On Thursday, March 7 Pauline Allen from the charity, ‘Let the Children Live’ was invited by the Catholic church of St Anthony of Padua in Watchbell street, to give a talk about the street children in Medellin, Colombia. While the stories of these children are appalling, the talk centred on what the charity actually has achieved since it was founded by Peter Walters in 1994. It was pure chance that Peter as a student, traveling in Colombia came into contact with the street children. He had run out of money, booked into the cheapest hotel and befriended the street children hanging around outside the hotel and who helped him, sharing their meagre food they had bought with a few pennies earned in the street.
Returning to the UK, Peter Walters was eventually ordained in 1987, becoming Father Peter, and was invited to work as assistant director of the Anglican Shrine in Walsingham. He never forgot the children who told him their horror stories of living and working in the streets, “children with special needs, young mothers, some 12 years old, as well as all the day to day emergencies/needs that they experienced in the street and the shanty towns, moving among the drug gangs and trying to avoid prostitution”.
He started to raise money and though it was not easy to establish the base in Medellin, but with the help of the local Archbishop a house was purchased due to a generous fund from a Trust. It was in the centre of the city and he called it ‘Casa Walsingham’. Apart from giving the children a safe place to be during the day, they get a decent meal and their health is looked after by staff and a social worker.
Art/education was also important. A group of children went to school in the afternoon which meant another group of street children could use the facilities of the house at the same time.
With the help of the charity some of the older boys and girls went to University becoming professionals while still sleeping in the street (a doctor, engineer, nurse, psychologist among them). Even just getting a school certificate at the charity gives them better opportunities for a job.
There are about 400 children who come to the charity on a daily basis and now, since the Venezuelan economic/social crises there are another 80 that are being helped as they flee the poverty and crime of that country. This charity is the last resort, their only safety net from the street, drugs and prostitution.
More information on the work of the charity can be found here.
Image Credits: Let the Children Live.