If you have ever been on a “Wine Weekend Trip” to Baja, or volunteered for a “English Class for the Corazon de Vida Teens”, or attended one of our yearly “Graduation Parties”, or our “Christmas Concert in Tijuana for the Children”, or any of our other fun events with our students in Baja, you have probably met Corazon de Vida’s star volunteer: Daniel (Dan) Smith.
Dan started to look at places where he and his daughter Danielle could volunteer together in the San Diego/Baja area while she attended college in San Diego. He reached out to Corazon de Vida in December of 2009, and after visiting one of the orphanages with Danielle, he decided he wanted to do more to help Corazon de Vida.
In 2010, he wanted to take a sabbatical from his law firm to dedicate one year to Corazon de Vida as a pro-bono Executive Director. That plan did not pan out because he was not able to completely walk away from his assignments, however, that worked out better for Corazon de Vida and the children because he has been a member of the Corazon de Vida team ever since!
THIS MONTH, WE CELEBRATE DAN SMITH’S 60TH BIRTHDAY AND HIS 12TH ANNIVERSARY OF SERVING THE CHILDREN OF BAJA!
Dan has been an integral part of the Corazon de Vida team, playing a key role in supporting our Continuing Education program. He has become a mentor and father figure for many of our teens, and has been an advisor to the CDV team, sharing in his experience and wisdom to help move Corazon de Vida’s initiatives forward.
Dan, THANK YOU for your time, love, support and for your selfless dedication to improving the lives of our children in Baja. We are beyond blessed to have you as part of the Corazon de Vida Team!
HAPPY 60th BIRTHDAY AND HAPPY 12th ANNIVERSARY DAN!
Jaque and Alin, both former orphanage residents and CDV alumni, are on the front-lines of combating the COVID-19 pandemic in Baja California. They have been working strenuous hours to save the lives of those who have been affected by the virus in an area that has been hit hard with surges in cases. Jaque, a registered nurse and doctor Alin, have worked around the clock, often in 12-hour shifts for 30 consecutive days in order to provide the necessary coverage for COVID patients, both risking their lives to help those in need.
If you have ever wondered whether your donations make a difference, this is a perfect example of how your support is the catalyst for our children to dream big and accomplish big things. Alin and Jaque have completed a full circle of transformation that is creating a ripple effect in their lives, their families and communities.
We are extremely proud of Alin and Jacque, these two bright and determined young women who are making a difference in the world – paying it forward!
We are proud and overjoyed to celebrate our recent graduates: Elizabeth (Law), Maribel (Marketing), Lourdes (Information Technology) and Alberto (Education).
On Sunday January 26th, 2020, CDV’s Executive Director, Dan Smith, organized an amazing event in Baja to honor the recent graduates from our Continuing Education Program. Over 100 people were in attendance to recognize the accomplishments of these graduates including loved ones, donors, the directors of our supported orphanages and Corazon de Vida's staff. After a delicious lunch, each of the graduates had an opportunity to speak about their life and academic journey including their struggles and how the CDV family helped them overcome each one of them.
Every graduate took the opportunity to express their heartfelt appreciation to all who contributed towards their education. They thanked the orphanage directors who took them in as their own and provided a loving home and encouragement growing up. They also thanked all the incredibly generous sponsors who believed in them since day one. Because of the generosity of many caring and compassionate Angels, Corazon de Vida has been able to shine the light of hope for these students and has allowed them to pursue their dreams.
Our new graduates will now be part of CDV’s Alumni Program aiming to keep graduates in touch with each other and to continue sharing their accomplishments. We invite our graduates to be a part of the CDV family forever, become ambassadors for our mission and always remind each other that where there is love, there is HOPE.
Supporting the k-12 education needs for children in the orphanage system and continuing education through college or technical school once they age out of the system is key helping them break the cycle of poverty and abandonment and providing the opportunity to create a better future for themselves, their families and their community.
Corazon de Vida’s Back to School campaign covers tuition, uniforms, backpacks, school supplies and transportation costs for over 500 students from kinder to university. All Baja public schools require uniforms, which is good because orphanage students do not look different than any other students. CDV’s education program provides scholarship-based funding for teens aging out of the orphanage system and it includes funding for inscriptions, tuitions, housing, living expenses and transportation, all depending on each student’s situation.
Corazon de Vida started its Continuing Education Program with 3 students who entered university in the 2011/ 2012 school year. Currently, 45 past orphanage residents are in college or technical school in Baja, with 15 that have graduated with a bachelor’s degree in majors such as accounting, psychology, education, culinary, medicine, nursing and business. CDV Alumni are now serving as role models to their younger ‘siblings’ at the orphanages!
Together, we can help our children go from victims to empowered future leaders! Help us transform their lives by making a donation to our Back to School campaign HERE
You could also help our children have everything they need for a successful school year by donating any of the Back to School items in our Amazon Wishlist
La Noche Blanca 2018 had an overwhelmingly successful outcome this year! Corazon de Vida hosted the all-white fundraising gala on July 21, 2018 at the serene and breathtakingly beautiful Santiago Vineyards in Orange County. The evening began as guests arrived in their beautiful summer whites and were greeted with smiling faces. At the reception, they enjoyed delicious tastings of Mezcal sponsored by Casta Tribal and the best wines from the Baja, Mexico region sponsored by CDV Mission partner, Baja United. As everyone settled in their seats for a delightful dinner, they were surprised with a serenade by Mariachi Nueva Generacion.
Excitement grew throughout the evening as the attendees checked out the many impressive silent auction items available. There were items such as culinary experiences, incredible vacation stays, and so much more! There was also a lot of eagerness revolving around the highly-anticipated live auction that included incredible items like a trip to Fiji, a full day on a luxury speedboat, a stay at a beautiful villa in Cabo, and a VIP experience with a racing team.
The evening's program was led by Bob Miller who was the Master of Ceremonies. He introduced our founder, Hilda Pacheco- Taylor, and some of the university students that have gone through Corazon de Vida’s program. The students gave heartwarming testimonials about how drastically Corazon de Vida has impacted their lives - there was not one dry eye in the crowd. Their inspiring words touched the attendees’ hearts and reminded us that everything we do to help the kids and students really does make a difference.
Thanks to everyone’s participation, generous bidding and big-hearted donations, we were able to break our fundraising records and raised over $220,000 in support of the children! Thanks to your endless support, this year’s Noche Blanca exceeded all expectations!
We would also like to give a very special thank you to all of the amazing companies and individuals that helped make our event successful: Apogee Electronics for generously sponsoring our event and for their unwavering, long-standing support. To Bob Miller for being an incredible Master of Ceremonies, to our amazing Host Committee for working very hard for months to help make our event a success: Emilia and Darren Sugiyama, Alex Dastmalchi, Parisa and Chuck Horning, Andrea Bittick, Angelina and Quan Ha, Sonya Bella, Shannon and Mike Mancini, Setareh and Majid Kashanian, and Todd Vande Hei. Thank you to Casta Tribal Mezcal and Baja United for sponsoring the tastings. Harumi Takata and Harumi Takata Floral Designs for the beautiful floral arrangements. Thank you to all the companies and individuals that contributed with product donations and to our silent auction with an item donation.
And finally, we would like to thank our wonderful and hardworking Volunteer Committee and volunteers, your presence and support is what made La Noche Blanca 2018 so special!
Visit our GALLERY to view all the photos of the evening
Last January, a group of Corazon de Vida’s University Students visited several schools in Southern California, and spoke about their experiences growing up in an orphanage in Baja. The schools visited included: Washington Elementary School and Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, Edison Elementary School in Santa Monica, Buckley School in Studio City, The Wesley School in Valley Village, and De Toledo High School in West Hills.
With the attention of the students, they described their lives being a former orphan and how Corazon de Vida inspired them to continue on with their education, attend college, and helped fund their finances to do so.
The interaction between the local students and CDV’s University students created, not only an eye-opening experience for the kids, but also an educational experience, as several of the schools visited maintained a Dual-Immersion program. The language barrier was not an issue, as the program’s students attempted to understand and speak in Spanish, which was created a pleasant and fun environment for everybody!
Corazon de Vida and the University student speakers concluded the days answering questions and did not leave empty handed! Handmade “Thank You” cards with special notes and drawings were created by the children and given to the speakers, many mentioning how the their presence made them appreciate their own upbringings and how happy they were that our foundation was able to help them break from the cycle of poverty.
We would like the thank all the schools who welcomed Corazon de Vida to speak about our foundation and our University students who were more than willing to share their stories and success with us!
Antonio was a long time resident of Casa Hogar Sion and had always dreamt of becoming a chef and having his own restaurant one day. While living at the orphanage, he used to help out in the kitchen to prep over 300 meals each day for the 100+ residents of the home.
After high school, he entered culinary school in Tijuana where he recently graduated. Antonio has collaborated as an intern with many U.S. restaurants such as: El Pollo Inka, Anepalco, and Enchanted Sweets . He also had the opportunity to work alongside celebrity chef, Javier Plascencia on the preparation of a meal generously donated by the chef and his team for the children of Rancho de los Niños orphanage. Being able to not only see his favorite chef in action but to cook alongside him was a dream come true for Antonio.
Antonio is currently on the first of three amazing internship opportunities in San Francisco at world-renowned restaurants including 2 with Michelin Star status! He is a living example of how we can overcome any obstacle with hard-work and determination.
With your support, we are breaking the cycle of poverty with every teen that enters our continuing education program. We are creating future leaders in their own communities. Your donation can help a child get one step closer to achieving their dream!
On Friday, July 8th, Corazon de Vida hosted their annual La Noche Blanca dinner at the beautiful Santiago Canyon Estate. The evening couldn’t have been more perfect: the weather, the food and the joyful atmosphere.
Our guests walked down the stairway wearing their beautiful summer whites to have their pictures taken at the red carpet backdrop, sponsored by our generous mission partners Apogee Electronics and Chilo USA. Guests were greeted at the patio with the soothing music of the Orange Country Guitar Orchestra as they were mingling with each other and exploring our amazing silent auction.
It was picture-perfect! The sunset, the beautiful table centerpieces generously donated by Jonathons Coastal Living, the delicious dinner and the fun and interactive mezcal tasting and hand-rolled cigars.
Our Masters of Ceremony Darren Sugiyama, board member Alex Dastmalchi, and founder Hilda Pacheco-Taylor made a very inspiring presentation about Corazon de Vida’s mission and presented eight of our university students in attendance. One of the most awe-inspiring and heart-warming moments of the evening was when our culinary school student, Antonio Luna, presented a dessert table specially made by him for our guests. Antonio had stayed up all night to prep over 200 stunning dessert dishes for everyone. And by the look on everyone’s faces as they took a bite of Antonio’s dish, it was heavenly!
At the end of the night, we reached our goal of raising $100,000 in funds and pledges! All of this wouldn’t be possible without the support of all these amazing companies and individuals: Apogee Electronics and Chilo USA for generously sponsoring our event, Jonathons Coastal Living family for the beautiful donated center pieces and your help in setting up the event, Darren Sugiyama for being an outstanding Master of Ceremonies, Enchanted Sweet Shoppe and Ana Gonzales for mentoring and sponsoring the desserts presented by Antonio, Photographer Omar Araiza for capturing beautiful memories of the event, and to all of the beautiful people who attended, donated generously during our special ask and purchased items from our silent auction!
And finally, a very special heartfelt thank-you to our amazing and devoted team of volunteers. Thank you for all the hard work you have put into the event to make it a night for everyone to remember!
If you want to see some of our amazing pictures we took from that night, visit our page here: https://corazondevida.smugmug.com.
And if you took any pictures at the photobooth, they are also online for you to see at https://whatablastphotobooth.smugmug.com/Corazon-De-Vida/i-tSxHw5k
Supporting continuing education for teens aging out of the orphanage system is an important program for CDV, as it provides them with the opportunity to create a better future for themselves, their families and their community.
There are currently over 50 students enrolled in either trade school or college who are in the Corazon de Vida Continuing Education program. These students are receiving assistance for tuition, housing, transportation, and living expenses. CDV provides further assistance to students through English courses to supplement their education, and to increase their chances of success in the professional world.
Each student has had their own unique struggles, conquering various obstacles through their own willpower and determination. These are just a few stories from the first wave of graduates supported by CDV’s Continuing Education program.
Isaac came to a Corazon de Vida supported orphanage with his 3 siblings when he was 9-years old. Noted as a handsome and kind-mannered young man, Isaac is graduating from the accounting and finance program at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC), Baja’s public university. He pursued accounting/finance because of the job opportunities that would be available to him. He says that his degree will allow him to help his family and others so that he might make a difference in his community. Isaac has worked as a barber on the weekends throughout his schooling to help earn funds for his expenses.
Isaac recently completed an internship with and has the opportunity to work for the prestigious firm Deloitte, a firm that provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax, and advisory services to many of the world's most admired brands, including 80% of the companies on the Fortune 500!
Cecilia was abandoned by her parents in her early teens, after years of abuse and neglect. With nowhere to go, she admitted herself into an orphanage for her own safety, and ultimately to get an education. After high school, Ceci entered the UABC Ensenada campus, working hard to obtain her degree while working just as hard to support herself. Ceci just recently obtained her degree in psychology, and hopes to assist others in the same way that she was supported.
"When I was at the orphanage, there was a need for us to talk about our lives, to get help, but no one was listening. I decided to get a psychology degree to one day return, listen, and help children living in orphanages. I was one of them. I know what they are going through".
Ceci received her U.S. Visa with the help of Corazon de Vida and frequently attends our events as a perfect example of what can be done with a helping hand.
Karla and her younger sister were taken from their home and placed at a CDV supported orphanage where they lived for 8 years. Karla, understanding the value of education in her own life, has just completed the Marketing program at UABC Tijuana.
Her dream is to become a business owner, having the means to support her family while also being able to give back to her community. A deep thinker, Karla specializes in virtues such as Listening, Perseverance, and Patience.
Jaqueline grew up in an orphanage in Maneadero. Jaqueline entered our program after she had already completed her first two years of UABC nursing school through the support of a local family that was not able to continue their support. Jaque’s grades were exceptional and she is a very dedicated student. With CDV’s financial and moral support, she has been able to graduate with a degree in nursing and will soon start her one-year of service. At her graduation, Jaque presented her Corazon de Vida family with a beautiful plaque with a touching inscription:
“For all the help you have provided during my academic formation. Because in the most difficult moments, you encouraged me to continue, and you believed in me. My success and my love are yours.”
It is only through the help of our community of loving and generous individuals that these stories are possible. Together we are changing the odds for hundreds of children like Isaac, Jaque, Karla, and Cecilia. With hundreds of children still relying on our life-sustaining support, donations are essential to ensuring not only their survival, but also their future success as productive members of their community.
Thank you for all that you do! Let us continue to do even more for the orphaned children of Baja. Please click on this link to support our Continuing Education program: http://tinyurl.com/cdveducation