By Mel Cordova
During my trip to Puerto Rico last month, I had the pleasure to meet Ms. Josefina “Tata” Pacheco, who sat next to me at a Senate session held at the Ponce Convention Center. We introduced ourselves and started a casual conversation. Tata explained that she is a community leader in Bélgica, a neighborhood in Ponce, and had established LOS HIJOS DE BÉLGICA, INC., a Not-for-Profit 501(c)(3) organization to rescue a once vibrant historic cultural and musical community that had fallen on hard times. The first goal stated was her desire to establish a digital lab at a small building next to the community elementary school. Fantastic news to me, because my goal is to enable enthusiastic community leaders to establish digital labs. The community center building that Tata is currently refurbishing was an abandoned clinic and it happened to be my first summer job place at age 14! Immediately, I told Tata about Project Coqui and made a commitment to help this community. Our partnership with VA-STAR led to a donation of 12 laptops to start a digital lab, where students can do homework after classes with old-school mentorship from caring neighbors.
Annually, LOS HIJOS DE BÉLGICA organize and host a three-day cultural, music, and health event. This year it is being held from 23 to 25 November 2018 and is dedicated to two centenarians, Eusebia Rodriguez and Antonia Gaudinot Malbert. The intent of the event in addition to the cultural aspect, is to raise funds for their community center, a building that was abandoned, currently being refurbished, and needs an extension. Her fundraising method to the present has been door-to-door and with unexpected expenses is currently more than $1,700 negative, after funding the cultural and health event. I informed Tata that we could start an online fundraising event on Giving Tuesday, November 27, 2018. She accepted and is very enthusiastic. If possible, please donate today.
This once vibrant community had served as one of the birthplaces of Bomba y Plena -- a precursor of Reggaeton -- and the home to many future brilliant leaders and artists, including salsa superstar and adopted child Héctor Lavoe. Over time, however, businesses shut down, crime rose, hurricanes battered the neighborhood, people abandoned the community, homes fell into disrepair, and the Government of Puerto Rico tried to shut down its schools. Josefina knew she had to do something to save her community. She took to the streets and mobilized her neighbors into action. As volunteers, the residents took on the monumental task of turning their community around. They won their first battle when they successfully persuaded the Government of Puerto Rico to keep the community's public elementary school open. They focused on transmitting the community's musical traditions, rich history, and cultural legacy to its youth. The youth now help the elders to raise money for the community through music festivals. The goal of the residents is to turn a dilapidated building into a state-of-the-art community center where children can go after school to learn about the latest technologies and how to foster community development.
Your donation this #GivingTuesday will support a project we want to sponsor “Los Hijos de Belgica” (NFP registry: 55931) to help empower a community that wants to be vibrant by helping their students with knowledge and tools to serve their community and beyond. Mark your calendar for #GivingTuesday! If you do not want to wait, early donations are open, so you can give today. No donation is too small to help a community in need. Tell your friends and family by forwarding this e-mail, or by sharing through social media. Facebook fundraiser is here: https://www.facebook.com/donate/196374004601557/