The front lawn of Fatima Vento’s Mid-Valley home is strewn with bits of debris.

Chunks of plywood, scraps of linoleum tile and shards of glass mingled with sun-beaten VHS tapes and the metal poles of a derelict TV antenna are scattered about the lawn.

The detritus surrounds the footings of a trailer home that was, until recently, part of her family’s living space.

The trailer had begun to tilt over; due to that and its dilapidated state, Fatima made the decision to tear down the trailer and open up the space with the help of her children, of which she has five.

“I just want more room for the kids,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to get them a play-yard or maybe make a porch.”

Despite the work the family has put into demolishing the building, their more pressing concern is the main house, which is at risk of reaching a similarly unlivable condition.

“I’ve lived here all my life. My parents made their own home, so they left this house for me and my kids,” Fatima said. “The house needs repairs.”

Siding and flooring in the home have begun to decompose. There are soft spots in the floor. Parts of the sheetrock walls are crumbling, and the stove is beaten and missing parts. The most obvious damage in the home is a gaping hole in the ceiling of the bedroom where Fatima’s 11-year-old daughter sleeps.

When it rains, water leaks in through the hole and falls into the home, especially during heavy rains like the ones that hit the area recently. The sole breadwinner for the family, Fatima lacks the money to repair the roof.

Rain often leaks through a large hole in the ceiling of Vento’s 11-year-old daughter’s bedroom. (Matt Wilson | mwilson@themonitor.com)

“That used to be my room, and whenever it would rain, water would fall on me,” Peter, Fatima’s eldest, said. “So, yeah, I would really kind of lose a little bit of sleep.”

What’s perhaps most remarkable about Fatima’s family is their optimism and cheer despite the state of their home.

That upbeat attitude is especially evident in Peter, 17, who’s a junior in high school. Peter is a reserved, po-litely spoken young man who plans on attending college in Michigan after high school.

“I want to become an artist,” he said. “Sketch, paint, and I think pastels as well.”

Although it’s sometimes difficult to focus at home, Peter said he hasn’t let the condition of his home affect his performance in school.

“I haven’t really focused on the house, just mainly focused on the [school] work — like, focused on getting it done and getting it done right,” he said.

Peter said he and his siblings mostly avoid addressing the issues at home.

“We kind of ignore it most of the time,” he added. “Mainly just cleaning it up and that’s it. My brothers and sisters will just clean it up and then just get back to doing what we’re doing.”

Instead, Peter said, he focuses on the future, and on what he can change.

“I just want to look on the bright side of life, just enjoy what has been given to me, like what’s around and what we’re able to do,” he said.

Fatima said that faith in God and relying on each other keeps the family positive.

“Don’t let the world bring you down, because there’s a lot of sadness out there,” she said. “It’s supporting each other and it’s family that counts.”

Fatima and her family are currently in need of house repairs and furniture for their home.

They are also in need of food and clothing. The family needs clothing for both boys and girls from the ages of 8 months to 17 years old. The family needs shirts in adult medium, adult small, extra small junior size and 9-12 months, as well as pants in 3-5 women’s, 13 in girls, 3 in juniors, 16 in boys and 30 inches by 34 inches. The family also needs boy’s shoes in size 6 and a half, along with girl’s shoes in 7, 5 and 7 and a half.

For information on how you can donate, call the United Way of South Texas at (956) 686-6331 between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and inquire about contributing to The Monitor’s Spirit of Christmas campaign. All donations go to the family.

United Way does not keep any of the proceeds donated.