Monthly Archives: December 2012

Menin

Hi all

According to the Mayan calendar, the world is supposed to go belly up tomorrow (for those reading in Europe or anywhere which is more than two hours ahead of Honduras Mean Time, tomorrow is today). With the crisis, wars, capitalism, all destroying the world, you might say that the Mayans might be somewhat right. However, I’ve looked out the window and I’ve not seen anything that suggests the world is going to end on 21st December.

Tomorrow, or in the next few days, is the last day of Menin in Casa Alianza. He has been in the hot seat for just over 25 years, but now he is standing down and looking to do something else after all these years. He is a hero in Honduras. He has opened doors to thousands of children, given them opportunities to succeed in life when everyone had let them down. He has opened the Querbines home for sexually exploited girls, he raises awareness of the plight of street kids and constantly fights for their rights. He always manages to say a nice thing about something or someone. He sees the beauty of things, which I find hard to do. His memory is amazing too, for remembering names of people, of crap football teams of English volunteers! He gave me the chance to write the book, so big kids from the other side of the world have also had great opportunities, thanks to the great Asturian. I hope to stay in close contact with him. He is someone I respect, a lot, and I know many people feel the same.

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I met the new man for the hot seat, Guadalupe, who seems like a nice guy and I wish him all the best in his new role. In a country where the none of the candidates up for preliminary elections a month ago even mentioned about how they’re going to help young people in the street or stop the increasing amount going on to the street (it should an objective) or even note about extrajudicial killings that are left unsolved or even touched by police, I think Guadalupe knows what he’s up against.

I went in yesterday for the Christmas dinner and said hi to the kids. It never ceases to amaze me when the kids keep ploughing on through life, despite their problems. They have an armour of steel and they just “get on with it”, but with a flair and smile. They still pull jokes on me and say all sorts of crude things, but they balance it out with adult conversations and introduce new ways of thinking. They give me a hug and shake my hand every time I enter. They ask about Pam and how my job is going. It’s brilliant. When you’re in the street, as I found out, you do feel wary about street youths, about if they have bad intentions or not. But these kids put my faith back into society. I believe they can change their lives around. On the most part. They do.

One thing did touch me quite a bit yesterday. While I was volunteering there last year, I can’t remember which month, a young girl was brought to Casa Alianza by her mother from a very dangerous neighbourhood called Los Pinos. I remember the girl very well. She was small, had a couple of scars in her face, triguena, dark-skinned and big bright eyes (I have just described about a million kids in Honduras, but there you go), but still very pretty, especially when she smiled. She was 12 or 13, I think. She was very shy and was scared of the screaming and rough and tumble of some of the kids. To be fair, it can shock many who are unprepared for it. She was brought by her mother because Mara gangs were preying on her, to make her work as a prostitute for them, to exploit her. She was very shaken up, but she started following me around and, for the few days she was there, brightened up. I would make jokes, make her play games, get her to do drawing and make a few friends. One day, she just said she was leaving, no reason, and gave me a very harm hug and a huge gracias. After that, I didn’t think I would see her again. I remember feeling a bit sad.

But yesterday I did. I didn’t recognise her at first. She was a lot taller now and had quite a bit of make up on. She flashed a huge and gave me another huge hug. We barely spoke because there was so much noise and she was being hurried along by friends. The appreciation was still there and I felt worthy, that But it was a special moment. No tiene precio, as Pam often says.

Another lad who was in Casa Alianza, quite popular and chatty, and was a brilliant footballer, is now living in the town of the first town I lived in, Tatumbla. It was great to see him. His parents died of cancer and he was living in some dangerous places in San Pedro Sula. Now he is in the safe haven of Tatumbla, in the shadows of the huge mountain where I got garapatas and mites! He doesn’t know the crazy grandmother, but the crazy grandmother has now moved in Linaca and lives her son and grandsons. But it was good to see the lad doing well.

As for the book, it is being looked at and edited by Casa Alianza UK. Hopefully it will be published this year, and we can publicise it in a human rights bash taking place in, no other, than Birmingham. I love my home city. The city keeps calling me back. No matter how many people slag it out or make fun of the accents, it has an original quality, a realness to it, that not many other cities I have been to have. So it will be nice to go back for that at some point next year.

That’s if we’re still here. Bloody Mayans!

For a little fair well song to Menin, I suppose I have to end with a clichéd “Gypsy Kings” song. I don’t know if Menin even likes them, but I will include a song which always reminds me of my own time in his native Spain, Baila Me. And if he doesn’t like it, lo siento. Voy a incluir los mejores goles de Sporting Gijon tambien.

Tenga suerte Abuelo Menin!

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Casa Domingo (INJOCA)

Hi all

A week or so ago, we celebrated Christmas with the lads and girl who are still part of the project. Funding has pretty much run out and the project is running on empty at the mo. The heart’s still in it and I haven’t given up looking for funds, so if you know any grants, funds or contacts, please put them in contact.

http://www.facebook.com/#!/AsociacionINJOCA?fref=ts

http://www.injoca.org/hnd_inicio_sp.htm

The staff are sad about the situation, and so are the young people. But as Menin said (the director of Casa Alianza, in his last couple of days there) to Ana in Casa Domingo today, that there is always someone willing to donate somewhere in the world, so please let us know if you can help.

I don’t know if I’ve included it in past updates, but I had an article published on the Honduras Weekly website about a month ago. However, it seems to have been taken off. The website seems to have been redesigned, so maybe it’s just that I can’t find it. Instead, I am going to include some information about Casa Domingo, in case you’re interested in donating:

INJOCA Association is a non-profit organization in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, that supports young people living on the streets, in conflict with the law or at social risk. INJOCA empowers the youths with skills and knowledge to enable them to live a positive independent life.

Honduras is labeled the most dangerous country in the world by the United Nations. Youths suffer human rights violations on a daily basis, are murdered unjustifiably, are sexually exploited, are forced to work with little pay or security and are neglected by society. Because of extreme poverty, social problems and political indifference, there are a lack of opportunities for youths (25% of young people do not work or study and 35% are unemployed), generating feelings of disillusionment and helplessness. Many do not have access to education and become illiterate. Many suffer domestic violence and sexual abuse at home and turn to the street. They take drugs to deal with their problems, become affiliated with gangs, commit crimes and are sometimes forced into prostitution in order to survive.

INJOCA Association offers an alternative to this, providing young people with fresh starts, work opportunities and the necessary resources to achieve their individual goals. The educators mentor the young people step-by-step through their development, listening and focusing on their needs, teaching them the values of education, responsible living and essential life-skills, assisting them with their behavior, drug problems and emotion issues, as they prepare for adulthood.

The chief project, Casa Domingo, is a safe home for 6 to 10 male youths between 16 and 30 years of age, which acts a temporary bridge-home as they prepare for independent living. These are some of the other services that Casa Domingo provides:

  • One-to-one tuition on budgeting, punctuality, literacy, arithmetic, how to cook, hygiene, healthy living, and help with homework.
  • Participation in artistic, sporting and leisure activities, theater, cultural visits, celebrate significant days of the year.
  • Implementation of workshops on psychosocial skills (self-esteem, social skills, non-violent conflict resolution, interpersonal relationships and gender equality) and addiction prevention and sexuality as a key preventive strategy.
  • Registration and enrolment in vocational training centers, formal and non-formal education (education alternative spaces and spaces of artistic, cultural, sports and leisure).
  • Provision of work and school supplies and extracurricular activities to reinforce and support school/college activities.
  • Individual and group guidance on aspects of personal presentation, hygiene and responsibility at work.
  • Monthly workshops to develop job skills: developing CVs, job search, interview techniques, etc.
  • Training workshops pre-employment and development of manufactured goods enabling them to earn additional income.
  • Support in establishing a small business.
  • Family reintegration and support program.

INJOCA is recognized by the Honduran government social services IHNFA and is part of COPRENDH; a professional network of 40 organizations that support children and young people in society.

Casa Domingo is a dynamic project that provides a hugely important role in the integration of youths in society. Although other projects help young people learn a trade and even secure a job, many youths still lack the life-skills, literacy and employability skills necessary to make a full transition to adulthood. No other organization has the skills, expertise and experience as INJOCA in supporting people living in the street, in conflict of the law and /or at social risk, to become independent and live successful lives.

We are dedicated and passionate about providing a high quality service to young people who are forgotten and abandoned by Honduran society. We believe that streets youths can change their lives around with correct and professional guidance and can contribute positively in society. We have been providing this service successfully for seven years and served over 250 young people.

Together, we are transforming young people’s lives and developing Honduras. Without the constant effort of the educators and youths, this change would not be possible.

I was in Casa Domingo today, which is kind of why I’m feeling inspired to write tonight. I was speaking to a lad called Angel today. I don’t know him too well, but he was telling me how his “mujer” (woman), as he put it, had a daughter about a month ago but he’s struggling to feed both without having a job: a very familiar story in Honduras. He also told me that he was learning English through Tracy Chapman songs. A kind of unique and forward-thinking way of picking up a language, but very admirable, I must say. Tracy Chapman has done an awful lot of human rights, especially for LGBT groups in the states. Angel said he liked Baby Can I Hold You Tonight?, which is a song that I also like. So, here, below, this is for Angel. And his “mujer”.


Buen Viaje Hazel Mealy

Hello all

Sorry it’s been a while. I’ve been very busy in the run up to Christmas with work, translating for a friend, job interviews, work with Casa Domingo, visiting Casa Alianza, immigration problems (yes, more problems!). I’ve also built up an unhealthy addiction to Tetris. Don’t ask me how. That’s just the way it is. I’ve been waiting to do an update. It’s quite a sad time as people are moving on. One of those is my great mate, Hazel Mealy, who has now left Honduras. She’s leaving behind her many great friends, but they’ll be always be mates wherever she choses to go. She is going to an Aunty very soon. We had some great times, some of which are in the poem below (she already has a copy of the poem, but fuck it, I want the world to see my talent).

Hazel Mealy Bug
Goodbye and good luck, young Mealy bug,
You’re a very special friend,
You hop and skip and jump through life,
And give the Catracho brain a mind-bend.
Living via the blow of the wind,
You take on what life brings,
Though we’ll miss you so much here,
We’re happy you’ll be experiencing new things.
You’re going to be an Aunty very soon,
And what a great craíc you’ll be!
Doing all the fun stuff, the playing and laughing,
Though nappy duty’ll turn your stomach, you’ll see!
You’ve been a great sport in our funny adventures,
You’ve a magical up-and-go persona.
Amapala, Yuscaran, model shows and Bigos,
Shared with stolen liquor, Salva Vida or Corona.
I really enjoyed chatting with you,
Soothing our minds from Honduran madness,
I’ll always appreciate that you’ve been there for me,
Especially through any Casa Alianza sadness.
You’ve always put me up in your place,
And you’ve never made a fuss.
But what makes me laugh even more is that:
You don’t give a fuck about Maras on the bus!
It sounds like a funny old cliché,
But you must always follow your dreams.
Doing something that you don’t like
Is only hollow, time-wasting and obscene.
You’ll soon be doing whatever you want to do,
Your determination is inspiring,
You have self-worth; you stand your ground,
And you’ve no time for those misfiring.
I hope that you can say the same,
That I’ve been a good friend to you,
You’ll always be mi hermana Catracha-Irlandesa,
I’ll miss you, you haven’t a clue.   

Written by a kid in a China shop. Only Hazel will understand that.

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We had a couple of great parties to celebrate her parting. By that I mean, she was there and attended them. Not after she went. This update is a few days late (she left on Monday) but it’s never too late to dedicate a song to her. It includes a band from Ireland. You may have not heard of them. They’re called U2. The lead singer’s name is Bono. They’ll never make it big. Anyway, Bono is having a bit of a sing-a-long with a favourite of Hazel’s. No, it’s B*witched. Bono calls him the boss. Everyone else calls him Bruce Springsteen.