HILDA PACHECO-TAYLOR, 47
Hilda was an 8-year-old in Ensenada, Mexico, when her father abandoned the family and her mom-who labored all day making tortillas-had no choice but to place Hilda and her siblings in orphanages. Grief-stricken at first, Hilda bonded with her caregivers and thrived, ultimately getting her GED and becoming a successful aerospace-industry executive in California. On a trip to Mexico in 1993, she discovered her old orphanage was broken-down and short of food. “It was heartbreaking,” says Hilda, now a married mom of two grown children.
Yearning to repay the kindness she’d been shown, she founded Corazon de Vida (corazondevida.org). Soliciting donations, she’s raised $5.5 million for food, medicine and education at 14 Baja orphanages. Leading volunteers on monthly visits, Hilda holds out her own life as proof that a tough start doesn’t stop big dreams. “She encourages us to make something of our lives,” says Isidro Escobar, 24, who grew up in an orphanage and is now finishing law school. “She lives to help others.”
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