The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

Counselor Does Charity Work in Nicaragua

Ariel Rojas is known to many students only as a friendly counselor; few know that he finds the time to help others in need in his home country of Nicaragua as well as here in the United States. Since 2001, he’s been visiting different towns in Nicaragua annually to help the people who are in need and bring them necessities such as food and clothing.

Although Camoapa is the main town that Rojas visits, he also travels to Boaco, Managua and San Marcos on these goodwill trips. The trips aren’t limited to bringing only Christmas cheer though; Rojas and his family make multiple trips to Nicaragua throughout the year, mainly in the summertime and during the holidays.

“We try to bring relief to poor families,” Rojas said. “We’ve done [projects such as] bringing up to 23 to 28 barrels of clothes and toys during the holiday season. We’ve also have done projects like bringing school supplies and computers, helping people rebuild their homes.”

Rojas and his family have expanded their range of focus to multiple areas such as medicine and education, aiming to gain a non-profit organization status. According to Rojas, the process to apply for the non-profit status is long, tedious and costs money, but he hopes that he can achieve it in the next year or two.

Story continues below advertisement

“The best part about this project is that I get to do it myself,” Rojas said. “There’s no bureaucracy involved, there’s no money going to anything else but that. If I raise $10, those $10 are going to go exactly to that family.”

Rojas started his charity work in college while doing a project on child labor in Nicaragua, leading him to believe that he could make a difference and better the lives of those living there.

“I’m from Nicaragua so I’ve always seen the poverty that happens there,” Rojas said. “But after I dug deeper into the situation, I realized that there was a lot of need within the youth there.”

Having been born in Nicaragua, Rojas maintains a special bond with the country and its culture. When he immigrated to the United States at 14 years old, he wasn’t able to return to Nicaragua for over 13 years due to different problems such as political issues.

“After I went back … [the poverty] really hit me and that’s when I decided that I needed to do something about it because my life here was different and much better,” Rojas said.

Rojas and his family have raised money in many different ways throughout the years, ranging from garage sales to silent auctions. They’ve called upon their friends and extended family to help out by attending these fundraisers or donating money to their cause.

“[My wife and I are] the pioneers and everybody else always helps,” Rojas said. “It’s a big network of people… we’ll send letters and we’ll get $25 here and $50 there.”

The first time that Rojas and his family brought over the collected supplies to Camoapa, Nicaragua in 2001 was an important experience to him. They had been able to bring 18 barrels of clothing in all sizes, hoping to hand them out to people of all ages. After knocking on doors through the neighborhoods of Camoapa, over 1,000 people were given tickets to come and get a piece of clothing as well as bags of sugar, rice, beans and soap.

“When people realized what we were doing, the street got flooded with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people,” Rojas said. “It was a scary experience because at one point, it seemed like people were almost hurting other people to try to get a piece of clothing or food.”

Rojas considered that a rewarding experience because of the number of people that they were able to help and because that it built a sense of community among those working there.

“[There were] people that are not necessarily in need in Nicaragua but they were actually helping us distribute everything so after that I was like, no matter what I do, I’m going to do it every year,” Rojas said.

Even though Rojas has been pushing to complete more and more projects every time he goes to Nicaragua, he has faced some obstacles. These obstacles include raising adequate amounts of money and passing through customs once reaching Nicaragua, as they are bringing in different goods from food to clothing to hand out.

“It has become sort of like a duty to me, something that I will do even if I didn’t have family over there,” Rojas said. “I will go back and continue to support the people in the country.”

Rojas hopes that he can one day expand the project to other countries but remains concerned about the time constraints that he has. Between work and his trips to Nicaragua, Rojas is unsure whether he has the time to travel to multiple countries for these trips. Nicaragua was the best starting point for Rojas as it is his home country where his mother lives and he still maintains many connections with the people there.

“I know the people, so a lot of the people I help out, I’ve seen them and I get a lot of information about them,” Rojas said.

Rojas and his family are not only involved in relief projects in Nicaragua.

“I built [a club] … at Southern Californian high school … we help students that are at risk of gang involvement and we’ve been working with them to get them out of gangs and into college,” Rojas said.

Rojas has been continuously transferring this dedication to education to his charity work in Nicaragua, increasing the number of school supplies he’s able to send over and helping two high school students pay their college tuition. Last summer, Rojas was also able to gather notebooks to donate to ninth grade students.

“I feel like that even though it’s nice to give somebody a toy, nice to give someone a piece of clothing or money, the best thing you can give somebody is the gift of education,” Rojas said. “Then they can do it on their own. If I give you food today, who’s going to give it to you [tomorrow]?”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Talon Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *