Kids at Heart
The volunteers of Corazón de Vida prove home is where the heart is.
- Written byDarren Elms
Hilda Pacheco-Taylor knows well about the orphanages of Baja, Mexico. She grew up in one. Reunited with her family after her mother gained entry into the United States, Hilda would become a successful businesswoman in her new country. Many years later, she paid a visit to her old home at the orphanage, only to find it destitute due to loss of funding. Something had to be doneand fast.
Dedicating all her extra time raising funds and recruiting monthly sponsors for the children, Hilda not only saved the orphanage, she grew its numbers from 30 to 108 children. These early efforts planted the seeds of what would become Corazón de Vida (Heart of Life). Over the 20 years that they’ve nurtured the orphans of Baja, the organization has funded 14 homes with more than 800 children.
Corazón de Vida is truly a South Bay operation, with most of its volunteers residing in one of the beach cities. “Many of us grew up visiting Tijuana for various reasons … shopping, partying, exploring,” says local volunteer Eve Porinchak. “In the South Bay, we are fortunate to have food, shelter, friends, family, surf, running water! We work here, play here, build families and businesses here, and we recognize how lucky we are to have been blessed with these luxuries.”
Most of the volunteers share similar stories, bonding together on several of the trips to visit the children. “We also share a desire to help change the lives of these children,” says Eve. “We all feel that we have extra time, energy and resources to help out. All we had to do was board a bus, and three hours later we’re getting to know them.”
The return on the investment is pretty easy to see: By funding the children and orphanages, they are providing homes and basic needs—not to mention planning for their futures. Without assistance like this, the door opens to the streets or other unfavorable situations such as prostitution or gang involvement. Thus, the organization now funds long-term education, currently supporting 32 university students and more than 550 young children in school.
“Our homes are strict environments, and education is definitely a priority,” notes Eve. “Our goal is to expand our impact, to fund more university students and provide vocational training programs. We want our teens to provide for themselves and envision independent futures.”
In October, Corazón de Vida held their first fundraising gala, bringing in more than $20,000. “So many local businesses got behind us with contributions and donations of goods,” says Eve. Additionally, the Corazón de Vida Foundation is a featured charity of the 2014 ASICS LA Marathon. Each team member will run for their very own sponsored child and have the child’s photo pinned onto their jersey while they compete.
Funds are always welcome, but the most consistent way to get involved is visiting the homes on one of the bus trips. “It’s a really easy way to experience another world,” shares Eve. “I would say the most recurring statement that comes from our volunteers is, ‘I went in thinking that I was going to bring them love and help them, but it was them who helped me and gave me more love than I could ever give.’”
Next Up: The annual holiday drive hopes to raise $100,000. On December 7, Corazón de Vida will charter buses and spend the day with the children and teens. All are welcome! [email protected] or 310-849-1502