Hilda Pacheco-Taylor is the founder of Corazón de Vida (“Heart of Life”). For over 20 years, the 501(c)3 nonprofit has helped the orphaned and abandoned children of Baja, Mexico with life-altering support. The organization financially assists orphanages and offers quality-of-life improvement services. It also invests in the children’s futures by funding their higher education needs and transitional programs.
The Story Behind Corazón de Vida
Hilda Pacheco-Taylor was born and raised in Baja, Mexico. At only eight years old, Hilda had to take care of her two younger brothers and sister after her father deserted the family and her mother had to take a low-paying job as a tortilla maker. With not much money coming in, they were often not sure where meals were going to come from. Sometimes, they did not know if they were going to eat at all.
Unfortunately, no government-run foster care or welfare system exists in Mexico. Children in need receive full-time care only in private orphanages, funded entirely by individual and/or corporate donations.
Hilda struggled with caring for her siblings. However everything changed the day one of Hilda’s brothers almost drowned in the family’s water reservoir. A neighbor pulled him out, but Hilda’s mother then realized that she could no longer leave her children alone. She made the hard decision to place them in a local private orphanage called Puerta de Fé (Door of Faith).
It was a great sacrifice for Hilda’s mother to give up her children. However, Puerta de Fé so greatly improved the lives of Hilda and her siblings; U.S. organizations well-sponsored the orphanage. They had daily access to three warm meals. After years of having to share a bed, they now each had their own. There were also about 100 other children to interact with. Most fortunate though: Hilda was no longer responsible for the welfare of her siblings. She now had the opportunity to be a child again. She could also concentrate on getting an education.
Their circumstances were better, however Hilda still yearned for the day she and her siblings would reunite with their mother. When Hilda left the orphanage at 16, she joined her mother in the United States. Her main goal was to bring her family together again. She accomplished this within two years.
Hilda On A Mission
15 years after she left, Hilda returned to Puerta de Fé for a visit that once again changed her life. She was shocked to discover the run-down state of the facilities. Also, the staff had not been paid in months. Worst was when she saw that the 35 children still in residence were being fed rice and potato chips for their meal – because that was all there was to serve. Puerta de Fé had unfortunately lost most of its financial support.
Hilda felt determined to help her former home. The Director of Puerta de Fé suggested she start a sponsorship program for the children. With that in mind, she returned to the U.S., set to figure out a solution.
Even though she had never done so, Hilda realized that she was going to have to start by talking about her own personal history with Puerta de Fé in order to obtain sponsors. She had never wanted anyone to feel sorry for her. Hilda had worked hard to make her way and succeed in the U.S. business world.
Hilda gathered her courage and met with the owners of the company where she worked. To her delight, they generously agreed to sponsor every child at Puerta de Fé orphanage. They also decided to help to Hilda establish the organization that became Corazón de Vida.
According to Hilda, Corazón de Vida was born from the gratitude she felt for all the help that she and her siblings received. She felt especially thankful for the support from the many people who did not know them personally, however ensured their well-being. Hilda explains that this inspired her mission to “break the vicious cycle of poverty from perpetuating child abandonment.”
Thus Corazón De Vida began by supporting Puerta de Fé in 1994, and expanded to three orphanages by 2001. Now going on its 25th year, Hilda is very proud that Corazón De Vida has achieved the following significant milestones:
- Over 10 orphanages in Baja, Mexico (which house over 500 children) receive consistent, monthly funding that provides security, nutrition, shelter and access to a reliable education.
- Aid raised to date: A total of $10 million.
- There are over 800 visitors per year to the orphanages.
- Scholarships are available for teens who age out of the orphanage system, if they wish to continue their education.
- There are currently over 45 previous orphanage residents attending college, trade or technical schools. They in turn serve as role models for the younger orphaned/ abandoned children.
Pillars Of Support
There are three specific programs that uphold the foundation of Corazón de Vida. They include:
SUSTAIN, which provides regular monthly funding to each orphanage to cover food, shelter, water and utilities. A debit-card system connected to the U.S. bank account of Corazón de Vida transfers the funds. This process ensures accountability and quick response to specific needs.
IMPROVE, which raises money by partnering with individuals, groups, clubs, churches and other organizations in order to fund improvements to facilities (construction, repairs), as well as the children’s medical, dental and psychological needs. In addition, medical and dental missions are organized and staff development activities are supported.
EDUCATE, which supports primary and secondary students with uniforms (required by all Baja public schools), backpacks, and funds to cover transportation and graduation costs. The continuing education program provides scholarships for teens aging out of the orphanage system. Depending on each individual student’s situation, there is funding for inscriptions, tuition, housing, living expenses and transportation.
The Value Of Each Child’s Life
Overall, Hilda Pacheco-Taylor estimates that thousands of children in Baja Mexico have benefited from the support provided by Corazón De Vida. Hilda finds that the most challenging aspect of her work is growing their base of monthly donors. This is critical to their ability to provide stable monthly funding to the orphanages. Nevertheless, Hilda believes the SOLUTION is to promote the Corazón De Vida BELIEF statement: “…every child’s life is valued and holds the same potential, excitement and opportunity as any other life. It is up to us to work together to make sure our care transforms into each child’s hope for the future.”
Get Involved with Corazón De Vida
- Make a tax-deductible financial donation and/or become a “Heart Angel.”
- Join a one-day trip to visit the children of an orphanage in Baja, Mexico.
- Attend a fundraising event.
- Start a fundraiser for an existing project or create a new fundraising campaign.
- Join a chapter, a leadership council that advocates and raises funds by hosting events and activities regionally.
- Spread the word; share this story on your social media and follow Corazón De Vida on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, and Twitter.
All photos courtesy of Corazón De Vida.
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