Stories

Great stories from the field by staff, mentors, etc. that highlight our impact and work in the lives of at-risk youth.

Isabelle Kraus

Climbers take care of their minds and bodies so they can climb at higher levels—because reaching goals and climbing harder, now that’s cool. Their social scene revolves around health and fitness. By introducing the youth in Lomas Modelo to climbing, Climbing Borders offers an alternative to the drug addicts and narcoculture the kids see in their neighborhood. At the same time, the organization gives them accurate information about the consumption of drugs.
Nearly every time I visit Lomas Modelo, I see men holding soda bottles filled with a clear liquid or a wet rag to their mouth. I can smell their syrupy, chemical stench, too. I now know what they’re doing: huffing toluene (inhaling paint thinner). Being an obvious outsider, I’d have thought they’d try to conceal this behavior. But there they are, out in the open, resting on a step or stumbling around like zombies. Nobody pays them any attention; it’s as if they’re invisible. Adults shuffle past them and kids trip over their feet.
I had previously heard of “huffing,” but never knew it as a big problem. News headlines are all about heroin, crack cocaine, and methamphetamine. But these substances are simply too expensive for the addicts of poorer neighborhoods, who turn to cheap, readily found chemicals for their psychoactive properties when inhaled. Here, huffing is a rampant problem.
Despite the site of a malnourished adult huffer, sprawled on the ground, obviously deteriorating, many youngsters in Lomas Modelo inhale toluene like it’s the cool thing to do. I’ve been told it’s common to start huffing by age 14. In the short term, inhaling toluene makes them feel inebriated; it clouds their perceptions, makes them giggle, and life seem less harsh. It’s instant gratification. Groups of adolescents hang out in in the courtyard, flaunting their independence with their chemical dipped tee-shifts draped over their shoulders. Their social scene revolves around the consumption of drugs.
Unfortunately, chronic abuse induces more severe and irreversible physiological changes that manifest as behavior and neurological abnormalities. The chemicals may also attack the kidneys, liver, and heart. Thought few scientific experiments explore the long-term effects of toluene, especially in younger individuals, the damage is clearly evidenced in chronic huffers. In Lomas Modelo, the addicts display obvious memory and speech problems, difficulty walking, and impaired reasoning (even if relatively sober).
Still, so many teens seemingly separate their behavior from that of their zombie elders, and huff away. Do they not understand? Do they not care? Is the social pressure too strong? All I know is that there is no single reason.
Nonetheless, Climbing Borders created this poster to hang in their van, alongside the pictures of the famous climbers the kids admire.  This poster is meant to catch their attention and inspire them to ask questions, get the real facts, and care about their minds and bodies.

Tiffany Hinslay

In Lomas Model the landscape is mostly grey. With few exceptions the houses are kept in raw structure, they are little concrete austere houses of cardboard and aluminum roofs. Youth also don´t shows a wide range of colours as well. Most listen to the same music about drugs, women and money, taking drugs since thirteen years old and they come together in one place: in the court of primary school.

In that stairs it was where we met Juan Alberto, which everyone knows by the nickname “Osito” (Teddy). He was 14 years old and maintained a monopoly on the sale of toluene, the most popular and accessible drug: a solvent to paint. His eyes were defiant and contemptuous, showed disdainful to our external presence. The first few times he came to climb with us he was endeavoring to prove that he did not care, he did not need us.

Gradually, he was letting himself be trapped by a different environment that he live in the “Barrio” (neighborhood). A more relaxed atmosphere of camaraderie and mutual support. A place where children need not defend constant threats: fights between gangs, drug dealing, organised crime and police harassment. A place where children can be children again.

After two years of participating in Climbing Borders, Juan Alberto is a young cheerful, playful, uninhibited and looking forward . The same, he can climb the highest peak of the Huasteca as it will play out socially without difficulty. In climbing gyms all know him, he is a friend of both “fresa” boys and his neighborhood friends. It retains its identity but knows there are more choices in life.

Two years ago, Juan Alberto would not have believed it would be in competition climbing, new places and making new friends. In his head, the boundaries are no longer the walls of his neighborhood but which he himself set.

We believe that where someone is born and consequently the borders (class, race, sex, nationality, etc…) that separate, surround, and often define individuals are random and arbitrary and should not decide the opportunities and fate of anyone in this life.

We see at-risk youth populations not as a threat or an incurable and lost group of youngsters, but as a boundless and potent source of ideas, creativity, multiculturalism, and promise. Born into extremely unfavorable conditions, these youth have been denied any real chance to realize their full potential. In this highly globalized world they are the future of the world.

We started developing the project after researching youth gangs and child soldiers in the Congo and Mexico for our respective Master’s and PhD degrees.

Fortuitous circumstances brought us together from all walks of life. Our travels and experiences in social development as well as our desire to share the power of climbing gave us the idea. The desperate youth situation in Mexico and support of locals urged our action. The culmination of all those factors birthed the origins and initial pilot-project in Monterrey in 2014 and a desire to bring climbing to as many at-risk youth as possible.