Wilder Benites — Home at Last

When 17-year-old Wilder Benites woke on that fateful day in 1987, he had no inkling of the enormity of events that would begin to unfold. His family home, rapidly engulfed in fire, left Wilder with severe burns to his face, hands, and body. As is typical with tragedy, it changed the course of his life forever.

The family home was located in the mountains near Chimbote with only donkeys for transportation. Thus, Wilder had no alternative but to walk for many miles in extreme pain and shock, to seek medical care. 

For the next 4 years, Wilder underwent more than a dozen surgeries at Shriner’s Hospitals in Boston, MA and Minneapolis, MN. Between surgeries Friends of Chimbote families, showing deep compassion for Wilder and his struggles dealing with the day-to-day difficulties of recovery, graciously welcomed him into their homes. Many lasting friendships were formed including with the Magnotto family, the Moynihan’s, and with Dr. Frank Pilney, a plastic surgeon from Minneapolis who performed several of Wilder’s surgeries. It was when he was in the United States for medical care that Wilder began to learn the English language. He credits the medical staff at the Shriner’s Hospitals as well as his American friends for encouraging him to speak English.

2009 Choir Tour

Once he recovered Wilder returned to Peru but was not able to live in his hometown of Santiago de Chuco due to the presence of Shining Path Terrorists. Instead he found a new home in Chimbote where his connection with Friends of Chimbote grew and he was invited to the United States. Wilder did so gladly and especially enjoyed the choir tour that took place in 2009 spanning the east coast, the upper mid-west and culminating in Fargo, ND. He accompanied the choir when they performed at the House of Representatives in Washington, DC.  His English skills continued to develop as did his friendships with mission supporters.

Wilder eventually fell into a routine of splitting the year; working construction in the United States for 6 months then returning to Peru for 6 months, helping and translating for many mission visit groups, including Dr. Pilney’s medical group. Wilder’s skills in home-building and construction work improved as well when he  worked for the Mathern and Stensgard families and most recently with the Brekke family constructing the Coteau de Prairie Lodge near Rutland, ND.

2009 Choir Tour

He brought his own special expertise to both countries; building Peruvian outdoor clay ovens in North Dakota and Minnesota, and playing an integral role in the success of the container program in relations with customs paperwork in Peru to ensure the safe arrival of donated goods.

After a dozen years spending vast amounts of time away from his family, Wilder is now back home in Chimbote. His daughter, Nicole, is delighted she no longer has to say goodbye to her dad for any great length of time.

Last year, Wilder became a full-time employee of ACAF in Chimbote serving as the Assistant Operations Manager. After 25 years of being involved with the mission and relying only on tips for income, Wilder now receives a steady pay-check and employee benefits affording him the ability to care for his own family.

Wilder is proud to be carrying forth the legacy of the mission founders and is very grateful for the many benefactors who have helped him and the poor of Chimbote.

Wilder transporting Chimbotanos in the Peggy Mobile!

“I love being in the barrios working with beneficiaries especially on the current project installing roofs to protect the poor from the pending rain of El Niño. I wish we could install roofs for all those in our barrios who will not be protected,” reflects Wilder, “I love being part of the team serving the poorest of the poor and transforming lives.”

After all, he understands deeply what it is to face adversity and transform a life.

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