Happy Community Initiative supports qualified after-school programs: “This program helped me in everything, it built me strong”

Alexa Perez Vallecilla, 18, participated in the after-school program of the Heart-Centered Leadership Foundation (HCLF) which is based in San Nicolas. The Happy Community Initiative (HCI) is looking for your support to help more youngsters on our island stay on the right track by setting up these qualified after-school programs. “This program is meant for students that have certain difficulties at school. They have concentration issues and loss of focus, due to either a disturbed domestic situation or certain traumas they went through in the past.”

For Alexa, her home situation was problematic, and she felt left alone. “I was raised by my grandmother in Colombia and I was sent here to my mom’s at the age of 11. But my lifestyle was completely different than hers, and we had many arguments. At school, I did not speak the language and I had to learn three new languages which are Papiamento, Dutch and English. It was so hard because the teachers only spoke those languages, and I only knew Spanish.” She felt alone again and it was difficult for her to connect to other students. “I felt pressure at home as well as at school.” HCLF was there to help as they were collaborating with the school (Colegio Santo Filomena) to support youngsters like Alexa in their struggle.

It’s all about mindset.
“I was very outspoken and expressed myself in a strong way, which made others understand me wrong. I also talked too much,” Alexa says. HCLF helped her take things in another way. “My attitude has its origin from my Latin culture, we have temperament and raise voice easily.” The after-school program was offered to certain students that were selected by the teachers. “Initially I felt embarrassed to receive such an invitation because it seemed like something was wrong with me. That I was a rebel, an outcast.” The program was twice a week at school and she decided to continue although in the beginning she found it a bit strange. “There were these role playing games which occurred childish to me, but then they explained the idea behind it and it is actually amazing. It works psychological and makes you look at things in a different way. It is all about your mindset.” The foundation also provides meals for the students and their mentors are constantly present to work with the students. “Some students left the program not to come back, but I persisted and it had its effect on my life in a very positive way. It showed me the right direction and I see that others are disoriented in life while I am happy. I took another path.” She achieved diplomas of certified leadership courses which are internationally acknowledged and doors were opened to her that she did not imagine could happen in her life before. “This organization is great because youngsters teach youngsters. They are training them to be leaders and help other teens which is effective because I relate way more easily to someone of my age than an older person telling me what to do.”

She has been with the foundation for four years, now. “They completely changed my life with this program. Every day you need to evaluate your day and think of what you did that makes you a better person. I analyze much more now and think of what I say before speaking.” To work in a team is another important asset she has learned. “I was pretty dominant and because I am creative, I most times took everything in my hand. I have learned to share responsibilities now and leave space for others. It helps me in everything, it built me strong!”

Her advice to other young people is to accept your flaws. Be open to help that is being offered. “Many times our parents say they do not want the same life for you as they had and want something better. Listen to them, they say it out of love. Do not hide in stubbornness and rebellion. Strive to better yourself.”

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The Happy Community Initiative is a visitor charity program that you can help strengthen Aruba’s community by donating to good causes. CEDE Aruba, a dynamic community foundation, the Aruba Timeshare Association (ATSA), the Aruba Tourism Authority and several companies collaborate in this platform for visitors who would like to make a donation, but also volunteer in the future. The priority is set to support projects for Aruban youths. CEDE Aruba will make sure that the donations reach meaningful projects of local non-profits, based upon quality and transparency of finances of the offered programs. In this manner, you can be assured that your donation will reach its goal! With your donation, you support Aruban children with after school programs, mentorship activities and social support. You can donate at the kiosks in the lobby of several hotels (Costa Linda, Playa Linda, Casa del Mar, Paradise Beach Villas and La Cabana) or you can donate on the website: https://happycommunityaruba.org/donate.Goal is to raise $110K to set up the program, at this moment $4227.00 is collected. Help us reach our goal!

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