Chuy Acosta, a native of Camichines, Jalisco, Mexico, moved to Chicago as a teenager to get his GED and attend trade school. While there, he met and married the love of his life, Amy, a Chicago native. Four children and a successful electrician's career later, the Acostas were well-established in Chicago, but a desire for their children to know their Mexican heritage and family compelled the Acostas to do something kind of crazy. In September 2001, they put life "on hold" in Chicago and moved to Chuy's hometown in Mexico, fully intending to return to Chi-town and pick up where they left off in a couple years.
With no long-term plans to live in Camichines, daily life was simple: look for needs and meet them. Early on, they helped build and furnish a new library for the town. They helped create a breakfast program at the local school. They hosted kids' clubs, youth group and Bible studies. They lived as friends and neighbors with those around them. And a couple years turned into seven!
While homeschooling her own children, Amy also offered to tutor children from town. In 2008, Maya arrived. Little did they know that this little girl would change their lives forever. Maya began learning to read and do basic math with the family who not only taught her but also cared for her basic needs. As time went on, Maya's story started to come out. It was a story riddled with abuse and neglect. This information caused the Acostas to fight for her safety. Working with the county government and finally formalizing their union with EIRENE AC, a non-profit organization legally established in the states of Jalisco and recognized by the government authorities, they were able to protect Maya, and her three young siblings as well. This was the start of Ranchito con Esperanza, a home that protects and cares for many children.
Today, the Acostas run an official "casa hogar" or children's shelter, Ranchito con Esperanza (Little Ranch with Hope) in the state of Jalisco. Ranchito con Esperanza has been a safe haven for the past five years. While some have been successfully returned to family members, the number of children living with the Acostas is consistently changing.
Ranchito con Esperanza provides a very unique experience for these children. Unlike the traditional shelters in Mexico, the children at the Ranch grow up with their siblings rather than being separated by gender and age, maybe to never see each other again. Every child receives a state-accredited education, add to that the chance to learn about farming, animals, family and God's love, and you have Ranchito con Esperanza.
In 2013, the Acostas formed LENAM, a non-profit organization in both Mexico and the United States. LENAM is not only a "parent" organization for Ranchito con Esperanza, but will be the vehicle to expand the effort to improve the lives of the children who come into the Acosta's life.