Walnut Youths’ Can-Do Attitude Feeds Orphans

The food local children collected will benefit Operation DREAM, a charity a family started to provide food to poor children in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

By Melanie C. Johnson

Cassandra Hsiao began her effort to collect canned good for orphanages in Haiti and the Dominican Republic with four friends.

The young Walnut girl’s group soon grew to 10.  That 10 turned into several packed cars.

Cassandra and her team, as she calls the other youth who braved going door to door in Walnut, West Covina, and Rowland Heights to ask for food donations, collected 550 pounds of canned and packaged goods that will be shipped to the two countries in early January by Operation DREAM, a charity that combats hunger.

“They are the ones who came out with me every Saturday just giving their time to the poor,” she said of the group.  “They sacrificed their time to collect these cans.”

Walnut Patch Editor Melanie and Me

Besides experiencing a few slammed doors, Cassandra said she and the other children involved in the food drive also learned a valuable lesson about the power of youth to make a difference in their communities and the world.

That was the hope of the founders of Operation DREAM, specifically the brainchild behind the charity, 16-year-old Karin Olivo.

Karin, touched by television infomercials featuring starving children in Africa and other countries, told her parents she wanted to do something to help, said dad George Olivo.  She started with a bake sale in 2009 where she raised $1,000.   The family sent the money to an orphanage in Haiti, but that was not enough for Karin, who wanted to see those she was helping in person, Olivo said.

The Palos Verdes teen kept after her mom and dad for a year until they agreed to take the trip.  Olivo’s parents immigrated to the United States from the neighboring Dominican Republic.  After speaking with a cousin there, the family of four made plans for a visit to both countries and collected 800 pounds of clothing to give to those in need.

Checking expiration date of canned foods

What they saw when they got there was worse than they imagined, Olivo said.

“We imagined the worst and it was worse than that,” said the FBI agent.   “It really changed our lives.”

Karin said she was specifically drawn to Haiti after doing some research and finding out it was the poorest country in the world.  Her father’s ties to the Dominican Republic and its proximity to Haiti made that country a natural fit as well for the charity.

“They are a lot like us and like me,” she said of the children she has met in the orphanages.  “I love to help people in general and when I found out there was a direct connection through the cousins, I wanted to help.”

Karin has visited the two countries three times, including a few months after the 2010 earthquake.  She also goes to elementary and middle schools to talk to students about Operation DREAM.

George Olivio, Me, Karin Olivio

On Saturday, the Olivo family came to Cassandra’s home to help the group pack their food into boxes for delivery.  The group of children involved in the local effort and their parents bent over opened boxes searching for expired items.  Shipments can be completely rejected if inspectors in the Dominican Republic find too many expired cans.


As Olivo helped the group, he said he felt proud of the effort of Walnut’s youth.

“This is what our vision was, to empower kids to help and then to go out and become leaders,” he said.  “We believe those who give and those who receive will both be blessed.”

Published @http://walnut.patch.com/articles/walnut-youths-can-do-attitude-feeds-orphans#photo-8620415 

http://diamondbar-walnut.patch.com/articles/kohl-s-recognizes-walnut-teen-for-charitable-work

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About Cassandra Hsiao

Cassandra Hsiao is a senior at OCSA (Orange County School of the Arts). Her work has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and National Student Poets Program. She has been chosen as finalists of playwriting competitions held by California Young Playwrights, The Blank Theatre, Writopia Labs, and Princeton University. Her poetry, essays and reviews have appeared in TeenReads, Jet Fuel Review, Feminine Inquiry, Aerie International and more. She also conducts print and on-camera interviews as a Star Reporter and Film Critic for multiple online outlets. She won a National Gracie Award in Student Online Video Host Category by The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation . https://twitter.com/Cassandra_Hsiao

Posted on December 5, 2011, in Giving Back to the Community, News, Star Rapture Blog and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Amazing! Simply amazing! :D

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