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Thinking About a Volunteering Trip to Baja, Mexico? Check Out Corazon de Vida Foundation

Kristina Puga - NBC News
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October 4, 2014
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Photo by Mariana Saori Wall | Video by Corazón de Vida Foundation

It might be time for you to plan your next vacation, but you want to do more than lie around on a beach sipping drinks. If you have wondered about volunteering abroad, it's a great way to to give back to communities who could use a helping hand.

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, NBC spoke to Americans who have volunteered in Latin America, and they shared their life-changing experiences. You don't need much time, or money. In as little as a day or two, and $50, you can make a difference in someone's life.

Visit Orphans In Mexico

Hilda Pacheco-Taylor, the founder of the Corazón de Vida Foundation, was an orphan in Baja, Mexico herself when she was a young girl. Today, she supports 15 orphanages throughout Mexico, housing more than 850 children. As they get older, she tries to teach the youths job and social skills with the help of the volunteers that visit.

Mariana Saori Wall, 26, from Venice Beach, CA, has been volunteering with Corazón de Vida for the past seven years. The focus of the trips, she says, is to spend time with the orphans and provide them much needed one-on-one attention. We asked Mariana about her trips:

Sign-up process/requirements:

"Volunteers can register on the Corazón de Vida website (www.corazondevida.org). The cost of the trip is $50 USD, and it includes the bus trip, lunch for the kids and volunteers, and a craft for the day. U.S. citizens must have a valid passport. Non-U.S. citizens must have a passport, visa and proper forms for re-entry. For minors under 18, parents must sign a consent form. Minors under 15 must be accompanied by a parent."

How long does the trip take:

"Each month, a chartered bus with up to 55 volunteers departs from Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. From there, you’re at the orphanage in Tijuana in 20 minutes - arriving around 10am, and back home by 4pm. You can also go to one of the other orphanages in Mexico, like Baja for example, and you can have housing for a week, or a couple of nights. People come from as far as Germany."

What you do:

"When you arrive, you’re greeted by all the kids. They know you’re coming that day, and they’re super excited. As soon as you get off the bus, they grab your hand and pull you inside. The first hour, you’re walking around and they’re showing you the place. They have an activity for you, making crafts, bracelets, and then you can volunteer to prep for lunch. Every volunteer picks a task for the day."

Why it's important:

"The orphanage in Tijuana is called “La Hacienda” and houses around 50 to 60 kids - the majority ages 3 to 12, a couple of teenagers...Tijuana is a big city and a lot of people are traveling in and out of there - a lot of prostitution, drugs, some places have more kids abandoned than others. I’m working on a documentary on these orphanages, which talks about the basic things the kids struggle with - getting paperwork ready for school, finding their birth mothers, so many struggles these kids are going through."

Life-changing moment:

"Just seeing them (the children) be happy is what keeps me motivated to do my work with them. These kids are so happy. They are just so in love with the volunteers, so excited to see you. It’s so hard to leave. That’s the worst part, to have to go home. There is this one kid this past weekend. She’s about 3 or 4-years-old. She doesn’t speak. They are trying to evaluate her, because she doesn’t laugh or cry. One of the volunteers held her the entire four hours we were there. When we finally had to go, she gave the volunteer a kiss, and everyone was in shock. It is moments like those that you see these kids are getting better, and we are making a positive influence on their lives.

See more Latin America volunteering trips at NBC News

Follow the links below to check out the volunteering opportunities during your visit to Puerto Vallarta - Riviera Nayarit.

  Check out Casa Hogar Childrens Shelter

  Check out Refugio Infantil Santa Esperanza (R.I.S.E.)

  Check out La Casa de los Ninos

  Check out Casa Infantil Mojaneras

  Check out Corazon de Nina Shelter for Girls & Boys

  Check out Breakfast for Children - School of Champions

  Check out Casa de Ninos Frank Gonzalez A.C.


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