Story by Marianne Salza
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many local families have been grappling with food insecurity and relocation, among a multitude of adversities. Remote classrooms are challenging to navigate; and Malden Catholic High School (MCHS) sophomore, Alondra Enciso Torres of Revere, aspires to aid other students and their families in accessing vital resources.
“A tremendous number of families are struggling during this global pandemic, so it is important that we help these families,” asserted 15-year-old Alondra. “I cannot imagine how hard it has been for children who are younger and just getting started with school to experience virtual learning without the necessary technology.”
Alondra established La Colaborativa Club at MCHS on April 8 to serve families in need and discuss means of helping the increasing number of families experiencing homelessness due to the pandemic. The group has quickly become one of the largest clubs at MCHS, with 45 members, and on April 15-16, La Colaborativa Club hosted Dress Down Days to benefit families in the community.
Malden Catholic students are taught to live by the five Xaverian core values of humility, simplicity, compassion, trust, and zeal. Through La Colaborativa Club, members are inspired by these virtues, and are working together to make a difference.
“This pandemic has made it difficult for families to provide basic needs for their children, and in some cases, it has forced evictions, which can be from four to six cases a day,” explained Alondra,. “I wanted to create a club that could support these families by fundraising and donating goods.”
When the pandemic began, Alondra’s parents lost their jobs; and through social media, her mother, Cinthya Torres, learned about the Chelsea organization, La Colaborativa, an immigrant-friendly program that provides essential items to residents in Chelsea, East Boston, Lynn, Malden, and surrounding neighborhoods.
Initially, La Colaborativa Executive Director, Gladys Vega, was distributing boxes of food from her home. In March, during the peak of the pandemic, Alondra and Cinthya — along with others — joined Ms. Vega in her mission to compassionately care for the people of Chelsea; and now La Colaborativa volunteers operate out of Pan Y Café, a coffee shop in Cary Square, Chelsea.
“When I volunteered, I felt a sense of connection and purpose. There is nothing more powerful than helping those around you,” Alondra expressed. “I now go to the organization regularly, helping tenants facing eviction and distributing food and diaper distribution.”
Vega, who is astonished by the amount of students involved in La Colaborativa Club, feels blessed and grateful for Alondra and Cinthya’s focus, determination, and nurturing compassion. The ladies make critical deliveries to homebound individuals, many of whom are unable to pay rent.
“I was extremely happy and impressed by the number of students in the club,” said Vega, who recalled when Alondra and Cinthya noticed an elderly woman who had exhausted her savings, and was shoeless, waiting in line at the food bank. “They’re sensitive with the most fragile members of the community, and are able to identify other needs that families may not be requesting.”
Vega is touched by Alondra’s initiative and ability to encourage other students to join her efforts in helping those most vulnerable. She also commended MCHS administrators for their support of the club.
“When Alondra outlined her goals in a meeting for La Colaborativa Club,” explained Vega. “The leaders at Malden Catholic immediately accepted Alondra’s proposal. It’s been an amazing project ever since.”
Alondra is a member of the MCHS cross country and track teams, Students in Action, and Make-A-Wish Club, and is also a Latin ballroom dancer. She hopes to continue expanding La Colaborativa Club, and is looking forward to safely volunteering with her classmates in person at La Colaborativa.
La Colaborativa Club is planning a toiletry drive later this month to collect feminine products, toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouth wash, soap, and shampoo.
“As a daughter of immigrants, it warms my heart to help people gain access to the resources they need,” said Alondra. “We are a nation of immigrants. In these hard times, we are called to work together – all races, genders, and religions – to help each other. I founded this club so that we can directly interact with families in need on a personal level, and provide them with as much support as possible.”
Learn more about La Colaborativa at https://www.la-colaborativa.org/ and visit https://secure.actblue.com/donate/la-colaborativa to make donations.