AMERICA/MEXICO - San Felipe de Jesús Foundation pulls children away from streets, mafia and exploiters

Friday, 7 December 2018

Mexico City (Agenzia Fides) – Street children are "invisible: no one sees them", says Rev Francisco Crisanto, diocesan priest and director of the Foundation “Fondazione San Felipe de Jesús” FSFJ, which years ago reorganised and “Hogares Providencia” activity started by Spanish Scolopian priest Fr. Chinchachoma. "To render them visible was his great undertaking " says Rev. Cristanto. On arriving in Mexico Fr. Chinchachoma established contact with street children. They came in from the countryside and slept in the city parks and wastelands, bus stations, under bridges. Fr Chinchachoma "approached them with respect, embracing them, calling them by name ". This was how Providence Home “Hogares Providencia” started.
Fr Crisanto took over a year after the death of Fr Chinchachoma. Earlier he had started “Fondazione San Felipe de Jesús” for street children, in response to a plea for help from a parish. "I was moved as I saw the children coming: dirty, drugged,...". This is why the Foundation took the name of the parish where he was serving. "An extremely poor parish close to the main bus station. The ideal place for street children. But before I never noticed them at all " the priest admitted.
The first 15-20 children slept in churches on benches, on steps ... until, thanks to relations of the famous comedian Cantinflas (Mario Moreno) and their Foundation, a refectory was opened. In 1999 don Crisanto took over the direction of Hogares Providencia of the deceased Fr Chinchachoma, who at the time was caring for 144 children and adolescents in 14 homes, which by the time he resigned the homes were 17 and the guests were 200. When he resumed the direction of the FSFJ, "the situation had changed".
"Today we work mainly with prevention, because today there are hardly any children on the streets " he explains. "In Mexico City there are less than 1,000 whereas in those days there were 6.000. Nowadays they remain in the cities of the province, and those who you do find on the streets have a family to go to in the evening although they suffer from affective, emotional and moral poverty ”. Most of them work. Many are recruited by the mafia, often for prostitution. "They are good hearted children who wash windscreens at traffic lights and do other little jobs. And they bring money home " says Rev Francisco.
The Foundation cares for about a thousand minors offering psychological therapy, activity of sports and art helping them "to develop the resilience needed to face so many difficulties. Above all, as Fr Chinchachoma used to say, we give them what they need most: love and attention, without which they become victims of drugs, alcohol and violence ". The threat of delinquency threatens the Foundation: a short time ago one of the educators was kidnapped and two more beaten up, following a complaint about a false rehabilitation centre which recruited the children and obliged them to work.
The FSFJ staff go out in search of the children and take them to the Foundation where they are inserted in the school system. "We also visit schools to help children who find it difficult to settle in and to prevent the development of drug dependence ". But the flower in our buttonhole is a support programme by grandparents that increasingly take the place of parents - who work all day and in a city with immense distances – in caring for grandchildren. "It works very well: it consists of emotional and emotional accompaniment. The grandparents are more lively and awake and their health improves ".
The Foundation lives off the products it produces and sells to third parties. Government assistance has diminished due to the economic crisis, but Rev. Cristanto puts his hope in the new government about to be convoked as the chairman of social actors has promised, to identify solutions together. In 20 years the Fondazione San Felipe de Jesús has assisted 13 thousand street children and adolescents. Today it works in districts with greater numbers of vulnerable minors, at school centres and day centres. (SM) (Agenzia Fides 7/12/2018)