Yoshidaira Garcia might never have attended college had it not been for the Educational Opportunity Fund, a state-sponsored program that provides access to higher education to disadvantaged students. So when Garcia wanted to reach out to others with limited academic opportunities, what better place to set her sights on than Peru, her native country?
Three years ago, Garcia, a Livingston College graduate, began collecting supplies for a school in Remichaca, a remote village in a high-altitude region in Peru. The elementary school consists of 100 students in three classrooms with no electricity. Many students do not have basic supplies such as pencils and paper; some walk to and from homes an hour away.
Because of her experience at Rutgers, “I am able to do anything and overcome any obstacles that may come my way,” said Garcia, who graduated with a degree in Spanish literature and hopes to become an accountant. Her work with the Peruvian children has taught her compassion. “They have made me appreciate all that I have and motivated me to continue helping others who need support and encouragement.”
Garcia grew up in a rural region in Peru and immigrated to the United States with her family at the age of 7. At first she was confused. “My new surrounding didn’t match the one to which I was accustomed,” she recalled. But eventually she adjusted to life in Garfield.
She got the idea to reach out to the students in Remichaca after her aunt, a teacher at the school, told her of the conditions. She visited the children for the first time three years ago. After an eight-hour plane ride and 12 hours by bus, it still takes another hour to reach the village.
But it is well worth the journey. “The children greatly appreciate the donations,” said Garcia, who has returned twice to the village. This year, she brought book bags filled with school supplies and a toy. The students are especially grateful for a personal touch from Garcia: She enjoys making them hot chocolate, a special treat for young Peruvians braving the constant chill of high altitudes. “The climate is so harsh that the cheeks of some students are discolored and scarred from the severe cold,” she recalled.
During one of Garcia’s visits, a parent was so grateful for her philanthropy that she offered to pay Garcia with local currency – a pig.