A Franciscan Priest in Ecuador Provides a Stable Home for HIV Orphans
Padre Alfonso is a kind and caring man. It shows clearly on his face and in his actions. 15 years ago he decided to give up his career as an airport supervisor and become a priest. He wanted to dedicate himself to what he calls ‘special people’.
“I like risk,” he told me with a smile. “It’s part of my persona. So I chose to work with those who are difficult, even dangerous.”
At first he worked with adults in Quito who had HIV. Then a hospital called him, saying that a three-year-old girl with HIV had been abandoned by her parents when they found out her condition. From then on, he took in more children until he had five living with him, plus an adult couple with HIV.
He says that in Ecuador, it is common for parents to abandon their babies who are HIV positive. So he took them in, gave them a home and the best care he could afford.
After repeated difficulties with neighbors who objected to the work he was doing, he turned to others for help but found none forthcoming. Businesses were afraid to help him because it might affect their businesses negatively.
Finally he found a large building for sale about 2 hours from Quito. It was owned by an order of nuns and he began negotiations for it despite not having the funds to purchase it.
Visiting him at the orphanage near Lago San Pablo, I found him surrounded by children, dogs and other animals.
You would never guess that the building the orphanage occupies was abandoned and partly destroyed when he found it. The reconstruction took two years and he and the children lived in the building without even tables.
The wife of an ex-president of Ecuador helped him find the funding to buy the property and the 3 hectares it sits upon. She has been his guardian angel and his major support. Years later, she still keeps in touch, calling him from Miami to check on him and the children.
Now there are wide lawns, an aviary, buildings for animals and micro-businesses, even a lovely vine-covered shrine to the Virgin Mary. Huge palms shade visitors at the entrance.
But most of all, Padre Alfonso has worked hard to make this place a home. “We are a family, a big family,” says the padre. “All living here have HIV but they want to live a normal life.”
To that end, Padre Alfonso has provided all the touches a regular home has to offer a child.
A spacious living room with cozy furniture and a television.
A library and game area where the family spends time together on weekends.
A large kitchen and a cook who prepares home-cooked meals during the week.
The building even has its own chapel where the padre holds church services and conducts mass.
Now Padre Alfonso is busy doing all he can to make the orphanage self-supporting and sustainable. A young married couple live on the property and take care of the animals that are part of the micro-businesses.
The orphanage raises and sells pigs, cuys (guinea pigs), Cornish hens and their eggs, rabbits and honey.
They have 500 cuys in pens right now and want to have 2000 in order to make the micro-business profitable.
The cuys, rabbits and Cornish hens are housed in a building built with help from Coca-Cola and Aneta.
The orphanage is in great need of volunteers, both to help with the children and to assist with all aspects of the micro-businesses.
Nancy Hannigan and Jeannette Mino of Cotacachi are working with the padre on a micro-business of their own. The orphanage has given the women an electric kiln to use in Cotacachi and in return, they will make hand-made ceramic tiles to sell in the U. S. Part of the proceeds will go toward supporting the orphanage.
Read more on our web page about Padre Alfonso.
Want to volunteer ? Or do you have talents or creative ideas that can be put to use in service to the orphanage? Then please get in touch with Padre Alfonso Castells—
Personal email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Website — www.juvilus.com