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.