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The real "Good Samaritan" Maria Ruiz

“My heart went out to those kids. I couldn’t just cross my arms and turn away from it. I needed to do something.”

The sight of families living in homes made of wooden pallets pushed Maria Ruiz into action.

We have been known to be a tad cynical here on Stupid & Contagious – a normal reaction to over exposure to the bullshit of the world!

However, we were very moved indeed by the selfless people celebrated a few days back on the excellent CNN Heroes; selfless people who have given so much to those in direst need – the abandoned, the helpless, the poor, the sick.

All true Heroes, indeed. We stand in total awe before their humanitarianism, initiative and selflessness.

And none more so than Maria Ruiz, an El Paso native who has for years now, on her own initiative and at significant personal cost, financially and otherwise, has been bringing critical food and aid to hundreds of impoverished Mexican children.

Amazingly, she’s been doing this for 12 years! Yes, 12 years! Travelling for hours daily to and from her home, crossing through the border thousands of times, spending hours and hours cooking food for the needy, and hours serving the food to the very grateful poor.

She buys and prepares food and then crosses the border several times a week into Mexico, to the outskirts of Juarez. She is not herself wealthy yet has given, as well as incredible levels of time and effort, much of her own savings to this wonderful humanitarian endeavour. And all this while rearing a young family of her own!

It’s clear that Maria’s a woman overflowing with love, selflessness and goodness.

And a woman overflowing with supreme modesty, as evidenced by her emotive, beautiful and extremely moving acceptance speech.

However, given her unique nature, Maria’s not happy with the wonderful levels she has achieved and has further plans to develop an orphanage and a permanent food kitchen resource and a school for the neglected and impoverished children and adults of Juarez!

The word “Hero” actually does not come remotely close to capturing the essence, strength, goodness and valiance of Maria! What a supremely fine human being!

We stand in total awe before Maria’s unimaginably wonderful work!

More below from

Maria Ruiz of Texas regularly crosses the border into Mexico with food, clothing and toys for impoverished families.

EL PASO, Texas (CNN) — El Paso native Maria Ruiz knows firsthand how different life can be a mere 30-minute drive south of her Texas home.

The sight of families living in homes made of wooden pallets pushed Maria Ruiz into action.

“Just by crossing the border, you’re in a Third World country,” Ruiz said.

For 12 years, she’s traveled several times a week to the outskirts of Juarez, Mexico, bringing aid to hundreds of impoverished children and their families.

Ruiz’s family has roots in Juarez, but it wasn’t until 1996 that she ventured outside the city.

There, for the first time, she saw poverty in the extreme. People lived in homes made of wooden pallets. The elementary school was built of makeshift materials and had no running water or electricity. Teachers told her that many children were failing because they were hungry.

“My heart went out to those kids,” Ruiz recalled. “I couldn’t just cross my arms and turn away from it. I needed to do something.”

Ruiz got donations from El Paso businesses, and within one week, she was running a food program out of her home. She cooked meals in her kitchen and drove the food south to the Juarez school.

The sight of families living in homes made of wooden pallets pushed Maria Ruiz into action. She fed approximately 1,200 children every day for three and a half years, until the businesses she depended on for donations shut down in 1999.

But that didn’t stop Ruiz from helping the children in Juarez. Now, working with her husband and two children, she gathers donations from around El Paso — food, clothing, toys, even furniture — and distributes them at local “giveaways” a couple of times a month.

This is no easy task. The Mexican government charges customs fees when large amounts of goods are brought across the border. To avoid this, Ruiz makes several trips every week.

“You bring the stuff little by little, like the ants,” she said.

Although the trip south can be just 30 minutes, long lines coming back into the U.S. mean the return trip can take a couple of hours. On top of that, Juarez is at the center of a drug war, so Ruiz needs to take precautions to ensure her safety. But for her, helping kids in need is worth the effort. Video Watch Ruiz describe why she takes risks to help kids »

“When you make a child smile,” she said, “it’s awesome.”

Although conditions have improved, most families that Ruiz helps still live in poverty, so the Ruiz family has plans to do even more.

They’re building a community kitchen with space to feed 500, an orphanage for 100 residents and a trade school. They work on the complex every weekend, and although there’s more to do, they’re hoping to be open this summer.

The very thought of seeing the orphanage up and running makes Ruiz smile. Video Watch Ruiz describe how she’s helping turn a hill into a haven »

“It’ll be a dream come true when it happens,” she said. “I pray that it is soon.”

Strong religious beliefs help keep Ruiz motivated, and her family’s efforts are part of their ministry, called JEM (Jesus es Mana) Ministries. Their Juarez complex even includes a small sanctuary where her husband preaches every Sunday. But Ruiz stresses that they’re happy to help anyone, regardless of their beliefs.

“We are open to the community as a whole,” she said. “It’s equal for everybody.” Video Watch Ruiz talk about bringing aid across the border »

Ruiz says the children have kept her coming back to Juarez. When she reflects on her work, she doesn’t consider herself a hero.

“I know I can do much more.”

The sight of families living in homes made of wooden pallets pushed Maria Ruiz into action.

Maria Ruiz| MY STORY

When I got the call I was barely getting home.

As I walked into my bedroom, he told me the great news. I was shocked, surprised, excited!

My feelings, emotions, and heart were going 100 miles per hour all at the same time!

As I talked on the phone tears ran down my cheeks. I thanked God. It was unexpected to hear such awesome news.. I couldn’t believe it!

I think I am still under shock and I think it still hasn’t sunk in yet!

Thank you for all you have done. May God bless you abundantly.

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November 29, 2008 Posted by | Maria Ruiz, _ARTICLE, _OTHER, _VIDEO | Leave a comment