In photo above, Luke Anderson looks at a photo of his sister, Sophia, with Misael, a child they met at the garbage dump in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Luke T. Anderson was 11 and his sister, Sophia Anderson, was 14 when they first visited Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in 2014 on a family vacation with their parents, Camille and Scott, all members of Holy Spirit Parish in Fairfield.
They were excited to have fun at the beaches and experience the local customs. But they soon noticed the extreme poverty of the kids, especially in villages surrounding the resorts.
The family was staying at a hotel owned by local philanthropists who were offering a promotion. Visitors could get discounts on drinks and food if they took the time to visit the small village a half hour away, where some 200 families lived in a garbage dump.
Families scrounge up an income from metal and other recyclables from the trash heap and also gather materials for their homes. They were “living amidst the waste,” Sophia says, cooking over open fires. Children running were around without shoes over broken glass and their clothes were just short of rags.
“It tugged at our heartstrings and sobered us to the reality of what many people in Mexico were living day to day,” recalls Sophia, known affectionately as Pia. “We couldn’t bring the kids back with us, but we could do a small act of kindness.” They went to Walmart, bought ice cream and returned to give the kids scoops in plastic cups. A child named Misael came to Pia with a half-melted scoop and offered it to her saying, “Para Ti,” (for you).
The Andersons thought it was ironic that this place was named “Street of Hope” (La Calle de la Esperanza). When they returned home, Luke and Pia started small fundraising efforts, receiving overwhelming support from their classmates and families at Holy Spirit School and parishioners. Though young teens at the time, in 2015 they co-founded the nonprofit Para Ti Global (For You Global), inspired by Misael’s simple words, to raise money for the “Street of Hope,” as well as for people in the Philippines, where Camille was raised.
Six years later, Para Ti Global (PTG) is carrying out many projects managed by the Anderson family, pursuing the mission of helping children in poverty through one or more of three pillars: provide, prepare and protect.
Among its projects, PTG holds monthly meals in the Philippines and goes on several mission trips to specific areas in Mexico every year. Special missions included the “2020 Christmas Toy Drive” and “Typhoon Relief” projects. In April 2020, “Project Protect: Stop the Spread, Spread the Love” was launched, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as many of the usual activities such as mission trips to Mexico were disrupted. So far, PTG has provided more than 25,000 masks to combat the spread of COVID-19, distributing them in Mexico, the Philippines and California, including 350 masks in February to Holy Spirit School, many donated by alumni of Holy Spirit. In April, the Philippines COVID-19 Hunger Relief Project was launched, as, due to the pandemic, many families are experiencing extreme food insecurity, causing thousands to go hungry.
Both alumni of Holy Spirit School, Luke, 18, is president of PTG and Pia, 21, is chief executive officer and outreach director. Both devout Catholics, they share without hesitation how their Catholic faith, family values and dedication to service permeate everything they do. They live their lives by the corporal works of mercy and the teachings of Jesus.
“Faith has always been completely present in my life,” says Luke, a 2021 graduate of De La Salle High School in Concord and a freshman at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., majoring in biology. “The world is a complex place, and it doesn’t always make sense. I remind myself to have faith in God’s plan.” He takes his inspiration from Proverbs 3:5 (“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding …”) and Jeremiah 29:11 (“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to give you hope and a future’”).
Faith is necessary for much of the work done by PTG. “When we go to Mexico, the joy you get from helping is coupled by feelings of sadness and even anger at the situations of young children in such poor circumstances,” he says. “At times like this, I lean heavily on my trust in God. I truly believe God is love, from 1 John 4:18. ‘When you act with love you can help other people feel the presence of God.’”
“My faith is the root of everything I do,” says Pia, a graduate of Carondelet High School in Concord and now a senior at Pepperdine University in Malibu. She is a dual major in biology and Hispanic studies and waiting for acceptance to medical school. She is captain of Pepperdine’s Division 1 swim and dive team.
“I try my best to demonstrate compassion, love and kindness, the way we learned growing up in the church, the way that Jesus gave to people around him, despite what they could or could not give back to him,” says Pia, who has a love for children all over the globe. She is fluent in Tagalog and Spanish and connects with her international family through language and music. “Whether in service, academics or athletics, everything I do is a testament to God. Putting my best foot forward, I am a representative of God, an instrument through which he gets his work done or shows his mission.”
Her charitable orientation developed after a hospitalization for sepsis caused by food-borne bacteria while visiting Manila as a young girl. Upon recovering, she wondered what might happen to others unable to access medical care, and later education. She has been on some 30 mission trips with PTG over the years.
Luke and Pia learned the corporal works of mercy early in life from Scott, who was a doctor to prisoners for a large part of his career. PTG projects feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, give drink to the thirsty and clothe the naked, they note.
“These are central to our lives and our personal missions,” Pia says. “We do our best to fulfill children’s needs, doing so without any expectations of something in return. PTG for us is a manifestation of our calling to follow in Jesus’ footsteps to love, be kind to one another, to be non-discriminatorily compassionate and foster an environment of inclusivity. Jesus would sit and eat with anybody, not just those he felt were the same as him. My faith is ingrained in all we do.”
Taking Matthew 25:40 (“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”) to heart and mind, Luke encourages all to “go out of your way every day and help someone in poverty. If you can help somebody in a worse situation than you, even in the most minor way, that’s living a life of faith and doing service to those in need.”
Scott and Camille are also intimately involved with PTG. Scott, an internal medicine physician in Fairfield, who performed research in Mexico for his doctorate in medical anthropology, advises PTG on medical issues. Camille serves as vice president and secretary, with her lifelong connection to the Philippines. Bicultural and bilingual, she learned the importance of service from her Filipino parents, family medicine doctors from Manila, transplanted to West Virginia in the early 1960s.
“Charity starts from home. I learned it from my parents, and I’ve taught Luke and Pia to be compassionate and caring,” Camille says. “They both want to be doctors to provide for the needy. You cannot force someone to serve and be kind to others. This is something they have in their hearts. Their strong faith is what built PTG. Their faith and religion and the values they’ve learned have prepared them to be the people they are.”
What are future plans for Luke and Pia? Both intending to become physicians, they hope to emphasize the medical aspects of PTG, expand its mission and find ways to administer aid and intervene medically in underserved communities and countries.
“I didn’t envision at all what PTG has become, but I’m excited to see where we are going,” Pia says. “We will continue to emphasize inclusivity, diversity and the granting of opportunity, underlying values so that anyone anywhere can have the opportunity to improve their own conditions.”
Luke, who hopes to become a cardiothoracic surgeon after graduating from Georgetown University, wants to live his life according to the motto of the Society of Jesus, For the greater glory of God. (Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam).
“My major is the biology of global health,” he says. “It’s a bit unique and plays with Georgetown’s strength, biology plus policy work.”
Together, Pia and Luke plan to bring hope and healing to as many people as they can, both with PTG and in their careers. They take heart in following Christ’s command to care for those most in need.
The mission of Para Ti Global:
PROVIDE, PREPARE, PROTECT
Para Ti Global pursues its mission through several different avenues, founded upon its three pillars: provide, prepare and protect. Under these categories, the organization carries out nutritional, educational and medical support projects.
PROVIDE: Through regular feedings and fundraising for essential items, Para Ti Global supports impoverished regions in the Philippines and Mexico. “Before a child can strive for academic excellence, he or she must have his/her basic needs met first. A fed child is a happy child, and a happy child is in the right emotional headspace for scholarly success.”
PREPARE: Para Ti Global sponsors students locally and internationally through scholarships, school supply donations, after-school programs, interview preparation and more, so that “an educated child is armed with the most powerful tools to combat the cycle of poverty.”
PROTECT: Beginning with its medical mission trip in Puerto Vallarta, Pari Ti Global helps combat the COVID-19 pandemic, administering personal protective equipment to thousands of children and families in the U.S., Mexico and the Philippines. “Quality health care can truly bolster the quality of life of any child.”
Para Ti Global launched the Philippines COVID-19 Hunger Relief Project in April 2021. Due to the pandemic, many families, particularly in the Philippines, are experiencing extreme food insecurity, causing thousands to go hungry.
Para Ti Global goes on several mission trips each year to Puerto Vallarta to provide school supplies, food, clothing, toys and more to impoverished children.
About Para Ti Global’s mission and projects at www.paratiglobal.org.