Comedor Francisco Villa is a ministry that truly shares OTB’s heart and vision. Beyond feeding the hungry, this place cares for people in ways that truly go "outside the bowl".
Yolanda is the volunteer caretaker at Comedor Francisco Villa and a key leader in her community, Colonia Granjas Familiares. This neighborhood is still considered a rural area, marginalized in the tough streets of Tijuana. They've just recently been granted basic water services and two paved streets. However, after 20 years as a community, the homes in Granjas Familiares are still without electricity. The problems this community face exceed the living inconveniences. Almost completely cast aside by the authorities, it has been a neighborhood plagued by every sort of violence and horror; constant burglary, physical abuse and even murder.
Nevertheless, Yolanda, wife and mother of three, has fought a good fight against all odds. Like the good Samaritan, she has not only opened her home to host a feeding program, but has searched for other ways to could help the 56 families who receive food. “I have knocked on every door available. For over 18 years, I have petitioned for our water, pavement and electric services to be installed. I have asked the government to sponsor the feeding program in our community, I have searched for psychologists and social workers who could help the families through their crisis'. I have organized job fairs, vacation schools, and anything that I can get my hands on really. I hurt for my community, I really do, but especially the children. As simplistic as it may sound, I still believe they are our future and our hope. Many people have said to me ‘why do you do so much? Worry about your own children, the others should not matter, everyone must fight for themselves.’ But I say ‘of course they matter! Not only as people, but think about it - if they are not cared for, they will eventually walk down the path of violence, crime and homicide. We should know better than to ignore the cry of our children’s hearts.”
Moved with a passion, Yolanda has put together a community children’s club where she welcome the kids whose parents work until late. “I focus on teaching them values and building relationships. They open their hearts about their struggles and needs. I teach them about honestly and gratitude, and focus on reading each day, always encouraging change for the better. It is a challenging task. It requieres lots of energy, love and strong efforts. Though my resources are very limited, I never get tired, and God’s provision is always evident and perfectly timed.”
“During the holiday season, the feeding program was suspended for a few weeks, ” Yolanda remembers, “but the kids still wanted to come and visit my house. I told them we were not going to be receiving food during those days, but they still wanted to stay. I was moved and gathered whatever I could to feed them something, especially for those kids whose parents would leave them home all day. My family and I started feeding them on our own account, sharing our table with them, like family. Though the feeding program has become active again, there are 8 to 10 kids who still come eat with my family, especially on evenings and weekends. I always say, regardless of the quality or abundance of our meal, they are always welcome, for God is faithful and will never fail to provide enough for everyone. He did this at the feeding program one day, we were able to feed over 80 people with only 50 servings of food in the bucket. Everyone ate until they were satisfied!”
“Working with Outside the Bowl has taught me so much about the importance of feeding the people before anything else. Reaching their hearts and making an impact requires prep work, Jesus made that clear. I have also learned the value of nutrition, the importance of feeding with conscience rather than just filling a stomach. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn, partner and work together with them.”
Yolanda’s heart moves us and her active community ministry inspires us. In a region overshadowed by negativity and social oppression, Comedor Francisco Villa is quickly becoming a light that brings hope for a better future in the power of God Almighty.
Written by Vianney A.E.