• Loading

Partner member shot dead in Guatemala

February 2011

On 2 February 2011, Victor Leiva, a member of Christian Aid's Guatemala partner Caja Lúdica, was shot dead. Victor was a youth coach with Caja Lúdica and helped steer young people away from a life of violence.

Victor grew up in a gang area, in a violent inner city area in Guatemala. He hung out on the streets, got into fights and had problems with the police. But at 14 he found out about Caja Lúdica’s work and began turning his life around.

View our slideshow

We've created a slideshow featuring Victor and the work of Caja Lúdica.

To view the slideshow full-screen, simply press play and then select the enlarge button on the bottom right. To show the captions, select Show info on the top-right.

Caja Lúdica's approach to getting young people to turn away from violence is innovative. It arrives in a new inner city area with a spectacular parade: juggling, stilts, dancing. Then it welcomes young people who want to come and join in. Everyone is welcome.

These activities don’t only teach the technical skills of juggling or acrobatics, they also build confidence, self-esteem, self-awareness, teamwork, tolerance and interpersonal skills. In a country torn apart by civil war and gang violence, their work is vital.

With Caja Lúdica, Victor learned to stilt-walk, to paint his face and take part in colourful positive street carnivals. He was also inspired to learn to read.

'I did my first parade in 2002. I've never forgotten it. I teach young people juggling and other things like stilt-walking. It makes me very happy, and it makes me humble.' Victor told Christian Aid in 2007.

Violence and shootings are shockingly high in Guatemala which has one of the highest murder rates in the Americas.

The impact on young people is huge. Around half of its population are under 18. Many young Guatemalans have grown up surrounded by extreme violence - a context that means normal social interactions are torn apart.

This is not the first time that members of the Caja Lúdica collective have been killed. Three young men were killed within 60 days of each other in 2009.

By the time he died, Victor was a father, he had studied at secondary school, he coached young people in carnival skills. In his own words ‘You've got to respect yourself and others, everyone is a human being. Violence hurts everyone. It oppresses people.'

Further content

Guatemala: country profile

Guatemala: climate change and floods

Guatemala: coffee, malnutrition and tax

Guatemala: tax injustice

Please donate

Help people around the world fight their way out of poverty

  • Regular donation
  • Single donation

Sign up for emails