Christmas comes to Mexico’s street children
THE AFTERNOON ended, the sun lowered, and we took our last photos of the entire group. Many came to say ‘thank you’ and to help us collect the equipment. The work had been intense, but the satisfaction of seeing smiles on the faces of children like Genero, Leo, Alma, Alejandra and many others in equal or worse situations has made us have a very merry Christmas.
ONE OF THE CHILDREN was a 6-year-old boy called ‘Mighty Mouse.’His real name is Genero. His mother is addicted to drugs and he is often seen with her strolling through the streets of the city and begging. Genero is one of the many children who have no expectations from life. At times, his mother is jailed with other addicts and Genero is on his own for days with no one to do anything for him. ‘Mighty Mouse’ rarely has a reason to laugh except today–for it is Christmas and The Salvation Army has come to feed him and share with him a most important gift–the love that God has for Genero.
Mexico City’s poorest citizens live in cardboard and wooden shacks along the railroad tracks. Without the assistance of San Juan Ixhuatepec Corps Officers Captains Asael and Rocio Flores, Christmas would be just another day of struggling for food, warmth, and love.
For Sgts. Luis and Nohemi Camarillo, work with street children through the Toluca Outpost brings blessings and challenges–especially at Christmas.
Western Territory Salvationists play a role in both ministries through World Service giving.
In the stories that follow, the Flores and the Camarillos tell in their own words of the Army’s work in these impoverished neighborhoods.
San Juan Ixhuatepec Corps
Since Christmas is so special, we decided to have our annual dinner party for street children on Christmas Day. We wanted to share with these most needy and to emphasize that it is God who provides the gifts.
We planned a dinner with dishes that they liked and in sufficient quantity to satisfy their hunger. We arranged for the adults in the area to help by setting up tables and a covering because of the hot sun.
Many anxious children appeared who had looked forward to this day because we had told them what we were planning during previous visits. Tickets were given out to help control when the gifts would be distributed.
By 3 p.m., all was ready; the meal that had been cooked at the corps was transported to the site, and we began with a devotional and some choruses. Present were Cesar, Alejandra, Itsel, Conchita, Sonia, Brenda, Alma, Jesus, Jonathan, Leonardo and many others who from time to time accept our invitation to come to Sunday school.
Some came to “work,” like Leo, who supports his family by watching cars in a bank parking lot. He supports his mother and two sisters and maintains an excellent scholastic average. He is one of the children we would like to help because he is trying to improve his life and does not participate in drugs, which abound in this area.
After dinner, we asked the children to make a line, so we could more easily give out the gifts, which were winter jackets, illustrated New Testaments, and a shoe box with candy, toilet articles, games and clothing.
Alma and Alejandra, who attend Sunday school, were very happy to receive their gifts. Their lives changed drastically two months ago when their family had to move to the railroad tracks after being evicted from their home. They had to quit school when they moved, but The Salvation Army intervened and got them into another school near their new lodgings. This is a happy Christmas for them, since they realize they are not alone in adverse circumstances, but are the same as other children.
–Captains Asael and Rocio Flores
For some time we have been working with street children. This has brought us beautiful experiences as well as challenges. We have reached out to these little people who are in very difficult situations. We have given out clothing, shoes and food, and have brought medicine, as they get sick more easily in winter. This past December, we shared joy and gifts with more than 200 small ones during three different fiestas.
The first fiesta was held at a place called “Vecindad.” Here, some families have children who work cleaning car windows, being clowns, or selling gum or newspapers at stop lights.
Young people from a Presbyterian church helped us by presenting a Christmas play. The children enjoyed this very much, and also enjoyed singing Christmas carols.
We held the second fiesta where we operate a feeding center. It is called San Jorge Pueblo Nuevo. These people live near the garbage dump, and are very poor. Their lives are somewhat isolated. Most people here make their living sifting through the trash for usable items, or try to make and sell bricks.
The children are slow learners, and live in un-hygienic conditions. Most live in homes made of cardboard or wooden boxes.
About 90 children attended our fiesta, and were given gifts, fruit, and candies. We played games and shared a devotional message with them about the real meaning of Christmas.
Unfortunately, alcoholism is high here, and we were interrupted and insulted during the party.
The last fiesta was held at our home, which is where we work and operate the outpost. We gathered more than 110, and enjoyed games, songs and refreshments.
After Christmas, life returns to “normal” for street children. They spend most of the morning and some of the afternoon “working” in the streets, trying to get some coins to support their families and, in the worst cases, buy drugs and try to forget their sad lives.
Our ministry consists not only in providing food and occasionally clothing and shoes, but sharing with them the good news that can bring them joy and true peace. We appreciate the support that allows us to be here.
–Sgts. Luis and Nohemi Camarillo