Modern Nomads – The Displaced Boys of “Street Situation”
Life is a journey… some of us have easier paths because of the support we receive from our family and friends who help us take on our challenges and give us advice when we are unsure of which way to go. Moses, with God’s guidance, traveled a long and difficult journey, at many times alone
30 The Lord your God, who goes before you, is the one who will fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your very eyes, 31 and in the wilderness, where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as one carries a child, all the way that you traveled until you reached this place. 32 But in spite of this, you have no trust in the Lord your God, 33 who goes before you on the way to seek out a place for you to camp, in fire by night, and in the cloud by day, to show you the route you should take. (Dueteronomy 1:30-33)
Life is a journey… some of us have easier paths because of the support we receive from our family and friends who help us take on our challenges and give us advice when we are unsure of which way to go. Moses, with God’s guidance, traveled a long and difficult journey, at many times alone. Despite this, he taught the people along the way that we are all God’s children in need of guidance to find the right path and to show us when to rest.
A nomadic lifestyle is hard on the soul and body, each day is a challenge to find safety and survive. A group of boys at Caminante called “Street Situation” live the nomadic lifestyle of homeless adolescents in the Dominican Republic. These boys enter into this lifestyle for many reasons: abuse, abandonment, and inability to continue living with other family or caregivers. For most, a life on the street feels like the best or only option. Many have families they return to after days, weeks, or months on the streets but their families do not provide the social, emotional, or financial support that children require.
To survive, the boys of Caminante’s “Street Situation” work manual labor such as cleaning the beach for hotel/restaurant owners, cleaning car windows, and some are sexually exploited. Many are in a constant journey from job to job, tourist area to tourist area to find work and avoid problems with the police. The boys are a family, each looking out for the next and providing the care they lack for the younger boys.
Caminante Proyecto Educativo works with these children and adolescents to provide daily needs: a place to shower, rest without danger, receive medical attention, clothes, and a warm lunch. To respect the social structures of the group, it is the boys’ decision to come any particular day. The group changes constantly and Caminante staff must build a new relationship with each boy as he is introduced to Caminante and the “Street Situation” program. The participants receive physical, psychological, and social attention by Caminante staff to help them develop fully, at times it is difficult to remember that they are adolescents and not men, as their attitudes and lifestyles often project. A major challenge for these boys is that most have received very little if any education, some live on the streets as young as 10 years old. Along with daily programming, Caminante works to reintroduce the boys back into their families, foster families, or boys’ homes in order to give them greater opportunities for the future. Once in a family or home, the boys can receive educational and technological trainings to become functioning members of society.
As I come to the end of my journey with Caminante, I know that this is only the beginning of a long and difficult journey for the boys of “Street Situation”. Working with the staff and children of Caminante, including the boys of “Street Situation” has taught me the importance of family… whether it be blood or socially created. Not once in my life have I ever felt the abandonment that these children must feel on a daily basis. It is a gift that I can be a small part of their journey and to know that Caminante is helping these displaced boys discover that they are important, as God’s children and priceless members of Caminante’s family.