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!
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 Educationprogram.
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
On April 30th, México celebrates Dia del Niño (Children’s Day). On this day, children are recognized as an important part of society and the day focuses on the importance of loving, accepting and appreciating children. Our SD Chapter Managing Director, Amar Harrag, had the amazing idea to organize an extra special trip to visit Rancho de los Niños to celebrate the day.
The children were eager to welcome their new and old friends, as they arrived to the orphanage.They were running everywhere, laughing with one another and playing with the volunteers. Arts and crafts were also part of the fun as everyone made masks and had a great time showing off their masterpieces.
Then it was time to gather in the dining hall for lunch. Everyone filled their plates up with some yummy homemade Mexican dishes. Once they finished, it was time for everyone’s favorite desert: Ice cream! Since the celebration was all about them, the children each had an ice cream cone served with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. What a perfect way to end the day!
A BIG thank you to Amar for organizing the trip and to the volunteers who joined us. You couldn’t have picked a more perfect day to spend some quality time with our beautiful children. You made them feel so special and loved as they should be.
Your donations and participation makes it possible for hundreds of children to live in a safe, positive and loving environment. They can be kids and do what kids do, be happy and carefree, and celebrate Child's Day because you care enough to help!
On Friday April 8th, Corazon de Vida held their annual Charity Golf Tournament at the Tijeras Creek Golf Club in Rancho Santa Margarita. Despite a little bit of rain, everyone had a great time playing for our beautiful children in Baja.
The players were greeted by enthusiastic volunteers who handed out goodie bags filled with treats, hats, golf balls, and more. They had the chance to take their pictures on the “Green Carpet” and enjoyed some mouth-watering tacos at our amazing taco stands before shotgun. Afterwards, the golfers all raced against one another to get to the nearest hole to start their game. We could hear the players shouting and cheering around the course. They were all happy to pose for candid shots and group photos.
After spending nearly five hours playing in the sprinkling rain, it was time to head back to the clubhouse for a delicious dinner and awards presentation. It was the perfect way to end the night full of laughter, cheering, and even some tears were shed. We raised $32,000 thanks to the 100+ golfers that came out to support our tournament and thanks to the following sponsors: Platinum sponsor Bernie Welk – Cliqpak and to our Tee Sponsors: Dan Streit - SST and SSTI, Craig Stoltz -Pacific Edge, Tomas Rallo - Rallo Law Firm, P.C., Tim Murphy - ASM, Mark Weiner - Omni Corp, Gabe Loya - Jellco, John Mikulka - Allen Packaging, Ty Reed - Keylink, Thomas and Ted Prenovost - Prenovost, Normandin, Bergh & Dawe, APC, and Frank Toms -Jeffrey Court.
We would like to send a heartfelt thank you to our host committee, for working hard for several months planning this event: Juan Pacheco, Gina Tillotson, Dan Streit, Ed Patrick, Nadim Mustafa and George Perez. Thank you so much to our celebrity friends for coming down all the way from LA in support of the children: Rick Najera, Momo Rodriguez, Emilio Rivera, Nicholas Gonzalez, Mark Hildreth (Official) and Neil Hildreth. Thank you for the love and support, we look forward partnering again with you in the future!
Also, thank you so much to all of our silent auction and raffle donors, Audi Mission Viejo for sponsoring the Hole in One contest, Tijeras Creek Golf Club for all your support in planning and executing the event. Thank you so much to our staff Irene, Leny and Natalie for your dedication and to our dearest volunteers, our events would not be possible without your selfless dedication to our cause: Ana, Maya, Sara, Lisa, Sevy, Daniela, Beckie, De'Anna, Yvette, Alin, Kiana, Jennie, Yicheng, Carmen and Luz Elena. And also, thank you Susie Albin-Najera Consulting for the beautiful pictures of the event.
Since December 3rd, the evening of our second annual Latin Night for the Giving Hearts & Art Exhibit Fundraiser, I could not feel more humbled and grateful for the individuals who supported us and who came together to make a difference for Casa de Paz Orphanage in Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico.
On this evening we were ALL more than volunteers, artists, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, founders, farmers, dancers, performers, world-makers and world-shakers. We were so much more than our titles could ever define us. We were a family who gathered for a common cause: to strip all of our predicaments, day-to-day lives, our little dramas and big ones. We put it all aside for humanity, the common and most important thread that connects us all. I know this simple fact will stay with all of those who supported us.
This was our second Latin Night for the Giving Hearts Fundraiser. The first was held in March with delightful and unexpected positive feedback. So, naturally, we had to do another one. This time, among our usual Latin-themed activities, including Latin cocktails, Latin dance lessons, Latin performances, Latin everything, we had a special art exhibit that really tugged at my heartstrings. My dear friend and fellow Artist, Ana-Perez Hurtado, featured more than 20 photographs of the children of Casa de Paz. The exhibit can be seen at 3RDSPACE Club For The Creative through January. Ana also helped me organize this event, and on her way to photograph the kids, she collected nearly 40 bags of warm clothes for the 65 children at Casa de Paz.
This fundraiser is unique because it is project specific. Latin Night for the Giving Hearts is specifically hosted to support the Farming Project at Casa de Paz.
A Little Bit About Our Farming Project!
With the support of Corazon de Vida and Suzie’s Farm, Casa de Paz has undertaken a special farming project that begun in late 2013. I have been so honored and blessed to have landed the opportunity to help manage this project. Less than two years later, we have two green houses, a field to harvest from and a healthy livestock that consists of various types of farm animals.
When we started our short-term goal was to offer the children access to healthy, organic, homegrown fruits and veggies as well as animal by-products and to share these goods with Rancho el Faro, an orphanage nearby. Our long-term goal remains to be achieved, which is to make this orphanage self-sustainable through organic farming. Our vision is to harvest enough organic produce and produce enough animal by-products to first open a store front at the property and later become one of the major supplies of local, organic ingredients for the many wineries and restaurants in the region. This aligns us directly with the mission of Corazon de Vida: to sustain, to improve and to educate. All of this while positively impacting those very important lives of children who live at Casa de Paz and Rancho el Faro.
The funds raised at Latin Night for the Giving Hearts & Art Exhibit will help ensure that this project continues. And, with exciting milestones and goals ahead, we are ready for the coming year.
A Special Thank You
Thank you to those who supported us and continue to do so as well as those who invest their time, resources and energy in believing in a better tomorrow. And that’s where it all starts: you just have to believe it’s possible.
I am especially grateful to Corazon de Vida for creating this opportunity for all of us to make a difference in the world.
Thank you Dita for the hard work you put into organizing this event and for your unconditional love and unwavering support to the children of Corazon de Vida!
My Name is De'Anna Nunez. I began running six months before I turned 40 years old. I was inspired by a family member that I considered a mentor at the time. She had taken up running to help her through a difficult period in her life and when I saw how happy and focused it seemed to make her, and well, I wanted to drink the kool aid.
I ran my first full 26.2 marathon three months after my 40th Birthday. I gave it to myself for a fabulous ‘I can rock it at 40’ birthday gift, and I’ve just kept going. Running soon became my favorite hobby and I started to see how following a training plan mirrored a plan for personal development. It felt amazing to break through mental limitations and adopt new beliefs about myself, as well as learning the art of following thru on a goal. Like Forest Gump, people started joining in and following the inspiration. So, I began training others on how to run their first Marathon too. I have now completed twenty eight full marathons and countless halves as well as a few UltraMarathons too.
Running marathons is much more than a physical feat. It is an opportunity to expand yourself and reach beyond any limitations that you might put on yourself. When I run marathons, I do it in a style that works for me. I don’t go for PR’s, I go for fun and achievement. I’ve learned there is more than one way to run a marathon and I prefer bouts of skipping, dancing and high fiving along the way. There is something pretty fantastic about all these people showing up to their lives with health and a yearning to thrive. Those are my kind of folks!
This go-round, I am really looking forward to running each step knowing I am supporting Esteban, my little four year old boy I have been paired with through Corazon de Vida. He will most likely spend his entire childhood in his orphanage home and it warms my heart to know I am helping to make it a safe and supportive place for him to grow up. He’ll be fed good meals, clothed and educated so that he can have a fighting chance at building a life for himself. I hope that he will have in his heart the same burning desire that I have to be a contributor in the world and give of his developed talents and abilities for the greater good.
"There are a few things in life that spark a fire in my heart and get me excited to wake up in the morning. One of them is being both a student and teacher of yoga -- connecting with something so deeply and personally, and then being able to make a career out of it. Next on the list is: the ocean, love, kisses from my dog, and delicious food that just so happens to be healthy. The final piece of the puzzle that completes my life and brings me so much joy is philanthropy and giving back to those in need. While there are many, many charities out there that tug at my heart strings, I've set an intention to focus all of my free time and resources on one organization in particular -- Corazon de Vida -- and make as big of an impact as possible.
I first got involved with CDV in 2007 while attending San Diego State University. My major, International Security and Conflict Resolution, required a study-abroad component, and since I grew up in Italy and finished High School in London, the typical Florence and Oxford exchange programs that everyone else was doing just didn't resonate with me. I thought . . . I live 20 minutes from an international border; if I'm going to learn something meaningful about international relations, why not do so in my own backyard? So, I contacted CDV Headquarters and they arranged a special program for me to visit their orphanages, form relationships with the staff and report back. This experience was one of the biggest highlights of my college career and brought me so much joy, perspective, and purpose.
Today, I get to combine two of my greatest loves: yoga and spending time at the orphanage. I organize yoga retreats in Baja, Mexico that always include a visit to Casa de Paz. Every time I take a group of people there, they instantly fall in love with the kids and come up with ideas for how to help.
I love watching the kids grow up! Even though life gets busy, I make a point to visit at least once a month. Dedicating myself to this one orphanage has allowed me to form deeper connections with the kids and watch them evolve. On our last visit over Thanksgiving weekend, one of the girls that I really bond with, Blanca, was so excited to show me that she lost her first tooth! It's moments like this that make my life so much richer. I truly believe in the famous saying -- we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give."
Corazon de Vida and the San Diego Chapter held its annual fundraising event, “Noche de Gala,” at the University Club in San Diego on November 12th and it was a huge success. The alluring event was only more enchanting by the enthusiasm of the guests who came together in support of the children. With everyone’s wonderful participation we were able to raise over $200,000!
Over 200 guests were in attendance, they enjoyed a beautiful panoramic view of the downtown San Diego skyline, while listening to a live performance of the world renowned jazz band, Gilbert CastellanoS Trio. The food and libations were delicious and the silent auction included many prizes like vacations, restaurant certificates, sporting events and much more.
It was exciting to see so many new faces at the event that were new to our mission. It was thrilling to see how inspired and eager they were to participate after our wonderful MC Darren Sugiyama gave a speech about the impact that we can make on a child's future and showed a video about our university students and our education program.
A huge thanks to the Katz Family, Honoree of the night and friends for attending and being a huge support to the foundation. Since day one, the Katz Family have been nothing but generous and dedicated to us in helping our mission. It is so inspiring to see people who are devoted to giving back to the community. We know that our mutual love and friendship will last for years to come.
A heartfelt thank you to our generous funding sponsors who made this evening possible: Normerica, The Packard Companies, Bird Rock Systems, Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, Warren & Burstein and Ortega’s Mexican Bistro!
This event was only possible thanks to sponsors and to our San Diego Chapter, thank you for your continuing love and support for Corazon de Vida. Also huge shout-out to our San Diego historian Omar Araiza and our two volunteer photographers Seana and Grace for the beautiful images. Thank you to Amar Harrag and Matisse Bistro for the exquisite dessert table. To Yummie Fountains for the delightful chocolate fountain. Last but not least to our volunteers, thank you for always staying committed and loyal to our organization, without you none of our events would be possible.
Education is one of our three main programs in which we support the children living at the orphanages. We provide funds to buy uniforms, backpacks, school supplies and pay school fees. We also have been able to implement programs like Raz-Kids to enrich the children's literacy skills while also teaching computer/tech skills. Raz-Kids, lead by our volunteer teachers Leah and Karissa, is a computer system that teaches reading skills in both English and Spanish.
We have some of the most dedicated leaders in the orphanages on board, striving to help the children with their lessons.
In Ebenezer, Eli and Lulu are dedicated to the Raz-Kids program. They have such positive energy and love that transcends into the home. With the school year starting they are still trying to get into the hang of things. Internet can be slow at this orphanage but we were able to give two laptops from a recent donation to the home to help with the program.
In Hacienda, house leader Elizabeth is dedicated to keep the Raz-Kids program into the home. The kids are in a new school this year with higher demand in homework to help them learn and keep their mind flowing. They were also able to receive three laptops from our donation to help out.
Sion has the highest Raz-Kids use for the past month mostly due to the new fast Internet connection and the house leader Mayra, who is working harder than ever to help the kids use the Raz-Kids program. Mayra expressed how the kids are begging to use Raz-Kids after they finish their homework!
With the support of our leaders and the wonderful donation of the laptops by High Tech High North County in San Marcos, we are happy to say that the reading program is working well in the orphanages! If you have any laptops or desktops in good condition that can be used in the computer labs, or if you like to support a specific home with better satellite internet service for a more reliable connection, please contact us for more information.
"I spent hours researching local volunteer opportunities, before I honed in on one. Corazon de Vida is a non-profit organization that supports the well being of orphaned children in Baja, Mexico. I registered online to join an orphanage trip, not really knowing what to expect. I convinced my Mom to join me as well. I read rave reviews of the organization and the trips as a whole, which put me at ease… to an extent. I’ll admit I remained a bit weary of the notion of heading into Mexico...
The young girl beside me, aged 6, was extremely giving and ensured that all the other children around her had what they needed, often offering her supplies to them, before gathering replacements for herself. If she left my side to go grab more supplies, or check on a friend, I’d watch as she would peek over at me and smile so innocently as she made sure I was still there.
As our visit came to an end, the thought of leaving this child behind and going back to the comforts of my home became unsettling. She knew our time together was over for the day when she grabbed me around the neck, and as I picked her up she said in Spanish, “I want you to stay here. I want you to never, never, never leave me.”
The majority of orphans stayed behind as the visitors approached the gate, ready to walk back down the dirt road. But my sweet girl stayed in my arms until I had to reluctantly put her down and make my way back to the bus. She stood at the gate, her tiny hands holding onto the fence as she watched us walk out. I couldn’t just walk away, so I went up to the gate from the outside and we gave each other a kiss through the fence. She quietly stood there watching as we walked away, and I kept turning back to see her until she was gone.
I expected the trip to be worthwhile, eye opening, and a great experience, but I didn’t expect it to be life-changing.
I thought it’d be tough to see the way the children live, but it wasn’t. The orphanage is nicer than I anticipated, well organized, and seemingly has all the basic needs of the children covered. Additionally, the children appear to be surrounded by love and well cared for by the staff and other children. But, it has been truly gut-wrenching since we departed. To have a sweet little girl ask me to never leave her, and to have to leave, crushes me. I think of her there, whether she be happy, sad, or scared, and not having a mother to cradle her, hug her, and give her the one on one devotion that every child deserves. My only goal now is to do all I can for her and the other children, and to let them know how valuable they are and how much they are loved. I’ve always loved children, and I’ve dreamed about being a mother since I was a little girl, but this child took that motherly instinct to an entirely new level. She was so selfless, so innocent, so caring, and all she desired was a little attention and recognition. Not toys, not money, not gadgets – just love.
Before our trip, I commented on a photo posted by the organization, saying I was excited about it. When I got back and checked their social media, I realized who was in the photo. Out of the 10+ orphanages they visit, and out of the 700+ orphans they support, it was those very eyes that found me <3"
To read Breanna's complete story, please visit: http://www.breannaphotos.com/corazon-de-vida/nggallery/thumbnails