Elba Hererra de Venta, a woman from Venezuela who had gathered over 300 children off the streets of Venezuela, came to the United States in 2004 with a priest who needed medical treatment. While the priest, Father Alfredo Leon, was receiving physical therapy from Michele Capelle at St. Joseph's Hospital in Highland, IL, Elba shared her story about the children she was helping. Michele Capelle and Elba became good friends during that visit and over the next couple years. In 2006 Elba returned to the Highland area and it was shortly after that that Michele decided to get together a group of volunteers to raise money to help Elba on this mission. Initally the effort was called Operation Elba's Orphans and only helped children living in the homes with the Missionaries of Charity. That has evolved into a larger scope as those children have grown older and are either more spread out around the country or have left to go out on their own.
Elba's story is compelling. One day in the 1980's Elba was walking in a park on her way to church when she heard a noise coming from a pile of trash bags. Elba looked to see where the noise was coming from and it was an infant covered with rat bites. Elba got the attention of a nearby police officer and was told to leave the baby in the trash because it was going to die. Elba couldn't do that. She took the child to the hospital, had the child baptized and was there for him when he died. While Elba spoke with the nurses at the hospital she learned that there were many kids that were being abandoned and had nowhere to go. Elba told the nurses that if a child was brought in that needed a home, she would take it. Over time, Elba gathered several children into her home. Eventually she needed help and she enlisted the help of the Missionaries of Charity. The children now live in homes owned and operated by the Sisters and Elba does what she can to get help for them.
The Missionaries of Charity, the organization founded by Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta, has seven homes in Venezuela from which the poor and needy of all ages are served. Stewards of Hope International assists them by sending supplies as often as we can. The Sisters care for several disabled children and young adults as well as elderly men and women. They also have homes in which healthy children are cared for. In addition to that they try to help the communities around them.
Since 2008, Stewards of Hope International has sent over $250,000 in money and needed supplies to help the people in need in Venezuela. We are thankful for all of the hard work that has been put into this mission by many very dedicated volunteers. Our volunteer board of directors and additional volunteers have put in countless hours over the past 12 years to make this effort a success. We are also extremely thankful to all the individual donors and sponsors that help to provide the financial support needed to make such an impact on the needy in Venezuela. We will continue to work hard to continue this mission for years to come.