Casa Alianza Background and Work

My Street Children Photography Programme in Mexico is operating under the auspices of Casa AlianzaCasa Alianza is an international, non-government organisation working  across Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala for the rehabilitation and defense of street children.

The organisation was founded in 1981 during a time when Central America (the narrow slither of states connecting north and south of the continent) found itself uprooted in political turmoil, civil war and unimaginable human rights abuses. Beginning as a small refuge in Guatemala for displaced children, Casa Alianza has since grown to  become Latin America’s leading children’s rights organisation.

A position that does not come with an easy task. In the central area of Mexico City alone over 13,000 children live on the streets in the endless sprawl of its roads, alleyways and concrete overpasses. A further 1,900,000 are living in situations of  high risk involving abuse, neglect, poverty, exclusion and exposure to gang activity (City of Mexico/Fideicomiso, Report, 1991) .  This statistic, however, does not take into account the sheer numbers of children who suffer under appalling labour and household conditions off the street, some 8 – 11 million  (US Dept of Labour, Sweat and Toil of Children, 1994, citing US Dept of State, Human Rights Report, 1993).  In tackling the problem, Casa Alianza employs a  methodology customised to the specific needs of the children in that country and has an open door policy to work with any child and/or their family that needs assistance.

Casa Alianza offers a huge range of support and services including medical assistance, psychology, legal aid, family reintegration, education and, most importantly, love and respect. The programme begins with street educators who actively approach children sheltering in bus stations, rubbish dumps and alleyways and offer them immediate and urgent care. This is followed by a gradual introduction to the Casa Alianza residence where the children are introduced to taster days to find out about Casa Alianza, see the residential centre and participate in the activities provided until they decide that they feel comfortable enough in the new environment to remain there permanently.Those who stay are cared for until they are 18, during which they are helped into a detoxification programme, given access to schooling and vocational courses, and eventually encouraged to pursue an independent life through university/college courses, work or local apprenticeships.  Casa Alianza not only provides immediate and short-term support and care for street children but each child is given crucial one-to-one attention, identifying their needs and working together to build an enriching and positive life free from the streets.

With the global economy on its knees, Casa Alianza finds an enormous and ever-increasing task on its hands. The credit crunch has hit hardest the families living in the poorest sections of the metropolis, contributing to family breakdown and further financial constraints, of which children nearly always feel the effects disproportionately. Casa Alianza has seen a shift towards increasing levels of young children working on the streets, and who are subsequently vulnerable to gangs, abuse, trafficking. The residential facility in Guatemala has found itself responding to increased incidences of trafficking as poor families are coerced into allowing their children to cross borders to seek work.  Unbeknown to them, the reality is brutal as many of their children are forced into commercial sexual exploitation.  Whilst this cycle continues, effecting millions of children in Latin America, the work of Casa Alianza appears a very small rescue boat in the midst of a giant storm. But it’s a hardy vessel and for the 10,000 children it serves each year, it sets the wheels in motion for a new cycle into a sunnier future.

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