This Christmas, children in Haiti will have a special surprise stemming from Parkview Elementary School fourth grader Rigo Mejia Torres.
Yelena Valesa, the English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) bi-lingual translator at the school, is making her sixth trip to the country this Christmas delivering a “Pack of Hope.” She will bring 100 pounds of clothing, food, medication and Christmas cards to children at a mission school and to several orphanages. She said Rigo wanted to help with the project.
“We have a little boy in our school who gave up his Christmas, his name is Rigo,” she said “With the money he was supposed to get for Christmas he bought a whole bunch of stuff — clothes, shoes (and) toys — for the kids.”
Rico brought a “huge box” of items for Valesa to take to children in Haiti.
“I will be visiting three different orphanages,” Valesa said. “I gave him the names of the orphanages and he picked Dina’s Orphanage. They have over 60 kids who were left without parents after the earthquake five years ago.”
“I wanted to help out,” Rigo, who is in Jody Thering’s fourth grade class, said Tuesday.
“He has a good heart,” Valesa added.
Rigo said he enjoys helping others and often rings the bell with his mother Christina Mejia Torres for the Salvation Army during the Christmas season.
“We ring bells and on Monday and Tuesday we’re going to serve food,” Rigo added.
They will serve food from a Salvation Army van.
Parkview School Nurse Barb White, who is involved with Life Connection Mission in Haiti, said it was unusual how Rigo got involved with the project.
“It was just kind of like a journey,” White said. “It started with my neighbor who works at a bakery. She called me one night and she said ‘Barb I had a woman come in, and said she and her family and were going to donate stuff to Haiti for Christmas.’”
The woman had no idea how to get the items to Haiti, so the friend gave her White’s phone number.
“I had no idea who the woman was,” White added. “The lady called and she goes ‘Nurse Barb?’”
They were both surprised that they knew each other.
“It was Rigo’s mother!” White said. “I told her this is a blessing because … Miss Valesa is going now. So, I said ‘if you gather the stuff, we’ll get it down to them.’”
White has been to Haiti several times; she will return in June.
“Rigo has really stepped up to the plate,” she said. “He had so many nice things to donate, clothing, books and toys and pencils. He’s a good boy, he has a big heart.”
This year, Rigo was chosen as a Parkview School Team Tiger for being respectful and for his good behavior. He is one of 16 children who will help out teachers for the entire school year.
On Tuesday, Valesa told Rigo she is packing and her bags are full. She will leave Friday evening for Haiti and stay until Dec. 31.
“I’m going to spend Christmas there,” she said. “I’ll be part of Rice for Christmas through Life Connection Mission. The mission is in Haiti and it’s 100 percent operated by Haitians.”
She added that she will be translating, delivering goods and visiting families she has made connections with during her past visits.
During her stay, she will also be visiting over 600 children at a mission school in the community of Montrouis, Haiti. She said the goal is to provide each student at Life Connection Mission School a care package and a bag of rice.
“We’ll be giving them necessity packs, we call them a ‘Pack of Hope,’” she added.
Valesa said she sent out an email last week to teachers in the school requesting Christmas cards.
“Teachers and kids as well will be making and coloring cards and sending wishes for Christmas,” she added.
Valesa welcomes everyone in the community to make cards for children in Haiti. Those who wish to either make or purchase Christmas cards for the children in Haiti should bring them to Parkview Elementary School, 1901 S. New York Ave. by noon Friday.