After finishing my ‘house jobs’ (internship / medical house officer posting) I took two months out and went to Guatemala with the Toy Box charity. The Toy Box charity works with street kids in and around Guatemala City, the capital of the country. On landing in the country I was met by the founder of the charity who took me and guy who was also visiting, to Antigua for a few days. Antigua’s main industry is language training, and that is what we had come for. Hundreds of people flow in each month from North America and stop on their way to South America for anything from a couple of days to a month, and on any street there might be up to 6 or7 language schools that offer one on one or class tuition in Spanish. I only spent a couple of days but I would go back in an instant and spend a few weeks there, the training and experience was amazing!
The average life expectancy for a child who ends up on the streets in Guatemala is four years. Due to abuse and prostitution, many babies are born to the teenage girls, and so some children know nothing other than life on the streets. The Toybox Charity had four phases in their work at the time I was there, phase one involved connecting with the kids on the streets themselves, phase two was a half way house where kids could come in for the day for a shower, meal and school classes, phase three was a boys home and a girls / teenage mum’s home for kids who were ready to make the shift away from life on the streets. Phase four was a newly developing area, working with kids at risk of becoming street kids. I went prepared to train in first aid, sexual health and HIV, as well as to do fun craft activities with the kids.
I had shared what I was to be doing in Guatemala with one of the nurses at work and as a result I ended up lining my suitcase with hundreds of condoms and a trusty condom demonstrator! So, loaded down with these and an array of arts and crafts supplies, I have never been so nervous going through customs!!!
To be continued….