Monday, July 30, 2012

The Boys of San Vincente De Paul

San Vincente De Paul is located in Chiclayo. It is a home for boys, operated by the Peruvian government. There are many like it throughout Peru. The building is exceptionally clean and well maintained inside and out. It is long and L-shaped, having much more interior room than this photo would indicate.

At present this facility is at maximum capacity with twenty boys ranging from six to twelve years old. Some have been here only two weeks; others over one year. None of the boys entered voluntarily and none remain willingly. They are here because a judge placed them here. Many have been removed from their homes by civil authority because of mental and/or physical abuse. Others have simply been abandoned.

Rosario (left) is the director of Chiclayo’s San Vincente De Paul. She explained that, following placement by a judge, the boys are subjected to an intense three-day physical and psychological evaluation. Of the present twenty boys, twelve were diagnosed as having deep-seated psychological problems, a ratio Rosario said is normal.

The home has a small medical clinic on site, and there is a large public hospital nearby for emergencies. Two blocks from the home is a public school the boys attend daily. On Sundays the boys attend Catholic mass at a church four doors down the block. There is a basketball court/soccer field at the rear of the building, and a male employee who teaches sports to the boys. Three meals per day are provided from government donated food cooked on site. Inside the home the boys have freedom of movement. Outside they are escorted everywhere. According to Rosario they would not return if left alone. I find that hard to understand given everything that’s provided for them.

There are only four ways to leave San Vincente De Paul. A boy can be legally adopted. He can also be placed in a foster home either temporarily or permanently. He can return to his biological parents if a judge has found that the initial cause(s) for his removal have been eliminated. Some boys do have family visiting them twice weekly. The fourth way to leave is have the maximum stay of one and one-half years expire. When that happens the boy is transferred to a much larger facility for older boys located near Pimentel.  

We were at San Vincente De Paul today because one of the boys struck up a conversation with Maribel at church last week and extracted a promise from her to visit him. We took empanadas, chocolate milk, candy, a few balls and some toys with us (the photo was deliberately blurred to mask the kid’s identities).

When we do this sort of thing at a school there is a whole different feel to it than occurred at San Vincente De Paul. At the schools there is excitement and laughter. At San Vincente De Paul it was quiet…a strange, subdued atmosphere. The boys silently sat at tables as we passed out the food. At most (but not all) tables there were softly spoken “thank-you’s”, but neither warmth nor smiles accompanied them. These are street kids…old for their age. Life has thrown too much at them too fast. I think it would take a very special set of adoptive or foster parents to open their homes and take on the responsibility for kids like these. I also think it would be a very long time before these kids would openly and unreservedly show or return affection.

Rosario said what these kids need most is therapy. She has plans to attempt music, art and dancing as therapy. When asked if we could help, she laughingly asked if we had any spare cajon drums and could teach the kids how to play them, or Marinara costumes and could teach dancing. It just so happens that we do know an expert Marinara dancer. We’re working on the rest of it.


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