Friday, November 3, 2017

Ruben’s Kids

Ruben and Sister Fabuola
He’s not a large man, the top of his head barely reaches to my shoulders, but he has a huge heart. 

Standing beside him in Casa Hogar, the orphanage on the mainland portion of Isla Mujeres, I watched as the tears streamed down his face. 

“They don’t have family.” He quietly said.

After surviving a life-changing event Ruben Chavez Martinez, the proprietor of Ruben’s Restaurante on Isla Mujeres, has a new goal in life. 

His mission is to give back to the community, and to make little kids shriek with laughter. 

/Mickey, Ruben, Minnie January event
He sponsors a Three Kings Day event held annually at his restaurant. January 6th is a very important date for Catholics in Mexico, celebrating when the three wise men purportedly arrived in Bethlehem with gifts for baby Jesus. 

It’s the day when children hope to receive gifts from the three kings, instead of on December 25th from Santa Claus. 

Same idea. Different culture.
Sign for the orphanage 

Ruben, until very recently, was also the main supporter of Casa Hogar. Every Friday afternoon he left his restaurant to cook a hot meal for the dozen or so children living at the orphanage. The number of kids he was feeding soon became twenty five youngsters, and then forty.
Nico, Terri, Ruben, Ricky and John arriving

He now has a small but dedicated group of volunteers working under the name of Ruben’s Kids who help by fund-raising and carrying out a myriad of other tasks all related to Ruben’s desire to make kids happy.

Every month the group purchases stacks of pizzas and grilled chickens to feed the Casa Hogar residents, plus all the kids waiting anxiously at the gate.
Kids eager to help

Once a month the volunteers go on a shopping trip to Costco to purchase a truckload of the essentials like toilet paper, beans, rice, cooking oil, and cereals. 

Quite recently islander John Pasnau discovered that the freezer at Casa Hogar is functional and he stocked it with meat, hopefully enough to last until the next buying trip.

There is a limited amount of living space and currently only twelve girls and four nuns live full-time at Casa Hogar. The girls, ranging in age from babies to teenagers, sleep six to a room in clean well-maintained bunk beds that are covered with brightly coloured bedspreads. 

Inside one of the bedrooms
There are about another two dozen kids who due to various problems at home are not living in a safe environment. 

They are daytime boarders, seeking a bit of love and comfort from the nuns. 

Waiting at the gates hoping for a meal
Two weeks ago I met up with islanders, Jeanette Laurence and Mikell Thompson, on the Ultramar passenger boat. We were all on our way to Casa Hogar. Once we landed in Puerto Juarez we negotiated with different taxi drivers finally finding one that knew (approximately) where we wanted to go, and gave us a fair price to get there. 

As it turned out he needed to ask for directions, twice, from the municipal police but we eventually arrived at our destination. He got a nice tip because it was a much longer distance than we had anticipated.

The four sisters do everything
Casa Hogar is located deep inside Rancho Viejo. It is an area of continental Isla Mujeres that I knew existed, but had never seen. The community appears to be depressed, with not much in the way of industry, commercial establishments, and seemingly no attractions for tourists. The area is poor. Very poor. 

As soon as the supply truck arrived at Casa Hogar dozens of youngsters eagerly tried to be helpful, carrying boxes of cereal, or tins of food inside the building. 

Everyone pitched in - Jeanette Laurence, Mikell Thompson, Terri Tywan, Nico Tywan, John Pasnau, Ruben Chavez, and Ricky Za’Ga - trying their best to ensure every child had something to eat.
Terri and I dishing up food

The dozen or so accompanying parents were hopeful, but in the end, hungry. There just wasn’t enough food to include them. 

By counting the pizza slices, ten boxes with eight slices in each box, we calculated we had fed seventy-some-odd kids and the four nuns who care for them.

As you can imagine this project is a never-ending labour of love for Ruben and his partner Ricky Za’ga.  

If you can help in any small way please friend Ruben’s Kids on Facebook.

Jeanette, Lynda, Sister, Mikell, John
Below is a recent posting from John Pasnau on Ruben’s Kids Facebook page for other ways you can be involved.

Three Kings Day, January 6th
"If you want to help make Sandwiches and lunches on "Sandwich Night" Jan. 5th contact Gail Marie Stewart.
If you want to work at the lunch table on Three Kings Day and are (somewhat) bilingual, contact Gail Marie Stewart.
If you want to help collect, sort and track toys from now to Three Kings Day or if you want to be a "Toy Soldier" on Three Kings Day handing out the toys contact Julie Andrews Goth.
If you are (somewhat) bilingual and just want to be in the middle of everything on Three Kings Day contact Rob Goth.
If you are not bilingual and would like to help on the ground during Three Kings Day we can still use you. Message me, John Pasnau, we are putting together a team of "Runners" who will zip down to aMar cocina peruana where all overflow toys and lunches will be staged.
And thank you to Bryan Benson for offering your restaurant's support, and welcome to Ruben's Kids!”

Mickey chatting with kids waiting for their gift

It’s a fun event. Lawrie and I will be there as always, dressed as Mickey and Minnie Mouse. 

The kids love it.

Cheers from paradise

Lynda & Lawrie

Now available in paperback on Amazon!

Trouble Isla and Treasure Isla Photo credit  Lisa Godfrey

Book #2 in the Isla Mujeres Mystery Series

By CA reviews on September 26, 2017

Yasmin and Jessica are back and the gold they found in Treasure Isla is still haunting them, especially when Carlos, their boss at the Loco Lobo, and Yasmin’s new lover, is kidnapped. No spoilers here, but his captivity and the girls’ efforts to free him, with the help of Carlos’s pals—including local Isla Mujeres fishermen and a Mexico City cop—are the crux of this fast-paced story. Lock has created not only a compelling and authentic setting, but a well-developed ensemble cast. The next Isla mystery can’t come fast enough.

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