Esperança’s Christmas Angels program began nearly 20 years ago, when Domestic Program Director, Maria Valenzuela, saw great need from the families participating in our health classes around the holidays. From the start, Maria was a one-woman show; working with schools to select children, securing sponsors, plus wrapping and delivering the gifts! Over seven school districts have benefited from Esperança’s Christmas Angels program over the years.
2018 was the first year that Esperança’s Anchors of Hope Emerging Leaders Board took the reins on the project, and there was no difficulty getting sponsors on board to support such a rewarding cause. Esperança supported two different school districts; each full of children in need:
In early summer of 2018, Navajo Elementary School suffered terrible loss from a fire. The children from this Title I school were dispersed to various other schools around the valley to finish out the academic year. Navajo’s two Pre-K classes are temporarily being housed at Yavapai Elementary, where extra school supplies and space were tight. Over 50 four and five-year olds were displaced from the colorful, fully stocked classrooms they once knew. Esperança then hosted a fundraiser to provide money for new school supplies – we raised over $1,000 in just a few short weeks! From this unfortunate event sprouted the idea for Esperança to find sponsors for these pre-K kids for Christmas.
Alhambra School District
The Alhambra School District is one of the poorest in the Phoenix area (with 80% of the student body receiving free lunches) and is home to refugee families from across the globe. Free clothes, food boxes, and immunizations are provided to the children here from various local nonprofits. Alhambra has seen 260 refugee children enroll in school over the past three years, most of which take advantage of these free services.
Though their backgrounds are very different, the need was the same. And Esperança was happy to step in to support in any way we could. Needless to say, the Christmas Angels Program came as a ray of hope to these children and their parents. Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, Esperança received funding for 171 children between Navajo and Alhambra.
A sponsorship from Walmart ensured that we did not have to use any of our raised funds to purchase the gift-wrapping supplies (paper, tape, scissors, etc.). So, 6 shopping carts, 20 rolls of wrapping paper, and 3 hours later, the team was ready to embrace their inner elves and get wrapping! Support from Apex Leadership Co made gift-wrapping quick and easy – not to mention fun!
As much fun as we had up to this point, the delivery was by far the best experience. Yavapai hosted a holiday party where parents were invited to hear their kids sing Christmas carols. The kids had NO IDEA that Santa had made a visit earlier that day. When they were finished with their concert, screams of joy erupted through the auditorium as they one by one realized that Christmas had come early.
After that, the wrapping paper lasted about .5 seconds…
Meanwhile, at Alhambra, the Community Nurse personally delivered gifts to the refugee families. Most of these families waited until Christmas day to open these gifts. They did not have the means to celebrate Christmas until Esperança’s sponsorship program.
The Situko family (center) recently migrated to America. Mama Situko is originally from the Congo, but spent 7 years in a refugee camp in Burundi before getting her visa. “Thank you to everyone who made my children so happy,” she said.
And THANK YOU, from everyone at Esperança for making this incredible program possible.