By Tom Nussbaum
Noel Romero is a contractor. He remodels homes, renovates them, and repairs their broken parts. He also does those things to human beings, patching up damaged lives.
But why wouldn’t he? His father was a contractor, his mother was the coordinator of Ajijic’s Christian Children’s Foundation, an organization that helped and supported children in need. He merely followed his parents’ paths.
Those paths, however, were not paved. There were potholes, challenges to overcome, like economic hardship at home, difficulties in school and failing to focus on getting an education; gang affiliation, and drug and alcohol use. So, at 18, Noel escaped the dead-end routine he’d fallen into and moved to Southern California where, with support from relatives, he found work. Truth be told, Noel found many jobs. He took whatever work was offered; no job was too small or demeaning. Each one, he felt, would teach him something new, and, as a result, he learned a variety of skills from these experiences. And he improved his knowledge of construction, renovation, and household repairs. Another skill he fine-tuned during this time was the ability to listen to others, especially clients. He also learned English. All the while he sent money home to Mexico.
Fifteen years later he returned to Ajijic. He brought with him his new skills, his deeper knowledge, and his ability to listen to customers and, with passion and imagination, he made their visions a reality.
Years later, as his own career and business developed, Noel reflected on his past and the many supportive people who helped him grow and heal. And he realized, to honor them, he must continue the tradition. Therefore, today, Noel mentors teenagers and young adults with backgrounds and challenges similar to his. He visits them in rehab centers and jails, taking them with him when they are released. He also intercepts kids on the street before they become jail or rehab-bound.
Then, Noel Romero gives them jobs, trains them, and leads them to church and a faith in God. Noel is quick to point out that while religion is a cornerstone of his guidance, it is not limited to it. He wants to instill a deeper, more internalized personal sense of self in each young person. He hopes “the power of influence,” as he calls it, will inspire others to seek better systems, make better choices, and help his mentees stop seeing themselves as victims of situations or conditions.
Noel also organizes events designed to expose his mentees, who are mostly but not exclusively male and range in age from 13 to 30, to charity, volunteerism, and helping others in need. He hopes that, through the various methods he uses, these young people will find, recognize, and use their strengths and talents to better themselves and the world, perhaps becoming mentors to the next generation.
Noel essentially pays for any costs incurred himself as his efforts are not organized enough to be recognized as an official charity. But he does have a name for his loosely-knit service. Reaching Down, he hopes, ultimately will grow and he will be able to reinforce a positive identity in more people.
Lakeside residents may be hearing more about Reaching Down in the future. Keep your ears, eyes, and hearts open. Meanwhile, Noel Romero will continue renovating homes and repairing broken souls.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com