Saturday, April 19, 2008

Did not cross arms and turn away

'I couldn't just cross my arms and turn away'

El Paso, TX native Maria Ruiz knows firsthand how different life can be a mere 30-minute drive south of her Texas home.

"Just by crossing the border, you're in a Third World country," Ruiz said.

For 12 years, she's traveled several times a week to the outskirts of Juarez, Mexico, bringing aid to hundreds of impoverished children and their families.

Ruiz's family has roots in Juarez, but it wasn't until 1996 that she ventured outside the city. There, for the first time, she saw poverty in the extreme. People lived in homes made of wooden pallets. The elementary school was built of makeshift materials and had no running water or electricity. Teachers told her that many children were failing because they were hungry.

"My heart went out to those kids," Ruiz recalled. "I couldn't just cross my arms and turn away from it. I needed to do something."

Ruiz got donations from El Paso businesses, and within one week, she was running a food program out of her home. She cooked meals in her kitchen and drove the food south to the Juarez school. She fed approximately 1,200 children every day for three and a half years, until the businesses she depended on for donations shut down in 1999.

But that didn't stop Ruiz from helping the children in Juarez. Now, working with her husband and two children, she gathers donations from around El Paso -- food, clothing, toys, even furniture -- and distributes them at local "giveaways" a couple of times a month.

For her, helping kids in need is worth the effort “When you make a child smile," she said, "it's awesome."

Ruiz says the children have kept her coming back to Juarez. When she reflects on her work, she doesn't consider herself a hero.

"I know I can do much more."

From CNN

Now I’m sure some of you are going to say, “What about the kids in America? We should be taking care of our own, first!” You are a way. We should be taking care of our kids here in America. We have the richest government in the world and one of the worst records when it comes to taking care of our own kids. Yep, our government has failed our kids. Does that mean we should not help others? I don’t think so. I believe we should help those who we can, regardless of location or nationality. It’s about the kids. So, if you have a problem with this, take it out on your government. There is a little ole election coming up later this year, in case you didn’t don’t “just cross your arms and turn away”



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