The woman on the right was found in a dumpster lethargic, bleeding, covered in ants, and in desperate need of medical attention. After an emergency hysterectomy, she was moved to the Betancur home in a swampy, rural area of El Salvador. They take in seniors who are destitute and homeless. Several residents told me that they were eating out of garbage cans and would certainly have died if it were not for the Sisters. In El Salvador, there is no social security or Government safety net.
Sister Sonja is one of the nuns who operate the home. The facility was built for them with the understanding that there would be no further support. All food and operating expenses would be the responsibility of the nuns. They have no support from any religious organization or Government. The nuns feed the residents primarily from the food they grow themselves. They have a large cornfield, garden, and many animals. To raise money, the nuns spend what little free time they have, sewing dolls that they sell at a market. This added revenue, along with the limited amount of donations they receive, allows them to care for about 100 Seniors. The home could handle about 130 residents if they had enough food. There is an outdoor kitchen where most of the meals are cooked in giant kettles. Chickens run around everywhere. There is no air conditioning and only limited use of electricity. The home is very clean and the residents sleep under mosquito nets. I was surprised to see that the nuns put a great deal of work into landscaping. There was a variety of hibiscus planted all over. They even had a small nursery where they propagated their own fruit trees. We brought the nuns some kitchen gadgets. Sister Sonja first saw the knife sharpener which she was very excited about. Then she opened up a can opener which she was also very appreciative of. It turns out that they opened cans with their knives. We try to help with the facility projects when we can. Several years ago, a giant hornet's nest was built over the ceiling in the main dining/living hall. It got so heavy that it crashed through and hit the floor, sending angry hornets everywhere. The residents were severely stung and one died. The nuns are amazing. Sister Sonja had lived in New York many years ago. The other nuns had several prior assignments as well. They choose to live in this hot, remote, mosquito-infested area. They forsake all the comforts that we take for granted, as well as the hope of ever having a family of their own. Instead, they take residents to the bathroom, feed them, and then deal with continual deaths. The nuns don’t do it for recognition. Few people know that the Betancur home even exists.