|Park in Cinquera|
|The Church in Cinquera with the bombs out front. Note the painting of Oscar Romero on the left.|
The legacies of the war impact much of El Salvadorian life. Gangs and narco-trafficing are big business here that grew exponentially after the war. Why this is, is another long story, which I'll save for another day. Parts of this country are very, very violent. Life is organized to protect people from this violence. As a result, I am rarely out on the street after dark (occasionally on a bus or in a vehicle, but never just wondering around). There are armed security guards everywhere and there are a lot of police, who travel in groups of 3 or 4. While I have never been threatened or robbed here, everyday everyone structures their day to minimize this risk. The risk is almost always present. Every once and a while you get a bit of a break from this reality and it feeling very safe feels very odd. Yesterday was one of those of days.
I had the opportunity to accompany a group of youth and their leads to a water park for the day. One of my colleages Edith, works at ADES and is studying social work. She has had her placement working at a youth centre in Zacamil. This is a very poor, very rough section of San Salvador. The family situations of these youth are general really bad. Among other things, there is not enough food for any of these kids. I was shocked when one "little guy" told me he as 12. I thought he was about 6 or 7 based on his size. The future for these kids is not at all certain. In addition to all their family issues, the area where they live in is controlled by gangs. There will be a lot of pressure to join and the risk of death if they don't. Yesterday was not about their reality, it was about having a day away.
So the "chicos" and their adult leaders and I piled into a mini-van and headed for the water park. It was nothing like what a Canadian water park would be like, but there was 3 different pools complete with water slides and a splash pad area. None of the water was very deep, so it was very safe. There was also a park like area that surrounded the pools. The boys could run and play and they did. There were bbq areas and so the adults cooked up chicken. and the other leaders had brought rice, salad, tortillas, pop and cookies. The kids had a huge feed. I didn't initially understand what was happening when they started coming to ask for plastic bags, I thought they were bagging the garbage. Then I realized what they were doing was taking food from their plates home. The leftovers got bagged and the kids took them too.
Once again I was reminded of the lesson that I learn again and again here. When the big picture is just too overwhelming and too sad, look around. I was amazed at how kind the "big" kids were to the "little" kids. This group has become its own "alternative" family. Maybe this connection the boys will be able insulate each other a little bit from the all of the challenges in their young lives. At the very least, they had a day away, where they could be kids and where the adults around them were kind and nurturing. Maybe, this will help these kids to continue to be the peaceful kids they are. By showing them a different path perhaps they will be able to chose peace rather than the life of violence that surrounds them.
Once again, I feel deeply honoured to have been able to share this "happy" day with the "chicos from Zacamil".
|The "chicos" and their leaders|
|At the pool|