It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds.
I believe that is true, literally and… metaphorically.
I want to share something with you. It is related to 'birds' with not so fine feathers (to the eyes of some).
I met these 'birds' a couple of years ago. Broken, ill, dirty. Ignored by 'finer' ones until they became invisible.
The birds of my story are very, very young. They have beautiful souls and hearts, talents that nobody thought they could have, and dreams, like any other bird their age. Some of them have broken wings, and others live in a cage.
My birds are as real as you and me. They spend their youth working. They work on the streets, selling flowers, candy, and cigarettes, to help their families and be able to eat. Most evenings and nights they go out and walk around shopping centers, restaurants, discos, wherever they can find people having the fun they can't have.
Angel (15), Pamela (14), Sandra (13), Flor (12), Francis (11), Alicia (8), Diego (4). They are just a few of the ones I had the pleasure to spend every Saturday with for a year (a couple of years ago, before I moved abroad).
More than 2 million kids and teens between 6 and 17 years old are forced to work in Peru. The work varies from shoe shining, selling products, agriculture with their family members, to slavery in mines and sex tourism.
Departments (states) like Huancavelica, Huanuco and Puno, where extreme poverty is higher, the percentage of working kids and teens between 6 and 17 years old is 96%, 94% and 92% respectively.
My experience with the ones I met was heartbreaking but also rewarding. I met amazing kids with unbelievable strength and the will to learn and become better people in the future.
We were a few crazy friends (ages 17 to 28, guess who the oldie was…), trying to take their mind away from the cold and danger of the streets for a few hours a week, teaching them handcrafts, playing with them, giving them some food and love along the way.
Sad news when we had to stop, the meeting place was closed to build something that was profitable for the owners, a few of us had to move away, and the rest couldn't continue without a place and on their own (everything came from either our pockets or friends and family who supported our 'cause')
I sometimes run into these birds, they chirp around calling my name, hugging me and asking (after almost 2 years), when are we going to start again. It's heartbreaking to tell them that we can't. You can tell they get a bit sad, but then they start making jokes and laugh until they spot a tourist or a happy couple and fly away with their flowers and their candy trying to sell enough to buy the next morning's breakfast.
I met some fine birds, with not so fine feathers.
If you are curious about what we used to do, visit my old blog here.