Heart & Soles

How one Florida couple is making an impact on Guatemalan families from head to toe

Imagine having to support your entire family on $2 per day or sharing a one-room home with eight other family members.

According to the International Organization for Migration, this scenario is a reality for many families who live in Guatemala, with 35.8 percent of the population living in poverty and 15.2 percent living in extreme poverty.

Josh Lecar, a Ft. Lauderdale security guard and Guatemalan native, has seen firsthand how poverty impacts his home country.

“I remember complaining as a young child about things that I didn’t have, but my father put it all into perspective for me when he explained to me that he didn’t get his first pair of shoes until he was 11 years old,” he states.

To make life a bit easier for families in poverty, Josh and his wife Yuisa decided to step out in faith and do something.

In 2007, the Lecars started Hope and Compassion, Inc., to collect shoes, clothing and toiletries to bring to needy families in Guatemala.

“Yuisa and I had been praying for so long about how we can help others, and then came the idea for Hope and Compassion. … This was a calling from God,” Josh states. “At first we weren’t sure how to go about it. Yuisa made up flyers asking family members and co-workers for new or gently-used shoes and toiletries.”

The response was overwhelming.

The Lecars received more than 500 pairs of shoes and boxes of toiletries for their first trip to Guatemala. The next step was to get Josh, Yuisa and all the donations to Guatemala.

“Josh and I have a limited budget. With me being a first grade teacher and him working as a security guard, we had no idea how we were going to afford two tickets to Guatemala,” Yuisa recalls.

“Then, one day, I just happened to be watching a commercial for Spirit Airlines, and they were holding a one-day special to Guatemala for $1 a ticket!”

“I remember calling my boss to ask him if I could take the time off. I was nervous, because … usually you have to ask for the time off way in advance, but the special was about to end,” Josh explains. “I explained to him what my wife and I wanted to do for the children, and he gave me the time off.”

With everything falling into place, Josh and Yuisa made their way to Guatemala for their first trip.

When they arrived, adults and children lined the streets of Guatemala City to receive what may have been their first pair of shoes. The Lecars also played games with the children and shared the Gospel with them.

“These shoes are so much more than just shoes to these children,” says Yuisa. “They are transportation. They are a form of health insurance, stopping cuts and infections that so many children get because they are barefoot. They are also a source of hope and a future, because children are not allowed to attend school in Guatemala unless they have shoes.”

Holding back tears, Yuisa recalls meeting kids like Angel, an 11-year-old who has missed out on years of schooling, because he cares for his five younger siblings. Both of Angel’s parents are blind.

“He came up to us while holding his little sister. This boy had nothing, and instead of asking for something for himself, he asked if we had a doll for his little sister,” Yuisa adds.

The Lecars still communicate with Angel weekly. Even with their limited budget, the Lecars offered to pay for him to go to school. 

Bigger adventures

Unfortunately the Lecars did not have enough shoes for everyone, so when they returned to Florida, they decided they would take a second trip to Guatemala.

“When we went back to Guatemala City in October of 2008, we were able to take 2,500 pairs of shoes,” Josh says. “We also had clowns and a bounce house for the children. This was something those children never experienced before.”

The next trip for Hope and Compassion is scheduled for July 2009, and the Lecars hope to make it even better than the last one.

“Our goal is to have 10,000 pairs of shoes. So far, we have 1,000 pairs. We would also love to have a couple of volunteers to come with us to Guatemala, but so far it is only me and Josh,” Yuisa states.

“God has been very faithful to us,” she adds. “I know we could not have done this on our own. With this economy and our salaries, we were able to travel, get through customs easily and provide all of these shoes to these children. God has made the way for us.”

To donate new or gently-worn shoes for the July Hope and Compassion outreach, please call Josh and Yuisa Lecar at 954-987-4826 or visit www.HopeandCompassion.org.

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