'Influencer of the heart' is a surrogate mother to thousands of orphaned kids

BAJA CALIFORNIA, Mexico (KABC) -- Hilda Pacheco is considered an influencer when it comes to matters of the heart. She created Corazon de Vida, a foundation dedicated to helping 10 orphanages filled with thousands of children in Baja California, Mexico.

The inspiration for the foundation stems from Pacheco's personal life story. She was placed in an orphanage herself from the age of 8 through 16. Pacheco traveled with Vista L.A.'s Anabel Munoz back to Mexico, where her story began.

"So the first day we got here it was my sister and I. There were four of us but the orphanage didn't have room for all four of us, they only had room for the two girls and the two boys were placed in another orphanage for a year," Pacheco said.

Pacheco was eventually able to bring her family back together in the U.S. Then, 15 years after she left the orphanage, she returned to the Door of Faith Orphanage for a visit that would change her life, yet again.

"The big contrast was the facility, how the facility looked. The buildings were run down and there were only about 30 kids. I saw that they were serving rice and potato chips because that's all they had to give them. And I looked at them and said 'Is this all they eat?' and they said, 'Yes, because it's all we have,'" Pacheco said.

She realized that in order to help the orphanage, first she had to share her life story. She reached out to her employer and other colleagues in the U.S.

"I never wanted to tell them that I came from an orphanage or anything like that because I never wanted anyone to feel sorry for me," she said. "But I knew that in order to get help for the orphanage, I needed to tell my story and that's what I did."

Her courage paid off. She began fundraising and Corazon de Vida was born. With the foundation's support, the orphanage has been retrofitted with updated buildings, a barber shop, library and homework room.

Corazon de Vida's reach has also expanded to support 10 orphanages throughout Baja California, Mexico, and raises more than $1 million every year.

"Over 25 years we've probably brought down thousands of people. They come to spend time with kids and focus on giving them love and attention. They need arts and crafts," Pacheco said. "So people can see where the need is. You're really helping them change their lives. You're giving them a gift and that gift is a gift of purpose."
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