Jimena Reyes made the long, uncomfortable walk from her home on the outskirts of Jocotenango, Guatemala, to the Buckner Family Hope Center™ with her younger sister, Maria Rene, and her mother. Every step came with pain in her outside toes because she’d outgrown her only pair of shoes. Her discomfort had risen little by little over the last few weeks, until each outing had blossomed into a blistering, chafing ordeal. She had stopped wearing socks days ago to make more room for her feet.
But this morning her painful walk came with the hope of receiving a new pair of shoes at the Family Hope Center, where staff on the Buckner Guatemala team had invited families to participate in a fair providing school supplies and educational programming.
In addition to new shoes from Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls®, each child received a backpack full of school supplies, while parents were treated to cooking classes, parenting skills classes, MannaPak food supplies and a devotional time.
After waiting in the hallway of her school, where the Buckner fair was being held, Jimena finally was chosen to enter. She walked through rows of dual seats, each containing a local church volunteer or Buckner staff member, and a child receiving a foot washing, followed by a new pair of shoes and socks.
Waiting for her in one of the many seats was a Buckner staff member, who gently removed the old, worn shoes from her sockless, road-grimed feet, which he washed with wipes before putting on fresh socks and a new pair of tennis shoes that, thankfully, fit her perfectly.
“What do these new shoes mean to you?” he asked.
“God sent them to me,” she responded, flashing a smile that revealed dimples straight out of Hollywood. “My old shoes don’t fit.”
He continued, “If you hadn’t received these new shoes, what would have happened?”
“My mom would have had to spend a lot of money,” she said. “She doesn’t have a job and has to clean houses and wash clothes.”
“What does your dad do?” he asked.
There is silence, followed by, “I don’t have a dad.”
The staff member changed the subject and with a smile, handed her a new pink backpack filled with school supplies.
“Notebooks, colored paper, glue, a pencil sharpener, pens, scissors, pencils, markers and a ruler!” Jimena exclaimed.
Each find elected a new round of smiles from the third grader, who added her favorite subject is math.
Buckner case worker Ana Pic knows the family’s situation well and hopes they will return to the Family Hope Center for services. While they are not in the program yet, fairs and distributions are often a way to attract new families and assess their needs for help.
“She is a girl who comes from a family in poverty,” Pic said. “She doesn’t have a father, and only has her mother, who has to do a lot of work to be able to give them what they need. They are one of the families who live in the rural part of this municipality. There are families that have a lot of challenges in sending their children to school.”
Because of those challenges, the shoe and supplies distribution “helps the family economically because the schools ask for a lot of school supplies.”
“It saves money for their parents,” Pic continued. “It also helps in their education. And the most important thing is that they see it as an unexpected gift.”
Pic said children like Jimena are at particular risk in several areas.
“Without family counseling, without support, without education, she would most likely drop out of school,” she shared. “She would most likely be a mom at a young age. Most likely she would have to start working to help with her mother’s finances. Most likely she would get involved in gangs and fall into unhealthy vices.”
Seeing her mother at the door, Jimena ran over to show off her new shoes. The pair both grinned, knowing their walk into the future would be a lot less painful.