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Family of the Month April 2022

 

 

Jacinto and Paulina can give their kids the basics, a hot meal of rice and beans, often twice a day, and a warm dry place to sleep. Even better, they give them love and affection, a sense of security and protection, and a future they believe will be better than their own.

Jacinto works four days a week between two local families and also maintains the property in exchange for the right to put up a house there. It’s made of corrugated metal, bamboo and plastic tarps. Even though it has a dirt floor, only an outside water spigot and no electricity, they are comfortable. He says it is all they need for the present, but he would like more food and clothing for his family now that the cooler rainy season is beginning. He is looking for more work, but recent government health requirements plus inflationary pressures have severely impacted job opportunities for unskilled workers like him.

Still, the family is optimistic and grateful for small victories. This year six-year old Antony is in first grade at the local elementary school and doing well. The whole family is proud of him, especially his four-year old siblings, Byron and Janet who long to begin kindergarten next year. Two-year old Jeremy will also one day have his chance to start school, but right now he just enjoys playing with the family and their dog Lupita.

As brand new clients of Buenos Vecinos, Jacinto and Paulina are very happy and grateful for the monthly food bags. Jacinto knows enough English to be able to say “Thank you!” again and again as the kids embraced a watermelon and packets of cookies, gifts from their BVB volunteers.

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Family of the Month March 2022

Eva is the matriarch of a large family of nineteen people. She has three daughters, two sons, eleven grandchildren, her husband and her elderly mother. Eighteen of them all live together in a small block house with an added room made of sheets of tin. Her husband is older and has been sick and so he is unable to work very often at his regular job. One of Eva’s two sons was laid off from his usual job during the pandemic and since then has found only occasional work as a day laborer. The daughters do not receive support from the fathers of their children and have been unable to find consistent work themselves. Their combined income of only about $170 is, of course, much too meager to sustain them all.

Thus it falls to Eva’s other son to attempt to help feed and clothe this large clan. He works as a full-time teacher on the comarca (indigenous reservation) but he is paid less wages than a permanent teacher would be paid. Obviously his income cannot even begin to meet this family’s needs. He has no children of his own, but he sees three generations of his family struggling to survive and so he brought this situation to our attention.

Buenos Vecinos de Boquete exists to help people like this, who are unable to meet their basic food needs. We have provided emergency food support on many occasions and have been successful in helping families through hard times. We will help them with food support until the working age adults in the family can find enough income to become self-sustaining. When we brought Eva her first food delivery of non-perishable food she smiled with a look of genuine relief and said, “Now there will be enough food to feed all of the children.”

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Family of the Month February, 2022

BVB Family of the Month February 2022

At the foot of a densely-forested hillside stands a small twelve by sixteen-foot wooden cabin. This is where thirty-four year-old Jose and Rufina, his twenty-four year-old wife live with their six children. Three of them, Arlys 10, Sara 7 and Ayken 6, are nieces who were taken into the family when their parents died three years ago. Jose’s mother and sister, Lizbet 16, live in a small lean-to about twenty yards away and Jose supports them, too.

The cabin includes a seven-foot square bedroom which has only enough room for the recently-donated double mattress; it replaced the cardboard that covered the wooden floor and serves as the sleeping area for the whole family. Around the perimeter of the room are wooden pegs that hold all the family’s clothes and become a makeshift closet.

Most of the rest of the cabin is a kitchen and living room. The kitchen has a one-burner stove fueled by a small propane tank and a small table that is a food-prep area and then the family kitchen table at mealtime. A well-worn sofa is the only other piece of furniture in the house, but it can accommodate five small children. There is no bathroom, no running water and no electricity. Everyone takes turns carrying various-size buckets of water up to the kitchen from the nearby river.

Jose makes $75 a week as a coffee bean-picker during the four-month harvest season, and $200 a month doing odd jobs for his boss the rest of the year. Their only expense besides food are the cost of propane and phone cards. There is no rent because the owner of the property provides the living quarters for his workers. In fact, one fourth of the cabin houses another bedroom inhabited by two other employees.

But, as the photos illustrate, these are happy children. They find fun and diversions everywhere In their sparse surroundings and despite their limited resources. Their simple lives do not dampen their sunny disposition and curious nature; they find value in entertaining and caring for their younger siblings and satisfaction helping out with family chores. When we arrived and asked, “Where is your papa?” they proudly pointed up the mountain to the coffee plants and trees that shaded them. When he saw us he quickly came down to greet us and to answer our questions.

Today, after two years of Covid precautions and without any schooling, they are excited at the prospect of attending in-person school three days a week. But that can only happen if Jose can find the money to buy school uniforms, school supplies, and bus fare for two of the girls The small government stipend of $90 per quarter per student may not be enough or come early enough to cover these expenses. School begins March 7th.

Buenos Vecinos exists to help families like these. Their dedication to one another and their perseverance in the face of these poor living conditions inspire us to help them, and we hope they also inspire you.

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Family of the Month January, 2022

Marcelina’s Family!

 Marcelina’s Family

It is an absolute pleasure to share with you, Marcelina’s Family!

It is always a joyful experience to arrive at Marcelina’s humble one room wooden structure. The three younger children always give us an exuberant greeting. Recently, we were treated with a demonstration of how to ride a vine secured between two trees. The three older boys are usually away working to earn money to help the family.

The wooden structure is situated on agricultural property with tomato plants and various vegetables being grown for commercial use. The family doesn’t own the property and they are being allowed to live there. Marcelina is unable to work because she is caring for her children. She doesn’t receive any child support and essentially has no income. The electricity, they use, comes from an extension cord connected to Marcelina’s mother’s house situated nearly 100 meters away.

The six children range in age from five to eighteen years. The oldest son is eighteen and recently graduated from high school. He plans to live with relatives and continue with his education. The youngest, Estaban, is still too young to attend school. Of course, with the covid restrictions, none of the children have attended school in person for almost two years. They, like most children, sure do miss seeing their friends at school.

The value of education, which Marcelina places on all her children, is quite evident. When we first met the family, the twin girls had not attended school yet because Marcelina couldn’t afford to buy shoes for them. Shortly after they started school, the schools were closed because of covid, but the importance of an education is persistently promoted by Marcelina. In fact, upon one visit, Marcelina showed us some samples of the work the girls have been doing. The girls are now able to read and can write in cursive. We were pleasantly surprised to see what they have learned without attending any school. Marcelina has been their only teacher and, boy, has she been doing a fantastic job!

Buenos Vecinos de Boquete is pleased to be able to support this mom and her family. The children are healthy and happy, as they continue to stride forward throughout their educational endeavors.

Marcelina’s family continues to inspire us; which is why they are well-deserving of being honored as this month’s Buenos Vecinos de Boquete Family of the Month!

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Family of the Month November, 2021

Itzel’s Family

 Itzel's Family

It is with great pleasure that we are able to share this month’s featured family with you.  This spotlighted family has been a humble client since February 2021. Their family struggles began just before the pandemic hit the world and once the pandemic hit Panama, they have been looking for silver linings and avenues that lead them to better times.

Amongst their silver linings, this family of seven, has been gratefully enjoying Buenos Vecinos’ monthly visits and food deliveries to offset their difficult times.  The children look forward to the warm greetings and the friendly exchanges they all receive when Megan, our amazing team member, delivers the food supplies.   Megan has gained the trust and the appreciation of this family, who has been struggling to find stable housing and work.

The father, Francisco, is rarely with the family, which leaves part-time working mother, Itzel, to single-handedly care for her five children.  Itzel, who is a 34-years old food server at a local restaurant, is doing everything she can to be able to establish a stable home for her family.  Due to the housing woes, Itzel is thankful for the help and the kindness Buenos Vecinos offers her and, more importantly, that we have shined on her children.  Itzel hopes her hard work and grit will inspire her children to hit the books and have a happy life.  The hope for her children is not for great wealth, but one where her struggles mean they struggle less when they are navigating their own adult lives.  Both parents understand, “The school books are keys to the children’s future.”

Buenos Vecinos and the parents truly believe, food is life, as it is the fuel these children need to stay healthy and focused on their scholastic endeavors!

Now, meet these beautiful children who, like most, go to school and enjoy playing games with each other and their friends.  Dilan (16 years old) is a high school student and he is also employed by a bus transit company in Boquete.  He helps his mom with the finances and the babysitting.  Tatiana (13 years old) keeps her head in the books and she also helps with the younger siblings.  Kevin (11 years old) is trying to keep up with his older brother, which keeps him busy and challenged..  Kathia (8 years old), who was initially upset that she was no longer the spoiled baby of the family, is now showing her baby brother, Johan Leandro (1 year old), all about life!  She is proving to be a great “big sister.”

Our November Family of the Month  reminds our team members exactly why Buenos Vecinos is so important to the Boquete community and why we are fortunate to be able to serve this family  and all our BVB families!

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Family of the Month August 2020

Denis’ Family

Three years ago when Denis was thirty-five years old her husband died suddenly leaving behind their five children for her to raise by herself. Nick, now seventeen, Derek fifteen, Anderson thirteen, Fred nine, and Dafny six years old are the center of Denis’ world. A well-meaning neighbor asked when Denis’ husband died if she would give up one of her children for adoption, but she refused to even entertain the idea. “If you really want to help ” Denis responded, “give me six eggs every week that we can eat.”

A year later, the Panamanian government program, Casas de Esperanza (Houses of Hope) built her a small house on the little property she owns among the sugar cane fields. This two-bedroom, one-bath house with running water and electricity gives Denis and her family a sense of security and permanence in an uncertain time. But even without rent to pay, Denis struggles to provide for her family. Nick and Derek work every Saturday at the nearby trapiche (sugar cane mill) and bring home a total of $100 per month. Denis adds to the monthly income another $100 by making tamale filling and selling it to local vendors.

She also works with the children every day practicing their reading and math skills since schools are closed because of Covid-19. When the children attend school they walk more than four miles of rocky, muddy roads each way. However, education is so important to these children and to their mom, that no matter how hard it is to get there, they are eager to return to school. Denis even dreams about the day when she might be able to buy a computer and internet service so they can learn even more. In the meantime, she acknowledges how grateful she is for the food from Buenos Vecinos de Boquete because it helps them keep their family intact. “We are a family that stays together and helps one another,” she said proudly.

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Family of the Month July 2020

Brayen’s Family

When Briseida was twelve-years old, her mother Raquel gave birth to a baby boy she named Brayen. Two months later the infant contracted meningitis and was taken to a Panama City hospital where he slipped into a coma. Weeks later when he recovered, the doctors diagnosed him with meningitis and a hydropcephalic condition that would require several surgeries throughout the years to insert and replace shunts. However, Brayen was now blind, and later was unable to speak or walk. He also required frequent medication to control convulsions caused by the meningitis. At the time, the doctor gave Raquel his samples of this medicine, but now that source is not available and she has no way to pay for it.

Today Brayen, now fourteen, and his mother Raquel live with Briseida and her four children in a small makeshift tin and bamboo house surrounded by sugarcane fields. The landowner has granted her the right to live in this house and tend a small garden rent-free. Brayen’s time is spent inside his tiny windowless bedroom or outside in his donated wheelchair. He delights at the vibrations when the children tap on the arms of his chair and embrace or tickle him. Besides his mother who devotes all her time to him, Britany, Briseida’s ten-year old daughter, is Brayen’s most abiding playmate and companion.

Britany is a bright curious child who loves school and learning; she keenly misses attending school during this pandemic. She says that she wants to learn English so she can go to the United States and become a doctor one day. Then she would return to Panama and help people like her Uncle Brayen, she added.

Britany, her four-year old sister Kristel and her two-year old brother Kristian, welcomed another sibling to the family when Briseida gave birth to Edward three months ago. Kristian and Edward’s father gives Briseida $70 a month for their care and this is currently her only income. However, he is also paying $20 a month for Briseida’s new sewing machine. She is now making dresses for her family and plans to make naguas (indigenous dresses) to sell to other ladies in the area. This income will help her not only afford food for the family, but will also cover her $6 monthly electric bill, as well as Brayen’s adult diapers and convulsion medicine. Briseida and her family are BVB’s most recent clients and they are about to receive their first food basket this month. Raquel speaks for the entire family when she says, “This is going to make our family so happy!”

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Family of the Month June 2020

Valeria’s Family

There was excitement and anticipation in the air as Valeria’s children prepared to begin a new school year on March 3rd. Months of saving every dollar, and combining it with the government’s small education subsidy was finally enough so Valeria could purchase new school clothes, shoes and backpacks full of school supplies. However, the excitement was short-lived. The three school-age children, Elmer 9, Abraham 8 and Belkin 7, were only two weeks into this school year when the Covid-19 quarantine closed their school and sent the children into confinement at home. The only one who was happy about the situation was their little eighteen-month old brother Yejon; he had regained his playmates!

Home is a large but modest structure made of tin. Though there’s no electricity or running water in the house, they have a propane two-burner stove in their kitchen. This stove gets a real workout because the most remarkable thing about this house is the number of occupants. Twelve! Valeria and her four children have welcomed into their home their grandmother, Valeria’s three sisters and three of a sister’s children.

The activity and busyness of this extended family has been a welcome distraction from Valeria’s sadness and financial situation. Sixteen months ago Valeria’s husband and the children’s father died from drowning, a tragic accident that plunged this little family into even greater poverty. Yejon was only three months old, and besides raising children, cooking and washing clothes, Valeria’s only other skills were sewing and crocheting. Now she, her mother and three sisters sew native dresses and crochet small bags to provide a small income for them all. Even so, the appearance of the Buenos Vecinos volunteers bringing food to supplement this family’s meager pantry each month is a very welcome sight.

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Family of the Month May 2020

Manuel’s Family

Manuel's Family

What Manuel lacks in height and weight he makes up in character, heart and humility. Now sixty-two, he has always been the sole income provider for his family. His wife Florentina stays home to care for their two-year old grandson Victor while their daughter Flor attends classes in David. As the only male model in this family, Manuel takes great pride in helping raise, guide and love this little boy.

Last fall, before his sudden illness, subsequent surgery and long recovery period, Manuel was the gardener and groundskeeper for three local families. He had already shown himself to be a reliable and capable worker. He ably demonstrated those qualities when one of his employers, an elderly woman in her 70s, fell during the night and lay on the floor until Manuel’s arrival at 7 a.m. After making her comfortable he called the neighbors and an ambulance to take her to the hospital. He is so much more than an “employee”; he is a trusted friend and assistant. All of them very much miss his diligent work on their properties, his cheerful outlook and his thoughtful ideas. Manuel assures them that he is looking forward to resuming his work as soon as he regains his full strength.

He says that he is not use to looking to others to help feed his family and he feels embarrassed, but he also admits that he is grateful for every bag of rice and basket of staples. With Victor standing beside him, Manuel shared how excited everyone gets when the Buenos Vecinos volunteers arrive each month. He added, “We thank God that you always remember us and give us this food with a smile.”

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Family of The Month Update April, 2020 

Benilda and Her Family

 

When six-year old Jahicha met us a year and a half ago she told us to “say her name right”. Zha-he’-cha, she insisted with a smile.  She told us how excited she was to be joining her brothers and sisters at school the next school year.  She loved the smell of their new pencils and notebooks and was eager to have her own. This year, some “angels” in the area bought school supplies for her and her siblings.  They had just begun the new school year on March 2nd when a few days later the Panama Department of Education closed the schools to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Not only did school end, so did their education; the public school system does not possess the mechanism to provide on-line education. But she hopes that her older siblings might help her practice her new reading and math skills.

 

Jahicha looks up to her nineteen-year old brother Alexander. He became the “man of the house” three years ago when his father abandoned his mother and seven brothers and sisters. Alexander had enrolled in a trade school in David to become an electrician.  He wanted to help his mom, Benilda, and the rest of the family. Bringing home $240 a month, she has been the sole income-provider with her three weekly house-cleaning jobs, but those jobs have now been suspended.

 

And yet, this family feels fortunate.  Their bamboo house with its dirt floor and sturdy roof still keeps out the rain and, although there is no running water in the house, they do have electricity so that they can read and play games inside after sunset. Benilda says that she and the children want to thank Buenos Vecinos for the food they provide each month. It’s become a lifeline during this very hard time in their lives.