Provided by Aaron Callahan, Oswego County YAC
OSWEGO, NY – As we celebrate the holiday season at home with our families, let us take time to remember those who are less fortunate. The Oswego County Youth Advisory Council is preparing to share the Christmas spirit once again with youth in Colombia, South America. The local group takes part in Project Smiles, a mission aimed at bringing happiness to young girls left homeless in the war-torn county.
Important Christmas wishes, which we consider necessities like sundries they welcome as Christmas gifts, are filled by caring Oswego County high school members of YAC.
The goal is to help girls from the Judith Jaramillo Home, which was adopted by a group of students led by Evelyn Bliss from the Central Square High School. Many of these girls have been abandoned by their parents due to financial stress. They reside at the home and are sent to different public schools throughout the city, hoping to someday get their high school diploma.
The members of YAC used their leadership skills to organize drives in their schools for items such as: new clothing and shoes, stuffed animals, music CDs and soaps and perfumes.
Being high school students, they know what is important this season and have now provided these girls with the very same things that put smiles on their own faces.
Oscar Vergara, a Project Smiles supporter and volunteer, plans to fly to Colombia on Christmas Eve to receive these gifts which he has shipped from New York City. He rents a truck to deliver them to the girls personally and plans to come back with a video diary of the journey.
Vergara said, “I now travel to five different homes, housing just over 400 disadvantaged children, who marveled at the chance of getting even a pair of sandals, a blouse, a pair of jeans and/or even better yet, a stuffed animal which they have never owned before! Many of these children are giving an opportunity to attend school and try to get a high school diploma and while some do get it, many are unable to achieve this as they are already way behind on their socio-academic development.”
The homes that have received sponsorship in these past years are:
Hogar Santa Clara – Girardota, Colombia (girls only)
Hogar Judith Jaramillo – Bello, Colombia (girls only)
Hogar Sagrado Corazon – Sopetran, Colombia (girls only)
Hogar Divina Providencia, Medellin, Colombia (a home for young moms. Ages 13 and up)
Granjas Infantiles – Girardota, Colombia (boys and girls)
These five homes are just a small percentage of the number of homes throughout the cities in Colombia. They try to do their best to prepare these girls, so that when they have to move out at the age of 18 and face the world, they can be somewhat prepared for it.
Unfortunately with such a high unemployment rate, almost at 22%, and with the level of poverty that exists in many of their neighborhoods, it becomes a very difficult task. By providing item such as clothing, shoes, stuffed animals, toys, personal toiletries to them, we can at least be sure that those smiles will be present on their faces when they receive a gift.
“I thank you and the members of the YAC group for supporting this project. By donating items to the Projecto Sonrisas, or by contributing monetarily to help ship the boxes to them, we are making sure sure these kids will have a happier holiday season. And I know that they truly appreciate receiving your gifts,” Vergara said.
The members of YAC express their sincere appreciation to Vergara for his help with Project Smiles. He very generously devotes his time to help those less fortunate and, without him, this project would not have been possible.
The youth group also brings holiday joy to local students through the Santa’s Helpers Program.
Pre-school children at Oswego County BOCES and kindergarten students at Kingsford Park Elementary and Leighton elementary schools in Oswego all will receive letters and treats from the YAC members.
The group has participated in this program for several years and the children really love it.
The Oswego County YAC is a non-profit community action group made up of student representatives from nine school districts throughout the county. The group works closely with the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau through its advisor, Jim Farfaglia, county youth coordinator for the bureau.
All of us here at the Oswego County YAC want to thank you for your support throughout the year and wish you a very happy holiday season. Please remember that together we can make a difference, one person at a time, and one day at a time.
To make a difference is someone’s life; please make your donations payable to: Oscar Vergara, Youth Services Director, P.E.A.C.E. Inc. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Onondaga and Oswego Counties, 1085 E. Genesee St., Syracuse NY 13210
315.470.3369 ext. 308
For more information about the Oswego County YAC, call the Oswego County-City Youth Bureau at (315) 349-3451 or email [email protected]
YAC is on facebook also.