• Saturday 30th May 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


     
    Janie Awesome

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

     
  • Monday 18th May 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


     
    Janie Awesome

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

    Duncan Dyason
  • Friday 19th June 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


     
    Janie Awesome

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

     
  • Sunday 28th 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


     
    Janie Awesome

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

     
  • Sunday 19th July 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


     
    Janie Awesome

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

     
  • Sunday 9th August 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


     
    Janie Awesome

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

     
  • Thursday 27th August 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


     
    Janie Awesome

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

     
  • Sunday 20th September 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


     
    Janie Awesome

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

     
  • Saturday 10th October 2020


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

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

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

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


     
    Janie Awesome

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

     
  • Monday 26th October 2020


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

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

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

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

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

    Later in the week we are enjoying the easing of restrictions and have invited a few of the team over for lunch.  It seems a long time since we had some of the team in one place and Marcos is keen to help with the cooking.

    26.10.20.23Marcos has been working part-time with us for a while now and I am very pleased with his progress as a cleaner at the Protection Home.  I have known Marcos since he was a young boy and was working very long hours on the rubbish dump in La Terminal.  We worked with him, his mum and brother to help them during the toughest moments in their lives, which seemed to be every week.

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

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


     
    Janie Awesome

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

     
  • Friday 6th November 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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


     
    Janie Awesome

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

     
  • Thursday 26th November 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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


     
    Janie Awesome

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

     
  • 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.

     
  • 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.

     
  • Saturday 15th May 2021


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


     
    Janie Awesome

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

     
  • Monday 24th May 2021


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


     
    Janie Awesome

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

     

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