In mid-February, while strolling through the Town Square in the center of city, I realized that there were more teenagers and children than normal, some begging, other cleaning cars. As I often do in these situations, whenever approached by them begging or asking to clean the car, I talk to them about your situation, the reason for being there, on the street …; roughly ten days I had a general idea of the situation.
Nearly all of them knew me already, “you are the Father Pedro,” they tell me. Asking how they knew me, they said that they knew me from other companions of the street. It is significant that they knew me, because, as has happened on many occasions, they asked, “can we go with you to the Centre”. Having talked to them several times I took two and of them with me to “Social Acção” (Social Services). It was there that I was told by the “técnicos de”Social Acção ” (social workers) that they had a big problem, because there was markedly increase in the number of “da rua crianças” (street children) I told them that once registered with “Social Acção and if there was no problems, I myself would take then to our Center “. It was March 5 the officials told me to return the next day.
I returned the next day for a meeting with the Regional Director of Social Services, who told me that a center in the city had closed without notice, without trying to place the children in other centers, just putting the children on the street and walking away. “That’s the situation,” I was told, by the Regional Director. That same day, I took eleven children to our center including those I had taken to social services the day before. The next day three other children arrived. Now 16 March we are expecting four more.
We quickly had to adapt our houses to this new situation in structures and materials.
The first thing we did was buy clothes for these new children, because they came with nothing, empty-handed, then mattresses and blankets.
Quickly we contacted different schools to ask them to be admitted as soon as possible (here the classes had begun weeks earlier, in February).We arranged medical examinations and, thank God, no major health problems came up.
Their adaptation to Lar São Jerónimo is going very good. Here we have to thank the older children the of the Lar for the help they are giving me in this work, we are all helping to integrate them, treat them well and take care for them, ultimately, integration is going very positively.
Speaking of school concerns: I would like to emphasize that more than half of these kids are going to have to do “literacy”, their ages range from 12-14 years and it would not be correct to put the with children of 6 years in Primary 1. In addition, it is more advantageous for them to do three years of literacy rather than five of Primary Education, Today, March 16; they will begin classes at a literacy school more or less close to us.
The issue of documentation we will start right now, we are working on gathering data to reconstruct the social history of each one of these young people.
I would like emphasize here, that the Friday after they arriving at the Centre, we gave the permission to leave the Lar the weekend with the intention knowing whether they would or would not prefer to stay in the street, and also to obtain information from the family, if it existed. On Saturday, some were back some here in the Lar, and by Sunday afternoon, all had arrived back with two new ones. This is a positive sign; at least we know that so far, they intend to continue here. Furthermore we have no news of any their families, everything indicates that, indeed, they are “children of St. Jerome,” fatherless and motherless.
* After March 16th nine more children arrived, three from “Gabinete de Atendimento à ea Mulher Crianca Vítima de violenca” (Juvenile Police) two from “ Social Acção” and four others came directly from the street, some former residents of the center which closed.