A bet on the youth

In the extreme hot weather of the city ofSantiago del Estero, Argentina, we keep on being surprised by so much solidarity. This time Father Hernán introduced us to Gachy and César, a married couple who are very special teachers. They are young, 46 and 43 years old and 40 kids had already came to their house needing someone who would trust in them and give them a chance to study.

Gachy tells us, with a nice accent from Santiago del Estero, that she was a snob at 18 years of age, but when she faced such a crude reality while being a missionary she started to feel ashamed and wonder “why there is so much difference?, why we can study and they can’t?”. Since then, they continued to be missionaries in that province and every time they would get closer to that tough situation by assuming people needs as their own and trying to promote them as a dignified person.

In one of those visits, they met a young man full of curiosity, lots of questions, who wanted to learn everything and would follow them around all day. Ramón suffered because he wanted to study but couldn’t. He deeply wanted to go to school, but his grandparents had no option but to take him from March to June to work in the cotton harvest along with other seasonal workers. Therefore, he could only attend to school five months of the whole year. His mother was working in Buenos Aires (capital city of Argentina) and was sending money home but it wasn’t enough. Like in a popular song “Perfume de Carnaval” (Carnival Perfume), Ramón was the son of a frequent reality from rural regions, as a result of a once time encounter in a carnival he has never met his father. He would make blank pages out of the bread paper bag and would use candles to be able to study. “How can we not help him!?” remember Gachy and César. “He yearned to learn, he wanted to finish high school and the only condition imposed by his grandparents was that he worked. This is how he came to live at our house to finish his studies at night, he was awarded as the standard bearer (and he was also working!), afterwards he studied in a college to become a Nurse and later completed the degree in Nursing”.

For this couple the signal was crystal clear: “Ramón was the proof that when the young people want to study they really can make it happen”. During the last 7 years Gachy and César welcomed to their family students from all parts of Santiago del Estero. Nowadays, they have 7 students between 18 and 25 years of age. When they decided to get on board with this Project, after their experience with Ramón, their son Francis was 5 years old and all the friends and family would say they were crazy, who knew what could they do to him or which disease they could bring. Luckily, they trusted in God and took all the risks trying to help so many kids. Today, their son Francis has more brothers than he ever imagined and takes it all so naturally normal. For Gachy they are like sons to her, even the daughters in law come to visit her! They remember: “It all came slowly like a dream, we were so convinced after our good experience with Ramón, that we left our comfy house surrounded by nature with a beautiful backyard and many friends to come to this house borrowed from the bishopric, with a smaller backyard and lots of bedrooms to clean to start with this project. We are really happy doing this, we live by the saying: ‘Put the hand to the plow and don’t look back.’ Truthfully we have never, ever lacked anything; there was always the Hand of God. When some money came in, we bought the essentials; Providence has always been present and will always be. Even though there are 7 grown up boys who eat a lot, there is always some food left, we are never worried whether we will have enough food. We trust that is God’s project, so He will help us to keep on, no matter what. He chose us for this and He is with us every day.”

You can breathe an air of comradeship and joyfulness in the Home. They make jokes, they help each other to study, cook and sing. They look very happy, respectful and thankful; patently it is not easy to live together with 7 young men of that age, but they know very well they came to study. There are 2 rooms for studying, so they organize themselves to share different subjects: Agronomy, Fitness Education, Music, etc. This is the objective, and when they forget, Gachy like a woodpecker tirelessly reminds them that their parents and Gachy and César themselves are making a big effort so they can study. Their parents are proud of their kids that come to the city to study (obviously they tell everybody in town about it).

The House Rules help to keep the rules clear; the tasks spreadsheet organizes the cooking, washing, cleaning, prayers, plant watering, etc. This big family establish a firm base by sharing conversations and meals and above all the Morning Prayer, which is irremovable. They take turns in preparing a short prayer of no more than 15 min and this is how they start the day at 7am adoring the Holy Sacrament in their own Chapel with some songs played with the guitar. There is plenty of music in Spanish or quechua according to their origins. They talk and talk, seeing how they develop, their achievements and challenges, fulfilling on both sides the role of parents, teachers, spiritual mentors and sons and students. “Sharing the faith, 9 or 10 strangers can get along. The Project is to integrate them; not only studying but also getting to know God you can get to know yourself”. This is how God is present silently in the everyday of this family, in the prayers, barbeques with the Bishop, conversation with “mate” and pastries shared with Father Hernán.

An immeasurable generosity, patience and love from Gachy and César, who not only economically support the Home (many parents can’t support their kids), but also dedicate their lives to these young men leaving behind many personal projects and furthermore they feel this is the most natural thing in the world! They are aware that if everything depended on them alone, they would never have the resources, but with God intervention, everything sorts out well. They could also opt to live in their previous house with a nice backyard, playing with their son now 12 years old, living a life with less worries; but they wouldn’t change this at all. They are happy, and when they see the students graduating and having more open doors in their future ahead, they feel deeply gratified.

César emphasizes that it was Gachy the heart of the project, but we know that he not only accompanies her, but he is also one of the main reasons that she has so much energy to  carry on with the project and fulfill their dream. They told us that it was difficult for them to conceive Francis, that when he finally arrived it was a miracle; the ironic twists and turns of fate made them having so many adoptive children.

This pay it forward needs an additional link to be complete and it is that these young men that today have good jobs because they could study at the Home may help others to have the same opportunity. This hasn’t happened yet, but Gachy and César dream that one day lot of these former students may sponsor other kids at the Home where they studied. This is going to be another chapter, hopefully very soon.

Click here to watch some traditional songs in guitar!


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