Family of the Month October 2022

Family of the Month- Raul’s Family

Up a treacherous road through three running rivers are the two bamboo houses that Raul, 36 years old, his brother Oscar, and Emilio his brother-in-law built when Raul inherited this little tract of land two years ago. Even though there is no electricity or indoor running water, the family does not sleep on the dirt floor. All nine members sleep in hammocks which are stored away on the walls during the day. Currently only Raul’s brother is earning any income. Raul contributes to the family a small monthly disability payment that he receives from the government because he is blind. None of the adults can read or write.

Raul’s mother Cecilia 52, cooks the meals and washes clothes for the family. She hopes one day to have a two-burner propane stove top so she doesn’t have to cook over the outdoor wood stove any longer. She sees that the three school-age children Deika 7, Melquisidet 10 and Carlos 11 are out early enough to make the long and difficult walk to school. Our BVB volunteer who discovered the plight of this family wanted to help them with their most immediate problem, the kids could not attend school because they had no shoes. He drove Raul and the children into the city to a department store, took them on the elevator to the second floor where they bought new shoes and then out to a restaurant for lunch and a strawberry dessert.

Because of the size of Raul’s family, they are receiving a double portion of food each month and will hopefully begin growing their own food from our Food Starter program. These are the types of families in crisis that get our immediate attention.

Family of the Month September 2022

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.

Family of the Month August 2022



Three generations of Martin’s family live in this small one-room cement block house. Supplied by his employer at a citrus farm/processor, this structure is home to Martin and his wife Marielena, their seven children, ages two months to twelve years and his father, Martin Sr. 70 years old. Baby Abner was born by C-section and Marielena is still recovering her strength. He was born with a cleft palate and must be bottle-fed with expensive baby formula.

Martin was laid off of work recently when he suffered a serious work-related hand injury. But even when he works his usual 8-hour six-day work week he only brings home $390 a month. He and his father worked all of their lives as farmers in the comarca, but they moved to the area a few years ago so he could earn more money for his family.

Martin and Marielena are good parents; their happy, fun-loving and respectful children are testaments to the loving atmosphere in which they’ve been raised. Martin told us how much this BVB food means to them, and his wife and kids told us even more with their big smiles.

Family of the Month June 2022

When we first presented Benilda and her eight children in April 2020, the six-school-age children were excited that they had just begun the school year with new school supplies furnished by an “angel”.

Within a few days, however the schools were closed because of the onset of pandemic restrictions. And yet they felt fortunate; “their wood and bamboo house with it dirt floor and sturdy roof still keep out the rain” she announced cheerfully. And though there was no running water in the house, there was a water pipe on the property and electricity to give them light for reading in the evening.

Circumstances change, and the family’s living conditions have deteriorated. The kind benefactor who had allowed them to live in that house for $10 a month died and Benilda’s family was forced to find a new place to live. They have found a nearby lot rent-free, but they must build their own structure. With only $485 a month income from her house-cleaning and son Alexander’s part-time work at a nearby greenhouse, finding even second-hand building materials is difficult. They are no utilities on the property, neither electricity nor running water, so they must go to a nearby creek for drinking water and water for washing.This photo shows how primitive and inadequate are their current accommodations. This early and heavy rainy season has been especially hard for them to endure.

Concerned citizens are finding ways to help them make a better house.

Still, Benilda maintains her optimistic attitude and reminds the children to be grateful for blessings that come to them, like the extra food from Buenos Vecinos each month.


Family of the Month May 2022




Change has been difficult for everyone these past two and half years.  But it is especially hard for  children who have lost parents who were breadwinners.  Esther is only thirteen, but she and her three siblings miss their dad and the food he was able to supply.  He did leave them a comfortable though modest house with a cement floor and a sturdy roof, but their Mom must now try to feed and clothe them with her small income from cleaning houses two days a week.  Everyone pitches in to help the extended family, as well.  Esther, seen here with her little cousins, watches them for her aunt every day during summer vacation. And Grandma is the caregiver when the older kids are gone during the school year. Buenos Vecinos food delivery day is a welcome event every month, as all the kids carry whatever they can carry up to the house.  The rice, beans, pasta, oil, canned fish and meat are the staples for this diet, but the additions, including the powdered milk and candy bar are the tasty treats the kids look forward to the most.

Our May 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!

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.

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.”

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.

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!

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!