bryan´s house.  I called to him and he came down from the second floor where the family rent a small room that is home to about 7 people.  At times this number grows depending on who needs a bed for the night.

    Bryan comes out and looks all around him as well as up and down the alley before looking at me and saying hi.  We sit on one of the steps and he begins to tell me that he is now living back at home and not with the gang.  He has handed back his gun and has decided not to get more involved with them, something that is not normally allowed as once in the gang, always in the gang.

    lionada3As we are talking three teenagers come around the corner and ask who I am and what I am doing there.  They are all fairly high on solvents and so I try and engage with them in such a way that they don´t feel threatened and soon begin to laugh and ask me to teach them some English.  It turns out they are just ordinary boys who have been dealt a bad hand and the many choices they have made have led them to a life they feel has no hope.

    It does seem an interesting idea of working with them and so later let the street team know that when restrictions are lifted, I would like to return there and see how we could help bring hope and explore with them a more positive future.

    I need to finish my discussion with Bryan and respectively ask the boys if they would be happy with me talking with Bryan alone.  This seems acceptable to them and so they leave us alone to finish our conversation and Bryan asks if there is any chance I can get him a bed as he and his brother are now having to sleep on a cold concrete floor each night.  I commit myself to looking for a donation of a double bed he and his brother can share.  We finish by discussing the options of full-time education when schools return and given the fact that he has missed almost all his education, this could prove to be a challenge.  But challenges are exciting!

    I manage to get out of the barrio without any issues and am grateful for yet another opportunity of seeing God´s hand at work and allowing me to help another lost boy.  The future for boys like Bryan is not that great and statistics show that so many will, in the end, succumb to peer pressure and join the gang.  Life expectancy for those who join a gang in Guatemala is just 22 years and so we would like to offer him the hope that he can live a very different and full life.

    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  He first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and he was awarded an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.

  • Sunday 19th July 2020

    Today is lockdown, so all is quiet and we are focusing on the kids we are responsible for, by calling them every 1-2 days.  The boys I am calling today are bored and some are struggling with being inside a tin shack in 28 degrees of heat.  Having a call from me or from the team does make their day go a little easier and the funny videos, we send those who have internet on their phones, are very popular.  Yesterday was of me waking up Alex Denton at 3am with loud music and filming his reactions.  Poor Alex, a good sport and willing to be made fun of in order to help the kids laugh.

    One boy I speak to today is stuck in his shack, but almost ran away from home last week.  Paulo is 15, but you would think he was 11 looking at him.  His growth, like that of his brothers, has been greatly affected by poverty.  Today Paulo is laughing on the phone as we talk about his teenage ways and how funny it is trying to understand his new way of talking.  For those parents with teens, you will understand how the teen grunts are an interesting way to communicate.

    The previous week Paulo asked me to spend some time with him as he wanted to talk.  Alex and I had been delivering food parcels to the 7 families in this marginal area of Guatemala City and had finished a short mentoring session with three of the boys.  We climbed down the mountainside, much firmer today thanks to very little rain and the baking sun.  Just one slip could end in tragedy, so we do have to take great care.  The kids, however, run up and down like young mountain goats.

    Paulo sat down on one of the steps that lead to his shack and began to tell me why he is planning to run away from home.  He has found a room to rent and is thinking of getting a job, but needs some money to start his own independent life.  I look at him and can´t believe he would last long in the wide world without some form of daily support.  I know I started off like that at 15, but then my life and experience in the world was very different to him.

    The reason he wants to run away from home is that he is experiencing difficulties at home.  Those two words need some teasing out and so I ask him to tell me what “experiencing difficulties” means.  He pauses for a while and a few tears run down his cheeks.  Things have gotten progressively worse with his family and the fact that his brother has decided to now live with his girlfriend and build a shack next to theirs has only added to the stress.  Not only is this all far too much for the boy, but he tells me that some in his family have threatened to kill him.  His tears flow more freely as he tells me how he sleeps with a kitchen knife in his hand now.

    Life for these kids is never easy and some don´t make it through to adulthood, which is why our mentoring programme really does make the difference.  Now they have someone to talk to and help is always at hand.  Paulo needed to talk it through and realise that maybe it was not as bad as he thought and there were things he could do to keep himself safe and not take the option of running away from home.

    It is never easy to walk away and leave a kid in that situation, but I could tell that he was not going to make the decision to run, but rather stay and try and work things out with his family.  As time has gone on this week, I can see that this has happened and that Paulo is much happier and talking like the teenager he wants to be.  I tell him I am proud of him and the decisions he has taken and help remind him of better times to come, especially our boys’ trip to Rio Dulce in Guatemala when this pandemic is over.

    We love mentoring and the boys I take care of are close to me and I feel I know them all very well.  This relationship of trust takes time to build, but then it does give you a special standing in their lives that can make the difference between life and death.

    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  He first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and he was awarded an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.

  • Sunday 9th August 2020

    The last two weeks have been rather full-on.  When you are the person on-call, then you do have to respond as and when you are needed, despite the restrictions we currently live with here in Guatemala.

    One of the calls I had was from Wilman, a boy we have helped for many years.  Wilman has grown up in a slum area of Guatemala City and slowly, like many before him, began to spend more time on the streets, which eventually led to him to doing things that children his age should not be doing.

    Last year we managed to help get Wilman off the streets and back with his family, after a short time living with a group of young men in a rented house near the rubbish dump.  I remember the many conversations I have had with him about returning to schooling and trying to achieve his basic school grades that would help him find a better job.  Sadly, the advice was turned down in preference to a new girl on the scene.

    Wilman decided to ask his mum for a tiny plot of land (3m x 3m), next to where she and the family live, on which he wanted to build his own little shack for him and his girlfriend.

    This past week I have been seeing Wilman more and helping give advice to him about work and how to build his shack so that the only bit of furniture he has, a grubby mattress, remains dry when the rain pours down.  We looked at how he could replace the sheets of plastic with tin and so mentioned the need on Facebook by making a video and within a few hours the £120 he needed to build his home was donated.

    In the coming week I will be buying the materials Wilman needs to build his new home and hope that he will be open to the idea of studying in the evenings in order to make something more out of his life.

    Just across the valley lives Rodrigo, who is 11.  Rodrigo entered the mentoring programme a year and a half ago as his situation was assessed and deemed to be at-risk.  I met him, his mum, his little brother and the 12-year-old boy living next door.

    As I got to know Rodrigo, so I got to know the challenges he faces every day.  There is no school at the moment in Guatemala due to the pandemic, but Rodrigo is keen to study and does his best, with meagre resources, to keep up with the work the teacher is setting for the children at home.

    Slowly it becomes obvious that Dino, the 12-year-old boy in the shack next to him, is somewhat of a challenge and struggles to engage with the rest of the world.  He also struggles to talk and seems to spend most of his time lying on a bed with an adult relative.  

    Rodrigo opens up and tells me that Dino is always pulling down his little brother´s shorts and making him walk around naked.  He then confides in me and tells me of the things that Diego is making him do.  I now have to talk to Rodrigo´s mum, who seems to know of the abuse and says that there is little she can do as Dino is related to her husband and this would lead to fights and “complications”.

    rescueThe best solution was to either remove Dino from the scene and get him help, as children who abuse children are usually acting out what is happening to them also, or remove Rodrigo and his brother.  The first was not an option for now, so the mum takes the decision to keep her boys safe by planning to move with them to the countryside.  Her dad owns some land in a small village a few hours’ drive from the capital and she says she would like to start again there and bring up her boys in a much safer environment.

    With the Guatemalan government lifting travel restrictions, helping them move to the countryside now becomes a valid option.  I contract the services of a car and armed guard and arrange to take them to start their new lives.  The guard is going to be useful if we come across any difficult situations and, if any local areas decide to add their own travel restrictions, we would be allowed to pass without hinder.

    It was an emotional day (watch the video here) and both boys raced on ahead when we arrived in order to greet their wider family.  The grandfather is standing on the patio and greets me and thanks me for helping them arrive without any issues.  Both boys are already playing with one of the 22 cousins that live in and around the property.  I think they will be very happy here and am pleased to have played a small part in their rescue.

    Thanks to your support such work becomes possible and I am grateful for those who helped fund this trip and the building of a shack for Wilman and his girlfriend.

    This week we are having to take a very hard look at how we are responding to the growing demands from the children in the mentoring programme.  With so many showing signs of stress and depression, it is vital we re-think our approach and so more about this in the coming week.

    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  He first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and he was awarded an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.

  • Thursday 27th August 2020

    Being officially old now (according to Guatemala´s “third age” category) I can be forgiven for forgetting a few details now and again.  One thing, however, I will always remember is my first visit to El Hoyo (the hole), in Guatemala City.  El Hoyo was home to around 60 young children, all sniffing glue and living in desperate conditions on the streets.  That was in 1993 and one of the first boys I met was Miqueo.  At around 8-years-of-age Miqueo was very street wise and together with two other boys featured in one of my photos from those early days.

    I find it incredible to think back over all those years and still see him and one of the other three boys, now much older and still on the streets.  However, the news came through last week that Miqueo was hit by a car and then subsequently died in hospital.  I have mixed feelings about this as I have seen the damage he has caused to countless young boys on the streets.  But another loss and another guy we can´t help anymore.

    Over the last two weeks there has been an increase in the number of reports from our team in Guatemala City with regards to how desperate things are becoming with the majority of families we support.  In short, there is a real feeling in many families that life is just coming to an end.  Some share odd videos around of preachers proclaiming the end of the world or even a third world war.  So, for the many children we are seeking to support, getting on with homework or even considering going back to school in January is just a dream.  For now, they all have to focus on staying alive, and this is accomplished by working to support themselves and their families.

    brandonOne of the boys I mentor is Brandon.  He is 13 and can´t wait to be 16.  In fact, he tells me, with a huge smile on his face, that someone thought he was actually 16.  He has shot up over the last few months and working hard to get impressive muscles on his arms.  Brandon and his family have been through their share of crisis.  With government travel restrictions lifted I decided to take Brandon out for the day, allowing him plenty of time in the car to talk.

    Mentoring boys means creating opportunities for them to talk in a non-threatening, and often no eye contact way.  Brandon tells me about his life and desire to now work as there seems little point to him returning to school.  The conversation is steered to discuss his dreams and ambitions and this leads to his promise to return to school in January (if schools are allowed to open by then) so long as I can find one that specializes in dance, music and singing – his three great passions.  A challenge ahead I feel!

    Many thanks to all those who have donated and enquired about Brayan and the help we have been giving him and his family to try and save his sight.  Brayan, many will remember, lives in a tin shack with his mum, grandmother, two brothers and little sister.  There have been many early mornings going to collect him at 5am and take him to queue with me to get into the sight clinic here that offers all manner of specialist care for people on a low or no income.

    Brayan needed an urgent operation, which was a great success and he continues to suffer bed rest for a few more days and then he will be able to be up and about.  He has lost the use of his left eye, but the pressure that was building in it has now been reduced together with the daily headaches and pain.  I just need to collect his glasses now for his right eye and then he should be able to see all the things most of take for granted.  His brother and sister are also in treatment and will need glasses and lots of after care.

    The busy two weeks culminated in a desperate plea from Max, a man who is currently working on our new mentoring centre here in the city.  The centre will be an exciting addition to the mentoring programme and Protection Home, with a focus on music and art therapy.  The man shows me a photo of a little boy living in the street near to where he lives and asks me what he should do.  The only way I can advise is to take him home later that day and see for myself and then discuss this with the team.

    We drive a long way down a road that leads to one of the many satellite communities that grew up in the late 1990s, when large groups of people grabbed abandoned land and staked their claim.  This community was, until recently, a narco and gang-run area of the city.  The Guatemalan government have certainly helped reduce gang activity with their specialist police units that have authority to shoot to kill any gang or suspected gang member.

    The little jeep fits neatly in between a bus, that hasn´t run now since March, and a small van that is making a delivery to a nearby tienda.  I am obviously new and so I feel many eyes are on me.  Max waits as I try and secure the little jeep as much as possible and then walks me down a concrete alley, that then leads to another and another.  Eventually we are walking down a steep alley that I can clearly see has an ending and Max points to a 6-year-old boy sitting on one side.

    José sits with his back to me and is wearing only a pair of shorts and trainers and picking through a chicken carcass.  As I approach, I can see he is working his little fingers along the bones to scrape off as much meat as he can.  He looks up at me and then back to his carcass while I introduce myself to him and to the lady sitting next to him. I notice a bag of clothes and various toy vehicles on one side and a small paper tray with chicken bones together an empty coke bottle nestled between them.

    Starting to build confidence and trust becomes possible through play and José is soon running around laughing and engaging in a silly game that offers the opportunity to talk with the lady and discover a little more.  It turns out that the lady is his mum, but that she does not have legal custody of the boy any more.  It is also evident that she is suffering from some form of mental illness and just talks away to herself about things that make no sense at all.

    The boy is obviously at risk and, as Max points out, is often found sleeping in the gutter day and night.  Looking at this tiny boy reminds me of the early days when I worked with so many young children on the streets.  Thankfully those days are over as there are no young children living on the streets here and have not been for the last few years.  However, José does look out of place and time.

    Because this is my first visit there is little I can do for now and plan to return with the street team to investigate more and explore options for José.  Walking away is always the hardest bit and always leads to a massive guilt trip.  My world is so different to that of José and I am sure that as the trust develops, we can do something very practical to help and see him living in a much better place.

    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  He first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and he was awarded an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.

  • Sunday 20th September 2020

    Today I want to tell about three of the boys I have been working recently.  Three boys from very different backgrounds, but three boys whose lives will illustrate where so many of our kids are at.  It is not always appropriate to share on social media the type of work we do; due to the sensitive nature of the situations we work with every week. But this blog might help you understand our day-to-day work and the situations we are pleased to help with thanks to your support.

    Boy number one is Jeffery, who is 12 and lives with his grandmother, auntie and subsequent cousins and their husbands and children.  The little house is dark, due to daylight peeking through the door or a rear window.  It is also crammed with each smaller family unit trying to guard their area which means tensions often rise and very quickly can lead to the most heated arguments.

    I had just got in from a long day of mentoring and was ready to sit back and enjoy my dinner when the phone rings.  On answering it I hear a child crying and quickly determine that Jeffery is calling me from the phone box at the corner of his road.  I recognise the last three digits on the number and hear him crying, while trying to ask for my help.  His 25cents are now coming to an end and he becomes anxious as the call is about to be cut off.

    Guatemala still has daily 9pm curfews and so if I leave right now, I won´t have much time to get there and back before time runs out.  I leave and sure enough, Jeffery is sitting at the base of the phone box with his head in his hands, still crying but gets up when he sees my little jeep approaching.  To begin with all he can do is cry and needs a hug and I allow him time to calm down so he can tell me what is going on.

    The story comes out of more emotional and physical abuse and now he wants to run away and never come back.  He has a disturbing history of abuse and neglect and trusts me to always come and rescue him when things get bad.  This time, seeing the blood pouring out of his nose and swollen elbow and cuts on his arms I have to make another official report and complaint.  This leads to me offering his grandmother two options.  She can either come with me now to the court or not come and allow me to take my report directly to the court.  She realises that it would be better for her to be engaged in the process and so we head to the all-night children´s court.

    Despite years of trying to help the government coordinate efforts to help support children through a very draconian legal system, where the best interests of the child are not always predominant, I get frustrated by the process every time I am here in court.  A long night starts with us having to firstly explain to the guard on the gate what had happened, then to the receptionist, then to the Public Ministry, then to Social Services, then to a nurse, then to one other agency and then to a judge. The sign outside the building boasts the logos of all these agencies whilst proudly announcing they are “working together for children”.

    We get home at 2.30am, thanks to a special letter from the judge allowing us to travel after curfew.  It is a quiet time, the only people on the road are police cars and lorries that are delivering essential supplies.  Jeffery and his grandmother are now at the beginning of a long legal process that I hope will help keep him safe.

    The next day is an office day, but this is cancelled due to another phone call about a 15-year-old boy who has run away from home.  Another troubled boy and another situation of abuse.  Every child I have ever met on the streets, and the reason they say why they feel safer living on the streets than at home, is due to abuse.

    Marlon is a boy I have worked with since he was about 6.  I first found him while he was working on the rubbish dump and living in conditions of real poverty.  It was always a struggle for me to see the food he would rescue from the dump every day that would become his dinner that evening.

    Now Marlon was missing and the stories from his mum about why he left home were all very worrying.  Since Marlon is in my contact list and I know he has a mobile phone, I send him a message.  He responds straight away and tells me he is safe and we agree to meet the following day.

    I find out that Marlon is living with a local charity that we partner with and so it is easy to offer to visit and when I arrive, I get a big hug and a smile.  We decide to go for a walk, as it´s now dark and the roads are much quieter now.  For the next two hours he pours out his heart and does not stop crying and sniffing the whole time.  He is clearly very wounded by the way his mum and older brother treated him together with the things his mum said out of anger and frustration.

    The walk is a release for Marlon, who feels much better when we get back to the charity, only minutes before curfew, giving me enough time to get back into the Protection Home on the chime of 9pm.  There is much to follow up and a subsequent meeting with the charity, then his mum, then the authorities leads to an agreement that Marlon can now live a semi-independent life as long as we and our friends in the partner charity offer him support and a study and work structure.

    Tomorrow is going to be a better day as I have mentoring again and so, when home, relax into a deep sleep and prepare myself for a special time with one of the boys I mentor and his family.  Due to COVID most of the mentoring I now do is with the mentored boy and his whole family.  This new family mentoring is going well and it is exciting to see how engaged everyone gets in the games, discussions and various activities.

    On arriving at the family the following day, I am welcomed in and given a drink of water and get hugs and smiles as the boy I am visiting and his sisters are looking with great anticipation at a large plastic box I have with me.  The box is full of scissors and colouring pencils for an activity based on the theme of “blessed are the poor”.

    No sooner than I sit down, the mum is called for by a lady in the street and then returns to tell us that Luis is missing.  Over the last three weeks the family have invited 8-year-old Luis into their tin house in order to “keep him safe” as well as participate in the activities.  On week two Luis runs in and gives me a massive hug and just wants to be held while he looks up at my face and smiles.  He is clearly a needy boy and there is a much bigger story here than I have time to explain in this blog.

    luis missingToday, however, Luis is missing.  He left at 7am to collect 70p from his aunties friend and it´s now nearly 11am and he has not been seen since.  We leave behind the activity and head off to look for him.  The park, as the kids call it, is nearby and we are asked to look there first.  It´s not a park as you would think and access to it us through a hole in a concrete wall.  It is a plot of derelict land that is a play area for neighbourhood kids who share this overgrown wilderness with dog walkers, the local gang, drug dealers and all manner of people.

    Luis is nowhere to be seen and so our search then continues in the jeep as we drive around to areas the kids think that Luis has been before.  His auntie, who he lives with, is encouraged to put out an alert with the police and this could bring in search reinforcements, but I doubt that anyone will do anything with the report till the following day.

    Knowing very little of Luis means that I can´t guess where he would be, apart from the types of places an 8-year-old would go and hide.  He is vulnerable and could quickly become a target for anyone wishing to take advantage of his sweet nature.  Two hours later we have no sightings of him and so print off posters with his photo and begin to post these around the area, whilst talking to taxi drivers, police and shopkeepers.

    Late in the afternoon Luis is found and comes back home to, what I can only assume, a huge lecture and maybe more beatings that probably motivated him to take off in the first place.  He is another troubled boy who could easily follow in the footsteps of so many and end up on the streets.  Fortunately, we have a good network and a programme in place to help him, his family and for concerned others who look out for him.  I am sure that when Frank, the coordinator of the mentoring programme, visits him next week, Luis will be able to join the mentoring programme and get the support he needs to stay safe.

    All this is possible thanks to your regular support.  It is not often I mention money here, but when you do donate please know that it is used well to help really vulnerable kids.  Thank you.

    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  He first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and he was awarded an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.

  • Saturday 10th October 2020

    Life has been busy of late, mainly trying to focus our energies now on the building site that is the ground floor (first floor for those in the US) of the Protection Home.  The downstairs area will become our new mentoring centre, with a focus on music and art therapy.

    The Municipal government have shown a keen interest in helping us transform the mess that is the garden at the rear of the property into a demonstration area of vertical planting.  The idea here is to create various gardens that any of our high-risk families could grow in a small space.  The vertical planting will mean they can take advantage of the space and sunshine and start to grow small amounts of fruit and vegetables to help the family and encourage a healthier lifestyle and diet.

    The volunteers will start to clear the area of bricks and old tree stumps and then begin to prepare the area for the New Year when we hope to start planting.

    While this is going on I am out 3-4 days a week visiting the homes of the boys I mentor and developing the new family mentoring programme.  Born out of early experiences after lockdown in Guatemala and while visiting the boys in their homes, I discovered that the whole family would often gather around me and ask me to share with them what I had prepared for my mentoring session with the boys.  Very special moments have been created.

    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  He first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and he was awarded an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.

  • Monday 26th October 2020

    This week Joe Soden is visiting us here in Guatemala.  Joe is one of the three trustees of the charity and hasn´t been out to see us for quite a long time due to the Covid restrictions.

    It does help us having outside eyes to the work and Joe brings a special something along to the visit by spending time sharing with the SKDGuatemala team.  Her time with us is blessed indeed and we make plans for the Radio Christmas project and the coming year.

    One of the invitations Joe receives during her visit is to join me, Benjamin and Alex to celebrate Damaris´s 15thbirthday.  Turning 15 in Guatemala is an important event for a girl as it marks the transition from being a girl to a woman.  There is no such an event for boys, but today is a very special moment for Damaris and I am so proud of the young woman she is becoming.

    Damaris has been though things that would tip most people over the edge.  She is a survivor and is keen to use these experiences to help other girls who may be going through similar things.  Sadly, Damaris is not her normally bubbly self and seems down despite the way her mum has decorated their room and prepared food and invited friends and neighbours to celebrate with her.  Her sadness comes from the words “dad is drunk again” and then I glance around the room and her brothers and sisters are also affected by how their father has slipped back again in alcohol abuse.

    It is important for us to be present at the happiest and saddest times of life for the families we work with.  Being present does not mean you have answers or solutions, but it does mean you are there and that means a lot.  At least Damaris knows of our commitment to her and can guarantee we will never let her down.

    Later in the week we are enjoying the easing of restrictions and have invited a few of the team over for lunch.  It seems a long time since we had some of the team in one place and Marcos is keen to help with the cooking. has been working part-time with us for a while now and I am very pleased with his progress as a cleaner at the Protection Home.  I have known Marcos since he was a young boy and was working very long hours on the rubbish dump in La Terminal.  We worked with him, his mum and brother to help them during the toughest moments in their lives, which seemed to be every week.

    Marcos is keen to be a chef one day and he will soon be 16.  He is working hard to gain his school grades and is now living with a family around the corner from our home and so needed a part-time job to support himself.

    When lunch concluded Marcos helped clear away and made sure no one wanted any more of the food we had cooked.  He then carefully packed the leftovers into small food trays and asked if he could give it away.  He then walked to the main road a few blocks away and invited a small group of people who were begging at the traffic lights.  Marcos knows what it’s like to live with hunger and now he is keen to help people who suffer as he did.  It was a special moment in a very hard year.

    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  He first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and he was awarded an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.

  • Friday 6th November 2020

    We are working hard now to get the new radio studio ready for Radio Christmas.  Despite 90% of the ground floor of the Protection Home still looking very much like an abandoned building, we are keen to at least get one room ready for use as we need it to help run the Radio Christmas project in December.

    Steve Poulson has driven up from Honduras to help.  This is the first time Steve has been allowed, due to the Covid restrictions, to leave his home for more than a couple of hours since March and now to leave the country and visit Guatemala.

    With his help we manage to get most things connected and working and Moses comes over for the day to help me make the sound boards we will hang in the radio studio.

    Having Moses with me keeps him safe for a day and gives me some much-needed support in some of the practical jobs I have to complete this week.  Moses has been through a tough time recently and we had expected that the authorities would take him into protective custody and place him in a children´s home.

    Moses is now 13 and is growing fast.  He proudly shows me new hairs and describes himself as a man now, not a boy.  He has been with me in mentoring since he was 6 years of age, soon after his mum died.  We have been through some stuff over the years and he is like a son to me and I a dad to him.  It breaks my heart to see him go through times like these when he feels the world is against him and abusing him left right and centre.

    For today he is safe and relaxes and enjoys learning some new skills with me before we cook lunch and settle down on the sofa to watch his favourite TV programme.  Another unplanned, unstructured but successful mentoring session and I feel blessed to be here and to offer the human support these kids need.

    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  He first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and he was awarded an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.

  • Thursday 26th November 2020

    We are now gearing up for Christmas.  While the UK is going to experience a Christmas like no other, Guatemala has been in the throes of the festive season since early October.  This week I have my last mentoring sessions with the boys I mentor and then focus 24/7 on the Radio Christmas project.

    I am also preparing for Carlitos´ release from the children´s home later next month when he turns 18.  This time last year Carlos was living on the streets and I had spent time with him a year ago trying to do something special with him to celebrate Christmas.  It was hard to watch a 17-year-old try and walk down some steps without falling.  When we came to eat, he could not eat or drink without shaking so much he would spill it all over the table and floor.  He was a mess.

    Now, however, his life has turned around.  Thanks to the dedication of a great team at the government children´s home - the only one we know of that treat the kids well – Carlos is able to thrive and is now committed to leaving this painful part of his past firmly behind him, while we explore options for where he will live and what he will do afterwards.

    Carlos´s brother, Danny, is now at the home and has been struggling again with many aspects of being locked up.  He knows that he will be in the home for another 4 years, until he reaches 18.  We are unable to just pop in and visit as before, but hopeful that the New Year will see restrictions eased even further and this will enable us to visit him more regularly.  For the moment I am limited to a weekly Zoom chat with him.

    I decide it would be easier and more fun to invite all the boys I mentor over for a Christmas celebration and to allow them the opportunity to participate in a rap battle.  Four of the boys are keen rappers now and I wanted them to meet online with Brayan, a boy we helped rescue off the streets 17 years ago in Honduras and who is now a well-known rapper there.

    The time together is just so good.  The boys are enjoying being together and some help decorate the Christmas tree while others help Alex cook the Christmas meal.  I love seeing them so happy and it is all over so quick that they think I have robbed them of time.  A quick look at the clock reminds them it’s time to go, but they all have enjoyed something that I hope will stick with them for many years to come and help them create special moments like this for their own families one day.

    Janie Awesome

    Duncan Dyason is the founder and Director of Street Kids Direct.  He first started working with street children in 1992 when he moved to Guatemala City and founded The Toybox Charity.  His work has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen and he was awarded an MBE the year he celebrated working over 25 years to reduce the large population of children on the streets from 5,000 to zero.  Duncan continues to live and work in Guatemala City.





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