It’s easy to take for granted the freedoms American citizens have. Sometimes a new perspective is gained by reflecting on events happening elsewhere in the world.
Jearsot Burgos (“Jay”), a former exchange student from Venezuela, helped open Panaca’s eyes even as some of Panaca’s locals came together to help him.
“Jay spoke very highly of his country when he came here,” said Pete Peterson during a fundraiser held Dec. 2. “It was one of the best countries in the Western Hemisphere. Then they elected [their president] … Jay went from a kid that could afford to be an exchange student, upper middle class … to considerable poverty.”
Some time after returning to Venezuela, Jay was forced to flee his home country to Argentina, where his situation was only moderately improved. This was unimaginable while Jay was hosted as a foreign exchange student by the Peterson family, who still refer to him as their son. Jay has been considering different options to get out, and the Petersons, along with help from other Panaca residents, hope to give him the best chance they can.
On Monday night, the Lincoln County High School “Lynx Lair” was filled with more than 200 people attending a fundraiser to support Jay. With every dollar raised, Jay and his wife and daughter are closer to finding a new life in either the United States or Canada.
The fundraiser dinner served hot dogs, hamburgers and French fries to thank people for their help, but in many cases the donations greatly outnumbered the price of admission.
Throughout the night, Peterson talked with the attendees alongside Jay (who came to Panaca by himself to spend Thanksgiving with his American family) and answered questions about the situation in some South American nations. Adrianna Brackenbury, a local woman whose parents are still in Argentina, answered questions about the state of things in that nation. When asked how long it would take to stabilize the country, Adrianna’s father, Arturo Prieto, said “a lifetime.”
But, with the outpouring of support from the people of Lincoln County, the Burgos family looks to have a bright future. Jay expressed his thanks to the attendees, and between good food, good company and a worthy cause, many of the people in attendance expressed a feeling of thankfulness and goodwill that was in keeping with the time of year.