LOS ROMERITOS UPDATE DECEMBER 2001
Much has happened since the last update on Los Romeritos. The agency now houses the Laura Romero Children's Center; The Meggan Parkinson Women's Center and the Meggan Parkinson Family Health Clinic. The main thrust of the project remains the same however, the care, shelter and education of children at risk in one of the poorest neighborhoods of downtown Guatemala City.
The biggest event of the past year was the purchase of the project's own building through the generosity of the Spanish Red Cross. Last spring Queen Sofia of Spain came to visit in her capacity as head of the Red Cross to dedicate the new building. It is a beautiful structure not far from where the project was renting and in the same neighborhood. Our thanks go to Queen Sofia and the Spanish Red Cross for their gift to the children and for helping us to continue the work of Laura and Meggan.
A grant from a U.S. foundation is presently providing the salaries for the teachers as well. Thanks also are due the more than 100 people who have contributed funds to the project this past year.
These contributions mean that we have ben able to concentrate on raising money for utlilities supplies, food, clothing, medicine, and other necessities, rahter than simply paying the rent and salaries. We are also working to establish an endowment under a Guatemalan foundation to insure the continued financial health of the project.
The children themselves have been helping with finances, making bracelets and pin~atas which are then sold to raise money for their collective needs.
Our youngest daughter, Kendra, just returned from 3 months in Guatemala. She spent some time working with Los Romeritos and is committed to their future. This is a short piece she just finished describing what she saw.
Jacob is a 5-year-old boy who always greets you with a big smile. He came to Los Romeritos 6 months ago unable to walk or talk. For the first four years of his life, his mother's situation of poverty forced her to leave him alone in his playpen while she went to work each day.
Today Jacob spends his day in the loving care of the childcare workers at Los Romeritos. He appears to be mentally challenged, and still has trouble digesting his food since many days of near starvation have left him without the enzymes his body needs. However, he has begun to walk and he smiles all the time. His favorite task is helping the childcare workers sweep up and keep things tidy. Jacob is not ready yet to attend classes with the other children, but workers in the center look forward to seeing his progress.
Jacob is just one of the approximately forty children who are cared for and attend school at Los Romeritos, a child care center and school which is located in the heart of Guatemala City. Six staff members provide them with instruction, care, and a healthy diet for free in a city in which most children pay to attend school. Without the help of Los Romeritos, these children would probably be locked at home like Jacob or wandering the streets.
Single mothers lack the resources to provide their kids with a safe environment while they are at work. Many of the mothers are sex workers in streets of Guatemala City. A great many of the mothers are undocumented immigrants from even poorer countries of Central America & many of the children, though born in Guatemala are also undocumented because their mothers could not afford the 1500 quetzales (8 quetzales to the dollar) fee required to register your child at birth. This is a very vulnerable target population & one that virtually no one else wants to work with.
The first goal of Los Romeritos is to provide a safe and secure environment for the children. In time, they hope to be able to provide services to help the mothers get better jobs and regular health care.