January 11, 2008

“Little Jesus” caravan brings happiness to Tijuana on all kings day

By Luis Alonso Pérez

Thousands of Tijuana children enjoyed a happy all kings day thanks to a caravan of hundreds of families that traveled from Los Angeles, California and brought gifts to the poorest areas of this border city and other cities in Baja California.

In spite of the heavy rains that poured over southern California, more than 350 families of the “Little Jesus” campaign filled their cars and trucks with gifts and drove for south for hours so they could make their Mexican brothers and sisters spend this special day a little less cold and hungry.

Just like the three wise men traveled from far to offer special gifts to baby Jesus, a group from the numerous caravan visited the Santiago Apostol church in Tijuana’s Reforma neighborhood to deliver groceries, blankets and toys.

Jose Fuentes, the campaign coordinator, is a former Tijuana resident that moved to Los Angeles with the dream of returning one day to help his people.

Ramona Jimenez and two of her 5 kids

“I was one of those children that you see here, but when I was 6 or 8 years old I looked up at the sky and told God that I wanted to become one of those Americans who brought us toys.”

The organizer explained that this group was just one of 45 teams that visited Baja California on Sunday and deliver gifts to neighborhoods in Tijuana, Mexicali, Rosarito, Tecate and Ensenada.

For 15 straight years Jose has crossed the border to help out families like Ramona’s, a mother of 5 that couldn’t afford gifts on a maquiladora worker’s salary.

“I am very happy that they gave toys to the children, because like me there are many mothers who can’t afford to by them what they want.”

Throughout the years father Juan Rivas, founder of this humanitarian project, has tried to raise awareness among his followers in Los Angeles and try to attract more benefactors, but most importantly, he has convinced them to take the gifts themselves directly to the poor communities, if possible, accompanied by their families, as a way of teaching children the importance of sharing what they have with the less fortunate.

“Here, kids get very happy when they receive a soccer ball, over there some kids are very demanding and ask for 100 or 200 dollar toys” said Jose Fuentes.

Veronica Lopez traveled to Tijuana with her 6 children from El Monte, California. For her sharing not only makes their faith grow, but it’s also a way of making them appreciate what they have at home.

“Fortunately they have a lot but many other kids don’t. I wanted to bring them so they learn that in the real world you can’t only ask, but you have to earn things.”

Mrs. Lopez is the owner of a blanket store and was a key element for the purchase of more than 7 thousand blankets that where handed out by the members of the caravan, an important contribution so poor families can get through the winter season a little less cold.

Like hundreds of children in colonia Reforma, Paco Aguilar is very grateful for the marbles and chocolates he received.

“I want to thank the three wise men and ask them to come and bring us toys again next year”

For now, organizers and participants hope to make this project grow and continue crossing the border to paint a smile in the faces of poor children.

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