Mexico Trek!   Trekkers DISPATCH: August 21 Silvia's Log

Drainpipes and drugs - Hitting the streets with Casa Alianza

This morning when I awoke, I was especially eager to get to Casa Alianza to meet Mr. de la Peña, my contact person and vice-director of Casa. I went there by metro and recognized the building because it was colorful like Covenant House in San Diego. [Did you miss that report? Check it out in the calendar under August 19!] Mr. de la Peña is a wonderful role model for people: he's a doctor and has dedicated over ten years of his life to children. He works long hours every week and is passionate about what he does. He feels his job is extremely rewarding. Working with the kids and seeing their problems helps him keep perspective on his own life and his own problems. So he helps people and at the same time that helps him.

Mexican Street Child InhalingThen I was introduced to Fernando and Edna, two of the six street educators who walk the streets each day looking for the children, meeting with them, giving first aid to cuts and bruises, and most importantly, trying to establish a trust with them. They took me to Alameda Park where many of the homeless youth live.The youth we saw there were very young — between 8 and 23 years old, with such sad faces. Their lives are very hard. First off, there are usually some pretty bad stories behind why kids leave their homes in the first place. Many of them end up living in storm drains- "coladores"- unsanitary, cold, fly-infested underground tunnels. Then surviving on the streets drives many of them to drug themselves day after day, killing themselves. Many of the youth we saw didn’t react at all when we approached. They don’t care if people see them inhale chemicals from crumpled tissues in their hands. It looks like they’re sucking their thumbs, but it’s not that at all.

These chemicals take away the kids’ hunger, pain, and cold, but they eat away at their neurons and leave permanent brain damage. Their empty gaze scares me, it seems that there's no one behind those eyes, and that reminds me of death. We helped a few of them get cleaned up and take care of cuts some of them had. A few kids joined us in a soccer game until we were too tired. (I actually made one of the goals, paired up with Jorge and Jose against the educators! YAHOO!)

Trivia!In the coming weeks we’ll learn more about this problem AND some very simple things you can do to help! I’ll also be asking the youth questions you keep sending me at trekmail@yahoo.com.We headed back to the office and during lunch the youngest kids there taught me how to roll a tortilla up in my palm so it looks like a tight cigar. They didn't talk with me much yet, but we looked at each other a lot. They have such bright eyes, so different from the drugged kids at the park. Afterwards a few of us played volleyball in the outdoor courtyard while the sun shone, but a sudden storm cloud visited in the afternoon, and we had to hide indoors. The Crisis Center is called the "Refugio," refuge. Appropriate, eh ?

We waited out the storm and Alejandro took me to visit two group homes. The second one is the one I am staying at, Hogar Aragon. There are 14 guys living here with Laura, the "educadora," educator. She's like the house mom. They range in age from 15 to 23. They even have a computer and Internet connection at Hogar Aragon.To start off my first evening, I fell asleep to the sounds of laughter and joking as all of the guys went upstairs to their bunkbeds. I think I'm really going to like living here...

-Silvia

 

Related Dispatches: 
Silvia - Young and homeless? Unfortunately you're not alone
Silvia - Drainpipes and drugs - Hitting the streets with Casa Alianza
Silvia - What's it like to live on the streets? Meet David - he's been there

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