Students help orphans in Mexico

EDUCATIONAL ENCOURAGEMENT: Tina Hakimi, center, co-chair and founder of Camp H.O.P.E., is joined by the rest of her executive committee for the newly formed non-profit organization. The group aims to assist orphans in Mexico by visiting primary education schools and encouraging the students to achieve college degrees. (Photo by Michael Arellano)

An ASU student group is working to bring hope to orphans and to encourage them to pursue a college education.

Camp H.O.P.E., which stands for Helping Orphans Prosper through Education, is a new student club started after biomedical engineering junior Tina Hakimi saw a story posted on ASU’s website in January.

Biomedical engineering sophomore Neil Saez appeared in the story discussing his college and life experience, including his involvement with orphans, which interested Hakimi.

Saez’s father, Carlos Saez, began a nonprofit in 1985 called Friends of the Orphanages. It was aimed at helping orphanages financially, specifically one called Estado 29, located about two hours south of the U.S.-Mexico border. This orphanage hosts 90 children, ranging from infants to young adults.

Friends of the Orphanages provides money for food, clothing, building reconstruction and even a college education for the orphans.

Shortly after the article appeared, Hakimi contacted Saez. She approached him with the idea to begin Camp H.O.P.E.
Hakimi’s goal was to begin a student-based organization following the structure of Friends of the Orphanages.

Camp H.O.P.E. plans on raising money to send 15 ASU students down to Estado 29 in Ensenada, Mexico.
In August, they will put on a one-week camp to motivate the orphans to attend college and be aware of all the career opportunities out there.

“I really wanted to make a difference somehow,” Hakimi said. “I really love kids, so I knew I wanted to help them.”
She began searching for orphanages around the U.S., and then specifically in Arizona.

Hakimi said it would have been difficult to work closely with an American orphanage because of the process the government and foster care systems require.

Hakimi also realized that orphans outside the U.S. have more of a need because many countries have less money and no foster care system. She began looking at Mexico where Friends of the Orphanages has ties.

“It’s so perfect because it’s close,” Hakimi said. “We can take students down there and have a real international impact.”

Together, Saez and Hakimi began to spread the word about Camp H.O.P.E. through tables at club fairs, emails, flyers and Facebook.

They held officer interviews and created club applications this semester. They currently have around 25 club members.

“Honestly it just felt right,” Saez said. “The orphanage has been such a huge part of my life. People always say that these children down there are so underprivileged and you can help them, but they’ve helped me as much as we’ve helped them.”

Camp H.O.P.E. plans to raise money through school events and donations.

On April 8 from 3 to 7:30 p.m., Camp H.O.P.E. will be hosting a dodgeball tournament at the P.E. West Gym.
Participation costs $50 for a team of 10 and $5 for individuals.

The tournament is double elimination and winners will receive trophies.

A raffle will also be held at the tournament for tickets to a Suns game and dinner for two at the club’s sponsoring restaurant, Vincent’s, located on East Camelback Road.

All proceeds will go to Camp H.O.P.E.

Mechanical engineer sophomore Daniel Guerithault, whose father also owns Vincent’s restaurant, said he does a lot of the fundraising for Camp H.O.P.E.

His father is very supportive of the organization and cares about the service of small groups.

“Through this experience I don’t expect anything in return,” Guerithault said. “I’m not doing this for a personal gain; I’m doing this so I can put a smile on some kids’ faces.”

Each camp counselor will need to raise a total of $300.

During the camp, counselors will do fun activities to show the orphans the different career choices out there.
The club is always looking for members and wants to have a diversity of majors to have more of an impact on the orphans, Hakimi said.

“Since we’re an academic organization, we really want to make sure we can give them something tangible,” Saez said. “We will be raising money to buy them school supplies and uniforms.”

Camp H.O.P.E. is about the educational component and how it impacts the members and orphans.

“We also want to do our best to make some contribution to their college tuition on top of what Friends of the Orphanages provides,” Saez said.

Reach the reporter at tchavez3@asu.edu