The Francisco Coll School in Guatemala City is one of International Samaritan’s most successful projects to date, providing free education and other resources to hundreds of children and their families. And yet, even when students attend the Coll School and do well, they can face terrible challenges.
Recently, we were made aware of a tragic situation. A 42-year-old mother, Lucía del Socorro Tijerina, was arrested in Guatemala City on charges of prostituting her 14-year-old daughter. This girl was one of our students at the Coll School. After her mother’s arrest, the girl was found at a local hotel. She had been prostituted for 100 quetzals, or approximately $13 US, to a 42-year-old man. The man was also arrested and charged.
According to neighbors of the family, the girl’s mother frequently offered her to passing pedestrians, despite the neighbor’s protests. In fact, it was a neighbor’s report that began the investigation that eventually led to the mother’s arrest. She has been charged with the serious crime of human trafficking, and the girl is now in the care of the state.
What could make a mother put her own child in such a horrendous position? Certainly in this situation it was not out of greed but out of pure desperation to keep her family afloat. When a family has no money to eat, afford shelter or medicine, good judgment becomes questionable if it means getting by for another day. So, in this case, had the mother been trained for work other than in the dump thus making more money, could the entire situation have been avoided? Quite possibly.
Human trafficking is a serious problem in Guatemala, especially in the garbage dump area. Some children are forced into labor, but many others are sold in the sex trade. Not only are these children offered to locals, but, as in many poor countries, a sex tourism industry exists in parts of Guatemala. Guatemalan children are often victims, but children are also brought into the trade from neighboring countries.
The Coll School student’s exploitation is truly heartbreaking. Even with education, training, resources, and a path out of the garbage dump community, these children face other harsh realities of the extreme poverty that surrounds them. Our hope is that through sustained good service in these communities, our positive impact grows, and no child will have to face these dangers.