Celebrating 15 Years of Educating, Feeding, and Housing Children of Baja
Raised eight years in an orphanage in Baja California, Mexico, Hilda Pacheco-Taylor never forgot her roots. Born in Ensenada, Pacheco-Taylor grew up in Puerta de Fe (Door of Faith), an orphanage in La Mision, a small town between Tijuana and Ensenada.
She eventually moved to California and established a successful career. However, after returning to the orphanage for a visit, she was disheartened to see it in serious need. It was then in 1994, that she and a group of friends decided to start the Corazon de Vida Foundation (Heart of Life) and give back to the home that had changed her life. Little did she know at the time, that this commitment would grow into something bigger than she imagined.
The Corazon de Vida Foundation has grown from supporting one orphanage, Puerta de Fe (Door of Faith) to currently funding 14 different orphanages throughout Baja California. Its mission is to end the cycle of child homelessness. Each of the homes are independent and range in size from 10 to 120 children, most started by families who took in kids from the streets and over time grew into formal institutions.
“We believe that moving children from streets to safe housing, improving current orphanage conditions and quality of life and focusing on education will ensure a promising future for Mexico’s orphaned and abandoned children”, explains Pacheco-Taylor.
Each month, Corazon de Vida orchestrates bus visits to the orphanages, leaving from Los Angeles, Irvine and San Diego. These multi-purpose trips deliver food, supplies, gifts and other life necessities.
Recently I had a conversation with President and Founder, Hilda Pacheco-Taylor:
What is it like for an infant or child the day they come to CDV?
Each experience is different. For the child that comes from an extreme abusive situation or from the streets, finally finding a home where they can be protected and cared for is a great and welcomed experience. For kids that are recently orphaned, abandoned or are brought to a home due to extreme financial hardship, it is a bit more difficult to adjust to the new surroundings.
Do you find the kids or do they find you?
Most kids are referred by DIF, the department of social services in Mexico either because the kids are orphans, or because they have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. Some kids are voluntarily dropped off by a parent or relative that can no longer provide for their care.
When children reach a certain age, are they free to leave or what is usually the case?
Kids are free to leave the home once they have reached adulthood, however, they are strongly encouraged to stay and continue their education. CDV strongly believes that education is our only hope to eradicate the cycle of child homelessness – an education gives our teenagers the ability to in the future support themselves and their families and become productive members of society.
Do you eventually help place the children with families or do you facilitate with adoptions?
Most kids that are brought to these homes due to financial hardship end up being placed back with their families. A good percentage of the orphaned, abused and abandoned kids end up living in a home until they become adults. A very small percentage end up in adoption.
What are the costs for CDV to house/feed/educate one child?
Our strategy is to transforming orphanages to be self-sustaining which means pulling from diverse sources of revenue and not be dependent on one sole source. We start by providing Lifeline support which may be $500-$1500 per month to cover food or pay for electricity/gas/water. As we garner more sponsors for the home, we move up to providing Basic Survival Needs support, which is based on $62.50 per child per month to cover food, utilities, medical emergencies and transportation. During this time, orphanages are encouraged and supported in developing their own fundraising capabilities in order to obtain Full Support that includes funding for education, staff, medical, facility upgrades and enrichment programs.
On a bus visit or mission trip, what can visitors expect to see?
Each month, CDV has a dedicated, special volunteer group work with staff to orchestrate bus visits to the homes. Usually, on the first and third Saturday of each month, groups leave from Los Angeles, Irvine and San Diego. These multi-purpose trips deliver food, supplies, gifts and other life necessities. They offer interaction, hope, caring attention and compassion to both the children and caregivers.
Trips are one-day roundtrips that start at 5:30AM in LA, 6:30am in OC and 8:30am in SD. Volunteers can expect to spend the day either preparing and serving lunch for the kids, organizing craft activities or games and spending lots of quality time with the kids. This is truly a life enriching activity. By the end of the day, everyone is tired but very happy and fulfilled. Group arrives back at drop-off points at approximately 4pm, 6pm and 7pm.
How can people donate to your foundation and where does the money go?
All donations go to directly serve the children. CDV counts on these donations to pay for the basic survival needs of the children living in the 14 orphanages we support. The best way to donate to the foundation is to become a monthly donor to CDV.
Can you sponsor a specific child?
Yes, you can sponsor a child for $62.50 per month and we also have monthly sponsorship starting at $10, $25 and $50 a month, or you can always make a one-time donation. For sponsorship options, go to: http://cdv-sponsor.eventbrite.com.
Corazon de Vida continues to thrive through the generosity of corporate, community, and private donors as well as hundreds of volunteers. Contributions cover the survival needs of these homes such as for food, utilities, education and other vital needs. CDV’s vision and goal is to eventually support and empower each child at the 50 orphanages located throughout Baja.
For more information on Corazon de Vida, visit www.corazondevida.org/.
Susie Albin-Najera is a public relations professional specializing in the Hispanic market, a freelance writer and editor of The MEXICO Report can be reached at themexicoreport @yahoo.com or http://www.themexicoreport.com/