Generación began over 20 years ago when Lucy Borja was touched by the stories of a few street children she met in Lima. In Peru, the term “street children” instantly brings a negative connotation – street children are known as monsters, thieves, criminals and prostitutes. Yet despite their reputation, when Lucy met them, she only saw kind-hearted, abandoned children who had been stripped of their rights and thrown into terrible living conditions. Shocked by their stories, Lucy invited a few children to sleep in her office overnight… but after just a few nights, Lucy came into the office to hundreds of children sleeping on the floor. She obviously could not continue to accommodate hundreds of children in a building she did not own, but Lucy greatly empathized with the children and saw the need for them to be loved at cared after – so Lucy quit her daytime job and within a few years, started and NGO which allowed her to open four safehomes to bring street children an opportunity for a stable life.
The homes made an incredible impact on the children who were able to live in them; not only were they brought out of a harsh lifestyle of drugs, violence, and often prostitution, but were also given a new community as well as the chance to attend school. Generación’s safehomes have an open-door policy, meaning children were allowed to leave the house once they came in. This was entirely unheard of, as other homes enforce strict rules where the children are not allowed to leave once they enter the program under the belief that children needed to be restrained and controlled. However, Lucy understood that there was a larger issue at hand; that these children had already grown up and only had experienced that adults and authority were constantly aiming to take their rights. Generación strongly believed that each child holds his own rights, and that when he chooses to be a part of the society he lives in, he is far more likely to succeed in school as well as later on contributing to his community.
It was difficult and revolutionary, but Lucy loved and trusted the children in a way that gave them freedom most had never even considered. For some it was a much longer process than others, because in many ways, living on the streets is an addiction – there, they are free from responsibility, curfew, homework, chores and authority – and for a child who was raised on the streets, that was a difficult thing to give up. Children often went through the cycle of coming into a home, going back to the streets, and coming back into the home several times. Fortunately, Generación’s continual involvement in working with the children directly on the streets whether they had been in homes or not greatly encouraged many children to return to the program.
Generación had early success and was able to give shelter to over 100 children in the Magdalena home alone, where children were given food, education and art and music classes. Additionally, the home in San Miguel housed girls who were taught how to run a bakery. A home in Pueblo Libre was built specifically for young adults who were working outside of the home. Both within these safehomes and on the streets, Generación continued to provide frequent opportunities for children express themselves and heal from their experiences through small projects, especially art.
However, the Peruvian government was in opposition of Generación’s initiatives. In Lima, most people still see street children as criminals, and therefore do not support Generación’s work. In the safehome in Magdalena, neighbors reported to the police that they did not want street children living in their district. Just five years ago, the mayor of Magdalena sent over 60 police officers to the home and through out all of the children from the house, telling Lucy that she did not have permission to use the home, regardless of the fact that Generación owned it. The other homes were also shut down.
Now, all that remains is the small home in San Bartolo that Lucy opened after the closing of Magdalena to continue to house the younger children. There are about 20 kids living there now, and Generación is doing its best to get permits to use the other homes in order to give shelter to more children and give them opportunity for a better life. Despite the opposition and road blocks in our efforts, Generación continues to fight for the rights of children and do whatever it takes to give them the home and education they deserve.