Generally children on the streets are not a very nice part of the view. They look dirty, hungry, and not all of them have sweet faces – on the contrary, sometimes people are scared of them. There are many stigmas around them, like they are dangerous, junkies, thieves, etc. and they are not people. Maybe one thinks about how irresponsible their parents are and it makes us feel no sympathy for them. However, do we stop to think how they became children on the streets? Or what is the story behind each one? Could it be easy to survive on the streets being a child?
To approach them is not easy sometimes and it’s even harder to gain their trust. For those reasons, JUCONI Ecuador applies a strategy to make the first contact with them using games.
Patricia was an 11 year old girl when I met her for the first time on the streets. She used to beg, sell candies and sing. She tried to be funny to get sympathy from people so she always had a big smile. All day she was very busy “working” on the streets and during the night she came back to her home. She used to say she did not have time for playing when she saw other children having fun with JUCONI´s keyworkers, but one day she joined to play and it was enjoyable for her. So since that day we wait for her every day in the same place at the same time. For some weeks we played and we gave information about who we are and we sent greetings to her family. So the approach started with the family too and soon Patricia invited us to meet her family. All of us were curious to meet each other and when we arrived at her home all the children came to welcome us as if they’d known us for a long time, and they held our hands and gave us hugs. We showed them what games we played with Patricia, but now her mother and 4 younger siblings were with us. The little house made of bamboo was almost falling down and it smelt because it was so dirty but they were so excited because of the game that we forgot about the chaotic environment. Every week we gave small compliments to the mother, for having very nice children and for preparing nice food, and she just smiled because she thought she was useless.
In this scenario we started a new friendship not just with Patricia but with her family too, without criticism, rejection or judgement. It was not the time to seek answers to our questions but to enjoy finding some positivity with them in the middle of vulnerability and poverty.