40-year old Rina Fernandez, a resident of Van Nuys, California and a native of Venezuela, has been spreading the Christmas love to children since 1996. Born to a poor family in Venezuela, Rina only received toys once or twice a year. “Looking back on it now, the toys weren’t very nice at all, but back then, I thought they were the most amazing things ever,” she recalls.
Despite being poor themselves, her father used their free money to buy toys for the other kids in their community who were less fortunate than them. Her father’s simple act of kindness was ingrained deeply in Rina’s heart, and it also served as the inspiration for her to start donating toys.
In 1996, after emigrating to the United States and marrying her husband Jared, Rina decided to start her toy project with a budget of 10,000 USD.
First, Rina does toy runs on secondhand and thrift stores, buying as much toys as she can.
After this, she washes the toys and fixes whatever damage needs to be repaired. According to her, “I’m not going to give them dirty or broken toys. I want them to be the highest quality possible.”
Finally, she packs the toys for distribution to impoverished countries. She does this with the help of family and friends.
The question now is, why is she going through such lengths to give toys to children in far-flung countries? Couldn’t she just donate to charity instead? Her answer, though simple, shots an arrow straight to our hearts.
Seeing the joy and smiles on the children’s faces is what she lives for.
And she’d rather make sure that what she donates reaches her intended recipients, unlike when she donates and she doesn’t know if children really receive her gifts or not. According to her, “The reason I don’t just donate money is because I don’t know where it goes. Will the people who need the money actually get it? At least when I visit these places, I know they’ll get something because I’m the one handing it to them.”
However, her project isn’t exactly cheap; it comes with a hefty tag price. Apart from the cost of the toys itself, the price of her project balloons with the administrative costs. Due to this, Rina and Jared have reached out to the public and partnered with a non-profit organization to manage the administrative and management issues of their project.
Getting toys for Christmas may be a small thing for some, but for Rina’s project beneficiaries, a simple toy goes a long way.
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