March 28, 2008

Volunteers follow Chavez’s footsteps, build playgrounds

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

Eleven year old Alejandro Rico-Contreras wanted his school to look better, to have a new playground for students.

That’s the reason, he said, he volunteered to build a brand-new playground at his school, Riverview Elementary School, in Lakeside.

“Before the school used to be a lot different,” said Alejandro, who’s in fifth grade. “Before, we didn’t have that much to play.”

The playground Riverview Elementary is getting will be built by a large group of volunteers like Alejandro as part of the celebration of Cesar Chavez Day in a joint effort by California First Lady Maria Shriver, CaliforniaVolunteers, and KaBOOM! that will build 10 playgrounds across the state this Saturday, March 29.

Alejandro was selected from his school to participate in the planning stages of the playground. He said he proposed to have a volleyball court and a playground for younger children.

“I drew my dream playground on a piece of paper and they really liked my ideas,” he said. “I’m even going to be cutting the ribbon when the playground is done.”

The idea of honoring the memory and legacy of Chavez with playgrounds began last year, when another 10 playgrounds were built in California, including one at the MAAC Housing Project in San Diego.

“Playgrounds allow our children to stay active, inspire imaginations, connect communities and, more importantly, teach life lessons. I’m so excited that together with CaliforniaVolunteers and our many other partners, we are building 10 new playgrounds across our state,” said First Lady Maria Shriver. “Our new California playgrounds are being built in honor of Cesar E. Chavez and his courageous life-long dedication to serving others – and by building them, we continue his incredible legacy, teaching our children the valuable life lesson of service.”

In honor of Chavez’s commitment to community building and service, planning committees made up of community members, including children, teachers and parents, have organized volunteer recruitment, site preparation and safety/logistics for each of the builds.

Children have participated in a series of lessons regarding Chavez’s life that will culminate the day of the build.

“There is no better way to honor Cesar’s legacy than to celebrate our youth by investing time and service in them,” said Paul Chavez, son of Cesar and Cesar E. Chavez Foundation Chair. “If we show our future generations what Cesar taught us – that strong character and education are most beneficial when given back to help communities thrive; we only build for a better tomorrow. As Cesar said, ‘We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.’”

Community volunteers will also build picnic tables, benches, shade structures and take part in landscaping projects.

“Under First Lady Maria Shriver’s leadership, we are not only building 10 great new places for children across California to play, but also a living legacy to Cesar E. Chavez and the principles he inspired a movement with,” said Darell Hammond, CEO and co-founder, KaBOOM!. “KaBOOM! is thrilled to be partnering with First Lady Maria Shriver and CaliforniaVolunteers on these unique projects that will mobilize thousands of volunteers and impact countless children in California for years to come and ensure the legacy, work ethic and vision of Chavez lives on.”

Alejandro said he is proud to follow on Chavez’s footsteps. He said he will always try to help others, just like the farm workers’ leader did during his life.

“I feel good to volunteer,” Alejandro said. “Helping others is fun.”

Riverview Elementary School is located at 9308 Winter Gardens Blvd., in Lakeside.

If you would like to volunteer in building the playground Saturday, call Robin Sandecki at (619) 390-2600. Also, visit www.californiavolunteers.org for other volunteering opportunities.

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