With just over two weeks to go until I head to Nicaragua, its time for another update.
The first thing I want to do, for those of you who are still not sure, is explain exactly why I have made this decision to begin working with street children in this very troubled part of the world.
From a personal perspective, it has always been my intention to work with young people and teenagers, as I have always found them the most inspring group of people in the world. When I travelled around Central America during last year, whilst living in Costa Rica, I saw the appalling situation faced by young people living on the street, as well as the sheer volume of youngsters in this condition. I knew, as I started to piece together my plans for the future, that working to somehow make things a bit better for young people and teenagers forced to live on the harsh streets of Latin America, was exactly what I want to be doing.
Facts and figures
UNICEF estimates there to be at least 100 million street children in the world. At least 40 million of these are thought to be in Latin America. Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, and the city where I will be based, has at least 15,000 of these homeless and abandoned children. Most live on rubbish dumps or other of the poorest and most dangerous corners of the city.
Whilst on the streets the children face massive risks to chronic illness, HIV/AIDS infection, victims of violence, drug dependency, and being recruited into prostitution. Around 80% of Nicaragua's street children are estimated to have been forced to turn to prostitution at some point in order to survive.
Casa Alianza is one of those organisations that I really do feel, inspires. It works in a number of different ways to help the street children in the countries it works, first and foremost, helping to provide friendship for children where society tends to neglect and marginalise.
Casa also works to give the kids an option of a residential centre, support for young mothers, legal aid, family rehabilitation, and support for street children with HIV/AIDS.
Along with the tremendous day to day work of this organisation, there are two major examples where its work has rightly caught the attention of the world's press.
The first was the work of Casa Alianza which bought the state of Guatemala before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, where the state was found guilty of killing street children by police officers (agents of the state). It was a barbaric practice of 'social cleansing' where street children where killed and tortured as they were seen as disposable citizens. The practice still goes on, but Casa Alianza has bought light on the horrific practice.
The second was the remarkable first ever Street Childrens World Cup, held in South Africa in March 2010. 10 teams of street children from around the world took part. Team Nicaragua was coordinated by Casa Alianza and came third in the competition. The event, which bought street children together, provided friendship, a sense of belonging and identity is a true example of how it is possible to make the world a better place.
And back to me
Ok, so to be honest, I was having doubts. Had I made the right decision? Managua is not a nice place. It is a very poor, unsafe city. Do I really want to be there?
Last night, however, when I attended the opening of an exhibition in London about the Street Childrens World Cup, my doubts were dispelled.
I firstly saw that I am not alone. There is an enormous group of wonderful people who want to make this world a better place for street children. I also saw that with strength, commitment, and passion it is possible to do things that really make a wonderful difference to the lives of these people.
Seeing this has given me a renewed sense of hope and belief in myself. I am ready to go to Managua! I am ready to do what I can, working with Casa Alianza, to make this world a better place for street children!
- Simon Walters
- My name is Simon Walters - I work for Casa Alianza Nicaragua. Casa Alianza Nicaragua is a non-profit NGO, working to protect, support and rehabilitate children living on streets, victims of abuse, violence, abandonment, commercial and sexual exploitation and human trafficking. I work as a specialist member of staff, coordinating healthy and sustainable activities for the kids in our protection, and on the international development side of things - working with all the Casa Alianza sites in Latin America. I hold a MA in International Law and Human Rights from the United Nations University for Peace, and a MA in History from the University of Edinburgh. I am very involved in the Model United Nations, and in 2009 served as the Founding Secretary General of Mostar International Model United Nations, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I also have experience in English teaching, coaching public speaking and debating, acting and radio presenting.