Veronica Avalos donates to children in need as part of nonprofit Unity 4 Orphans

Women%27s+soccer+senior+forward+Veronica+Avalos+shown+next+to+bags+of+clothes+she+donated+to+the+nonprofit+organization+Unity+4+Orphans.+Through+the+organization%2C+the+goods+are+delivered+to+children+living+in+orphanages+throughout+Mexico+and+Latin+America.

Courtesy of Veronica Avalos

Women’s soccer senior forward Veronica Avalos shown next to bags of clothes she donated to the nonprofit organization Unity 4 Orphans. Through the organization, the goods are delivered to children living in orphanages throughout Mexico and Latin America.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the U.S., it has affected everyone from all walks of life. At San Diego State, the women’s soccer team had their own season postponed due to the possible risks of contracting the virus since players are in close proximity to each other on the pitch. 

While no student-athletes will make an appearance on the field this fall, many on the team have used this time to make a difference off of it. For example, redshirt sophomore Abbie Rieder started her own nonprofit to donate food to seniors in need.

Senior forward Veronica Avalos also chose to make an impact by donating clothes, food, hygiene products and toys to orphans in Mexico. 

It all started back in mid-January. Avalos regularly attends The Rock Church in San Diego. At the time, she was looking to find a place to volunteer and came across the website of a nonprofit organization called Unity 4 Orphans (U4O). 

The organization allows people to invest in improving the lives of orphans and children within vulnerable communities in Mexico and Latin America, according to their website. People can sign up to take trips across the border to bring donations and spend one-on-one time with the kids. 

“I signed up and I ended up going by myself for one trip, and I fell in love with it,” Avalos told The Daily Aztec. 

Her first trip was to an orphanage called Siempre Para Los Niños in Tijuana. 

Although Avalos was introduced to many children in the orphanage, she developed a special relationship with two girls in particular: Ashley and Ariana.

Avalos understands their everyday struggle of not growing up with a mother to look after them because she knows how valuable her mom is in her life.

Avalos and the Unity 4 Orphans team poses with children living at Siempre Para Los Niños in Tijuana, Mexico. (Courtesy of Joe Brandi)

“It’s really hard because growing up, I had two parents, I went to school, I went through elementary, middle school and high school, but these girls I felt for in a different way,” she said. “Since I’m a girl too, I know it’s hard not to have a mom there with you and not have a sister or girlfriends that introduce you to girly things like makeup and hygiene— type of things that girls get into growing up.”

Ashley and Ariana are two of the older girls in the orphanage, and even though they don’t have a mother to look up to in life, Avalos serves the role of a “mother figure” to them.

“I feel like I’m giving back to these girls, but it’s just more than that, it’s what they need,” she said. “It’s really hard to explain in words what it does, but it’s beyond words, and it’s so vital for them. They need it.”

Avalos aspires to be a role model for these girls because she knows the impact her mom, sisters, friends and even teammates have had on her own life is irreplaceable.

“If it wasn’t for my mom and my sister, I do not know how I would get through high school, middle school and even college,” she said. “Having like girl best friends, our sister figures to me like my team is basically like my family and like not having that, I really do not know where I would be.” 

Now, because of COVID-19, Avalos is unable to spend time with the children at the orphanage. However, she still is able to gather and deliver donations. 

The process goes like this: she begins by contacting family and close friends on social media to see what they can donate. She also buys baby clothes at a thrift store in La Jolla. From there, she then spends two weeks collecting all of the deliveries before dropping them off at Unity 4 Orphans founder and CEO Joe Brandi’s home, who drops the goods off at the orphanage.

Avalos has even inspired other SDSU student-athletes and local community members to help out.  

“I feel very supported by my fellow student-athletes,” she said in a direct message. “Everyone who has donated has made it possible for me to make contributions to the orphanage.”

Avalos said the support she receives from people because of her work with U4O serves as motivation to continue helping out these orphans.

Avalos helps load bags and suitcases onto a bus before the Unity 4 Orphans team embarks on a drive to Siempre Para Los Niños in Tijuana, Mexico. (Courtesy of Joe Brandi)

“I also feel encouraged to continue my volunteer work because I always get kind messages about what I do and people started showing interest in joining (Unity 4 Orphans) before COVID-19,” she said.

Brandi said providing people like Avalos with this opportunity to interact with these kids brings a special feeling to his heart.

“It’s just a really, kind of overwhelming or exhilarating experience seeing two worlds connect in just an instant, and that culture and language doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s just like that bond of love. Love with humanity just transcends at all.” 

Head coach Mike Friesen said by donating these clothes and toys to the orphans, Avalos is a special person who0 cares about those who are in need during tough times. 

“I think this says a lot about her as a person just to get outside of herself right now,” Friesen said. “This shows maturity, it shows that she’s willing to do things that aren’t just beneficial for her, but beneficial for other people, and that changes our outlook on life.”

Friesen has also seen Avalos’ actions impact who she is as a person. He said she exudes endless positivity during every moment with the orphans. 

“Quite honestly, it’s creating happiness within her that I’m seeing,” Friesen said. “She’s just growing into this woman and that is exciting to see.”

When it comes to assisting in the deliveries, Avalos isn’t alone. One of her teammates, senior defender/midfielder Phoebe Leitch, heard Avalos was involved in the nonprofit and wanted to help out.  

After Leitch came back to San Diego from her hometown of Forest Row, England in July, she assisted Avalos in gathering clothes from people within the local community– including other SDSU student-athletes.

Avalos and the Unity 4 Orphans team pose during a trip to Siempre Para Los Niños in Tijuana, Mexico. (Courtesy of Joe Brandi)

Leitch wanted to get involved with Avalos to help out those who are living in vulnerable situations during the pandemic.

“I thought it would be a brilliant idea to help disadvantaged children,” Leitch said. “If we can help them make this whole time less stressful and less uncertain, and basically put our time and effort into something that will make it easier for them, it’s a great way to do something with our time and get involved in the community.” 

Leitch said she is pleased to see Avalos excelling in something she cares about so much and has a huge impact on her life. 

“I love it,” Leitch said. “I know it’s very important to her, so I love seeing her thrive and I just thought, ‘Hey, I’m just gonna tag along and see what she loves about it so much,’ and it’s brilliant to see her thrive in such a way.”

Helping these orphans in a time of need holds a special feeling for Avalos. Once the pandemic is over, she hopes to visit the orphanage once a month and take trips to other countries in Latin America to help out other children as part of Unity 4 Orphans.

“I do want to go on a couple of bigger trips,” Avalos said. “I know they do a couple to Nicaragua and it’s very limited space.”

In a time when these orphans and children in need face an immense challenge already, now heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic, Avalos serves as a beacon of hope– a connection– to an escape from the reality they face in everyday life.

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