By Joanna Thurmann
The opportunity was clear for John Huan Vu: to help find funds for the construction of a desperately needed community center at an HIV/AIDS Hospice in Tijuana, Mexico. Then to travel to Tijuana in the summer to help construct it.
Vu, a senior software engineer at PayPal in San Jose, just needed to connect his employer’s charitable giving program, PayPal Gives, with the non-profit, Brothers and Sisters in Community Service (BASICS), which facilitates social justice-oriented immersion experiences and construction projects for the poor, both locally in the Diocese and across the border.
A few months later, Vu’s dream is being realized. Members of PayPal Gives, BASICS, and the Tijuana Ministry met on January 31 to hand-off a $10,000 check that will benefit an area of North America that is home to some of Jesus’ poorest, sickest, and “least of these” of the Gospel.
The project is desperately needed. Albergue Las Memorias A.C., an AIDS residential hospice in eastern Tijuana, Mexico, needs a community building because they have outgrown their existing space. This is the only AIDS hospice in all of Baja California, serving over 100 residents who have no other means of care and support. A new 20’ x 48’ building will allow them to host classes, meetings, and memorial services for those who have died.
In addition, the women at the hospice are fundraising for sewing machines to make school uniforms for local children and clothing for other residents. The community room could serve as sewing space. There is also a woodshop where some build items such as dog-houses for sale. In this way, everyone gets involved in strengthening the community, both inside and outside the hospice. And although poor, members can contribute time and talent to ensure that the hospice will continue to help others in the future.
The grant will pay for half of the construction project, while the rest will be fundraised by BASICS. Its founder, Deacon Bob Malone, says, “This hospice is a clear example of where the community comes to work together, to help each other, and to give purpose and dignity to everyone involved.”
Vu had been fundraising and volunteering for BASICS, and he traveled on their Tijuana Ministry immersion trip last summer, along with a hundred other volunteers, to build several homes and to run outreach programs for local women and children. Visiting the struggling AIDS hospice left him with a profound desire to help.
The grant was recommended by the San Jose PayPal Gives Team and awarded from corporate contributions through PayPal Gives Corporate Advised Fund at Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
Karin Ikavalko, GIVE team Co-Chair, said that employee involvement is a key consideration when reviewing the many grant proposals received. “John’s dedication to this project and support of BASICS was most inspiring to us,” said Ikavalko.
Vu welcomes his PayPal coworkers and others to join in the effort.
The Tijuana Ministry, via the BASICS organization, is truly a life-changing experience, for both its volunteers and for those whom it serves. Trip dates are June 24-July 1 and July 8-15. Applications close on March 15. Find out more at TijuanaMinistry.org.