Easter appeal update
Firstly, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the incredible generosity our supporters have shown towards our recent Easter Appeal. Your support has provided vulnerable street children with essential items such as food, clothing and hygiene materials. These items really do make a huge difference to the children we work alongside. Your support at this time, as children around the world face more desperate and difficult situations than ever, means our partners have been able to prevent street children going hungry, provide something warm to protect them from the cold and treat their injuries and illnesses.
As you know, these essential items do so much more than just meet a child’s immediate needs. For those who may have ended up on the streets after leaving violent or traumatic home lives, receiving some of these essential items may be the first time in months, or even years, that they have felt any form of kindness or compassion.
For our frontline staff, giving out supplies in this way gives them an important first opportunity to build trust with a child or young person. Slowly, over time, as a bond of trust forms, the teams can find out about a child’s personal circumstances and begin to work closely to support them in their journey away from the streets.
Sadly, we know that street children regularly face terrible discrimination for the way they look and dress, which can have a hugely detrimental impact on their self-esteem and mental health. It occurred to me that as humans we all have a deep-rooted desire to feel accepted and like we belong. Simple, yet essential everyday items, like the right shoes can really help to rebuild a child’s sense of worth. I was really struck by a comment made by five-year-old Gabriel, who recently received a new pair of school shoes from our partner in Guatemala. He told us, “I feel like I look different with these shoes - they look new.” It is thanks to support like yours, that Gabriel will now be able to go to school with shoes just like his classmates. He said, “Even though they’re for school, they’ll help me to run faster too! It felt good when I received my shoes – they feel so soft!”
Receiving essential items, like a new pair of shoes, really can be the first step on a street child’s journey towards a brighter future. In Gabriel’s case, they will allow him to play at ease – like every child should be able to. I now have a such joyful vision of Gabriel in my mind, speedily running across the playground, playing with his classmates at breaktime! Thank you for helping to make this a reality for him and for so many others.
Solidarity with Ukraine
Like so many over the last few months, we have been watching in horror and dismay at the distressing scenes of innocent children fleeing violence and being forced from the safety of their homes in Ukraine. As you may be aware whilst Toybox does not have any projects in this region, we have been using our weekly reflection time to pray as a team for peace for the country and for all those around the world impacted by war. If you have joined us in these prayers, thank you so much.
Increased levels of violence in Central America
Here at Toybox, sadly we know all too well the impact violence, fear, separation, and displacement can have on children and their families. Every year, our partners in El Salvador and Guatemala witness thousands of families fleeing extreme violence and poverty, in search of safety in the US. Today, our partners in both Guatemala and El Salvador are witnessing increased levels of violence in the cities they work and have reported how the situations are getting progressively worse.
The Government in El Salvador declared a state of emergency after a huge increase in murders at the beginning of April, most of which are suspected to be gang related. In Guatemala, the team have recently described how the latest sharp increase in organised crime is resulting in the active targeting of young people on the streets for recruitment into these organisations. At a time when the economic impacts of the pandemic are still very much being felt, particularly by the most vulnerable, it is incredibly worrying that children may be forced into this type of work in order to survive. Please join us in praying for Guatemala City.
The road to recovery
Finally, I am really pleased to report that most of our project activities are back on track again, after over two years of Covid disruption. This is encouraging news and means that our partners will be able to reach out to even more street children in the coming months. We pray that things continue to move in the right direction and that the children we work alongside can begin to heal from the trauma and uncertainty and increased mental health challenges they faced during this time. Thank you for continuing to stand alongside us and the children we are here to help on this road to recovery.