By Hector Alay McDonald – From Guatemala with Love
October 1st is the day that we celebrate children in Guatemala. International Day of the Girl falls shortly thereafter on October 11th, creating awareness about violence against girls and young women, especially sexual violence.
With the help of volunteers and allies, we were able to put together a host of activities to celebrate boys and girls in urban communities – resulting in lots of fun for hundreds of children and new commitments from both public and private institutions to improve child welfare.
It was amazing how our local volunteers organized to make this all possible for the children – gathering donations and preparing activities.
It was also satisfying to witness various community networks coming together to prepare and participate in the parties in Zone 18 and Petapa. Even more satisfying was seeing our HRI youth leaders from each community taking charge of some of the activities, like setting the sound, organizing the piñatas, preparing for the clown shows and delivering treats and snacks to the children.
Also, international volunteers through International Social Work Solutions (ISWS) came down in October to wrap up an online training on Suicide and Domestic Violence prevention focused on keeping children and teenagers safe. Their knowledge will strengthen the capacity of our community networks to reach out to parents, teachers and community stakeholders so they do better for the children in their communities.
Those images in my head contrast directly with the cold numbers discussed in many meetings with our networks, showing how bad many children are doing regarding health, nutrition, education, poverty and how little the government cares to do anything to improve the situation, resulting in many desperate people putting their lives at risk to go to the US, where they aren’t welcome and in many cases end up in horrible circumstances.
It’s uplifting to see a lot of people coming together from different parts of the city to show love to children that are not their own. However, it is hard knowing that many of these children suffer abuse; and sadly, we witness maltreatment even during the parties, but volunteers have learned how to handle these situations well.
These are the contrasts that challenge us, but also give us hope that another reality is possible for vulnerable children. We had a glimpse of it, we could feel this different reality come to life even if for only a couple of hours. It was enough time for our youth leaders, volunteers and allies to get motivated to actively work for a better country and a better world for our children.
We all became little children for a few minutes, to show little children that they are not alone, that they are loved, and that there is hope for them.