This is the first installment of our “Helping Hands” series for this week where we give thanks to those extraordinary Latinos whose mission is to help others.
A vacation abroad with friends sounds like a typical summer for a group of high school students, but Daniel Nieto’s experience this past summer was anything but.
For Nieto, the trip was to Nicaragua, where he and 15 of his classmates volunteered at La Mascota Children’s Cancer Hospital, the only children’s hospital in Nicaragua. For three weeks Nieto and his fellow classmates worked on rebuilding a game room for the children with their bare hands and teaching English, all while making a lasting connection with the young patients.
“We got to connect with patients, it was so moving to talk with the kids,” says Nieto. Speaking with the patients and discovering their stories affected him more than he can say, and by the end of his summer with La Mascota, Nieto had changed.
“I came home with feelings of sadness and feeling that I had to do something more,” says 17-year-old Nieto. “As cliché-ish as it is, I was able to appreciate what I have on a deeper level, allowing me to put my ideas into reality.” He quickly began working to fill the distance between La Mascota and Flintridge Prep in La Cañada, California where he is a student, and he was motivated to create a campaign for the student run organization A World of One’s Own.
A World of One’s Own (AWOO) is a non-profit dedicated to providing impoverished communities and families with the resources they need to access opportunity. As the only option for treatment, families have no choice but to travel to La Mascota so that their child may be treated. However, the cost of $2 for transportation has proven to be too much for these families. With the help of the funds raised by AWOO, the children at La Mascota Hospital are provided with food and transport during their treatment.
Nieto took his campaign to http://www.indiegogo.com in hopes of raising $12,000 by Thanksgiving.
During his senior year of high school in Flintridge Prep, Nieto fills his breaks with continued efforts to help La Mascota, selling $1 churros during lunch that will go directly to the patients. Having raised over $5000 thus far and with his deadline approaching, he took to his school’s stage to get the word out about AWOO. Standing in front of his peers, Nieto shared his story about his personal connection with the patients at La Mascota.
“We are also asking students to give a template to their parents who will forward it on to their colleagues and friends to see if they would please donate,” he says.
After his experience this past summer, Nieto has plans to go back next year. He wants to meet new patients as well as those he has already connected with to share his story. This Thanksgiving Nieto is thankful for the chance to have his message heard in order to help save the lives of the children at La Mascota.
“We are here to help them and I fully comprehend what I can do to best help these families.”
To help Danny Nieto and the children of A World of One’s Own click here.