Over the last year and a half I have been spending more and more time with the kids living on the street. (If you’re a regular reader of this blog, I’m sure this is news to you.) And I’m noticing a very frustrating pattern. You have the super cute six to twelve year old’s who get scooped off the street by the police, social workers or crazy gringos and brought to a children’s home. Not understanding what a five year plan is or that employers usually lean towards hiring employees that can read, these adorable little munchkins repeatedly return to the street where no one is telling them what time to get up in the morning and what chores to do that day. Everyone thinks they are just so darn cute and sad that, what the heck, here’s a few lempiras. Thankfully, the cycle of scooping them off the street is often repeated and many kids reach a day when they realize that they aren’t going to be pinchably cute forever and their running days are over while safely in a children’s home.
What about those kids that realize this once they have a raging addiction, have
passed that magical age to be scooped (which seems to be about 15) and instead of being worthy of a little assistance, are now seen as big, dirty, scary and probably deserving of the position they’re in? These are the kids that I’ve been spending more time with. And as I sit next to a kid who I can’t seem to rouse from his crack induced
stupor I wonder if what I’m doing is worthwhile. No home will accept them. I hadn’t heard of any addiction centers. Their families won’t let them return, especially like this. How do I convince people to donate towards something that will have a horrifically low success rate? And what difference will this meal make that I hope to provide if I could just wake him up long enough to get him to chew a little bit? But gosh, this is a human being. A child. And he’s looking at years and years of suffering. And a little bit of hopelessness sets in…
For the last two years I’ve been hearing about an organization called Catrachos Al Cambio. It was started by the wife of San Pedro’s mayor. Most days of the week they drive around in a big white van,pick up street kids and take them to a big stadium to play soccer. Then returns them to the street. They do this to build relationships with the kids, and have spent the last few years getting to know the boys and their needs. If a child is interested, he can start coming to classes in English or computation (which I always think means computers, but I’m pretty sure I’m wrong…) Then, when a child says that he wants to leave the street, they figure out if the child can return to the family or if he can to go to a home like Proniño.
Last July, I met with Juan Carlos, the Director. He told me of their plans to open a home for the boys. He talked about working with the toughest cases. It would primarily be a drug rehab center. He hinted at some funding issues so I filed this away as an unwieldy dream that would never come to fruition. Then in October, the kids started talking about this home they were going to go to that Catrachos was opening. Since I’m so darn positive and helpful I told them that it was in the dream stage in July, so there was NO possible way that it was going to open within the next two years. I’m SOOO wise.
In January, I got to visit this soon to be opened home. (Just in case you’re confused by this new paragraph, you betcha, I was wrong.) Their focus is on the very boys that I felt would never, ever have the opportunity to change their lives. It is set up as a 6-8 month drug rehab program. This is a pretty do or die set up. There won’t be years and years of care followed up by a few more years of support during the transition to real life. You’ve got less than a year to get your shit together. But it’s a chance for the kids whose chances had run out. There are two 18 year old’s living there who haven’t set foot in a children’s home in years and years. I’m nervous to get my hopes up too high. They opened with 11 kids and are already down to 5 of the original group. But it’s not too surprising to lose so many who arrive at the same time – since they’re going through the throes of detoxing together. I imagine tempers flare during this process. And the ones who have already left will have more chances.
So there is now hope for the hopeless! The bottom rung has been provided for the ones who desperately desire to climb out of this pit. This will not be easy. There will need to be a fair amount of desperation in order to find success. They won’t be scooping kids off the street. The kids have to WANT this. But suddenly my meal and a little encouragement doesn’t seem so pointless. I have one more thing that I can point him toward. When he’s ready.
For anyone who would like to stick around a little longer, let me take you on a quick tour of some of the areas I have pictures of.