Though he does not own this rambling cattle ranch, Luis manages it for an absentee owner who pays him only $180 a month. Luis and his family care for the herd, clear the fallen trees, mend fences, and maintain the property using two horses. There is no machinery and everything must be done by hand. It is a hot dirty job that requires their attention every day. Luis is willing to take on this big responsibility to support his wife Irma and their six children. They live on the ranch in a two-room house of bamboo walls with a zinc roof. They use cardboard to sleep on to protect them from the dampness of the dirt floor. Their outside kitchen consists of a wood stove and cooking utensils and pots that are old and almost unusable.
The oldest daughter named after her mother is seventeen and was born without a tongue, but her disability does not affect the way she lovingly cares for all of her younger siblings. She has two sisters, Juana, 15 and Odilia, 12 and three brothers Domingo, 12 Eugenio, 10 and Lazaro, 5. None of the family can read or write. The younger children would like to attend school, but there is no money for uniforms, shoes or school supplies. They are a close-knit family and have little contact with others beyond the ranch, so they have struggled through these problem with little or no help until now.
When we heard of this family’s living conditions we immediately accepted them for a double-portion of food. Two of our BVB volunteers sprang into action and donated a large collection of pots and pans. The volunteer who brought this family to our attention approached a local hostel that was renovating their property and was able to secure the donation of three like-new mattresses for the family. We are also finding out more about what can be done to get some of these children in school.
Though this family represents some of the most extreme examples of hardship we encounter at BVB, their story is not unusual. Panama is also experiencing inflation, food shortages and supply change disruptions like much of the rest of the world. However, in July nation-wide demonstrations and strikes that blocked the country’s primary highway caused additional damage to the agricultural industry resulting in mass layoffs of farm workers and other food industry laborers. We thank all of our newsletter and social media readers for their continued prayers, kind thoughts and donations of any size as we endeavor to help our neighbors in need.