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She helps make their house a home

In an exceptionally tough economic year like this one, it’s easy to understand why folks would want to scale back their charity work, both in terms of time and money. After all, people need to take care of themselves first, right?

Well, that’s so not the way Bruin Angels think. If anything, tough times push these special individuals to work even harder to help those in need. Each year, UCLA Today honors these employees who donate their time and effort to causes near and dear to their hearts. Some of these charitable deeds were done at holiday time; some were done all year 'round. In all cases, these acts of giving were performed outside of their full-time jobs.
Meet one such altruistic Bruin. We salute you for your inspiring work. Well done!


Teresa Valenzuela 3902For 40 young girls in Sonora, Mexico, Casa Hogar de Nias is more than just a communal place to live — it’s a home. A refuge for girls ages 4-16 whose families can no longer take care of them, Casa Hogar provides schooling and stability for those with troubled family lives.

“Some of the girls may have parents who are on drugs or who may have other issues. And some of them may have abusive parents they need to get away from,” said Teresa Valenzuela, student services coordinator for the School of Nursing’s undergraduate program. “Casa Hogar is a place of solace for them.”

Valenzuela’s family has been involved with Casa Hogar since 1994, when Erasmo Hernandez, Valenzuela’s grandfather, first started raising funds for the facility. Today, several members of Valenzuela’s family — led by her uncle, Javier Hernandez — help raise money and also collect items such as toys and backpacks for the girls.

Each family member has a role, and for her part, Valenzuela works with fellow members of the UCLA Latino Staff and Faculty Association to collect toys at the group’s annual posada and toy drive. After the event, Valenzuela takes the toys to her uncle’s house for delivery to Casa Hogar.

“Sometimes I don’t even think about all the things I’m doing, and then I remember, this is why we’re doing it. We’re doing it for the girls who need it,” Valenzuela said. “And why not? They get the guidance, they get the education. It’s all done in the Catholic faith, but I think if anything, it’s done in the faith of being good people and helping others.”
— Wendy Soderburg
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