I helped develop a partnership between my church and a church in a VERY poor, VERY violent ghetto in San Jose, Costa Rica called Pavas. Its been going strong for 5 years now.
Pavas is a damnable place. It sucks the young men into gang violence and early death/incarceration and the women into early motherhood, prostitution and general despair. It is truly a cycle of poverty that feeds itself. Last Thursday a 20 year old kid was shot to death behind the church.
Together we are able to do many cool things for the community there to make Pavas a better place. While we are Christian, we know that a big pile of Jeebus isn’t going to help the kids. We focus on meeting the kids’ daily needs for food and hugs, and their longterm needs by offering access to education.
Which brings me to Beblyn. Just look at her. 8 years old and beautiful. When I arrive in the church (2 or 3 times a year) she runs to me and jumps in my arms and gives such great hugs. Throughout the visit I will look down and find her clinging to my waist.
Her father and mother are both uneducated. Her dad pretty much steals things and sells them on the street to make money. Her mom volunteers in the church and is rewarded with any food leftover from the daily lunch program and maybe some clothes when donated. The donated clothes are the reason the pic does not betray the truth of her desperate poverty.
I went in their home last Thurday. It is very dangerous just to walk through the neighborhood. Imagine the worst tin shanty town you have ever seen. You walk down alleys and between corrugated walls. You step through mud and god-knows-what that is flowing under your feet. You turn sideways to squeeze through a narrow opening and come to a one room little shack with tin walls.
When Beblyn saw me come in she positively lit up. She has a little shelf and on it are her clothes. She was so proud to show me her church dress and the uniform and shoes the church bought her for school. Her mom served fresh, real mango juice and made me feel welcome. It was a sublime moment.
Here is the thing. Beblyn is 8. I can’t bear to watch her grow up and be swallowed up by the streets. But realistically she has a very small chance of coming from such circumstances and escaping the vortex of poverty. At 10 she starts running errand for the local drug dealers, at 12 she is sexually active, at 13 she is pregnant, and after that her fate is sealed. I can’t bear it.
I don’t know what to do. I could rent a decent house for the family for $400/month and at least she would have relative safety and security. But then the other kids in the church would definitely smell the favoritism and be resentful. Hell I could even raise the funds to buy a small house there and move them completely out of the community. There are definitely nicer parts of San Jose. But then she would lose the support structure of the church, and again, how do you explain her good fortune to the other kids?
How in the hell can I help this little girl at least have a shot? I am at a loss.