Street Kids Meeting

In Morgan’s Words

They are hidden under bridges, napping inside abandoned trucks, and tucked into unseen corners of streets or buildings. Some of them are in the streets by daylight, trying to get food or soap to wash their clothes. Some of them sleep on the cold concrete of the streets, the exposed tops of shipping containers, and the filthy seats of abandoned vehicles. They may see their families every couple of days, or weeks, or… years.

On Dec. 16, 2014, the LFBS staff, with the assistance of local social services (IBESR), invited the street kids in Les Cayes to a meeting in a local hall.

As children arrived, in groups and one by one, they began creating drawings and dancing. We’d begun the invitation a week in advance, and it spread from one child to another through word of mouth. Children got up extra early this morning and bathed to look their best for the big Meeting.

Three social services agents worked endlessly, speaking to each child individually to fill a detailed questionnaire on each child’s background and situation. After a breakfast of peanut butter sandwiches, bananas and milk, the 50 boys (ranging in age from 7 to 18) gathered.

Social services educated these children on children’s rights, and the 4 major types of violence (physical, psychological, sexual and neglect). These 50 street boys – some of whom have slept with men in exchange for food and housing – engaged in discussion regarding the definition and prevention of rape. They went on to discuss the conditions of life in prison, and what can cause a child to end up there.

There are 35 children (less than 18 years old) in the local prison right now. Some children in the meeting had “already been there”.

One boy who’d been in prison was incredibly skilled at drawing. He told me he’d learned to draw “when he was in school”. He’d made it all the way to 4th grade before leaving home after the 2010 earthquake hit Haiti. I asked how many siblings he had. The boy hesitated. “When I left… there were three.” His eyes glazed over. This hadn’t seen his family in 4 years: he didn’t know how many children his parents had, if his family was living in the same house, or even if both of his parents were still alive. He wants to return to school.

Rain poured outside; something that would not faze these children. Boys like Peterson can be found skipping barefoot through the paved streets while the rest of town is scurrying for shelter. Gathered on benches, these 50 boys sat together – barefoot. Many came that way; others took of their tattered sandals upon arriving, to avoid spreading mud.

Following social services’ training session, I had a few words to share with this special group of children. I emphasized that children’s rights were their rights – they are people. Their situation is not permanent; they don’t belong to the streets; however, they must choose to change.

We explained that if these boys are ready to leave the streets, we would LOVE to reunite them with their families and give them a chance to go to school; maybe even help their families! Finally, I invited the street children to share their thoughts and wishes.

Tears fluttered in the eyes of 16-year old young men, as they raised their hands and took the microphone. In front of 49 other street boys, they shared what brought them to the streets: the extreme poverty a mother lives in; the death of a father, who had covered school fees in the past; the mistreatment of a father’s new girlfriend. Still, these boys said that they wanted to go home. They wanted to go to school.

Among these boys sat Job: a former street child, 14, who now lives in the LFBS Safe House. Job had assisted in transporting meals of chicken, rice and beans, salad and fresh grapefruit juice that Mme Bell had started cooking at 8pm the night before… Job was a living example of the change these boys can choose to create in their own lives if they get a chance…a helping hand.

One of the young men at the meeting left his meal, untouched, in a plastic bag. He spoke to me while the other boys ate, mentioning how he prays with patients at the local tuberculosis clinic, and only washes cars in the streets to try and help his mother start up a small business. The 17 year old had been in school previously but only made it to 2nd grade before his father died. He was saving his meal for his mother.

At the end of the meeting, each boy gave me a kiss & accepted a gift. The night before, safe house children – particularly Ednel – helped me assemble 50 kits with hygiene items and food.

An hour after the meeting, LFBS outreach worker Wilner had already visited homes of 3 boys who’d attended the meeting. I was at the hospital with 2 of them, who’d been injured and couldn’t walk. Both boys required x-rays but neither had broken bones. A friend of theirs, Kenzie, sat barefoot outside the hospital gate, waiting for them.

One boy, whose hip had been smashed so hard he couldn’t stand on his own, was prescribed pain medication. His family lived about 3 hours out of town and it was already dark by the time we left the hospital. In a taxi, I brought the child to his sleeping spot: an abandoned blue truck downtown. Another child was already sleeping in it. The injured child joined him; I left him with a meal, medication, water, and a breakfast date for the next morning. He had me hold on to his gift kit and medicine, so that no one would take them while he was defenseless during the night. We hope to reunite him with his family as soon as possible.

The second street boy with an injured foot required a cast. Under pouring rain, this 14 year old hopped on his good leg through a rocky corridor to show me his aunt’s house. Arriving under a tarp-covered area between houses, the boy stopped. “Where’s your aunt’s house?” I asked. “It’s here,” the boy said, standing under the tarp. I understood. The boy’s cousin pulled up a chair – the only piece of furniture – and he sat in the middle of the space as water drizzled around him. I moved a large rock under the boy’s cast.  “Try to keep it dry,” I explained to his aunt. She nodded and thanked me for the medicine.

We had a lot of work to do, and to date, 30 of those boys have been reunited with their families, and are struggling to get back on their feet with the help of LFBS.

Meeting of street boys 2
Meeting of street boys
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