Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
A central Florida teen has a new lease on life, after leaving his gang behind and getting laser treatment for his tattoos. The laser treatments have been donated to the teen who is getting his life together after years on the street and in foster homes.
ORLANDO, FL (Catholic Online) -Now 16, Chico as he is called, joined the Surenos gang when he was 7. His father was a member so it seemed natural. He quickly started to smoke and participate in gang life, earning his first facial tattoos at age 10.
His work consisted of carrying a knife and selling drugs.
Chico says a string of tragedies including his best friend's suicide, the murder of two of his cousins and his uncle, persuaded him to quit the gang. His decision to quit left him marked with a reward for his murder and tattoos on his face. He was just 14.
Chico said he thought he would die before his 16th birthday.
Then two things happened. First, he saw his little brother, who was 6, trying to wear his bandana and show interest in the gang lifestyle. He also met a child protective services investigator who offered him a new life away from the gangs.
Chico was sent to group foster homes, where he found life difficult. He was kicked out of two. However, his caseworker and others convinced him they actually cared and wanted to help. When an offer to remove his tattoos for free came in, Chico says he realized that he mattered.
Since then, Chico has put his life back together. The tattoo removals are the last step in leaving the gang behind, and the first step into a new life.
© 2012, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.