A new ‘early intervention’ project in the Peruvian capital Lima is aiming to help vulnerable street children before they encounter those who seek to exploit them.
UK based charity Toybox and its partner Viva Latin America have set up Red Alert to identify and get help to newly homeless children within hours or days of finding themselves alone on the streets. ‘Lookouts’ who are trained to spot these children, are recruited as volunteers from local churches, people already working on the streets with the children in existing projects, and those working in the market places.
San Juan de Lurigancho and Cercado de Lima have the largest concentration of street children in the city. In 2006, San Juan de Lurigancho had the highest number of reports of family and sexual violence in Lima, and was rated 4th in all the country. The number of working children in San Juan de Lurigancho and Cercado de Lima is close to 5,000.
Carlos, 10, who arrived from the Peruvian mountains to work on the streets of San Juan of Lurigancho during his school holidays is just one of the children who had been helped by the Red Alert team.
At first he cleaned cars. Later he sold sweets and sang songs on the buses to earn a little money. When his holiday ended and it was time to go home, he did not have enough money for his return fare. With no money for rent, he had to look for a park bench to sleep on. He was in great danger of becoming a street child permanently.
Two days passed, until he was found by one of the Red Alert team who look out for new arrivals on the street. Carlos is now part of a residential home programme and is being helped to find his family and return home.