Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Horrific News

Our team was told yesterday when we went down to Purral to hold the small group for prostitutes that Jovana, the young woman who hosted the study, had been killed over he weekend.

Please join us in praying for her three children and for the rest of the girls down there.

We are grieving as a team and yet this will continue to strengthen our resolve and our committment to making certain that these young women and kids downtown make it out and into the healthy lives they were created for.

Working to Help Working Girls in San Jose, Costa Rica

“Can you take me to Pueblo de Purral de Guadalupe?”
“No way, man. They kill taxi drivers down there. “

In the movies, the hero always faces a horrific challenge, makes a dramatic difference in the world and then the story resolves. The hurting are healed completely. The endangered are saved. The crowd roars. The photo bulbs flash. And they live happily ever after.

In real life, it is never so clear. The movie never ends and the credits never roll.

Today is Tuesday (as I write this) and Tuesday is the day we hold a small group meeting for prostitutes we have met downtown who are now looking for help in leaving the streets. The existence of this group is a miracle in itself. It took us almost three years to actually get it going. Three years of having to pass by these young women with coffee and cookies every week to get to know them only to be ignored or rejected. Three years of staying out late in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica. Three years of wanting so very badly to be able to help these girls (several of which are between 15 and 20 years old) while having to face the terrible reality that making a difference isn’t as easy as it’s cracked up to be.

You see, in real life, there is no director. No one has hired these girls to respond perfectly and humbly when you first meet them. No one has done anyone’s makeup or given anyone dramatic lines to say. The people who are being hurt and victimized don’t run into your arms and cry as you tell them, “It’s going to be okay. You’re safe now.”

It took three years of uncomfortable moments that exposed every weakness we have. Three years that made us think about quitting almost every night. The need was certainly there. We were there. The movie-like story though was not.

What We are Doing

Today, we will head down to the very small house of one of these girls. The house is in Pueblo de Purral de Guadalupe. Many taxi drivers won’t even drive us into the neighborhood. We will find one that will. We will take the twenty minute drive northeast of San Jose and we will be let out in a very poor and very dangerous street in front of a butcher shop. The people will all look scared to be outside and scared for us to be there. We will walk quickly to go down a side street and then down an alley to get to the young lady’s house. We will talk about what job she could find to cover her expenses and those of her three children.

She wants to stop having sex with men for money. She doesn’t want her children to know she has been forced into this life since she was 14. She is 27 now.
She has also asked us to talk to her about the Bible because her heart is empty, she says. She is scared but wonderfully sincere. Her life is changing but she is in no way now safe.

The good news is that others are starting to come. The dam has broken. The moment we dreamed of is now happening before our eyes.

Looking Ahead

This is the kind of work Boy With a Ball was created to do. We work to build teams that can see small groups and mentoring relationships begun. In the absence of positive gardens of healthy families, neighborhoods and communities, we work to build development gardens that can reach in and save young people and their families from dying and then, hopefully and by God’s grace, equip them to live.

It is worth every moment of the work and pain.

These young women are only one facet of the work Boy With a Ball is doing here in Costa Rica but it is enough to tell you about for today.

We are so thankful that so many of you continue to take the initiative to be involved in what we do through your financial support, your friendship and your prayers. In this way, we are a true multi-national team, working together to make a dramatically real difference in the very real lives of flesh and blood young people.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A New Boy With a Ball/FUNDADEJO Video

See what you think of this walk through a Nicaraguan squatter's settlement in San Jose, Costa Rica with Boy With a Ball teams...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

La Bola Café...a vision on the way to fruition!

Sorry to be a way for awhile. Things are moving quicker for us as an organization than we have the ability to chronicle. It is getting to be time to develop staff members who we can help us better paint the picture of what is happening.

In the picture above you see the proposed site for one of the current projects very much at the forefront of our work called the La Bola Café.

La Bola Café is a youth & family development café which will be located in the Los Colegios district of Moravia, Costa Rica, a northeast suburb of the nation´s capital, San José. Los Colegios means "the high schools" and is named so because of the presence of a concentration of high schools in close proximity to each other.

La Bola Café will be built as a warm & attractive coffee house similar to a Starbucks Coffee in the U.S. and will provide four different high-quality functions. It will be:

• An inviting coffee house where young people, their families and individuals in the area can walk into a soothing atmosphere with tasteful music playing in the background, an attractive ambience and the smell of good coffee and a well-trained and relational staff. Customers will be able to order coffee and pastries, purchase newspapers and some books and magazines and then sit down in either a comfortable armchair or at a table to read, talk with a friend, work or study.

• A full service internet café where young people, their families and individuals in the area can access the internet for an affordable fee, work on documents and projects using office software and print their work. This café would also provide technical assistance in each of these areas.

• An educational center where students can come and receive tutoring and assistance in English, other subjects and in completing their school assignments. Staff members would also be skilled in providing assistance in desktop publishing and putting together a resume.

• A positive youth development center where young people and their families can receive the necessary mentoring, community support and equipping resources to help them become healthy individuals and households capable of making a positive contribution to their family, neighborhood, church, community and to Costa Rica. Staff members will be deeply trained in all aspects of positive youth development including mentoring, leading small group communities and providing educational resources. A diverse schedule of activities will be provided each week.

Once developed and in business, this café model could very easily become our manner of expanding into other countries around the world.

Currently we are putting the finishing touches on the business plan in order to prepare to present it to corporations, foundations and individuals to attract the necessary capital to get it up and running by the end of the year.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Tour of the Precario

Here is a virtual tour of the Precario with the Boy With a Ball team last Saturday.

We will do this more and more regularly and with better and better video quality. Get in there and meet these amazing people with members of the BWAB team.
A Day in the Precario

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Snow, Meetings in Miami & Outreach in Costa Rica

As the Executive Director of Boy With a Ball (this is Jamie writing), one of my responsibilities is to travel away from my work in helping to build the San Jose, Costa Rica team both to go and support of our San Antonio, Texas team, to help build BWAB's involvement in camps and conferences in the U.S. and then to continue to represent BWAB and our work to the academic, corporate and government world.

I left San Jose last Wednesday and headed to Miami, Florida to be with Joseph Holbrook, a longtime veteran of the kind of work we do as well as the founder of a work on the southside of Miami that I believe is extremely important. Joseph is doing graduate work at Florida International University with a focus on Latin America and is an important advisor and supporter of what we are doing.

Joseph and I had great conversations including meeting with a psychologist, Dr. Sam Lopez and meeting with several of the young leaders in his group there.

On Thursday I drove over with former BWAB Costa Rica Street Team member Ruth Holbrook and had meetings with Dr. Pantin and Dr. Muir of the University of Miami Center of Family Studies. I will make a seperate post on how those meetings went but I believe they will be vital in helping us continue to learn how to reach into Latin American families in a way that strengthens the family unit rather than weakening the role of the father and mother as we connect with their children. Some of what we heard on Thursday could very well mean that most of what is being done to help Latino youth in the U.S. and Latin America could be doing far more damage than good. I will keep you posted in the next few days.

Yesterday I flew from Miami in the early morning to LaGuardia Airport in NYC. I was supposed to catch an immediate flight to Columbus, Ohio for some planning meetings for the ACM Conference but I never got there. Snow and ice came before I could get back on the plane and before I knew it, I was trapped! As I talked to airline representatives, I found that I would at least be trapped in New York City until Sunday and probably Monday. I was in the airport all day yesterday before taking a cab to Manhattan to stay with Ben and Heather Grizzle in Central Park West who have been very kind to take me in.

While I was trapped in the airport and then trudging through the snow and talking to my taxi driver about what it is like to be a Puerto Rican young person growing up in Brooklyn and the Bronx, Costa Rican Street Team member Anna Currie was heading into the Precario for our women's group in the morning and then coleading a team with Costa Rican team members that headed out into downtown San Jose to give out coffee and cookies to homeless kids, teen prostitutes, transvestite prostitutes and the like as a way of connecting with them and building relationships with them. This morning as I write this looking out the window at snow covered Central Park, Anna is heading out with team members there again to head into the Precario to do door to door relational outreach work.

This is the daily life of Boy With a Ball as we fight to help young people. Snow and ice, coffee and cookies. Puerto Rican taxi drivers in Brooklyn, transvestite prostitutes in Parque Morazan in San Jose. Psychology professors in Miami one day, single mothers in the Precario the next.

I hope to see many of you as I finally get out of NYC in the next few days and continue this trip.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Great Story - From Street Child to Surgeon, Indian Girl Follows Dream

Reuters AlertNet - FEATURE-From street child to surgeon, Indian girl follows dream

18 Feb 2007 23:03:49 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Jeremy Lovell

JAIPUR, India, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Former child prostitute Chand has a burning ambition — to be a doctor helping India’s destitute millions.

And the 16-year-old girl is bright enough to realise her dream, according to the charity that 10 years ago rescued her from the teeming streets of the northern Indian city of Jaipur with a population of some three million people.

“I want to be a surgeon. There are too many people and too few doctors here,” the slim youngster told Reuters on a visit to the Ladli centre where she lives and learns in the sprawling metropolis dubbed the Pink City from the colour of its walls.

“That is my goal. In my society girls have very little chance to get an education. Here I have a chance,” she added, seated under a tree in the dusty yard of the school.

Her story is as heart-rending as it is common. Only the end is different — maybe.

Women, still considered by many as a commodity even in the 21st century, are neglected in the educational system and often sidelined in the social hierarchy.

According to UNICEF — the United Nations’ Childrens’ Fund — there are over two million prostitutes in India of whom some 500,000 are children or minors.

Some reports suggest that up to 200 women and children a day are forced into the world’s oldest profession to pay debts or simply to provide an income for their families.


Chand’s mother was a prostitute with 16 children living in Japiur’s red light area, and the girl — her family name has been withheld to protect her — was already a child prostitute when she ran away to eke an existence on the streets aged six.

Ladli outreach workers found her and took her in to the sanctuary that it offers for abused, orphaned and destitute children in the Rajasthan state capital of 2.8 million people, 260 km (160 miles) southwest of Delhi.

“We try to give the children here their lives back,” said founder Abha Goswami, 50. “We are giving love to our children. We are giving care to our children.”

Goswami, whose mother died when she was just 18 months old and who was orphaned at 16, founded the I-India project in 1993 giving help to 500 of Jaipur’s street children.

Three years later it set up the Child Inn boys home and the Ladli girls home and in 2000 it got its two School on Wheels buses touring the streets offering basic reading and writing lessons to children who would otherwise have no education.

Last year some 3,000 children passed through the hands of Goswami and her helpers — either through the buses or the four homes and one vocational centre — also called Ladli — that I-India now operates.


But resources are scarce. The organisation can not offer residential care to more than a handful of children, so the majority go back home or onto the streets every night.

“We have street children, runaways, orphans, children of prostitutes — often child prostitutes themselves — and abandoned children from divided families,” Goswami said. “But we can’t feed everyone in our homes.”

Even for Chand, there is the constant threat of her past dragging her back to wreck her future.

“If I saw my family again they would want me back to become a prostitute again to earn money,” she said simply.

It is an endless struggle with scant help from the government and the centre heavily reliant on its own fund raising and foreign sponsors of individual projects.

One such project is for the children to make and sell jewellery.

At the moment it is 50 percent funded by a sponsor, but the goal is to make it completely self-sufficient — and for each piece that is sold some money is put into a bank account for the girls for when they grow up and leave.

The projects are a beacon of light in a country whose economy is booming but where some 35 million of the one billion population are orphans and where around 300 million people are living on less than $1 a day — of whom 140 million are children.

“Our children are safe here. We feed them and teach them … We give them skills and hope, so they can make their way and earn a living later in life,” Goswami said.

“For just a few dollars a day we can give life back to a child here,” she added.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Great report on poverty

I came across a fantastic 24-page report on poverty from the development arm of the United Nations. Many of the articles are helpful and clear in their discussion of what poverty really is. This has been helpful to our staff in allowing us to attempt to ask and answer questions of how to best deepen our work with the "impoverished" groups we work with including downtown with the homeless and prostitutes and in the precario.

The report can be found at:

Take a look and then post any comments you might have.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Interesting new report from UNICEF on the state of young people in wealthier nations

The UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre this week released Report Card No. 7: Child Poverty in Perspective - An overview of child well-being in rich countries which focuses on the well-being of children and young people in the world’s advanced economies and provides the first comprehensive assessment.

The U.S. and United Kingdom did not fare so well in this report. The document can be found at this address:

What do you think the reasons would be that the U.S. would struggle? In a wealthy country that is reknowned for it's levels of philanthropy, which has an active civil society and a church on every corner almost, what could be missing?

Is it that these countries are strong, proud and productive within a system that places the system and productivity above human relationships and well-being? Is it that these nations have large immigrant influxes and are in conflict of how to respond to them? This does seem to be a problem in so many nations. We decide who should be here and who should not and yet that doesn't stop them from coming. What it does stop us from doing is responding to them in a way that will help them. "Why should we? They are illegal!" And yet they are here.

We begin to respond to them as illegal, invisible people and sense no responsibility to pay attention to them. Many of us see it as charitable to ignore least we are not kicking them out. And yet the numbers of these people increase and they begin to define who we are as a country. Is that phenomena part of why the U.S. and U.K. are getting such bad grades in regards to how they care for their children?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Can You Take the Girl Out of the Precario?

Boy With a Ball or La Bola as we are called down here in Costa Rica took some important steps last week in our work in the precario or squatter's settlement called El Triangulo de la Solidaridad a few miles from our office.

Public schools started classes last week and the mother's of this precario when into a tizzy trying to gather the $100 or more necessary to buy all of the supplies and uniforms for their children to be able to go to school. School is so important. I know that statement may seem to be childish or overly simple, however, we are watching on a daily business as it seems that only those who go to school have any chance of making it out of this neighborhood of dirt floors and diseased soil, drug dealers, fear and hopelessness.

Costa Rica's average income is $6000 a year which is about 1/6th of what it is in the United States. The precario is even more dramatic in it's comparison to the average Costa Rican family. Family's probably struggle to make $1000-$1500 a year. (I will check on that in the next few weeks to confirm what that amount really is.) This income is made usually with the man of the house starting at 5 am and working on after dark six days of the week. Many families are in debt to the grocery stores for trying to buy rice and beans for their family.

In this economic situation, $100 for school for EACH child is impossible. Sadly, their child not being able to school is a life sentence of living in precarios.

We have made it a major focus to educate the young people and families on the importance of education. We have researched how to help kids who have dropped out get back in. So last week, when the moms began to crowd around us and beg for help with buying school supplies, we were kind of in no place to say no.

Unfortunately, as an organization, the last month was not a great one. We had no funds to put toward this. Many of us had even not received a full paycheck. However, it was impossible not to tell some of these moms that we would help...even out of our own nearly empty wallets.

As a last resort, I sent out an email update detailing the situation. I hoped one or two people might join in the fight and help us raise the $300 we needed to help these families. I was amazed by the response. One after another, emails came in. "We want to help." "Jamie, we will help." "We want to help." Individuals, couples, families, churches, girl even put out a bulletin to her friends on My Space! (Thanks Annie!)

As a result, we have been able to expand our help in this situation. Team member Anna Currie and I had to hold back tears as Joanna, a mom of three, almost broke down when she saw us walk into her house with every thing her two boys would need to go to school the next day. She had probably given up hope. She couldn't stop thanking us and thanking God.

The week kept rolling. We had another installment of Soccer Night where a really healthy group of guys from a local church gather and invite all of the young guys from the precario to come and play soccer for two hours in an indoor arena. I will have to post about this seperately another day, however, it is so dramatic to watch these young guys from the precario sense that they belong with this healthy group of amazing kids. The mentoring dynamics that are happening in this situation are worth writing a book about.

Finally, the local church we have been helping in their response to young people held a youth camp and we helped staff it. We have been inviting two young people from the precario named Raquel and her cousin, Diana, to the youth group meetings lately. Raquel is the only person we have ever met in the precario who is graduated from high school and headed to the university. Our hope has been to surround her by some of the young women in the church youth group who go to the same university to help build a peer group around her to help support her and her family as they head into this new frontier of higher learning!

Their family is surprising considering their surroundings. They run a alterations business next door to their house. The father is a great father and the mom stays at home with the kids.

We are careful to focus on helping equip people within their situation for the most part. Taking a poor young person into middle class houses can sometimes hurt them more than help them. They can get awed by pretty furniture and big portions of food and feel hopeless in the situation. There is another way to do it where they are instilled with hope by the experience. We have hoped that this would happen with Raquel and Diana. With this in mind, we invited the two to the camp.

The two girls looked uncomfortable at times. They certainly had to face significant fears. Yet as we all drove back across the city to take them home last night in a bus filled with 60 Costa Rican youth, I could not help but be content.

It seems to be working for these girls...they are gaining strength in believing that they can make it our of the precario. They are gaining interest in their studies and building friendships that they are using to help give them a map of what they will need to have and be in order to live the lives they could not have even dreamt of before.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Who made a difference in your life?

Much of the work of Boy With a Ball is focused on relationships. I honestly believe that the world is in the state it is in because of negative relationships and the painful consequences that come out of them...broken families, abandoned children, abusive parents, hopeless communities, violence, manipulation, fear. The only way to fix the result of negative relationships is through positive relationships.

We focus on four main tools in this fight to put young people in the "garden" of positive relationships: aggressive outreach (we hit the streets in teams to go to where young people are, meet them and become their friends), one-to-one mentoring relationships, small group communities (the young people we reach and mentor are set into communities of caring adults and other young leaders where they can grow while being surrounded by others growing in the same situation) and then finally educational resources (we use the mentoring relationships and small group communities as a platform to offer training/counseling/coaching in the areas that young people need.)

My life was changed at 16 years old when I met a pastor named Jim Newsom in the midst of a tumultuous time. He pulled me into an amazing community of people who were growing and learning as I wanted to and the garden of these relationships equipped me to change dramatically in just a few years. Issues like character, spiritual development, relationships, finances, my future and much more were touched on and transformed.

If you have the time and don't mind sharing a bit of your story, who was the person/people that impacted your life?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Youth in Poverty and Precarios

Youth is synonymous with potential and hope. Robert Frost spoke of "nature's first green" being gold and all of us have felt the tremendous power and promise of a new day. Young lives are much the same. They are fresh and forming with infinite possibilities.

Working with youth is not about keeping them from dying. Death and youth are words that were meant to be strangers to one another. Death is already a horrific intruder into life but it is never more unsettling than when it touches youth. Young people were born to live, not to die. Like a plant in a healthy, vibrant garden, young men and women within healthy families and communities will grow up into healthy, wonderful human beings capable of as much as their faith will carry them to.

Many young people who grow up in poverty grow up in very healthy gardens. Their lack of material possessions, the latest styles of clothing or gourmet food actually serve to simplify their "garden" and prune their hearts to value what is important: relationships, family, friends, work, faith, hope & love.

However, poverty can also form into ghetto-ish gardens where families are not strengthened by the adversity of limited resources but fragmented and demented in their hopelessness and helplessness. Poverty is also often coupled with limited education which makes the individuals involved vulnerable to accepting incorrect ideas and perspectives.

Currently, Boy With A Ball Costa Rica is working in a Nicaraguan precario or squatter's settlement.

Every country, it seems, has the people that they don't need and, in fact, don't want. In Costa Rica, the group that fits this bill in many of the people's eyes are the Nicaraguan immigrants who flood into the country from the homeland to the north. Nicaragua entered the 1980's as the "breadbasket" Central America and exited the very same decade following the war between the Sandanistas and Contras as the poorest country in their region. Costa Rica, their neighbor to the south, has been a stable socialist republic for the last 60 years, providing free health care, education and more to it's inhabitants. As a result, Nicaraguans flow into Costa Rica in pursuit of a better life with better opportunities. Costa Rica 's reaction is predictable. Nicaraguans are called "Nicas" and are considered the reason behind almost every problem a Costa Rican has.

Many Nicaraguans can only afford to live in squatter's settlements called "precarios" where thousands of immigrants will crowd into a few acres and live packed into small shacks with dirt floors. Many of them can only get water from a small amount of water faucets located across the precario. As in any situation where poverty abounds and hopelessness with it, teen pregnancy, sickness, malnutrition, drugs, crime and gangs abound more. It is very difficult to emerge out of a precario and into a life beyond it.

Boy With a Ball/La Bola Costa Rica began going into this precario called Los Triangulos two years ago in connection with another local organization. Recently, our team has committed to going into this community several times a week. Our focus is to reach young people and families in order to draw them into one-to-one mentoring relationships and small group communities as a platform for providing educational resources that can help develop leaders within the precario. We hope to deeply reach and equip 5- 12 individuals within the precario who can then turn and do the same with their neighbors.