History  
         
  "In the silence between your heartbeats bides a summons,
Do you hear it?
Name it, if you must, or leave it forever nameless,
But why pretend it is not there?"
   
 
George Leger uses these words, by the 13th century Sufi mystic Rumi, to describe the call that transformed his life. His summons came unexpectedly in the spring of 1993, when he picked up a newspaper and read the tragic story of the life and death of Giovanni, a homeless Guatemalan child. Giovanni had fled from an abusive home to live on the dangerous streets of Guatemala City. The police treated him with customary brutality; they tortured him, murdered him and left his body in a field.
   
     
      George Leger with Bryan  
         
   
How often do we all hear of atrocities in far-off places, places that seem to bear little relation to our own comparatively secure lives? How often do we pause for a moment with the feeling that something should be done, then put the troubling events out of our minds and return to our familiar round of daily activities? This time, however, George felt compelled to leave his comfortable life in New England to pursue a far less certain path amid the crime and poverty of Guatemala City.
 
  A mother and daughter living in the streets.      
         
 

George reflects, "If I didn't go down there, a part of me would have died when I read that story. If, knowing what I learned after reading Giovanni`s story I did not try to respond, I would have lost faith in my own humanity. For perhaps the first time in my life, I followed my heart, listened to its call, trusting that it knew best."

In Guatemala City, George found large numbers of youth who survived by begging and theft and slept on the streets. Many were addicted to drugs. Many had escaped violent homes, only to meet with more violence from the police: beatings, torture and death.

"The level of despair among them was horrible," recalls George. "It was palpable." George had intended to work with an established aid organization, but soon realized that, to accomplish his goals, he would need to work on his own. Undaunted, he founded Only A Child in 1994.

   
      Christian, taking a break at halftime, during an all street-kid game of soccer.  
         
   

George started simply by getting to know the children in a small inner city park named Concordia. He spent time with them daily, talking with them, listening to their stories, providing them a true rarity in their lives - the time and attention of a caring adult.

Eventually he formed a soccer team, to give them something productive to do with their time.

 
  Longtime friends on the street. Giovanni and Manuel before beginning a game of soccer.      
         
 

Only A Child began as a simple outreach program, going out into the childrens world. As such, it offered them lifes most basic necessities: food, clothing, medical care when they were sick, and most importantly, love and affection.

George’s outreach program became established as a shelter and carpentry shop with the youngsters attending school and learning life survival skills. With the help of donors from the United States, George provides all the basic necessities, plus love and affection. As the program developed, the ages of the new arrivals matched the ages of the core group so that today most of the participants are older teens.

   
      A group of friends sharing a cup of hot chocolate on an inner city street corner.  
 


Administration

Only a Child is administered by a U.S. based board of directors and an advisory board in Guatemala City. The number of U.S. board members, all volunteers, ranges from 10 to 14 and includes the offices of president, vice president, treasurer and clerk. The members oversee the funding of the program, publish La Vista (an online newsletter), distribute a quarterly newsletter to donors and serve as support and advisors to the Executive Director. As needs arise ad hoc committees are formed to pursue particular goals.

Only A Child’s Guatemalan Board, all volunteers, serves primarily to give input and perspective on managing the program which can only come from those native to Guatemala who are sensitive to issues unique to their culture and to their land.



Executive Director

Only A Child’s founder, George Leger, continues as Executive Director. He lives in Guatemala City and oversees the operations of the program and works daily with the youths.

 
     
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