Saturday 14th October, 2017
It certainly does feel a lot longer than a week, but I have been back in Guatemala for one week now and on my return jumped right in with mentoring as the day after I landed in Guatemala City it was Moses´s birthday.
Moses, as the regular readers will know, is the youngest boy I mentor and has been with me in the mentoring programme for the last 4 years. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I had to be back in Guatemala for his birthday. Moses turned 10 and as I look back on his life I am very excited to see how much he has coped with all the world has thrown at him. He is a survivor and his resilience is high but still needs people in his life who will care for him, cuddle him, tell him he is amazing and help him navigate the next few years of change and growth. Mentoring is extremely rewarding but is also a challenge and a commitment that often goes beyond what is expected.
Moses´s birthday was a lot of fun and he wanted to take a few friends from school and his teacher plus two boys from our Centre to the cinema to watch a film. You would think this would be easy enough to organise, but here there seems to be so many aspects of the trip that would cause even the most successful event planners a huge headache. The day ended well with Moses going home one very happy boy and realising that he has people around him that care for him and think he is very special.
The next day I was mentoring Fredy, 13 years, and his brother Jonathan, 10 years. Both boys are relatively new to the mentoring programme and I am supposed to be looking after them until two male mentors are found for them. This will take a while I expect and as time goes on their attachment to me will also grow. In the meantime I am trying to get to know them and it is great to be with two boys who just love being together as brothers and really encourage each other. They don´t seem to remember a time when they fell out or had a fight, so already we are starting on a good platform.
Fredy and Jonathan live in La Terminal and have been assessed by the team as needing to be in the mentoring programme due to the risk factors in their lives and their connection to the streets. Evaluating children is always tough as we try not to make decisions based on emotions but each child does need to have a certain number of points in order to be deemed applicable for the mentoring programme.
Our time out together lasts nearly three hours and this week we go bowling as I wanted to do something special since I have been away for three weeks and the boys have missed me being around. I love the way they both respond to anything I do for them and always say thank you for everything they get and then make me cards or write me letters in the week to tell me how much they appreciated our time out of La Terminal.
There seems to be more children in our Centre on my return and Monday afternoon was spent hanging around in the Centre, recording a video for a school in Scotland, sharing with the children a little of my trip to the UK, handing out chocolate and sweets (a twice-a-year treat) and seeing how much progress has been made. The noticeboard in the dining room was covered with names and a message to welcome me back and an envelope was left hanging on one side that held a ton of letters, notes and cards from the kids to make me feel bad for going away!
My last two mentoring sessions of the day were with Oscar, who is turning 18 this year, and 10-year-old Jose. I am hoping that Oscar passes his school year, as this is a crucial year for him in passing his basic school studies that will enable him to go into vocational training or get a job. I am very proud of what he has achieved with his life to date and am hopeful he will go on to great things. Jose, on the other hand, is still a little boy but with the mindset and street awareness of an older teenager.
Jose lives with his sister Karla (photo) and his grandparents in La Terminal. His grandparents run a bar and so are always working hard to try and support their two grandchildren. Both children have a very high connection to the streets and yesterday Karla went missing again and I found Jose lying on the ground being beaten in the head by another boy. Breaking up the fight was not that easy as Jose was eager to get his own back and I am sure would try and do so today. Holding on to him meant I felt how hard his little heart was beating and despite his many attempts to get away from me quite liked the idea I was trying to keep him safe.
I took Jose to a shopping mall the day after I arrived back and could not stop looking at his little face gaze on all he saw. His mouth was wide open in awe and wanted to see this place, then this shop window, then go up the escalator and then return in the lift. It was a special time and we found a large slide he could go down three times for £1.00. It was my cheapest mentoring session ever and when I asked him this week what he would like to do this coming session he said: “can we just do the same as last week, everything exactly the same”. Bless him. So, another £1 slide is on its way!