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Skipping Childhood Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Cardenas, United States Jun 27, 2007
Environment , Human Rights   Opinions


Millions of children have been poured into the streets of all urban centers in the developing world; they are the by-product of the absorbent modern society that often centralizes jobs, housing and services, where those who cannot afford it do not leave but rather camouflaged themselves around the huge public infrastructure or the suburban settlements around the metropolis. And to get ends meet the poor push their kids to work in the street. Because they can do odd jobs without looking threatening, by the contrary, they easily appeal to the pity of the pedestrians who appreciate their effort to make a buck instead of devoting their time to crime activities.

It is not longer stunning to be approached by a child selling candy in a bus station in Sao Paolo, or a little girl selling flowers outside a hotel in Lima, or a small boy singing in a public bus in Quito, or a couple of acrobat kids at a busy street intersection in Bogotá, or a casual car-window cleaner at a stop light in Caracas.

What is striking is the actions taken around this issue by local governments, foundations and community based organizations; all of whom understand the impact these population will have in their near future; all these organizations have dedicated large amounts of money to work training programs, flagged as educational centers for homeless kids or community centers for street children, they have taken onto the model of vocational job preparation, foreseeing a productive working class that simultaneously reduce crime; a win-win situation.

All these effort is appreciated by everyone, including me. But from a common-sense psychological point of view in which we care about these children as individual human beings, I raise the question: what about their childhood? Will they skip their childhoods and become adults who train and work and assume responsibilities? And just forget about the play time, the socialization process, the entertainment and the long hours of boredom necessary for creativity and internalization. I wonder what their perception of life will be, what their moral values will be like, what would they look for, will they have dreams?

Well, after talking to a friend who works in this area, I learned that a working child and even more a child working in the street is not a normal child, the work of a child is to play and through play experience, explore and learn, often going back to those who protect them and provide them with care, physical and emotional. A child working in the real world quickly looses, often traumatically his or hers sense of dependence and replaces it with a complex defense mechanism that will create a shield that will protect them from external physico-affective and emotional input, since they become potential factors of vulnerability in their daily quest for satisfaction of basic needs. In other words feelings disappear when you need bread and your value system vanishes when your main concern is getting food, shelter or avoid the cold. All this added to the chilling factor that when you are a child cannot avoid mixing the real world with that of fantasy, making trauma a callus in their understandings, beliefs and interactions with the world surrounding them.

Those interested on brief exploration of this subject should watch some of the following movies or documentaries here listed:
. Central Station – About a child left alone in Rio de Janeiro-Brazil
. Children Underground – A documentary of homeless children in Bucharest-Romania
. City of God – A critic view of the Fabelas or Cities of Children in Rio de Janeiro-Brazil
. Ratas, Ratones y Rateros – A critic view about street kids in Quito-Ecuador



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An Ecuadorian & US citizen, who has worked with community based organizations all his life.

Ibrahim K. Oyekanmi | Aug 25th, 2007
Millions of youths all over the world have losr the most wonderful part of their lifetime. You claim the authorities are expending funds towards empowering the youths ? Cant you see the error in it all. These kids should be given schools, playground and recreational centres to learn and have fun at the same time not forced into the cruel stage of working class life without being prepared for it.

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