• 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.

     
  • 14th May 2021


    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.

     
  • Monday 21st June 2021


    HOW IT ALL BEGINS!  It is simple, as a good friend said to me many months ago, it´s either school or streets! Mark Balfour, a missionary volunteer with Street Kids Direct here in Guatemala, was reflecting over the situation we faced to either leave the kids who are in the mentoring programme in the national school system or to homeschool them all.  We decided on the later, thanks to Global Care and Rotary USA, and have seen the massive impact this has made on their lives.

    There are many children in Guatemala, however, that are struggling to keep up in government-run schools because they have limited access the online education system.  The World Bank has highlighted the fact that school closures in Guatemala have had a negative impact on 87% of all children with an alarming 106,000 children dropping out of the school system last year alone.

    When children don´t go to school this translates into a series of compounding consequences that include fewer educational opportunities later in life, worsening health, early sexual relationships and pregnancy, recruitment into gangs and an increase in child labour, to name a few.  In order to keep more kids away from the temptation of street life, we need to invest in education and this comes from someone who struggled so much in the comprehensive school programme in the UK during the 1970s.  I know from personal experience the impact that not having access to and support in the education system can have.

    On Sunday I was with a group of children in a slum area we work in Guatemala City and sat watching 8 children trying to do their homework.  Like many high-risk children, these young students have struggled to access their online schoolwork, but are determined not to fall behind and press on despite the frustrations of having to share one phone between two families that has only two hours of internet access.

    I sit and watch for a while and admire their perseverance.  The home is a tin shack, large in comparison to many others nearby that all cling to the side of the mountain in what was land-grabs many years ago.  Most don´t have papers for their land, but still the electric company has been able to connect many to the grid.  Well, for those who can afford it.

    The home is always welcoming and the family always excited by my visit.  I often think about how hard it is for them all to just exist, let alone get ahead in life.  The dirt floor becomes a home to the various bugs and dirt mites and the fumes that fill the place from the cooking stove make for a few hours of scratching and coughing.

    I am asked to help with the youngest boy who almost dropped out of school last year and has now lost all interest in schoolwork as it “is too hard for me and no one explains anything”.  All he has to do is to copy out four pages of handwriting, but his concentration is low and so I have to turn the whole experience into a game and challenge to see if he can do better than me.  The challenge is accepted and all four pages are completed in half an hour.

    The 12-year-old boy asks if he can talk with me outside and so, when homework is completed, we sit on the steps and look down into the ravine below.  I still find it hard to believe that people have made this place into homes and, as the years go by, I see them turning this into a developing slum that has views that many in richer areas would pay a lot to enjoy daily.

    21.6.21bMarcos is very affectionate and as soon as I sit down, he snuggles his head into my neck and sits quietly for a while.  I ask him who he thinks cares for him and he tells me no one.  It is easy to point out how hard his mum works and I know she loves him very much.  He smiles and then says that with me there are two people who care for him.  Marcos remains quiet again and we just sit there for a while enjoying the almost unbroken silence and then move on to talk about all that is going on in his life.

    His mum had already told me that he had voiced his frustrations with her about living in poverty and that no one loved him and talking about if life would be better if he left home and went to the streets.  When I say streets, I am sure he was not thinking of living on the streets, but rather finding work and just doing his own thing.  Many boys I work with have similar thoughts and some do actually end up on the streets and this is what we are working so hard on to prevent.

    At times, the numbers of children in similar situations or who come from abusive homes is rather alarming.  As I climb back up the 80 steps that lead back to the road at the top of the ravine, puffing away as anyone would after a steep climb, I meet a mum who asks me to help her son who is very “street connected”.  She tells me he now does his own thing, doesn´t obey her, is starting to do things that can put his life in danger and could I help him.  

    No sooner than she finishes her sentence the boy walks around the corner.  He is 7 and smaller than most his age.  He has that street look and feel about him and I can tell he is a kid who would benefit from the mentoring programme.  But how can I take on more kids at the moment?  The growth of the programme has always been held back by the lack of male mentors.  It seems extremely difficult to find men who can commit to a weekly meeting with a child.  I know I can´t just leave the child to begin that journey towards the streets when I know we can act now and make a difference.

    Next week I have to return to the UK for my second vaccine and to organise some fundraising events.  The time away will give me some emotional distance and space to think and pray and see if there is a way to help those boys.  At least, I think, we can find the money to buy a larger table and some chairs for them to study more comfortably and effectively. My gut reaction is to move there and start another mentoring centre for high-risk children, now that my work with the new mentoring centre is coming to an end.  However, for this time at least, I will be patient and see how things are when I return there in August.  Patience has never been my best quality!


     
    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.

     
  • 23rd July 2021


    One of our full time volunteers, Azaria Spencer, shares with us an experience from her work with some of our youth in Guatemala City, in the first of her blogs for our volunteer series.

    There I was stood behind a glass wall in the entrance of a carpark, staring out as the rain poured down outside. The sky was dark grey and ‘pouring’ would be a generous word to describe the type of rain coming down. It was so heavy and relentless that it had started to leak through the glass wall and was creating puddles by my feet. 

    I had made the rookie mistake of forgetting about rainy season in Guatemala. Anyone would think that I hadn’t lived here for years, though thankfully I can be forgiven as I had just returned from 6 months in England. From the moment I got back I was keen to plan something with the youth I work with. I had missed them immensely and couldn’t wait to see them and to catch up. I had invited them to eat tacos and get coffee in a nice part of the city on a lovely Saturday afternoon, completely forgetting the time of year and the high possibility of rain in the afternoon.

    I wonder if I had also forgotten that for some reason people in general don’t know what to do when it rains in Guatemala. It is like the rain starts and the world stops. Being form England, and Yorkshire at that, I am used to rain. Granted the rain in Guatemala is on a whole different and extreme level, but still, rain is just water and life goes on. Well in Guatemala it doesn’t, people literally stop what they are doing, or stay where they are until it passes. Thankfully though, it usually only lasts an hour or so.

    Anyway, my lack of thinking ahead left me stood watching the rain and waiting. The rain started just as the youth were on their way to meet me from their various locations, and of course none of us were prepared for rain. As I waited I received phone calls and messages expressing the need to wait until the rain stopped. One of them was stranded beneath a shop front, and another couldn’t continue as he was coming on a motorbike.

    Oddly, I didn’t mind at all, there was a time when a situation like this would have stressed me out or caused me to panic or feel annoyed at the delay and impact on the rest of my day. Living in Guatemala has changed me, I view time differently now and often intentionally plan ahead for activities to happen later or last longer than scheduled. With the youth I carve out plenty of extra time to allow for delay and also to not rush the time together.

     

    In that moment, come rain or shine, I would have waited all day just to see them all again. Therefore, the long and wet wait was worth it.With the youth May 2021

    I got a message from one of the youth telling me he was close to the meeting location, taking shelter under a restaurant veranda. He had run between shelters at different points when the rain was lighter. From my vantage point (I was effectively in a room made of glass), I peered out and there he was sat in a huddle on some stone steps under a poor excuse for shelter. It was easier to simply go out to him than to try and get his attention or explain where I was. So, I braved the rain and dashed across the street to him. His face lit up when he saw me and I quickly brought him into the shelter of the carpark entrance. One by one they arrived and each time I went out to greet them. It was amazing to be with them all again.

    Once everyone had arrived and the rain had let up enough, we headed to a cool little taco place I like. Tacos are very popular in Guatemala and in my experience, the best places are the cheap, less pretentious restaurants. I was pleased my choice got the approval of the youth- they are not a fussy bunch, but I can tell when they really like things or are just being polite. We were a smaller group than before, just the core really, but that made it all the more special. We sat and took our time talking and catching up, jokes were flying and they asked all kinds of questions about England and my family, curious to know what it is like in the UK. I got to hear about what they have been doing while I was gone and find out how they are, and my Spanish was less rusty than I had feared, which was great.

     

    And breath, this is what I had been missing without even realising it. While with my wonderful family in the UK, I had been missing my family here.

    We decided to enjoy the lovely evening and take a moment to walk around the area. There was hardly a trace of evidence that it had just been pouring with rain.
    The evening air was cooler than normal but pleasant, a clear sky turning to indigo as we walked and enjoyed the live music from various street performers. Talent on every corner.

    It was time to have a hot drink, to sit and talk a little while longer as no one was ready for home yet. We found a nice little artisanal café close by and the conversation focused on deeper things as we sipped our hot chocolates, coffees, and chai tea. I asked them how they really felt, what life had really been like throughout the pandemic and while I was away. It was a time for honestly and vulnerability. I won’t share the details; all I can say is that it was positive and healing and I am very proud of them all. These young people have incredibly challenging lives and trusting adults does not come easily. No one said it but I am sure they had wondered if I would even come back.

     

    A promise does not mean a lot to people who live under constant disappointment. Trust must be earned and respect gained through consistency and reliability.

    In truth I do very little to ‘help’ these young people, but what I do is, show up and keep on showing up. All in God’s strength and for the love He has placed on my heart for people here in Guatemala. Spending this time with the youth again helped ground me. The first few weeks back in Guatemala had been hard for me, a lot of transition, change and reverse culture shock (in reverse again). I was still adjusting, and they really helped. I wonder if they realise that I am more blessed by them than they by me as we attempt to share some of life together. It is a privilege to be welcomed in, even just a little bit.

     


     profile 

    Azaria Spencer is a Church Mission Society Mission Partner working as a full time volunteer with SKD Guatemala. She coordinates Centro Opp in Guatemala City with a focus on discipleship of young adults. She has has been serving in Guatemala since July 2017 and has a real passion for youth and seeing lives transformed in a holistic way. 

  • 16th September 2021
     
    Our volunteer, Rosalie Balfour, shares with us about Centro Opp, its vision and purpose, as well as the incredible story behind the building in Zone 11 of Guatemala City. 
     
    I’m currently sitting in Centro Opp, it’s early in the morning and very quiet, apart from the noise of the traffic outside. Mark and Dunc have left to go to the cemetery to try to inter the body of Doña Julia, the mother of a family, with whom Street Kids Direct (SKD) has been working for many years. They’ll meet the family and other members of the team there. I’m staying here because the situation with COVID is at the highest it’s ever been in Guatemala, and it makes no sense to have extra people there. The health system has collapsed, as apparently has the system for burying the dead. They have no appointment at the cemetery but have gone in the hope that if they turn up with a body and are prepared to wait, Doña Julia’s remains will be interred.
     
    Mark and I were here at Centro Opp a couple of weeks ago, for a very different occasion, the official opening of the centre.
    It really was a very special time. The numbers had to be limited due to current restrictions, but we were still able to have a real celebration. We had a small number of children and young people here, along with some guests, including a sponsor who had flown in from the US. There were activities happening in the music and art rooms, and I’d been asked to do some cooking in the kitchen with a small group of the youth. We had great fun and it all went according to plan apart from one little thing; the only oven which we’d figured out how to turn on was an industrial one, which has separate controls for the top and bottom of the oven, it also will heat to much higher temperatures than a domestic oven. Most ovens here are in fahrenheit, so I set it to 380 degrees, only to discover a few minutes later, as I removed some smoking charred remains of the cakes from the oven, that this oven is actually centigrade! Amazingly the kids still ate the majority of the cakes (they were completely black!) and we were able to make some others that came out very well, once the oven had eventually cooled down. I know the smell of baking is supposed to be a good thing to sell a property, but I’m not sure that the smell of smoke is quite as welcoming!
     
    When Mark and I first came to live in Guatemala, 4.5 years ago, we lived for a short time in the house here. At the time, Dunc was renting it, with a view to buying it when SKD could raise the money. It was a very different building then. It had been a very loved family home in the past, but had been empty for some time and was very run down. The rooms were dark and uncomfortable and the kitchen very basic, but we could see that it had a lot of potential.
     
    The day that the owners sold the house to SKD was a very special one.
    It was the inheritance of four siblings and they were all there to sign the papers. They’d come along with photos of the house when it was their home, growing up. There were photos of large family gatherings, and always with lots of children. It was clearly a place of love and laughter. They told us about when there had been a large earthquake in 1976 and it was the only undamaged property in the neighbourhood. Many of the neighbours had come to sleep outside in the garden as it was the only safe place around. Later, I understand, there was a clinic in the house. The family were delighted that the house was going to continue as a place of safety and refuge for children and families.
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    Over the past few years the place has continually been a building site as first the upstairs was transformed into Casa Alexis, a place of short term refuge for those who need it, and then here, downstairs into what is now Centro Opp a place for mentoring in music and arts and so much more. It has been used throughout, such as with our friend Lorena and her family living here and using it to care for the many of the kids in the project, while having to climb over large mounds of earth to get to the kitchen or bathroom.
     
    And this has all come out of a vision which Duncan had for the place. He was able to see and make happen this extraordinary place. When he would explain his plans to the team, most of us could not imagine what he had in mind; it’s only now that it’s almost finished that we can see it and understand. There’s still a lot of work to do. A gym and training room are being built in the garden area and two apartments are going to be built on the roof. It really is a very special place which has come about through a huge amount of prayer, hard work and people’s generosity. We have seen how God has been using this place and are really excited about what he’s going to do here in the coming years.
     
    Centro Opp now:
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    Rosalie profile 2
     
    Roaslie Balfour and her husband Mark are Church Mission Society (CMS) Mission Partners, working with Street Kids Direct. Their main role is to provide pastoral support for the staff of Street Kids Direct and partner projects in both Guatemala and Honduras. They aim to support and encourage others working in difficult urban ministries and build relational networks between them with Jesus at the centre. They believe that the transforming love of Jesus brings real change to every context.
     
  • Thursday 16th September, 2021


    In all the years I have been working with at-risk children and youth I continue to feel honoured by the trust thousands of children have placed in me and am always filled with joy when you earn the place in their hearts that means you can be a friend, confidant, guide, teacher and father-figure.

    Over the last few weeks I have lived the ups and downs with many of the children and have felt very proud that I can be alongside them to help guide, encourage, support and feel something of their pain or celebration.  Today I want to share with you some stories that I know will bless you and maybe some that will help you see what life is like for some here.  Despite all the world throws at these kids, they still have massive capacity to love, to learn, to grow and to trust.

    We start with Yoni, a 16-year-old boy who I have known all his life.  He lives in a tin shack that you wonder why it hasn´t been swept down the mountainside.  He has only known poverty, abuse and has been threatened numerous times to join the local gang or face the consequences.

    He was telling me recently how gang members were waiting for him outside his school (the only school open in the area) and how he fears coming out of school and having to find alternative ways home or wait in school till almost everyone has gone home and then leave and hope the gang have moved on to easier targets.

    yoni santa fazThe other week he asked me to help him plan the most “amazing birthday celebration” for his new girlfriend.  We had talked about this before and also about relationships and all the consequences of dating in the context in which he lives.  I felt very honoured to be invited into this very intimate part of his life and was given instructions of when to arrive and what to do.

    I arrive and see Yoni cleaning the ground outside his home.  It is just dirt, but with no rain for the last few days the dirt was hard and so could be swept.  I am instructed to break of some branches of a pine tree and decorate the floor with the pine leaves.  We then hang up the balloons and head of to collect his girlfriend.  Yoni seems to have this planned to the last detail as he wants to do his best for her.

    We return an hour later with a birthday cake; his girlfriend and her family.  Yoni leads his girlfriend down the mountainside making sure the blindfold he puts on her eyes hides the balloons and friends who have congregated in the back yard.  The moment comes when he takes the blindfold off, just after he puts on her favourite piece of music and then comes the great reveal.  She cries and is very happy and Yoni is also brought to tears and rewarded with a big hug from her.  Mentoring the boys as they are getting older is now a different ball game to what is used to be!

    kenedy shavingNow I introduce you to Kenedy, who is shooting up and is trying to cope with all the changes that teens go through.  Sometimes he asks about the changes and sometimes gets “great” advice from other boys. Today, though, he is asking about how he can shave and so we, together with the other three I mentor on a Saturday, head to the bathroom.  The initial idea of shaving is interesting for them all and then begin to demonstrate how to shave without cutting your chin.  The boys talk about when they think they will shave and if they want a moustache or beard.  Kenedy takes up his new razor we bought a couple of hours before and starts to have a go.  I am impressed and there is only one small cut on his chin.  He is pleased and returns a few times to the  mirror to check he still looks as cool as he did before.  Looking cool is very important!

    Christian is 12 and I was given the biggest hug I ever had from him the other week while telling me that his birthday was in 3 days’ time. The last two years I have celebrated his birthday as I found out that no one had ever done this in his first nine years of life and that despite being in the mentoring programme, he has not yet been matched with a mentor.

    christian birthdayTwo years ago, when he was 10, he asked me to take him swimming and so we headed to the pool and he learned to swim.  The memorable point in the day was not him giving me a huge hug and kiss in the pool, it was what he said after: “Duncan, when you die, I want to come to your funeral”.  It was heartfelt and does mean a lot here in this culture.  He thinks I will be encouraged by the news and so smile and thank him for being so kind and thoughtful.

    Today he is 12 and I encourage him to choose a non-pool related activity and so we head to the cinema after passing by the shops and buying him some clothes as he has very few clothes now he is not living with his mum, but being cared for by his brother and sometimes his sister, and sometimes with others who appear in his life from time to time.  For the moment he is happy, no one is beating him and no one is taking advantage of him.  It is just a boy with new clothes on, eating popcorn and laughing at a film about some adventures in the jungle.

    Last night was a pleasant experience for me and completed a day of celebrations as the country enjoyed a national holiday to remember 200 years of independence.

    Brandon, a 14-year-old boy I mentor every week, asked to join me as “extra security” for his sister and her boyfriend.  Brandon´s sister has a boyfriend and he was turning 16 and she wanted to do something special for him.  Our plan was to collect the young couple and take them to a restaurant to enjoy a meal together while Brandon, under strict instructions from his mum, was able to keep an eye on them.

    Brandon and I got ready and he was pleased to be able to wear a bowtie for the first time and I showed him photos of James Bond, which made him laugh to think he could say “the name´s Bond, Brandon Bond”.  We left for La Terminal and caused quite a stir arriving in a very clean car and stepping out in the mud to collect Damaris and Alexander.

    Once again it was an honour to be able to be asked to take them on a date (main article photo) and relieved to know that the team are working with them to help them navigate this exciting stage of life.  Growing up without support is not great to be honest, but these kids now have a good network in place for every eventuality and all this is thanks to your support.  Thank you for standing with us so we can stand with them as they grow and develop into amazing, loving, caring and positive adults.


     
    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.

     
  • Wednesday 8th September, 2021


    This week was a tough one for the team as we seemed to hit one of those regularly occurring lows when bad news comes in abundance.  

    Carlos, one of the boys we have supported, mentored, protected, loved and cared for since he was a small child, was going through a difficult time.  He had been rescued from the streets, again, and had been through rehab and was doing well serving in a project in the countryside, helping vulnerable children.  Then he had another blip and so went back into rehab.  He is now 18 and so is treated as an adult when emotionally he is so much younger.

    We got the call early yesterday that his mum had passed away and so now needed to go to rehab and pass on the news.  It was not going to be the best of moments and Benjamin Soden and I headed to the home and discussed how our fears that this news could tip him over the edge.  Benjamin had been working hard to help his mum over the last few weeks and had actually taken her into a rehab centre.  Sadly her drinking and other behaviours had left her weak and with little time left to live.

    The drive to the rehab centre seemed longer today and I was keen to get to know the new rehab option we now have for those leaving the streets.  Over the years we have struggled to find a rehab centre that does not beat those in the programme, abuse them in some way or just leave them for hours with little attention or food.

    On our arrival we are met by the Director who does not know we are coming.  The immediacy of the situation was clear when we explain that Carlos´ mum had passed away a few hours before.  He goes off to find Carlos and returns about 10 minutes later and Carlos is already crying.  I assume that the Director had told him and he hugs us both and then sits down to talk.

    It is clear he is distressed and keeps looking around at the Director and the intimidating person standing guard at the door rattling keys.  I can see in his eyes that he is deeply sad and so pull my chair up so my knees are touching his and hold onto his hand for a while.  Carlos starts by telling us that now, more than ever, he needs to remain strong for his little brother and sister and do all he can to get through rehab so that one day he can take care of them.

    I admire Carlos so much.  He has been through things that most boys would never even imagine experiencing. In his 18 years here on earth he has seen the best and the worst of mankind and his eyes have witnessed numerous murders, rapes, assaults and abuse in all forms.  Despite all the world has launched so cruelly at him, Carlos remains humble, thoughtful, patient and hopeful.  I am, of course, very proud of him and all he has achieved in his life and know he will go a long way if he can get through this difficult stage.

    It is then that Carlos thanks me and Benjamin for all the help we have given him, his family and particularly his mum.  He tells us that he is now hopeful that his mum will recover in rehab and maybe one day they can all live together again.  I am frozen for a moment and look at Benjamin.  It is clear that he doesn´t know his mum has passed away and so I hold onto his hand again and open my mouth.  Carlos looks at me and sees the tears in my eyes and knows something is coming.

    I am struggling to speak and the tears are filling up in all our eyes and now he knows something bad is coming.  He looks just so distraught, lost, in pain and in shock.  I come out with the words that we did all we could but that his mum passed away in the early hours.  I could not get anything else out as we are all crying now and Carlos is weeping profoundly and calling out for his mum.  It is one of the hardest things I have ever done.

    Later that day we head back with him to the Protection Home and his little sister, who is in a children´s home, joins us and both ask if the younger brother knows.  Their brother is now 13, but looks 11 and is currently being held in a children´s prison not far from the home.  We have to contact the prison and they inform us that we have to send in an email and that the minimum wait for a reply is 8 days!  At the time of sending this we still haven´t been able to get an appointment and he still has no idea that his mum has died.  It all seems so hard and cruel.

    Carlos LydiaThe following day is the funeral and only 10 people are allowed into the cemetery, plus me as “the Pastor”.  It is very difficult to imagine how the children are making sense of all this as we walk for 15 minutes behind the funeral car before arriving at the place where their mum will be laid to rest.  

    The cemetery is almost full and with so many dying on a daily basis from COVID it was a miracle that our funeral agent was able to get a slot for today.  I say funeral agent like it is normal for a charity to have one!  We are told we have 5 minutes before the forklift comes and takes the coffin and raises it to the place in the wall where her body will rest.  The 5 minutes turns into 15 as the previous funeral gathering are struggling to brick up the wall where their loved one is now resting.

    I say some prayers and Carlos joins me in telling everyone that despite all her faults she was still his mum and he loved her very much.  He opens the glass viewing lid of the coffin and bursts into tears, which makes everyone cry loudly.  He calls out for her not to leave him and tells her that we will try and tell her youngest son as soon as we can that she is no longer here.  Carlos´ auntie faints and is comforted by family members as the forklift comes and takes the coffin away and places it into the hole in the wall.  A member of the cemetery team is now trying to sell everyone photos and another is offering a deal on a plaque.  It is all quite surreal and distressing and we take time to walk back and meet those outside who were not on the list of 10.  One of her friends is clearly very drunk and does not seem to understand the pain Carlos and his sisters are in and how her shouting and laughing is really not helping.

    We return to the Protection Home and are so grateful we have a place we can offer the children.  It´s a great place to stay the night with lots of love, comfort and care while we explore options for Carlos in finding another rehab centre.

    As if the trauma of the last 24 hours was not enough, the time back in a safe place allows Carlos a safe environment to talk about how the “Christian” home are treating him.  He does not want to return there, but feels he should in order to try and help the other two boys we have placed there recently and to do all he can to keep them safe.

    He tells us about the amount of physical abuse going on and of an environment where patients are encouraged to beat each other as both discipline and also to remind them that rehab is hard! It is quite unbelievable to hear this and Benjamin and I feel hopeless.  Carlos tells us that it is all a show in order to get money and that they are all bad people and to please find him another place so he can recover, then leave and help his young brother and sister.

    It´s another day where I feel hope is eroding and the slightest things brings you to tears.  Both Benjamin and myself are very close to breakdown as this situation is just another on top of many others we are dealing with.  However we feel God close and try and reach out to hold onto the truth that he is there and will help us through this and, at the same time, hoping the phone doesn´t ring with another need, death or abuse case.


     
    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 4th September, 2021


    I am starting to wonder what the outside world is looking like! It seems ages since I was actually out in the sun and also out of the city.  Things have been busy with the opening of the new mentoring centre and the daily work inside the building has meant that I now spend very little time outside the house.  I know this is now coming to an end as the centre is almost complete and being run by two amazing volunteers who will, together with our resident young Fredy, take good care of things.

    Benjamin had invited me to join him and Juan Carlos on a three-day trip to San Marcos, a city in the North-West of Guatemala.  It is here that two adorable children, who were rescued from the streets three years ago, are now living.

    Benjamin is excited and can´t stop talking about how the kids have settled in, how they have changed and how loving the family are who are caring for them.  He also points out that the six-hour drive there is just part of the amazing experience and how I will be blown away by the views of the mountains, rivers and the sheer beauty of the countryside.  He is not wrong.

    nicole cesarWe head away from the city, leaving early enough to avoid the morning traffic and begin to enjoy open roads and superb views of the slowly rising sun bursting through the mountain range and, now and again, between volcanoes.  It is truly breathtaking.

    Benjamin has made this trip many times before and is committed to keeping in contact with all those who have been rescued from the streets.  In the last week, five have been rescued and are now in rehab.  He seems to be on a roll and we soon arrive at the point where he always stops for a packed lunch.  Everything is prepared in his car and we enjoy some sandwiches, crisps, fruit and hot tea.  It can´t get much better as we look out over the mountain range and remember what life was like for the two children we are about to visit when they spent their early years on the streets.

    Eventually we make it to the little village where the children are now living and the mum, who is caring for them, is waiting to meet us and finds us a suitable place to leave the car.  As I step out of the car the heat hits me but also the absolute quiet.  It is such a peaceful place and everyone you meet has a really neat way of saying hello.  Here, very few speak Spanish.  The regional dialect is Mam and respect is everything.  When you meet someone you say hello and then put your hand to your forehead to show respect and honour for the person you are greeting.

    We unload the car with a ton of clothes, shoes and food supplies.  It seems that Christmas has come early and we are soon sitting outside their little tin shack and talking about life.  The two children come and stand before us and just smile.  I am bowled over by the transformation.  When I last saw them they were in desperate conditions on the streets of La Terminal and we knew we had to act in order to keep them alive.

    san marcos2Nicole is seven and Cesar, her brother, is now five.  They have adapted well to life in the countryside and who would not adapt well to being with a family who actually love you, bath you, put clean clothes on you, play with you and treat you like you are worth more than all the gold in the world.  This family are just perfect and are actual family to the real mother of the children.  It is rather unusual in this rural context that a family living in poverty have been so keen to take in these two children, but they have and the kids love it there.

    We handed over food parcels and also handed out clothes and shoes.  Benjamin and Juan Carlos had chosen extremely well and all had new shoes and the kids had new coats for the coming winter.  It was a very special time until we heard the news that the children´s real mother and boyfriend visited a couple of months ago and spent a week or so there.  They were obviously upset that the children they had lost custody of were now calling other people mum and dad.  It came to a head when they decided to take a leather belt to the children, telling them that they had to call them mum and dad.  Fortunately the father of the family intervened and protected the children and they are hoping they don´t return.

    We are just happy that they are not on the streets and can enjoy a very loving environment in which to grow up. Change is possible and it is comforting to see how happy everyone was with the most simplest of things.


     
    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 22nd August, 2021


    Today has been the most exciting of climaxes as we celebrated the official opening of the new Centro Opp mentoring Centre in Guatemala City.  The name comes from the donors to the centre, Darold & Pam Opp.  They, together with two other donors and one UK charity, have helped fund the reconstruction of the abandoned building we took charge of in 2018 and last year started work on the ground floor refurbishment.

    When I think back to the time when it was an abandoned building and open to the elements, I marvel at the place it is today and so will start this blog with a photo before and a series of photos of how it is today.

    It has not been an easy road as we discovered that the drains had collapsed, the electricals were dangerously left hanging close to running water, the roof was about to come down on us and everywhere you looked you found holes in walls, paint peeling and all manner of problems that led to an ever increasing budget for repairs.

    Thanks to our donors, who assumed the costs of refurbishing and equipping the new centre, we have been given the most incredible building you would ever dream of having for young people.  We are still completing the extension of the building at the rear to include a gym and training room and hope that by early October this part will be ready for use.

    On the day of the opening I was informed that Darold Opp had his flight cancelled and so could not come, which was a major disappointment to us.  Jonathan Nordstrom was already here and so we decided to go ahead with the event and then later Darold confirmed he could come the following day.  This meant we could celebrate the opening over two days and celebrate we did.

    Both days were focal points to give thanks to God for all we had seen of his blessing, to thanks Darold and Jonathan for coming and for supporting so generously, to thank the volunteers who had gathered and to see the young people enjoy themselves by using the centre.

    One of the highlights was the launch of the new Voice of the Streets choir, who sang a song that has been written, composed and produced in-house.  I am very impressed with this song and hoping that we can have this ready for distribution in all medias for Radio Christmas, if not before.

    The Centro Opp is a mentoring and training centre that offers state-of-the-art technology in music recording, composition and editing, video and photo editing, film making, music academy, art room, radio station, gym, training room, three volunteer bedrooms and soon we will add the indoor climbing wall and fruit and vegetable garden.  It is quite an amazing place and when the two apartments are built on the roof and rented out, the rent will pay for the day-to-day running costs.

    We are very thankful and now the hard work begins as we work with the young people, invite mentors to mentor their young people here and start the new training programme to prepare young people to serve God by helping reach more children at risk in Guatemala and then beyond.  We stand at an important point in history and have are expectant for great things to come.


     
    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 27th September, 2021


    The thunder of hundreds of cars, busses and lorries passing overhead is hard to miss as you stand under the Incense Bridge in Guatemala City.  The bridge forms part of the ring road around the city and derives its name from the early morning mist and cloud that forms in the valley and gives the impression of incense rising from below. It was built in 1974, but has been reinforced many times in order to deal with the huge increase in traffic crossing every hour.

    On both sides of the valley are land-grab settlements, but the area that is known today as El Gallito (Rooster) was originally a farm that carried the same name that had a weathercock on the roof of the farm building.  In 1927 the President decreed that city labourers could have the opportunity of settling in the El Gallito farmland, awarding lots to the workers and the resulting boom attracted many others who also liked the idea of free land.

    Today El Gallito is a “red” area and is synonymous with violence, gangs and drugs. The community, with only three roads in and three roads out, slowly became a very dangerous place to live.  A Government spokesperson in MiniGob has classified El Gallito as one of the most dangerous areas in the city and a major distributor of drugs.

    So you can imagine my feelings when I was invited to visit a family there last week!  One of the children in our programme has grown up there and knows all too well the risks he takes every day to come to our homeschool programme.

    27.9.21.2On arrival near El Gallito I try and find the safest place I can to leave my car and hope to see it again when I come back out.  I take a tuk tuk as I know it will be the safest way to get in and out.  Cars that drive into El Gallito have to make sure windows are all wound down so the gangs can see who is inside.  Failure to comply results in your vehicle being shot at.

    The first trip I made to El Gallito about 5 years ago was with a local pastor who stopped just before we went in to wind down the windows and then drove slowly in order to not alarm anyone and to ensure that people could see I was with a known person from the community. At the time the pastor was offering refuge to a young man who had tried to escape from the gang and was found and thrown of the huge incense bridge.  His miraculous escape took him to the church, where he sought refuge until a safe time could be arranged to get him out of El Gallito.

    I mention El Gallito as the history of the place is fascinating and it is shame it has become so infamous for drugs, gangs, deaths and a place the police have decided is a no-go area.  On my return home the local police, who have a sub-station across the road from us, looked horrified when I told them where I had been.  They couldn´t quite believe it, but it was just like many of the places where we work and we have always been seen as helping the community rather than a threat to the gangs there (most of the time!).

    The following day I am heading into another one of these “red” areas as I have to rescue a mother and her three children and take them to stay with family in the countryside.  It has been a long journey with them to work through a series of disclosures by one of the boys I mentor.

    Filipe is 12, but like so many from this community he is underweight and small for his age.  You would think he was 9, but is already highly street-connected and has been on the gang´s hitlist for recruitment. One thing he says to me one day triggers a few weeks of careful monitoring of his language and behaviour and this leads to further disclosures that culminate in me seeking professional help for him.

    After working with boys for nearly 40 years and having personal experience of being an abused and neglected boy I can spot the signs.  His language was becoming more sexually suggestive and he would weave a very different and disturbing story into things I was teaching the other boys.  It became uncomfortable and I was very sad for him as I knew something was going on, but he was not yet letting me in.

    As time progressed and professional help was found it became clear the extent of the abuse he was dealing with.  Felipe was having to deal with a neighbour who came to find him every day and every day would discover a new way of abusing the boy.  The abuse became so horrific that his mum tried to step in one day and stop it.  This led the neighbour to hit Filipe´s mum so hard that the baby she was carrying sadly died in the womb.

    I remember the day I went with her to the clinic and the doctor told us the baby had died.  It was a tough time for her and the subsequent funeral was one of those days I just wanted to find a dark place to hide in for a while in order to make sense of all that was happening to this family.

    The law here in Guatemala states very clearly that anyone must act in the defense of a child and if you know a child is being abused then you must report it.  Having something in writing is so different to the day-to-day work because people are scared of making allegations and if you do then you put your life on the line, as we have seen so many times.

    However, I now have to act and keep Felipe, his two siblings and their mum safe.  We are so thankful to those who made it possible for us to have the Casa Alexis Protection Home as we now have a safe place to take them.  Going to their little tin shack, together with Juan Carlos (the person together with his wife Heydy who run the protection home) and asking them to pack a few things and come with us is wraught with danger.  If the neighbour hears us and comes out to confront us then this could become a situation that will expose us all.  We take 15 minutes to pack a bag and the mum looks back at the shack wondering, I assume, if she will ever see it again.

    27.9.21.3The mum knew this would be the outcome and tells us that she had tried to discuss the situation last night with her husband.  Because the neighbour is a relative of his, he was not that keen to believe the stories of abuse and made it very clear what he would do to me if I came to take them away. I knew that word would get around and this would also put me at risk as I would be seen as the man who comes and takes children away.  Not the type of reputation you need in a very dangerous community like this, but the alternative is not worth considering and who would leave young children at risk.

    Filipe smiles as he sits in the car and half an hour later we arrive at Casa Alexis. He explains how he has tried to cope every day for the last year with the abuse and how he feels the moment the neighbour walks into his home.  For now he and his siblings and mum are safe and all enjoy a very peaceful night in the home.  The boys are keen to have a hot shower and put on clean pyjamas and snuggle into bed.  We are all given hugs and they sleep well before we rise early the next day and I drive them to their family in the countryside.

    This is only the beginning of the story as the dad is going to be unlikely to want to meet to discuss payments to support his family and I have already warned the police opposite should he turn up at the home and cause a scene or worse. This damaged and resilient family will now need support, an income, a place of their own and lots of help to remake their lives.  Thanks to your support we can be here and help do this.


     
    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 17th October, 2021


    There is an Arab proverb that says that the weight of a straw can break a camel´s back.  What it refers to is the overloading of a camel can lead to the camel not moving or even collapsing under the weight.  We get the phrase “the straw that  broke the camel´s back” from this ancient proverb.  It means that just one little thing can bring one down to a point of surrender or collapse due to the accumulation of events and circumstances.

    I begin today´s blog by saying that my plan this week was to tell you the story of Seidy, a young mum we have got to know recently.  Her story is quite inspiring and my hope was to encourage you rather than tell you that life has been tough again.  

    After spending a day with Brandon yesterday I also wanted to write a blog about him, as a case study, as I think his life is quite inspirational and illustrates perfectly the work we do here in Guatemala.  

    Both stories will have to wait as I have to talk through the challenges of this past week.  For it´s in the talking (writing this blog) that I find some sense of healing, off-loading and a greater gain in perspective.  So bear with me as I express how just one more thing this week would have broken the camel´s back.

    The week had started well as a £500 donation came in to help towards the monthly payments for supporting the kids in Guatemala and Honduras.  We had a full week planned to celebrate the closure of official school studies for the year and to invite the girls over to the Centro Opp mentoring centre for a special day of activities.  I was particularly looking forward to that as I miss working with the girls as so much of my time now is working with boys.

    Then we went to visit one of the boys in the programme who has been growing in confidence recently and even looked taller because of it.  His confidence was based not just in doing so well this year in school with us, but that his dad was celebrating two months of being alcohol free and was bringing in money to support his family and they were eating 2-3 meals a day.

    On arrival the boy was different and I could guess why.  Within minutes of arriving at his home, his dad appeared in the alleyway and was clearly very drunk.  The boy looked just so lost, so empty and looked into my eyes and just burst into tears.  He held onto me and cried into my shoulder and a deep sense of childhood loss was felt by both of us.

    Getting home that evening and sitting with a hot mug of tea while reflecting on the day was a small comfort.  I closed my eyes and just allowed my head to flop back into the chair for a moment only to find that when I opened my eyes again Juan Carlos was standing before me.  Juan Carlos and his wife Heydy runs the protection home and he also helps with the street and prevention work.  I often joke with him that he reminds me of Cato, the character from the Pink Panther films, who just appears from nowhere and always in silence.

    Juan Carlos wanted to inform me that one of the boys we had helped get off the streets, and who was doing so well in rehab, had decided to give up the process he was going through and head back to the streets.  It was a major blow as we have worked with him since he was 7 and have been with him through the most difficult situations in life.  It was another blow to an already overloaded day.

    I woke the next morning with a clearer perspective that life could be better this week as there was still so much to be joyful about and to look forward to.  Then the call came through that one of the young men we have worked with and supported over the last few years was found dead in the streets.  The call triggered more calls and messages to find out what had happened and so see how we could help.

    When we raise money in the UK or the US for our work here, I never want to tell people that some of the money we have to use to bury people.  Not that we want to hide the fact, but that it becomes hard to remember the many we bury every year. Every life lost is a reminder of the times we have tried to help and how the “if only” statements start to make you feel inadequate and that you could have done more.

    Jonathan was dead and now we needed to find a way to reclaim his body, contact his family in Honduras and find funds to cover the costs of yet another funeral.  It turned out, as security footage later showed us in all it gruesome detail, that he was killed by blow to the head while he slept in the streets. Where he died was in no way a wakeup call to those who continue to live there.

    Later that evening I visited the spot where he died and spoke to the guys on the streets, all of whom showed the usual signs of complacency at yet another death.  But at least they had marked the spot where he died with a few candles and were all asking if they would be allowed to the funeral.  I said I would inform them of this in the next 24 hours, as most people are buried here within 48 hours of their death.

    Jonathan´s family had now been informed and were on their way to Guatemala City to identify the body and help with the funeral arrangements.  We have a funeral company that deals with all our funerals and they are excellent at working the system and allowing us to reclaim bodies and prepare them for burial.  It is not a great experience to be honest, but someone has to do it.

    The following day the team work hard at getting the paperwork in place, welcoming Jonathan´s parents and sorting out his funeral.  It is not a great day to be honest as we get a call to tell us that Amanda´s baby has died.

    Amanda has grown up in poverty, neglect and abuse.  She was very happy to be pregnant again.  She and her boyfriend, David, were telling me just two nights ago how excited there both were about the birth of their second daughter.  I lay my hand on Amanda´s shoulder and smiled as she rubbed her tummy and said that in 3 weeks the baby would be born and they were having fun thinking of names for her.  Most things seemed to be in place despite them living in desperate poverty.  Little did we know then that the baby was already dead inside her.

    Later the following day, while we were dealing with the arrangements for Jonathan´s funeral, she began to experience severe pains and her boyfriend rushed her to hospital.  On arrival it is hard to get into emergency if you don´t arrive in an ambulance.  Arriving in a taxi means you are not treated the same and the huge gates in front of the emergency entrance are not flung open wide to you.

    17.10.21.2David desperately pleas for help from the security guard, who has seen everything and has probably grown very hardened to people just turning up and asking to see a doctor.  Amanda is now screaming and a few seconds later falls to the ground and gives birth to a dead child in the street outside the entrance to the hospital. The chaos that ensues only adds to their distress and sense of loss.

    Dealing with the aftermath is not easy and David needs lots of comforting.  Amanda is now in hospital and the family are concerned for her health, especially given the state of her health and the state of the hospital already collapsing due to the number of COVID deaths.  David asks for help as the hospital don´t want to allow him access to the baby, as babies born premature are just disposed of, “like other hospital waste”.  David is keen have his daughter and to bury her.  

    Thanks to our amazing funeral company, yet again they find ways to get around the system.  We are able to recover the body and organise the wake and funeral.  Both funerals are now the following day at 9am and I know that both will be hard to cover with team as we already have several other things planned that will be hard to move around and some are away from the city.

    Jonathan´s family take the decision to head back to Honduras and leave us with the costs and, much to our surprise, decide not even attend their son´s funeral.  David, on the other hand, organises a wake for his daughter and we visit later that evening to comfort him and the few family members gathered in the funeral home.  The coffin is placed in the middle of the room and I am asked if I want to pray and also if I would like to see the child.  I say yes to the first and pray with them all and offer whatever comfort I can.

    The picture of David and his daughter was a glimpse into the loneliness I guess he was feeling.  His girlfriend is fighting to stay alive in hospital, his dead baby lying in a coffin behind him, and he is trying to find the words to comfort his young daughter whilst still dealing with the death of Amanda´s mum just a few weeks ago.

    It is in the most difficult of times that being present is enough.  Words just don´t do it.  Paying for funerals helps.  But just being there, alongside, makes a world difference.  Your support means we can do just that.  We made it to Sunday and are hopeful that this week will be one with fewer straws.


     
    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 17th January 2022


    It´s a new week for the various projects we support in Guatemala and Honduras and I am excited to see that this year we can help many more children stay in the education system.  Both Guatemala and Honduras have agreed to begin to open schools this year, but both have no dates set, nothing in place and very few teachers or classrooms will be ready.

    With this in mind we decided last year to continue to educate as many children as possible in order for them to advance in their learning and stay in the school grade system. With the SKDGuatemala project the aim is to provide education to 60 vulnerable children throughout the year, thanks to Global Care and funds raised on Radio Christmas.

    Today was the big day of welcoming the children back and the team had worked hard to prepare the original mentoring centre, we have use of and which is situated near La Terminal, ready for a more classroom feel rather than a centre.  The changes have not been drastic and staff have had to change their office into a classroom and children will have to come in smaller groups in order to fit into the space available.

    17.1.22.2The cook had been working hard from 6am cooking tortillas and beans as she wanted to prepare a warm breakfast for the children.  We know many will come hungry and some won´t have eaten at all and so feeding them will help them start the day well and have more energy for studies throughout the day.

    The children started to queue early and some came with parents who wanted to see their children were safely inside.  The 60 children will enjoy a year of great education, games, trips, counselling and support.  The box of Lego, kindly donated by the Harbottle family in the UK, was emptied out on the floor for children to play with while others were arriving.  This was not the plan apparently and so after a while we had to pack it all away and focus on actual education!

    I am very pleased we can do this again this year and hopefully this will be the final year we have to offer this to the children if the national schools begin to re-open during 2022.  We are hopeful but planning just in case. What I do know is that the grades of the children we have worked with during the last two years have improved dramatically and the children feel safe and secure and are actually enjoying learning.  So a great year ahead and one full of hope that things might actually begin to get back to normal and our work will return to prevention and support of children at risk.

    Thank you to all those who supported us so generously over Christmas last year and everyone who got involved in any way with the Radio Christmas project.  Your support really does impact lives and changes their destiny.


     
    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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