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  • Bolivia 1

    How the Built Environment Can Affect Positive Change

    Melia with some children of the Hogar Sagrado Corazón orphanage

    Before coming to Opticos in 2012, designer Melia West spent a year volunteering at the Hogar Sagrado Corazón orphanage in Montero, Bolivia. The orphanage, which opened in 1982, provides a home to around 120 girls that have been abandoned, orphaned, or victims of abuse. Melia lived side by side with the girls while running the library, helping them with their homework, and organizing events like birthday parties and a Christmas celebration. She also ran a sponsorship program and helped the girls keep in touch with their foreign sponsors. “I was inspired to volunteer after college because of my faith. My time at the Hogar was very challenging, and stretched me in every aspect of myself. However, I received far more than I could have given, and the love of the girls has forever changed me,” said Melia.

    Original construction of the orphanage began some 40 years ago and due to humidity, dust, rain, and insect infestation, many of the buildings are crumbling and dilapidated. With barely enough money for the day-to-day needs of the girls, renovations have been slow, though construction has been ongoing—indeed, a trusted group of construction workers are the only male figures in most of the girls’ lives and those men are regarded as family.

    Hogar Sagrado Corazón orphanage ballet room

    Earlier this year, Opticos made a donation to the orphanage specified for construction projects as part of our B Corp goals. As a Certified B Corporation, Opticos is committed to sustainable business, meeting rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. “We at Opticos know that we are a small part of a much larger whole. We feel truly thankful to be able to support places like the Hogar Sagrado Corazón orphanage and the girls who live there,” said principal Karen Parolek.

    The director of the school, Sister Rosario Huanca, sees a direct correlation between the built environment in which the girls live and their self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Malnutrition has lead to poor posture and bone structure; the girls are taught ballet to correct these deformities. Sister Rosario’s dream of having a room dedicated to the practice of ballet will finally be realized this year with the help of Opticos’s donation. “The ballet room in the Hogar is part of occupational therapy where the girls exercise, not only for dancing, but to correct their posture and deformations from poor nutrition,” said Sister Rosario.

    Hogar Sagrado Corazón orphanage plansOther ongoing projects include repairing the roofs of several dormitories and rebuilding the bathrooms and a covered area for drying clothes. Any further funds will be used toward future projects, including renovation of the infirmary, psychologist’s office, visitor’s room, and the social worker’s office. “A thousand thanks [to Opticos] for sharing and being a part of us; the improvements and construction of this environment does so much good for these little ones, who in their short lives, already know and feel the pain of abandonment, and who lack love. Thank you for loving us so much,” wrote Sister Rosario in a recent.

    Melia plans to return to Bolivia in November to visit Hogar Sagrado Corazón and bring some much-need items to the girls. For more information, or if you would like to help support the Hogar Sagrado Corazón, visit their website.

    Opticos became one of the first Certified B Corporations in 2007, and in 2012, became one of 12 initial California Benefit Corporations. Opticos was recently named to the B Corp 2013 Best for Workers list, putting the company among the top 10% of all B Corps that create a positive impact for their workers.

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