"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."
Please visit Mandy's blog to read the complete story and to learn more about her movement towards a healthier and happier world! http://www.zengirlchronicles.com/
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.
For the complete gallery of the event, go to: http://araizamp.shootproof.com/gallery/2058018/home
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
This past July 16th, Corazon de Vida held it's annual summer benefit "La Noche Blanca 2015" at the Santiago Canyon Estate and it was a raging success!
Over 170 guests attended, the venue was breathtaking, the food was delicious, the live music was perfect and the silent auction was filled with amazing items, vacation stays and experiences. Everyone was dressed in white and looking impeccable!
We had six past orphanage residents that are attending college representing all the students currently supported through our continuing education program: Flor, Grecia, Angelica, Natalia, Ceci and Antonio. The students shared with guests their stories and how they are on their way to obtaining a degree and making their dreams come true.
The enchantment of the event’s setting was only upstaged by the warmth of all the beautiful guests, coming together with the common goal of supporting the children. With your participation, we were able to raise $85,000 in donations and pledges. These funds will go a long way in providing the children at all the Corazon de Vida family of orphanages with security, nutrition, shelter and access to a reliable education.
We would like to send a very special acknowledgement to our evening sponsors Apogee Electronics and Dastmalchi, Inc, for their support, and to Jonathon’s Coastal Living for the beautiful décor that made the event look spectacular!
This event was only possible thanks to our Host Committee who worked for many months organizing the event and to our amazing and devoted team of staff and volunteers, many of them who help us continuously year after year to make our events possible!
"A child without education, is like a bird without wings" - Tibetan Proverb
Last week was a very important week for the CDV family and for our education program. We were lucky to witness the culmination of one of our student’s Medical School journey and held our annual “Career Day’ at the local university where we had the opportunity to inspire a group of more than 70 teens from five of our supported orphanages that will soon enter college or technical school.
It’s hard to believe how fast time went by. It seems like yesterday when five years ago, a very outgoing and well spoken teen girl stood out of the crowd at one of the first Career Day events, and went straight to the University’s Vice-Chancellor and CDV representatives, asking for support to enter Medical School.
Alin grew up in Estado 29 orphanage and from a very young age, she had a clear dream about her future, she always knew she wanted to be a doctor, although she did not know if her dream would ever become a reality. Alin’s drive and determination was very inspiring for all of us since day one. Corazon de Vida provided the support she needed to make her dream a reality, however, the work, effort and determination was all hers! Alin overcame many obstacles to continue studying, including an unplanned pregnancy. Once again, Alin’s determination proved her unstoppable. She asked her professors for help with a plan for completing all required classes and work through her pregnancy. She was determined to complete her schooling and she did, with some of the highest scores in her class! In an emotional testimonial at Career Day, Alin shared with our prospective students how her desire to not let Corazon de Vida and her sponsors down, she knew her only option was to work harder and not give up!
Seeing her walk to receive her diploma was a very inspiring moment for all. Alin will complete a one-year residency in the state of Colima, and then a year of service in a yet to be determined location.
During Career Day, future generations of university students were able to experience what life in a university campus is like and about some of the careers available to them.
We are grateful to the University of Baja California (UABC) Ensenada Campus and the Science Department for organizing a very informative and interactive event, with a group of science students that traveled all the way from the Mexicali campus and brought interactive Biology, Physics, International Trade and Engineering exhibits to the teens.
Thank you to all the sponsors that believe in and support our mission. We continue changing lives together by investing in the future of our kids, who will generate a positive social and economic impact as future leaders of their communities!
This past Memorial Day Weekend we hosted our “Baja Wine Country and Orphanage Weekend Trip” in beautiful Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico
Combining the love of discovering new places and flavors around the world while getting the opportunity to give back creates an experience that becomes life-altering for many people. Valle de Guadalupe in Baja has become an area known as Mexico’s Wine Country. With over 50 wineries and many world-renowned restaurants, the area is also home to three of Corazon de Vida’s supported orphanages and has become the perfect location for a combined vacation/service trip!
There is no better way to immerse yourself in the Corazon de Vida experience than joining one of our weekend trips! The connections you make with the beautiful area of Baja California, the kids living at our supported orphanages and the interactions with your fellow trip participants create memories that will last a lifetime. Our guests enjoyed tastings of some of the most amazing wines of the area, delighted themselves with an incredible dinner at Trevista Vineyards, a boutique vineyard; and most importantly, got to spend time with the children of two of our supported orphanages: Casa de Paz and Rancho El Faro.
Read what some of the participants are saying!
"We went to Mexico and visited an orphanage and did 'Vino’ tour. All the proceeds from the expenses, including lodging benefited the Corazon de Vida Foundation and their sponsored orphanages. WARNING: despite of the good cause, this was a trip filled with fun times and an overload of 'group selfies' see the photos at your own risk” - Shanti Ananda
"A great weekend with my pops and the Corazon de Vida family. It was a fulfilling visit with the orphans of Casa de Paz, El Faro and the university students. Many thanks for the beautiful wine dinner at Trevista, Hilda, George & Daniel!” - Laura Ibarra
"So blessed to watch this beautiful girl grown into such an wonderful young lady. Thank you Arraiza Omar for capturing this moment.” - Shelley Honingbaum
Thank you Omar Arraiza for the beautiful images! Visit the gallery for more pictures of the trip: http://araizamp.smugmug.com/Corazon-De-Vida/May-wine-trip-2015-Corazon-De-
Welcome to our new website and our beautiful re-branding transformation!
We are all part of an 'extended' family for our kids at the orphanages and for each other. Our love for the children binds us together in thought and action and it is amazing to see how our community of supporters is viewed by others observing what we do. The process of changing the logo was sometimes hard. After more than 20 years using our previous logo, there was a very strong emotional connection to it, however, when Artist Ali Sabet presented us with his interpretation of what Corazon de Vida represents in the form of a logo, we fell in love with it! Here is what Ali had to say about his inspiration for the design:
"Inspired by love and authentic compassion, the lines and heart were manifested to convey trust, passion, relevance and community. They were created with a brush, ink and paper to allow the children to see themselves in the identity. Because if it represents them it should be a reflection of them. I wanted to make sure that every child that is under the wings of Corazon De Vida could draw our symbol of love.”
The logo theme is “Child Within”. It is a hand-drawn open circles and heart, using the green and red as main colors (like in our previous logo) but softened a bit. The simplicity of the design is beautiful, clean and represents children; heart, love, growth, openness; excitement, wholeness and family.
Follow the talented Ali Sabet, Founder / Creative Director, Sabet Brands + Pixopop on his social media channels:
instagram @sabet and @pixopop
At Corazón de Vida, we are FAMILY!