People Who Move Us: Hilda Pacheco-Taylor – Founder of Corazón de Vida

Hilda Pacheco-Taylor is the founder of (“Heart of Life”), a nonprofit that for over 20 years has helped the orphaned and abandoned children of Baja, Mexico with life-altering support. The organization not only financially assists orphanages and offers quality-of-life improvement services, but also invests in the children’s futures by funding their higher education needs and transitional programs.

Corazón de Vida
Hilda with her mother & sister.

Hilda Pacheco-Taylor was born and raised in Baja, Mexico. At only eight years old, Hilda was left in charge 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 or if they were going to eat at all.

Unfortunately, no government-run foster care or welfare system exists in Mexico. It is only through private orphanages – funded entirely by individual and/or corporate donations – that children in need receive full-time care.

Corazón de Vida
Hilda’s brothers.

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 was able to pull him out, but it was then that Hilda’s mother realized that she could no longer leave her children alone. She made the hard decision to place them in a local private orphanage called (Door of Faith).

As much as it was a sacrifice for Hilda’s mother to give up her children, living at Puerta de Fé  was such an improvement for Hilda and her siblings. The orphanage was well-sponsored by U.S. organizations, so they had daily access to three warm meals. And 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 was that Hilda no longer had to be 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.

Even though circumstances had gotten better, Hilda still yearned for the day she and her siblings could be reunited with their mother. When Hilda left the orphanage at 16, she joined her mother in the U.S. with the goal of bringing her family together again – which she accomplished within two years.

Then 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 and that it was months since the staff had been paid. Worst was when she saw that the 35 children left 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 was 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.

Corazón de VidaEven 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.

Corazón de Vida.
Donations for Corazón de Vida.

According to Hilda, Corazón de Vida was born out of the gratitude she felt for the support that she and her siblings received from so many people who did not know them personally, however ensured their well-being.

With the mission to “break the vicious cycle of poverty from perpetuating child abandonment,” Hilda explains that Corazón De Vida began by supporting Puerta de Fé in 1994, expanding 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.
  • A total of $10 million in aid has been raised to date.
  • There are over 800 visitors per year to the orphanages.
  • Teens who age out of the orphanage system are offered scholarships in order to be able to continue their education.
  • There are currently over 45 previous orphanage residents attending college, trade or technical schools – who in turn serve as role models for the younger orphaned/ abandoned children.

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.  Funds are transferred monthly through a debit-card system connected to the U.S. bank account of Corazón de Vida, a process that 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.  organizing medical and dental missions and supporting staff development activities.

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 and – depending on each individual student’s situation –  includes funding for inscriptions, tuition, housing, living expenses and transportation.

Corazón de Vida.
At a Corazón de Vida event.

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 with Corazón De Vida is growing their base of monthly donors, which is critical to their ability to provide stable monthly funding to the orphanages. However, the SOLUTION can be found by promoting the Corazón De Vida BELIEF statement that “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.”

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All photos via Corazón De Vida.

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What do you think of Corazón De Vida? Do you have a personal experience that prompted you to take up a cause? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

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