Mexico Trek!   Trekkers DISPATCH: September 6 Silvia's Log

A Day at the Crisis Center - Casa Alianza’s "Refugio"

In front of Casa AlianzaCan you imagine what it would be like living on the streets? Your life at home would have had to be pretty bad and you must have been pretty desperate. Then out on the streets life doesn’t get much better. In fact, life is so hard out there that 70% of the kids on the streets are addicted to sniffing chemicals to help them forget their hunger and pain. People look down on you, the police often harass you, and the only people you can trust are the other kids on the street. And you probably don’t trust all of them either. I’ve tried to describe some of this in my previous reports (which you can revisit using the calendar).

So now imagine that there are these adults that come by every so often and talk with you. They are actually nice! They take care of any wounds you have, invite you to play games, and show you respect. Then one day they invite you to come back to the shelter where they work that has food and beds. Today I want you to try to imagine what it would be like when you first come to the shelter, and what it is like for the people who are trying to help the homeless kids.

After a child has been alone on the streets with no one to tell him what to do, it is very difficult to adjust to the rules. When he senses too much pressure, he rebels, complains and threatens to leave, arguing that no one loves him, that the Consejero (Counselor) ignores him, and that everyone is against him. Being on the streets has made him self-sufficient, he doesn’t want any advice and wants to do what he wants.

However, this shroud of what seems like independence can really be disguising the self-defeating attitude of "I don’t matter to anyone". These kids don’t know how to distinguish between Casa Alianza street educatorsgood and bad, they only seek instant gratification, know how to be manipulative to get out of difficult situations, and point out the errors of others. Sometimes they express their feelings violently because in the streets the language of leaders is aggressiveness. They think if they show their true feelings they will be hurt, so they don’t. Many of them actually feel responsible for the problems their families have, and they seek an escape by dreaming and fantasizing.

The Consejero must help them learn the difference between fantasy and reality. There is a place for both, and each has its limitations. Their emotional states are unstable because they almost always act in reaction to something, and have a set of defensive responses that come up automatically. They refuse to observe themselves, and are usually self-critical when they do. They are carrying feelings of resentment, distrust, and insecurity, so they become intolerant, demanding, and don’t value what they have. This low self-esteem makes them look towards others for acceptance and feel isolated, or they change their wishes impulsively and don’t accomplish much because they don’t stick to something. Even though they seem to be independent, they are actually dependent and don’t have enough discipline and constancy to finish what they start.

Trivia!The flip side to this negative energy is that many of the street children have hidden talents that they haven’t had the chance to express, such as athleticism, art, cooking, organizing, craft making and storytelling. The Consejeros at Casa Alianza help them discover and express this side of themselves so they can begin feeling some self-respect. Only then will they be willing to focus internally and move forward towards dignity and self-reliance in their lives.

The children come off of the streets to live with Casa Alianza at The Refugio (Refuge). Here they receive company, respect, security, food, housing, and share spaces and activities together as they start a new life with the help of the staff and volunteers. This work of meeting the children's basic needs is never ending, and the crisis center is open 24 hours per day, every day of the year.

The struggles of these kids trying to overcome the obstacles in their lives, as well as the struggles of the Consejeros are the kinds of things that people do on a daily basis that are remarkable and should be celebrated.

If you have someone that you admire and would like to have recognized, feel free to write on the Message Board on the Trek Connect page.

-Silvia

Related Dispatches: 
Silvia - A Day at the Crisis Center


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