Not far from her town in the north of Puebla, Luisa was clearing a field with her machete. She was carrying Jorge, her one year old son, tied on her back. She miscalculated as she swung back her machete and cut the left side of Jorge’s face. Afraid that she would be sent to prison, Luisa panicked, hid Jorge in the long grass and fled.

From a distance, Luisa’s neighbour Rosalía had seen what happened. Astounded to see Luisa run away, she ran to rescue Jorge. She took him home and she and her husband raised him. Although Jorge had been saved from certain death, life in Rosalía’s house was far from ideal. Physical blows were accompanied by insults. No-one mentioned to the boy the truth about his biological mother, his having been abandoned and the reason why his face was disfigured. He always felt that his parents treated him more harshly than they did his siblings but never understood why.

His life at school was inconstant, he had trouble keeping up with schooling and children constantly bullied him about his face. When he was 9, he roamed around the highways, hitching lifts with drivers to nearby cities. He began to spend more time on the street. When he was 13, he was arrested for theft and sent to the Puebla Borstal.

The police told me that they would keep me separated from others during a week and if my parents came for me that week I would go home with them. But they did not turn up.

The JUCONI educator in charge of finding and establishing contact with children who live on the street described Jorge as a very withdrawn boy with a tendency to express himself violently. After six weeks of constant visits by the educators, Jorge moved into JUCONI House, where the other children didn’t want to play with him because he was so violent. School represented an important challenge. At 13 Jorge had the academic level with a child in the third grade and was afraid of being teased; as a result he refused to go to school.

The JUCONI House team helped Jorge recognise his strengths and helped him identify, manage and communicate his emotions appropriately. Jorge began to lower his defences and violent tendencies. He discovered that he had a good sense of humour that he could use to deflect jokes about his eye and that he had the capacity to be a positive leader. JUCONI began to work intensively with Jorge through daily sessions involving affirmation and school reinforcement. These personalised spaces were fundamental to demonstrate to Jorge that he did have the ability to excel at school. A year later, when he courageously returned to state school, he was able to prove to himself and others that he had both the cognitive and the interpersonal skills to succeed in a school environment.

JUCONI also offered support to Jorge’s adoptive family and began to work with them regularly in order to heal their relationship. It was then that Jorge learned the truth about the scar on his face and the fact he had been abandoned. Together with JUCONI’s facilitators Jorge met his biological parents and could at last process his experiences and the secrets that surrounded them. By the time he was 15, Jorge was excelling at school and in the afternoons worked in JUCONI’s Work Culture Workshop. There, he had his first experience of work.

JUCONI also helped by buying a glass eye in order to diminish the prominence of his scar. This, combined with his recent success at school and at work, gave Jorge extra motivation. Today, Jorge works in the administration of a nearby amusement park. At 19, being the oldest in JUCONI Youth House, he is without doubt a model for other resident youth. Jorge lives a normal life, like any other Mexican teenager, spending his free time studying or with his friends and girlfriend.

In October and November 2008 Jorge represented JUCONI at a conference in Germany organised by the Volkswagen (VW) Worker’s Council. Within a year, Jorge plans to leave the Youth House and become independent. He is taking night classes on computer repair and plans to set up his own Internet Cafe.