By Janey DeMeo, Special to ASSIST News Service
TIJUANA, MEXICO (ANS – April 5, 2016) — Some children are used to seeing murder — and I am not referring to what they see on TV. This is especially the case with the kids in the Orphans First children’s program in Pedregales, a drug-infested barrio of Tijuana, Mexico where four fatal shootings recently took place—two directly affecting kids in the program.
In one case the mother of seven kids was shot and killed over a bad drug deal. One of her sons, David, was shot and killed three years ago at age sixteen. The remaining children have different fathers and no one knows who or where they are. Most of the children are now living with their grandmother, Mary.
Some of these children attend the Orphans First program, including nine-year-old Jennifer, who has AIDS, and two of her younger brothers. Like most of the kids in the neighborhood, the children are undernourished. (The meals they receive in the Orphans First program are probably the only balanced food they eat.)
The Orphans First program director, Deanna, and Calvary Chapel Pedregales, are doing all they can to help this family in crisis with food and other necessities as they do for other impoverished neighbors including Lupita and her three little ones. Lupita, a girl who cleans the property, is another victim of the recent shootings, which killed her husband.
These murders stress the importance of the Orphans First children’s program, which provides afterschool tuition, clothes, food, toys, medical assistance and Bible teaching for some forty kids, and also helps their families. But there are hundreds more kids who would like to be in the program. We simply do not have enough help.
For children who attend the program regularly, their chances of a better future are greatly increased. Biblical teaching, general education as well as belonging to a solid church community will hopefully aid these little ones to reach for God’s best and rise beyond the status quo of their environment.
But nothing is simple. Nothing is as it should be. Some kids find it hard to attend regularly simply because they find themselves having to take care of younger siblings. And, in the case of older kids, they often drop out of the program when they reach pre or early teen years, drawn away by the world’s allures.
And, given their surroundings, it is no surprise.
Pedregales is, after all, an impoverished drug riddled colonias of Tijuana. The unsanitary conditions of slum homes precariously built onto the slopes of the ravine (propped up by scraps and old tires) starkly contrast the view—San Diego high-rise buildings. Unpaved roads, poor drainage and sewage, unreliable electricity and limited water access contribute to health problems for these impoverished people who, for the most part, have little access to health care.
To add to the problem, the local public school lacks quality education and oftentimes lacks attendance. Kids frequently miss school. Parents are either dysfunctional owing to alcohol or drugs or just plain overwhelmed trying to survive. “I didn’t wake up so I didn’t go,” is a frequent comment kids make. No one was there to wake them. But without education, the children will likely end up like the adults in the vicinity—trying to make ends meet through prostitution or drug deals. (Already by age twelve, many children are drawn into this sordid lifestyle.)
While we thank God for every child in the Orphans First children’s program in Pedregales—for the help they receive—it is nonetheless hard not to feel sad knowing hundreds of others would love to be in the program and could radically benefit from it. It is also hard to ignore the plight of those older kids who leave to get caught up in the fray of the drug rackets. How can we reach them all? How can we do more?
Part of the problem is this: there are simply not enough helping hands to do more at this time. We need more full-time workers to take care of these kids—and, of course, funds are always needed.
No wonder Scripture teaches, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Proverbs 9:38).
Orphans First programs include two children’s programs in Mexico and four children’s homes in India. Watch the short promo videos and find out more about Orphans First here: www.orphansfirst.org.
Finally, as we pray for these children, let us not forget kids in America who have been thrown extremely painful situations. Recently, I wrote about a six-year-old girl, Lexi, who was ruthlessly removed from her family in California. Read my article here: https://assistnews.net/index.php/component/k2/item/1642-child-abuse-in-a-different-form-save-lexi-writer-s-opinion. Pray and speak up for Lexi by signing the petition here: www.lexipetition.com.
May God help us hear His heartbeat and do our part so that these children’s lives will be significantly better.
Photo captions: 1) Shack homes in the barrio of Pedregales. 2) Kids eating in the Orphans First children’s program. 3) Kids doing schoolwork in the Orphans First children’s program. 4) Jennifer, Luis, Moisies, Christopher (Mary’s grandkids). 5) A shack in the Pedregales neighborhood with steps made from tires.6) Louis and Janey DeMeo at the studios of the Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network (http://hsbn.tv), after recording an interview there.
About the writer: Janey DeMeo is founding-president of Orphans First — a Christ-centered non-profit ministry helping underprivileged children around the world. She is an author, freelance writer and Bible teacher — and has worked with husband, Louis, as a church-planter in France. Her website is: www.orphansfirst.org.
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