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.


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!”


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.


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.”


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.


December 2019 Family of the Month

Meet Marcelina’s Family

Tucked away in the remote highlands is a one room 12X12 foot wooden structure. Marcelina and her six children call this humble dwelling home. When we arrived for the first food delivery only the three younger children, six-year-old identical twin girls and a 2-year-old boy with solemn brown eyes, were there with their mom. The three older children are boys aged 10-16 who were all in school. When asked why the girls weren’t in school Marcelina sadly replied that they couldn’t go to school because they didn’t have shoes.

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 that is available to them comes from an extension cord connected to her mother’s house about 100 meters away.

It is obvious that Marcelina values education and encourages her children to go to school. Her oldest son lives with a relative who resides closer to the high school he attends.  The younger brother attends the same high school but, because he prefers to live at home with his mother and siblings, he has to get up at four each morning to catch two buses to get there on time. The 10-year-old son attends the local school which is still a long trek from his home. Measures will be taken to insure that the two girls, Raquel and Daniela, have shoes to wear to school when the next term begins.

In spite of what would be for us dire living conditions, the girls and little boy seem happy. The girls gave us a lively tour of the trail between their house and their grandmother’s house through the sugar cane. At one point Raquel snatched a piece of fruit from a sour orange tree and ate it like candy. It makes one pucker just to think of it. The little boy, Esteban, had a broken cell phone that he held up to his face like he was taking photos of us. He never changed his serious demeanor.

This is another one of our families that truly benefit from the food supplement received from Buenos Vecinos. Hopefully, families who live in such poverty at the very least will not have to worry about having food for their children. It is a goal to help our families to encourage their children to pursue education as a means of improving their lives. Marcelina is a good example of a mother who places importance on education and the future when her older sons go to school when they could be working to provide income to the family.


September 2019 Family of the Month

Jon’s Family

Four-year old Jon is still too little to join his five brothers on the long walk to school each day, but he is eagerly looking forward to next year when he can dress in a white shirt, long pants, and put on his first pair of real shoes.He and his family live in a two-room corrugated tin house held together with bamboo strips. Only the door lets in fresh air and light during the day. The dirt floor is uneven and becomes muddy during the rainy season even where the tin and tarp roof doesn’t leak. With no source of running water indoors, showering and other hygiene activities are difficult. And without electricity bedtime comes early for this family.Jon’s mom cooks in an outdoor shack on a wood stove. The cauldron on the open fire goes from sun-up to sundown cooking beans, rice and root vegetables for this hungry household. Occasionally an old hen becomes the prized centerpiece of the meal. Everything and everyone smells like the campfire. The family is oblivious to the smoke and its hazard to their current and long-term health.Jon’s dad is a machete worker just as his own father was. Sometimes he helps neighbors harvest sugar cane, chayote or tomatoes. Now that his oldest son, Adrian, will pass the sixth grade in December and will no longer be required to attend school, he and his father will soon work together in the fields.Jon’s family illustrates why Buenos Vecinos de Boquete is so important to this community. There is little support from the government for those who are near or at the poverty level. The family has made little progress toward a better future for the boys, but Buenos Vecinos has been a source of encouragement and monthly supplemental food, a consistent and dependable lifeline. BVB supplements the food store for this family and almost a hundred others every month.

Family of the Month Update August, 2019

Diana’s Family

It’s gratifying to revisit our clients and to see their progress over the years. Many have either moved up to become financially self-sufficient or have simply moved out of the Buenos Vecinos service area. Diana is an example of someone who did both. She recently reached out to BVB to tell us how life has changed for her and her sons, six year-old Angel and eight year-old Bryan.

When they first became Buenos Vecinos recipients in 2015 they were renting a 10 x 12 room from a family who paid her $10 a day to clean their house. Even with a meager monthly contribution from the boys’ father, she was barely able to pay the modest rent and other monthly living expenses. As sometimes happens, concerned neighbors referred her to BVB volunteers who vet our prospective clients, and she was quickly accepted.

However, Diana’s greatest challenge was Angel’s medical condition and accompanying expenses. Born with a severe cleft palate and lip, he had feeding and sleeping problems, frequent ear infections and asthma. He wore a small green palate protection device at home or, when away from home, a tape over his lip to hide the defect from curious stares. At that time, as seen in the photo on the left, four year-old Bryan was learning how to make funny faces and two year-old Angel was already becoming self-conscious around cameras.

In 2016 a doctor at the local medical clinic helped Diana contact Operation Smile, an international medical charity based in Virginia. They provide free surgeries in developing countries for young adults and children requiring maxillofacial reconstruction. After a series of three incremental surgeries and a year and a half of speech therapy, Angel is on his way to a complete recovery. His appearance and health have dramatically improved as you can see in the photo on the right.

Diana and the boys now live in a house that she shares with another single mom. She has a full-time housekeeping job in a nearby hotel. Both boys are doing well in school, although Bryan has needed some help learning to read. Diana is proud that she can now support her family and looks forward to a better future for them all. She has never forgotten how BVB helped her family eat during a difficult time in their lives. She wants our donors to know how grateful she has been for their help.


Family of the Month- April 2019

Meet Mariano’s Family  

Mariano lives with his mother Iris and four siblings in a two room house provided by the government.  It has no indoor bath room, no indoor water and no electricity. 

Iris struggles to feed and clothe her children, ages one to seventeen but she knows that education is important for all of them.  Eleven year old Elizabet and five year old Eric have just begun their school year.  However, Mariano’s older brother, Rogelio, was not able to afford school clothes and materials last semester or for this semester.  He is endeavoring to find a way to return this year by finding nearby work, but has not yet been successful.   

Mariano, seen here on the left, is a typical sixteen year-old boy.  He loves to hang out with his friends, to play jokes on his siblings, and to “fit in” with the people around him.  He is a bright, attentive, and happy young man, but he lives with a disability that affects him every day. When he was three weeks old he suffered an ear infection and high fever that went undiagnosed for two months, leaving him almost completely deaf; now he can communicate only with sign language and gestures.  Until recently he depended on the Handicap Center (FPI) for transportation expenses to the public school a few days each week where he participated in special education classes for the hearing impaired.
  This year is beginning well for Mariano; he is now starting to take a welding course at the Obispado in David. Currently FPI is supporting him, but ideally some person or organization will step forward to take over this modest financial commitment to Mariano’s future and to also provide him some attention and the encouragement  that he needs to follow this important path.  Iris believes that despite his disability, this training could prepare him to live a full, happy and productive life.
Iris says that she is grateful to FPI for all the things they do for Mariano and to Buenos Vecinos for providing her family non-perishable food.  This BVB donation to their pantry is one they can depend on every month, she said with a smile.                 


March 2019 Family of the Month

Amado’s Family

Last November the BVB Newsletter reported that Amado was suffering from a serious stomach disorder that kept him bedridden and unable to work for many weeks. The whole family suffered, and when neighbors alerted us to the situation, Buenos Vecinos stepped in and began to deliver non-perishable food to their door on an emergency basis. Within the last three and a half months, Amado has made a complete recovery. He was able to go back to work in the cane fields because he is once again healthy and strong. His wife, Catalina and his four children, Jovany 14, Jonny 11, Diana 9 and Janeth 5 have also regained their smiles. Amado and Catalina no longer need the food assistance, but they say that they will always remember that Buenos Vecinos helped their family when they needed it most.