With four of our new friends- Daniel, Jhonny, Baby and TiRonal we decided to go to the Malecon. The Malecon is right along the ocean and is a long strip of road. Next to it, it has shops, restaurants, church, etc. On Sundays, many families come out to enjoy the day and vendors sell sweet treats and kids toys, they play music, and people show off their moto skills. My mission that day was to find William. William is a boy I met on my last trip to the DR. This poor boy has it rough, his father died and his mother is in Haiti. He lives with his abusive aunt who makes him work as a shoe shiner for income. I had his photo and Daniel took it and brought it to a boy who was selling candies. The boys face immedietly lite up and told us William was only a few minutes away and he would go get him.
He came back with William, and William looked at me for a second and then ran over and gave me a huge hug. I don't think i'll ever forget the expression on his face! We went to see the fort and then just played around watching the boys do flips and other crazy acrobatics. After that, we all went out to eat chicken, rice, and boiled and fried plantain(banann peze). There was a tv in the restaurant playing Godzilla which was a big hit with the boys. After eating, we sent the young boys on their way home and with our friends from the beach went to pick up some items we needed from a departement store before heading back. By time we left the store it was pouring rain and we went to find a taxi. One of the shoe shinner boys we ate with, Tiga, was standing outside with his clothing drenched from the rain. Daniel went to talk to him to ask why he didn't go home yet(I should mention Daniel is amazing with the younger boys.) Tiga lives very far from where we were and further than all the other street boys. He is also a new boy and he didn't know any of the other shoe shinners. We decided to go out for icecream and bring Tiga to learn more about him.
The boys all choose their ice cream and Tiga got a banana split. Whipped cream, sparkles and all that other sugary greatness. But he refused to eat it. The boys thought it was because he already ate and started scolding him for making me buy him something. But Tiga told me that he wanted to take it home to his mother. We explained that it would melt, but he persisted until tears started streaming down his face. So, we bagged it up to go and all took a taxi to bring him home safely.
Tiga has 5 siblings, 2 which have died and 3 which are in Haiti. His father also died, and he stays with his single mother. His mother, although I don't know how, has lost both her legs and is unable to work. Therefore, this amazing little boy works shoe shinning and begging to help keep him and his mom fed.
We visited the Malecon frequently, and became so attached to all the shoe shinners there. They each have a story that will completely break your heart, but just by being around them, you would never know it. They are funny, smart, quirky, and just like regular boys anywhere. They shoe shine, and also receive the occasional hand out. None of them were in school, although some went on Mondays to local Haitian schools. We brought some creole-english children's book, and paper and pens and had a bit of an outdoor lesson. They absolutely loved the books, and even though the stories were simple they really got into them. Some of the boys were able to spell a few specific words, and others were not able too. One of our "beach boys" who is 14, was not even able to spell his own name. It was easy for us to imagine an amazing future for this boy as he is caring, a leader type, and ethusiastic to learn new things. But seeing him struggle to write a three letter word, was more heartbreaking than many many things.
These boy really want to be in school-good schools. There were some who couldn't afford to go to school because they are required to pay school and uniform fees- often times less than $5. Boys such as Tiga, are also the breadwinner for their families. He would not be able to provide for himself or his mother if he was in school. I would imagine some would also quit school, as it is hard to go into a program when you are so used to working. It will take time and alot of effort to be able to not only put the boys in school, but keep them there and provide the needed aid to their families so they do not have to work.