HHF, America Ferrera & Shelter-McAllen, TX

Alberto Avalos

Innovation and Technology Program Manager

-Technology-based, Educational Effort Focuses on Reading, Playing, and Praying through Partnership with Qlovi, Catholic Charities, Elevare International and Univision

MCALLEN, TX – The Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) 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 technology-based program focuses on providing the refugee children through reading, playing, and praying. Joining HHF in the effort are Qlovi, Catholic Charities, Univision, and Elevare International, which is based in Texas and will provide on-the-ground volunteers and execute the curriculum throughout the year.

The group worked with Sacred Heart Catholic Church led by Sister Norma Pimentel and was joined by Ferrera to provide the children and their mothers with an escape from their plight and hope for the rest of their journeys. A “wishlist” of healthcare products, books, toys, clothes and other items were purchased through a donation by Univision to support the effort. The READ Project is non-political and not related to immigration reform efforts – the focus is completely humanitarian.

“We have a moral responsibility as Americans to support the plight of children escaping violence, abuse, and high murder rates,” said Ferrera, who is of Honduran descent. “This a humanitarian issue. These are refugee children. They are escaping violence. Through this effort with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, we simply want to offer relief, hope, and comfort to these children and families who have been through so much.”

“The READ Project 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, who was born in Nicaragua in Central America. “These children are refugees trying to escape horrific violence in their home countries. 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 with cities in El Salvador and Guatemala not far behind. It’s no coincidence the greatest number of refugees are coming from those cities to escape unthinkable violence. We are inspired by what makes America great – our moral mandate to care for those in need. The READ Project 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.”

The READ Project will have a strong technology component through Qlovi, an educational technology start-up, which will provide free access to their library of interactive and integrated eBooks in Spanish for volunteers to read to and with the children while engaging them to express themselves about their journeys. 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 Project will also buy toys, books, and clothes for the children through donations. Donations for the READ Project can be made at http://www.hispanicheritage.org/donations/.

In addition to Ferrera and Tijerino of HHF, catalysts for the READ Project include Qlovi Co-Founder Harlyn Pacheco from New York, Luis Cardona from Maryland, Will Hernandez from Houston, Belen Marquina from Maryland, Juan Herrera from New York, Monica Villareal from New York, Jaime Lopez from McAllen, and Fani Cruz from Catholic Charities in Maryland, Stacie Oliveres Castain from Los Angeles, Roberto Callejas from Washington, DC, Estuardo Rodriguez from Washington, DC, Tijerino from Washington, DC, and others who continue to join the effort which Tijerino has coined “Compassionate Conspirators.”