National PTA board member Antonio Tijerino, who is also the CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF), was recently involved in an outreach event that led a group of humanitarian advocates to work with a shelter in McAllen, TX, in support of unaccompanied minors from Central America including Actress America Ferrera through an effort titled READ (Refugee Enrichment and Development) Project.
The program focuses on providing the refugee children with hope and relief from their plight through reading, playing and praying. The efforts also include participants such as Qlovi, Catholic Charities, and Elevare International, which is based in TX and, provides on-the-ground volunteers and will execute the curriculum throughout the year.
The READ program is non-political and not related to immigration reform efforts – the focus is completely humanitarian. “This effort is focused on helping these refugee children cope and provide hope with their situation through reading, playing, and praying,” said Antonio Tijerino, president and CEO of HHF. “These children are refugees trying to escape horrific violence in their home countries. It’s not a coincidence that of the 20 most dangerous cities on earth, ALL 20 are in Latin America with San Pedro Sula in Honduras leading the way as the murder capital of the world. It’s no coincidence that city is where the greatest amount of refugees are coming from. The READ program is inspired by the words at the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty which says, ‘Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore/Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me/I lift my lamp beside the golden door.’ We are trying to lift our version of a lamp to these children through this effort.”
The READ program will have a strong technology component through Qlovi, an educational technology start-up. HHF will donate tablets for the volunteers to use throughout the year in working with the children in the shelters through Catholic Charities and Elevare International. Spiritual leaders will be invited to pray with the children to offer hope. The READ program will also buy toys, books and clothes for the children through donations. Donations for the READ program can be made at http://www.hispanicheritage.org/donations/.
Otha Thornton is president of National PTA.