Wendy Nayeli Rivas Portillo (photo above), 15, of rural El Recreo, El Salvador, was born with a spinal defect causing her to be paralyzed from the waist down. She was also born with swelling on her brain, and a shunt was installed to relieve the pressure. Wendy and her two brothers were abandoned by their mother when they were infants, and the children have been raised by her grandparents, Marta (photo above) and Alcides. The picture of Wendy, below left, was take during our 2015 delegation trip.
Wheel-chair bound and living along a very rugged mountain path, Wendy has never attended school. When part of the core team drove up the path to her home in a pickup in June, 2017 they noted how rough the road was and how difficult it is to move Wendy from her home down the path to the main road through El Recreo. A few months ago Wendy’s grandfather and co-caregiver suffered a stroke, making it much more difficult for him to assist with Wendy’s care as he slowly recovers. Wendy’s tenuous life has become even more difficult.
After a doctor’s appointment for Wendy, members of the St. Boniface core team learned there was a surgery that could help Wendy with a better quality of life, which would require slightly less care for her grandparents who must change her diapers several times a day. Through the help of St. Boniface members and some non-parishioners alike, funds were raised funds for Wendy’s medical care. Working through Friends from Iowa Foundation (FFIF), a non-profit created by St. Boniface parishioners, Jerry and Kathy Burger, Wendy had her much needed operation in June. The surgery was successful and Wendy is recovering. As stated by Kamy Sullivan, “It is important to note that none of this could have been accomplished if not for FFIF. They are the ones who got Wendy to the doctor, made sure she got the surgery, oversaw her recovery, contacted a builder for the home construction, and made arrangements for a doctor visit Wendy every day.”
The St. Boniface El Salvador core group determined it was not in Wendy’s best interests to return to her home in the condition it was in (photos below). The group decided to build the family a new home to protect them from the rain, animals, and provide the family some privacy. Residing in the new home will be Wendy, her grandparents Marta and Alcides, and her little brother Kerim. In the future family members will be able to sleep in beds instead of hammocks. And their home will have cement floor instead of dirt, and a roof that doesn’t leak.
During the June 2017 delegation trip, Fr. Vince informed Wendy’s Grandmother, Marta (top photo), that a new home will be built for them. As of Monday June 12, 2017, demolition of the original ramshackle home, bottom photo, had begun. The new structure will be a fitting tribute to St. Boniface’s current “Under Construction” program.
Wendy’s family thanks the parishioners of St. Boniface and the Friends from Iowa Foundation for both the financial assistance and prayer. As parishioner Kamy Sullivan reported after the recent June delegation trip, “The ticket to happiness is paying it forward in any way you can and you will be given back one hundred fold. What a Blessing it is to be able to give to those who have less. May God bless all of You.”
Please note that only special donations and not tithing dollars were used for either the surgery or the home construction. For images of Wendy’s living conditions, please visit the online photo album at stbonifacechurch.org/photos/