Day 4: Thanksgiving
We arrived at the park near eight to meet with the boys for portraits and a quick lesson. The guys work all day, and time in the morning is precious as they find customers, so we planned to meet early and get things rolling. We found Melanie and Victor sitting on a bench chatting, his eyes still droopy from just waking up after spending the night in the park. Just as Chris walked up to join us, Victor pointed at a police truck and said Mario (another one of our kids) was inside.
Chris flagged the truck, and it circled the park, where they began talking about why Mario was detained. In the meantime, the police requested that Victor also go with them, and a struggle ensued when he refused. The police said that they had orders to take the boys because they were sleeping on the street, when they've been told not to, and that they weren't cooperating. Present at the time as well, were several journalists from the news stations and paper there ready to document what was happening. It felt too coincidental, and indeed they were there to do a story about the police "cleaning up" the streets.
The photo below appeared in the paper the next morning, with the journalist commentary about the way Victor was treated.
I feel helpless. There really isn't anything that can be done at this point. Melanie explained to the police that one of the reasons the boys sleep in the park is that they are physically and sexually abused in the dorms and children's homes, that they would rather be cold than violated. They boys were still taken away. We are told that they will be sent to a large boys home in Guatemala City, which isn't good. They are currently at the home in Xela, where one of the little boys broke his arm, climbing the wall as he escaped. The hardest part is that there are not better places available for kids. Life is rough when your best option to stay safe is to sleep on the street.
We are heartbroken, completely. The system is messed up. The fact that we don't have better choices for the kids and a way to keep them safe is equally awful. They should be protected, but they are not. Instead, it feels like they are managed and displaced so they aren't an eyesore.
What a struggle.