Pacoche is a small village on the coast of Ecuador. You probably have never heard of it. Most Ecuadorians have not either. It’s the sort of town where the municipal water is turned on for one day every 15 days. Life is not easy in Pacoche.
But Pacoche is not forgotten.
Fabian and Graciella Buenaventura felt a calling to go to this small town to establish Casa de Dios and do the best they could to improve the future of this town. Their 11 years in Pacoche have not been easy, but they have seen many positive changes. Homes and cisterns have been built, children are being taught, and people are being loved and cared for.
But where I noticed the biggest change was in the youth. Let me tell you about just one of them. His name is Robinson. He is 16 years old and I share this story with his permission.
Robinson has not had an easy life. According to Robinson, his father is abusive, drinks too much alcohol, and has had many relationship problems in his marriage. Not surprisingly, Robinson reacted to his difficult home situation by turning to his peers. This did not improve his situation. He, too, started to drink, got involved in robbery and was heading down a destructive path. His prospects were dim.
Thankfully, his grandmother attended Casa de Dios. From the time he was four years old, his grandmother would take him to Casa de Dios. Robinson enjoyed the social aspects of Casa de Dios, but that was it.
Robinson endured a particularly difficult time recently. His parents were separated and he was faced with having to drop out of San Lorenzo High School because his father would not pay for his schooling. One day Robinson was flipping through radio channels when he came upon a radio broadcast. Something happened inside him. He knew he needed to find the truth. He turned to Fabian and Graciella for answers.
Since that time Robinson has been spending a lot of time helping out at Casa de Dios, but more importantly, he is growing and learning.
He recently worked alongside an Extreme Response team from Canada. The team members were so impressed with him that they decided they would personally invest in this young mans life. I can tell you that he is in school and doing well. He is still a hardworking young man and he is applying himself to his studies. Robinson’s life has changed. And there isn’t one participant in this story who can take all or even most of the credit. Robinson’s life has been changed because many people did what they felt called to do.
The future of Pacoche — and Robinson — is looking bright.
I’m honored to have met you Robinson, best wishes, and remember that many people are cheering you on.
Mark Ghesquiere, MD, CCFP, is a physician in Ontario, Canada, chairman of the board for Extreme Response Canada, and a frequent traveler to high-poverty areas in order to provide support. Learn more about ER Canada and about Casa de Dios.