• Thursday 31st December 2020


    Radio Christmas is now over and the exhaustion that we have all felt is greatly reduced, meaning that I now sleep for more than 5 hours a night!  I am thankful to all those who helped make the project such a great success, despite the unexpected national lockdown in the UK that meant Oli and the team had to close and pack up the Amersham studio just over a week before Christmas.

    Alex Denton and I have been mainly cooking massive Christmas roast lunches everyday over the last week and inviting the families of the boys I mentor to come and experience a British Christmas and say goodbye to Alex, who leaves us now for the UK.  His year with us during 2020 has been incredible and I will miss him being just up the corridor and available to help 24/7.  We wish him well as he returns to work with EDF in January.

    One of the things I am doing this week is caring for Carlos.  Carlos completed his time in the children´s home and is now 18.  I wasn´t that keen on him coming to stay between Christmas and New Year as I knew it would be my only break this year.  However, it has been a tremendous blessing having him, praying with him every morning and seeing the massive change in heart and attitude as he will soon move on to become a volunteer worker with the Mano de Dios project near Antigua, an hour away from the city.  

    Carlos will be working with a small rural community and helping children with their homework and running afternoon clubs for them.  I am very proud of his decision to join Sergio, another boy who we rescued from the streets many years ago, and work in this poor community.

    For those who have not yet chance to watch all the videos we produced for Radio Christmas, may I encourage you to check them out on our YouTube channel, especially the video where a little girl gets to see properly for the first time. It is very emotional and does demonstrate well the impact that a donation can make in the life of an at-risk child.  

    HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone and THANK YOU for your support during 2020.


     
    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 15th January 2021


    The New Year has kicked off with renewed activity in the new mentoring centre in Guatemala City, where I am soon live.  Thanks to the generous support from Darold and Pam Opp we have been able to move forwards the fitting out of the kitchen and coffee shop and order the appliances and various fittings.  This will be an exciting project and will offer a great training facility to the young people, as well as cater for many of families we support in times of disaster or great need.

    My work over the past week and the next few weeks has been mainly practical, something I enjoy immensely.  One day the doorbell rang and when I went to see who was there, I found Fredy at the door.  Fredy is now 19 and is still in the mentoring programme with me.

    15.1.21.3He looked sheepish and so I invited him in to discover why he was visiting.  Eventually after a cup of tea and some encouragement he explained that he had seen how hard I was working in the new mentoring centre and wanted to come and offer his help.  It was a very kind offer and I knew he meant it.  I have had offers from other boys, but I could tell they enjoyed the idea of being in the centre with all the new technology more than helping, and so very little is achieved.  Fredy, however, was on another level and is a hard worker and very responsible.  So, we set to work and have managed to get a good deal done with one week of work.

    On the Saturday I took the “aventureros” boys I mentor with me to visit the Go Guatemala project.  Based in one of the most notorious zones of Guatemala City, the Go Guatemala project reaches high-risk children in the most violent areas and offers them a day of fun activities, games, teaching, homework support and two great meals – breakfast and lunch.

    I hadn´t been to see the project since last year and when I did it was closed due to Covid and so now this was so encouraging seeing the place full of children enjoying themselves and being free to play again.  The boys helped me serve breakfast and welcome the children.  It turned out that an expected donation of chicken had not materialised and so the team were trying to figure out what to feed the children for lunch.  Feeding 120 kids plus volunteers is not an easy task.

    As time passed it was clear they were going to struggle and so I took the decision to take two of the boys with me and head to the supermarket and buy the chicken they needed. We return to Go Guatemala with three large bags of chicken, enough to feed all the children and hopefully the volunteers also, and all for under £20!  I am always amazed at what little you need to make a difference.

    The project has great plans for this year and we have made a commitment to help support by paying the rent on the building for the year, paying for the internet connection for the year, so the children can access homework and download what they need for their studies.  We are also going to help raise funds for various physical needs, like the building of two more toilets for the children.  Your support really does impact lives and we are making sure it reaches those most in need.  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 6th February 2021


    It will soon be a year since we started lockdown and 11 months on, we are now able to make some travel plans and so I took the decision to fly down to Honduras to see Steve and Lindsey and the Proyecto Alas ministry there.  I had wanted to drive down, a much cheaper albeit more hazardous option, but the borders were temporarily closed when thousands of Hondurans sought to march through to the US border.  Their arrival was met with force this time and so I thought it best to avoid that conflict and fly.

    Being with Steve and new girlfriend (soon to be fiancé) was very special as it gave us chance to talk through what had happened over the past year and how Steve had coped with lockdown.  Honduras had implemented strict lockdown procedures that impacted the lives of all those living there to a great degree.

    The Proyecto Alas programme is like an Oasis in the desert, a refuge and safe and fun place for at-risk children and young people in the town of Talanga, about an hour away from the capital.  Steve was instrumental with Lorena in setting up the project and so speaks very fondly of the work and goes on to explain the struggles the team have had in trying to help the children.  Up until recently no child under the age of 14 was allowed to leave their home, and in a country like Honduras this can be disastrous for many children and can greatly exacerbate their struggle to survive.

    Now, however, the project was open and was offering the educational framework and support the children need.  The kids were excited to be able to leave their homes, play once again in the park opposite the project and be with people who they know care for them and want the best for them.  Kids always do best when they know they are loved and Alas certainly does this very well.

    I spent time with the kids and then with the team to listen to their views on the crisis and what could be done this year to help the children.  Street Kids Direct are keen to continue our support of this project as they work hard with a small team of dedicated volunteers to keep these kids off the streets.

    6.2.21.3Arriving back home in Guatemala was exciting as all the children we mentor in the SKDGuatemala project were now back in school – our school!  We took the decision after hearing that the Guatemalan school system would be closed again this year, but children could access education online.  Most of the children we work with can´t do online as access to the internet requires a smart phone or computer.  We didn´t want any of them to miss out on a year of education as so many were heading that way last year.  Thanks to the very hard work from Paula and her team we managed to get a 97% success rate in the children gaining their school year last year.

    This year we will be homeschooling 45 children in the SKDGuatemala project, another 100 in the Door of Hope project and helping the 120 children at the Go Guatemala project.  The 45 children that I work most closely with are being educated in both the mentoring centre and the protection home.  The boys are brought to the home each weekday in small groups and the girls are invited to study at the existing mentoring centre.  Hearing children in the home after nearly a year is a very pleasant sound and thanks to Global Care and Rotary USA this homeschool project is possible throughout 2021.  So many lives are going to be impacted this year and we are greatly encouraged.


     
    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 26th February 2021


    Fridays are busy days and when Moses finishes school in the protection home at 12:30pm he starts his mentoring session with me.  Every week is different and sometimes we stay in the home and sometimes we go out to various places.  My plans for today were changed the instant Moses walks in and tells me he is traumatised.  I could see by his demeanor and the way he said the phrase that something serious had happened.

    I invite him to walk with me to the local park and allow him time to tell me what had happened. After 28 years of working with children like Moses I have heard everything a person can hear and seen some of the most horrendous things that can happen to children.  Already I could feel my chest tightening and my mind preparing itself for yet another challenging story.  Walking is good for Moses as he always opens up more when walking or sitting in the front seat of the car while we drive along.

    Yesterday, Moses was doing his part-time job of unloading melons from a lorry.  The young guy he works with is very friendly and Moses tells me that he is always giving Moses small amounts of money to buy soft drinks for the workers.  Moses had walked across the road to get a few cans of coke and as he was walking back a man walked up to his friend and shot him in the head four times.

    Moses went into great detail what he saw and how his friend fell to the ground but continued to breath heavily for a while before he died in the street.  I had to hear the same story about 8 times and each time a different aspect of the same story emerged and each time Moses felt it was easier to talk about what had happened.  The death of his friend at the hands of one of the contract killers (the angels) in La Terminal left him with many questions as well as what would happen to his friend´s girlfriend and two children.  He was only 23 and Moses suspects he was killed for stealing in La Terminal or doing something that the angels, and those who fund them, would not approve of.

    We take a slow walk back and Moses sits on the sofa and falls quickly into a deep sleep on the sofa and so I sit with him in case he wakes up and needs someone nearby.  He twitched now and again and when he woke up he wanted to be taken home so he could sleep in his bed.  Life, once again, had hit him hard and I wonder how this will affect him in the coming days and weeks.

    26.2.21.3Sometimes events like these put you on hold and you forget that all around you others are also working hard to help kids and so I remind myself that I do need to be available for them also.  One of the SKDGuatemala team is Amersham volunteer Benjamin Soden.  Benjamin is now working full-time in Guatemala as a volunteer street worker and passionately reaches out every day on the streets to those young adults still on the streets and to children and young people at risk of taking that step to street life.

    This week Benjamin travelled with Juan Carlos (JC) to the north-west of Guatemala, near to the boarder with Mexico.  Here we were able to place two young children who were rescued from the streets a few years ago and who are now enjoying living with their grandmother and her family in the countryside.  They are safe and well and will be studying at school in some form later this month.  Benjamin and JC were able to buy them the basic things they needed for studying and donate some food supplies.  Given that they will have to go to the school once a month to get copies of their work and then hand-in homework, new school shoes were also needed.  Another great job done by the street team and more kids kept safe 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.

     
  • Sunday 7th March 2021


    I am looking forward to mentoring today as I have a great session planned for the three boys from Santa Faz about resilience.  I will have to pass on the bad news that I have made a decision to head back to the UK this coming week to get my Covid vaccination, something I had thought would happen the other side of Easter.

    Driving through the narrow streets that take me to the football field in Santa Faz, the meeting place for when I take the boys away for mentoring, makes me aware of the recent killings there.  I want to take the boys away to a great place for a few hours and park by the football field and stand by my car and wait for them to arrive.

    It´s not long before the three boys arrive and immediately, I can sense that not all is well.  Little Jonathan climbs into the back after being sprayed and given hand gel, while the other Jonathan and Yoni say very little and climb into the front seat.  The atmosphere is not great and so I try my best at encouraging some discussion and put on some music, neither of which helps.  We drive in almost deadly silence to the place I have planned for today´s mentoring.

    On arrival in the parking bay of the shopping centre Yoni informs me he forgot his mask.  With all that I was thinking about I hadn´t noticed he was without a mask.  Most kids in Santa Faz now don´t wear masks or when they do, they wear them under their chin, despite the legal requirement to do so.  I am annoyed with Yoni and tell him he will have to wait in the locked car while I take the other two boys to the nearby park.  Both boys now say they want to stay in the car with Yoni.  It is turning out to be a great day!

    Eventually I coax the two Jonathan´s out of the car and we lock it and leave Yoni there under the watchful eye of the shopping centre security and to teach him a lesson.  I am not happy.

    We walk just one minute to the park and both boys ask why we are here.  I explain that the huge mound in the middle is great to roll down and the trees there are just right for climbing.  Both ask why they would do that and both are still annoyed, so I almost force them to climb with me to the top where I start the talk I had prepared on resilience that leads into talking about how God prepares great things for us each day.  Absolutely no interest or feedback and I wonder if anything I have said has gone in at all.  Feeling a bit low and still not happy with the three boys I suggest we go and buy some food to take and eat with Yoni.  They shrug their shoulders and walk back with me.

    7.3.20.3As we enter the food court area, I begin to look around to see what I can buy them for lunch for around £5.  The options are few but as we walk past the pizza stall the lady there beckons me over and overs me a box of free pizza.  “Really?”, I ask in absolute astonishment as this does not ever happen in Guatemala.  We take the box and walk past the ice cream stall where both boys now start to talk and tell me they would like an ice cream.  The last thing I am doing is buying two stroppy boys ice cream!  As we walk past the lady on the stall looks at us and gives the boys an ice cream each.

    I am not happy, but I say to the boys: “you see, God does want to give us good things everyday”, while inside saying “really God!”.  I wanted them to learn one lesson but it seems God has other plans today.

    We return to the car and Yoni gets out and tells us he has found a mask and had the best sleep ever.  The two boys with me are excited to share the food with Yoni who asks them what they did.  Both become very animated as they talk about going to the park and how great the park is to climb trees and roll down the bank of a large mound in the middle.  This does not help how I feeling as I could see at the time they were trying their hardest not to enjoy themselves.

    Now Yoni has a mask the boys ask if they can go back to the park and take Yoni and so we head back so they can roll down the mound and climb trees.  When Yoni asks then what I had talked about both Jonathans explain in great detail the talk I had given and assumed they were not listening to.  I submit to God and his plans as mine are not in His league at all.  To make me feel even worse when they get in the car for the journey back to their little shacks they ask if they can borrow my phone to put on a “pista”, a backing track for them to rap and begin to rap away and leave me both emotional and speechless as they sing something along the lines of what a great mentor I am.

    The day is rescued and all return home happy and full of life while I return home a lot humbler than I was at the beginning of the 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.

     
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the world hard this year, throwing new challenges at countries and exacerbating old ones even further. It has also given countries, organisations and individuals an opportunity to reflect on these challenges and seek solutions going forward. For us at SKD, it has highlighted the value and importance of our Mentoring Programme.

     

    One of the greatest challenges over the past year world-wide has been the closure of schools for several months. Thanks to the availability of technology, for most of those in the Global North such as the US and UK, this meant a shift towards online-learning fairly rapidly. In the Global South however this transition largely did not occur, with many countries closing schools in line with lockdown measures but with the provision of little or no alternatives in its place. The impact on education has been great, and it has given rise to many children falling behind or out of school completely. 

     

    This picture is true in Guatemala. As the pandemic continues to take its toll on Latin America, the impact on children and schooling has been widely felt. Guatemala and Honduras already have the lowest average number of schooling years in Latin America. A child in Guatemala completes only 6.3years of school in their lifetime, compared to the UK where we complete on average 14. With the COVID-19 pandemic school closures, the average number of school years a child in Guatemala completes is expected to drop by a further 1.3years. This would mean that the majority of children who enrol in primary school will not make it to secondary.

     

    For girls, the statistics are even lower. In education only 4 out of 10 children in school are girls, and only 5.7% of girls who start school in Guatemala go on to progress to university (2014-17). When this is coupled with the prevalence of physical and sexual violence at home, the risks that face girls and youth are increasing due to the pandemic and the closure of schools. Every 107 minutes, a girl faces sexual or physical violence, often by their parents, and school is usually the only brief opportunity of escape for them.

     

    But here at Street Kids Direct we believe that there is always hope, and that every child has potential and deserves the opportunity to flourish. It is this motivation that is behind the development of our Mentoring Programme and the belief that it has the opportunity to change lives forever. We have seen many girls’ lives transformed by having a weekly place of respite and safety, and the pandemic has brought into sharp focus the need for such a programme. We currently have 42 children in the SKDGuatemala Mentoring Programme, with 18 of those being girls.

     

    By providing at least one hour of mentoring a week, a mentor is able to provide a child with support in their education, their social lives and also their general well being. By having an adult in their life that is reliable and supportive, with no pressures of life's responsibilities, the girls are given the chance to explore what they love, have fun, and make dreams for their future.17 of our girls are also enrolled in education and have been able to continue studying in the past year.el centro 56

     

    We are so encouraged by this and given that extra confidence that Mentoring is a truly effective way of supporting both girls and boys in their education and lives. In 2019, only 73% of children enrolled in school in Guatemala achieved a pass and moved up to the next grade. In contrast, of those in our mentoring programme in both Honduras and Guatemala, 100% of children passed. In their latest exam results, the average mark of our children was 98%, far surpassing the national pass rate in Guatemala and an incredible achievement!

     

    The benefits of education not only transform a child’s future, but they also provide hope for the country too. In Guatemala, 34% of the population are youth. This means that the country is dependent on today’s youth to ensure the country's future and workforce. Despite the need for an educated youth, the school system is largely ill-equipped to provide such opportunities in Guatemala. We are therefore hopeful that although our contribution may be small in comparison, we are transforming lives that will long impact children, families and the country now and in the future.

     

    Thank you for your generous support. The funding that we provide to our partner projects means that we can support the adoption of programmes such as mentoring and transform the lives of street-children and at-risk children and youths. 

    Written by: Emily Williams; UK Volunteer: Projects and Communications Officer. 
    If you would like to hear more about the information that has been discussed above, you can email Emily at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and she would be happy to chat!

  • Sunday 2nd May 2021


    I was so proud of Nicolas and told him so when I managed to get in touch with him by phone and he laughed when I said we would be smoothing him with hugs and kisses when we saw him.

    The following day Nicolas came to the Protection Home for his school lessons and while he passed on the kisses, he did accept a ton of hugs and I could see he felt elated.  Nicolas had just achieved a 98% average pass rate in all his subjects and he was on top of the world.

    In July last year I had to have a difficult and serious discussion with him about his failing school grades in the national school system.  At that time there was still the feeling that school studies were not worth anything as COVID was very much a daily threat and many in his community thought the world might actually come to an end.  This paradigm was fueled by many videos that were been shared in that community saying that COVID was one of the signs of the end of the world.  So, you can understand the fears and loss of hope in the future by so many.

    In November last year I had another meeting with Nicolas and it was with a heavy heart I had to play the card that says no education, no mentoring.  I know he loves the mentoring programme and has been with me since he was 10 years of age.  He is now 14 and was slipping very fast into street life again.  The shock that he would have to drop out of the mentoring programme made him sit up and take notice - literally.  He was lying on his bed and did not want to even lift his head.  But this news made him sit up and then he began to cry.

    During November and December, he committed to going to our mentoring centre every day for hours of extra school work and managed to get good pass rates for all his subjects last year in the national online school system.

    Thanks to Global Care we have been able to employ two full-time teachers in Guatemala this year to run our own homeschool programme, since all government schools and most private schools will remain closed for the rest of the year.

    Nicolas started with us in the Protection Home in January and only missed one day of school this term.  I called him to find out why he had missed school that day and he told me, eventually, that he had no clothes to wear as the clothes he wears for school had to be washed and he had nothing else respectable to wear.

    I mentioned this to a friend in the UK who sent me some money to take him out last week and buy him some new clothes.  I also wanted to take him for lunch and celebrate his school results this past term.  He told me how much he struggles with accepting praise and then I broke the news that we were heading to the shops to buy him some new clothes.  Now he could not contain the joy and a huge smile spread across his face.

    In Guatemala most kids get one new set of clothes a year.  It´s a Christmas Eve tradition and those new clothes last all year and any other clothes that have to be bought, are purchased at the Paca – secondhand clothes warehouses and shops in various locations throughout the city.

    We had fun looking through the cool and trendy clothes and eventually settled on jogging bottoms and a few t-shirts and a pair of trainers.  He was happy, very happy and I was as proud of all the positive decisions he has taken over the years, despite the very tough situation he has had to endure as a child.

    I dropped him back home in La Terminal, in Guatemala City, and opened the boot of my car to get his two bags of clothes out and huge smile on his little face was still evident.  His sister came over and I could see the smile slowly disappear from his face as he rushed into the small room where they live.  I knew he wanted to rush in and show of his new clothes, but now his joy was simply snatched away from him, no show of new clothes now, only more tears and disappointment.

    I remained outside for a while with his siter as I knew what would great me as I entered into their room.  His sister didn´t want to talk, but just held onto me and cried.

    Eventually I walked with her into the room to find the dad drunk and lying almost naked on the bed while the mum looked at me and tried to smile.  Her swollen face and red eyes told me all I needed to know and I reached out with my arm to her shoulder.  This simple act made her whole body just crumple.  She sobbed and said it was hard to keep going like this and was trying all she could to provide for the five children and wanted to make sure none of them ended up on the streets.

    Telling women that they are not to blame for domestic abuse and that they have the power to do something about it is not easy in this culture, but eventually she said she would begin to look for an alternative place for her and the children to live.  I expect, like we have done for so many, we will have to find the funds to help support the family over the coming months, if not years.  But the alternative is much worse.


     
    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.

     
  • Through this blog I’d love to share a story that has really impacted me recently. I'll also give a brief summary of activities that the street team has carried out over the last couple of months.

    I returned to Guatemala City in February after going back to the UK for Christmas. I was originally scheduled to come back to Guatemala in January, but I came down with Covid which pushed my trip back a few weeks. Thankfully I have recovered well and was able to get back smoothly via a night in Mexico City.

    Whilst I was in the UK I thought a lot about a man called Selvin, one of the young men who has lived on the streets for many years struggling with drug abuse. He was on my mind a lot because when I said goodbye to him in December, he was at death’s door due to his level of drug consumption. I have seen people in similar states before and many haven’t lived much longer, so you can imagine my concern especially because of the friendship I have made with him over the last 5 years.

    I was keen to see him when I got back and when I did it was clear to see the level of damage the drugs have had on his brain and body. So my colleague Juan Carlos and I were quick to take action. I called a rehab centre to see if they were receiving people, to which they said yes.

    We started the hour trip to the rehab outside the City. 

    The journey was rough as we had to stop several times so that he could throw up as he couldn’t keep any food or liquid down. We saw the extent of his condition as his body was rejecting even sips of water. It was hard to see someone only a year older than me at 26 trembling on the back seat in such a vulnerable state.

    When we finally made it to the rehab they quickly refused to receive him as he had been there before and left after a couple of days. In Guatemala we struggle to find good rehab facilities that offer unconditional support to people. We recognise that drug related issues can involve several relapses before someone can make that change. I want to give the people we work with as many chances as they need to overcome their addictions and transform their lives, without letting them take advantage of the help we are giving them.

    I remember in that moment pleading with the rehab as we had no other place to take him. I was simply thinking, “what do we do now?.” After going through our lists of contacts, someone gave Selvin a lifeline and recommended a rehab an hour and a half away from where we were. So we took off straight away. 

    On arrival at the new rehab we were greeted by a lovely man called Roberto. Selvin managed to get out of the car and sit on an old tyre. Roberto took one look at him and said “I remember exactly how he feels as I’m a recovered alcoholic.” I was very moved as I had never seen anyone from a rehab treat someone with such compassion. As Roberto wiped the sick and saliva off Selvin’s face only minutes after meeting him and said “this is your house now and I’m going to look after you.” This was  incredible to see as people don’t often show the people I work with on the streets love or kindness, usually they don’t even acknowledge that they exist.

    Two months on and Selvin is much happier, chubbier and appreciating being alive. We know there is still a lot of work and support ahead but we’re encouraged to see his progress. (See below image with Selvin and Juan Carlos during a visit to see Selvin at the rehab centre).

    Juan Carlos and Selvin 
    To summarise some of the other activities the street team have been up to over the last few months are the following:

    -Follow up with those who have left the streets who are living with their families or in rehab.

    -Medical support and doctor’s appointments for a pregnant lady who has been consuming drugs.

    -Continuing our visits to different groups of street people to strengthen our relationships with them.

    -Financially supporting a recovered drug addict in his new role serving within a project that support a community outside of Antigua Guatemala.

     

    Please do keep reading my blogs to stay up to date and read more stories like Selvin’s.

    I hope you have enjoyed this insight into the work the street team carries out on a daily basis. There will be many more stories to share.


    Ben Blog Profile Image

     
    Benjamin Soden is the full time Coordinator for the Street Team for SKD Guatemala. He first visited Guatemala City in 2015 and moved permanently in 2017. Benjamin has a huge passion for working on the streets with people struggling with drug addiction.

  • Saturday 15th May 2021


    It was all going really well, as we like to say here.  We had been greatly encouraged last week when further funding came through to complete another section of the new mentoring centre in Guatemala City.  We were elated and very grateful to our generous donors and to God for this provision.

    On returning home after a long but great day I was rather surprised to get a phone call from the Director of a children´s home in the city where one of the boys we had helped over many years was currently staying.  A long and painful story that ends with one of the boys we have worked with over several years being placed in a children´s home.

    It is never easy to have to recommend to the government that a child be taken into protective care, but now and again we exhaust all possibilities and have to either help the process of a child going into care or suggest that this is in the best interests of the child.  It is extremely distressing and painful for all involved.

    Thankfully the home this boy goes into is a loving Christian home and does a great job of caring for young children.  However, the home is full and the boy in question is only allowed to stay for a short time and then is placed in a government home.

    Even the judge appealed to the Director of the Christian home to accept him longer as putting him in a government home, she goes on to explain to the Director, will only lead him on a more destructive path and could also put him in danger of further abuse.

    It is sad when those who are in the system, like the judges, are aware of the dangers of placing children in government homes.  Recently the Human Rights Council inspected 13 government homes and found all to be lacking sufficient resources, food and adequate care for children.

    With 4,215 children in children´s homes, at the last count, and only 151 of those are eligible for adoption, the system groans under the number of new children needing to be protected every week.  This places a huge burden on the state and on private homes to provide a secure and caring environment for thousands of children.  Sadly, as we have seen so many times, many children run away or disappear and all too often their stories of abuse and exploitation is indicative of a very sick society.  

    15.5.21.3I am asked to take the boy in question with me to court, knowing that he was now having to be moved into another home and hoping that a loving home would be found for him.  As I sit patiently for hours in the waiting room (photo) and am then told that the boy has to be placed in a government home and so I take the short walk into the area where the children are held securely and pass on the news.

    The boy immediately starts to breath heavily as he knows what is coming and tears run down his cheeks.  I wish I could take him home and care for him myself, but as I try and comfort him and assure him I will do all I can to help, the minibus comes and takes him away.  He is clearly showing signs of great distress and he must be feeling so lost, unloved and unwanted.

    My day is coming to an end, but I can´t sleep or think of anything else apart from how he is and how he is being treated.  We can only use our contacts and pressure to let the home know we are watching and that we expect he will be cared for and kept safe.  The impact of this work changes you and you can´t help but take all this on board as something personal as they are real children in real need.

    While our team work on solutions and I meet the Director of the home online to plead our case to see him regularly, I have to take a trip down to Honduras with two boys we have helped over the years and trust that on my return I can visit him to see how he is doing and explore more options of caring for him.

    On my 12-hour drive down to Honduras, I meet the Director of the government children´s home programme online and he pleads with me to come and visit on my return so I can see the needs the homes have for all manner of things.  His big ask is to help provide internet for the home where our boy in question is currently living.  He explains that the government are not allowed to have internet services anymore because they don´t pay their bills!  I can see some interesting trips to homes coming up in the next few weeks.

    For now, my focus is on Honduras and the long-awaited trip to support Steve Poulson and see the Proyecto Alas mentoring centre in the town of Talanga.  Steve was involved in supporting a small group of Honduran Christians who wanted to reach high-risk children and keep them from street life.  The mentoring programme was the perfect fit and this was followed by the need to have a centre to attend the children and offer them the support and the care they needed.

    For once I am not traveling alone.  I have Carlitos and Fredy with me (photo above) and both are extremely excited about leaving Guatemala for the first time and seeing another country.  There are many cultural differences between the two countries, but I think that now they are 18 and 19 respectfully they can explore another country and be the first ones in their family to do this.

    Carlitos has lived a life that you would expect to find in a shocking biography of child abuse, neglect and a life as a street child.  He is now a transformed person and is so keen to tell everyone what he has been rescued from and how God has changed his life.  Fredy, on the other hand, has grown up over the last 5 years in the mentoring programme, which has helped him and his younger brother stay off the streets and make positive choices about being in school and having goals for his life.

    15.5.21.4On our arrival in Talanga both teenagers are introduced to the team and the new mentoring centre.  I have to leave them for two days to serve the children and see how they cope. We try and ensure there are some things that they have to experience that many would find uncomfortable, but they are character building and do lead to them just falling in love with the kids and understanding more about their lives.  Both tell me later that they take so much for granted in Guatemala, despite their own difficult childhoods.  They are both keen to return and Fredy can´t stop telling me about a girl he sat with for a couple of hours and who learned to write.

    I know the elated feeling you get when you help a child in this way and can´t stop talking about it.  Both are now more committed to serving others and the buzz they got from doing this will only further cement their personal dedication to the mission field and to serving children at risk.

    We return to Guatemala and reflect back on the last 4 days and then the excitement Carlitos is showing is wiped away by a phone call from his much younger brother who calls him from the children´s prison.  I have to listen in the car as we drive and can see how he loves his brother so much and is deeply affected by knowing, from personal experience, what he is going through.

    Working with high-risk children comes with its cost, both to the child and to those who with her or him.  You can never go back to being the same and I know why the vast majority of those who work in this field last about 4 years before having to get help and support themselves and move into a less stressful line of work.

    Thanks to your support we can be here and help these kids.  I can´t express too much my admiration for the team that work with me and for you who write, phone, pray and give.  You make all this possible so 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.

     
  • Monday 24th May 2021


    Today is the happiest day of my year so far and also one of the saddest!

    I need to give you some context to this story and so will take you back a couple of weeks when one of our boys was moved into the Guatemalan “care” system.  We had been expecting a move for him from living with a family member to going into a private children´s home, but circumstances led to him being placed into the government system – something even the judge was trying to discourage.

    Once in the government home we tried all we could to gain access to him to ensure his safety and wellbeing.  He had suffered enough before going into the home and so we didn´t want him to go through more pain now he was free from family violence.

    Last week, however, I managed to gain access to visit him in the government home and so set off for the centre of the city where the home is situated.  On arrival I gazed up at the 10-foot wooden doors and that looked like they were built to defend against a marauding army.  The walls were very high and the windows covered in dirt and protected by heavy iron bars.  Not the sort of place that makes you feel welcome, but rather to make you feel small and intimidated.

    I ring the doorbell and wait in the street as the two lanes of traffic thunder by.  Eventually to door opens a little and a lady asks who I am what I want.  I explain that I have an appointment with the boy and she tells me to wait there and closes the door rather quickly and then bolts and locks it.  A few minutes pass and then she opens the door again and tells me, in no uncertain terms, to step on a disinfected doormat, apply gel to my hands to fill the visitor book with my details while she checks my temperature.

    There is an inner iron gate that is securely locked and I am now taken through the gate and into the Director´s office.  The Director is in a meeting with a staff member and points to a chair in the corner.  I therefore assume that he wants me to sit there and so I comply as I want to make my visit as easy as possible so that the boy has no repercussions when I leave.

    After about 30 minutes I am joined by one of our team who heads up the education of all the high-risk children we are homeschooling this year.  We are then, after another 30-minute wait, led into a room to see the boy.  He is sitting at a table in front of a staff member who is supervising the visit.  It is clear he is extremely distressed and checks to see if the staff member is watching before replying to any of our questions.  It awkward and uncomfortable for us all.

    After some initial conversations about his week, I ask to use the toilet.  The plan works as the staff member asks the boy to take me to where the toilets are.  The short walk across the courtyard and back gives me precious moments to try and understand how he is doing.  He can´t say much and just says that he wants to get out and is praying to God to stay alive and is thinking of escaping if he has to stay there much longer.

    He is not the only boy in the home who must feel this way.  There are 25 boys here today and only three of them have visitors/family who come and see them.  The home is designed to temporarily house boys who have been rescued from abuse and the maximum stay is three months.  However, some of the boys have been there years as there are no other options for them and I expect will languish there until they are 18.

    The walk across the courtyard allows me time to evaluate, to some degree, the state of the place.  The house is built in the Spanish colonial style.  A central courtyard and then rooms all around the it for eating, cooking, sleeping and relaxing.  The boy tells me that there is not much of any of those things and points me to a small door where the toilet is situated.  The floor is wet and has wet underwear piled up next to the toilet.  There is no sink or soap, rather a communal sink for washing.  I try and dip a small bowl into the murky water and hope that I will find cleaner water below.  No such luck.

    I have to almost crawl back out under three heavy ladened washing lines.  With little actual sunlight available here it is doubtful any of these items of clothing will actually dry.  We walk back across the courtyard where several boys are lying on the ground, two playfighting and one boy trying to communicate a need he has.  No one understands him or his hand gestures and so ignores his pleas for help.  He walks around hitting the concrete pillars and then walks back and forth while bobbing his head up and down.  It is all rather distressing to be honest.

    We sit back down and the conversation can´t be deep or meaningful with a staff member intervening when the boy tells us about the home and the food.  He asks me how long he will be in the home and I can´t give him an answer as we are stuck in the system and are trying all our contacts to find him a great children´s home.  He starts to cry and says he can´t live like this for much longer and pleads with me to help.

    Saying goodbye is hard, so hard that I find it difficult to contain my feelings when we eventually are allowed to leave and return to the sunshine in the street.  I return to my room in the new mentoring centre and retreat into a time of quiet and solemnity.  Some days are just so hard you would not believe it.  This work is not for everyone, but I am glad that we have a team of people now looking for solutions.

    Today, the solution came and I was just thrilled to get the call from an amazing, loving, Christian children´s home on the outskirts of the city.  They would take the boy and had already filed the papers with the court and were waiting for the judge to approve his release and new home.  The waiting was nerve-racking and then eventually I was given the green light to go and collect him from the home and drive him to the new home.

    The boy knew nothing of this and when he was told he would be moving into a new home he thought the worse until he walked past the office in the home and saw me.  He packed his few things and gave me the biggest hug ever.  I whispered to him that he would be safe now and the smile that came on his little face never left the rest of the day.

    The new home had sent their social worker to help with the paperwork and ensure his release into our care.  She now takes the lead and we follow in my car.  The journey will take about 45 minutes and so the boy sits close to me and starts to tell me how happy he is and asks me about the home he is going to.  It´s all good news as this is one of the very best homes he could ever go into.  I am so pleased for him as I know he will thrive there and he keeps commenting on being free and seeing the sun.

    I am finding it hard no to burst into tears the whole journey.  Not that crying is bad, but I fear I will lose it and not be able to follow the car leading me to the home.  There will be time for tears later I tell myself.

    The boy tells me how he survived for 20 days in the home.  He was clearly distressed the whole time and was extremely ill for three days due to food poisoning.  The staff said he would have to wait till the weekend was over to go and see a doctor.  His description of the food was enough to put me off eating for the rest of the day.  He explains the rules of survival in the boy´s home and how boys had taken out the small blades from the pencil sharpeners and carry them around for their own safety.  He had no pencil sharpener and so managed to borrow a blade to form a sharp point on his toothbrush, which he could then take to bed with him.  He tells me that he wanted to stay alive and asked God to keep him alive till we came to rescue him.

    On arrival at his new home, we are greeted by 5 staff members who come and surround the boy and tell him this is his new home and that he is most welcome.  We are taken on a tour and some of the younger boys come and say hi while others are clearly having fun playing on trampolines, slides and kicking around a football.  It is just like a real home and the staff are loving, affectionate and caring about the boy´s overwhelming sense of new freedom.

    I have to walk the staff through a short history of the boy and two are in tears by the end.  They promise to offer him the best care he could ever have.  From the years of knowing the home and its excellent reputation I know he will be very happy there.  More than happy in fact.

    The drive back home is filled with real joy until my mind goes back to the 24 boys still in the previous home.  There must be more we can do I wonder. For now, one is safe and loved and will have to get used to being around people who won´t beat him, won´t shout at him and won´t put him in places of risk. I know that if we hadn´t of intervened early on in his life he would certainly be on the streets or in the children´s prison or worse by now. 

    I am thankful, happy and can just imagine what his day will be like tomorrow.  He will certainly be excited to have the freedom to walk into the spacious grounds and enjoy the sun again.


     
    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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