Sunday, March 8, 2009


                                                SOFIA ABIGAIL GONZALES RIVAS

Sofia in 2008

We are so sad to tell you that last weekend, Sofia, one of our brightest stars in the scholarship program was killed in a terrible car accident. Sofia, just 18, was going to Tepic with a carload of people to have an ultrasound, having learned that she was two months pregnant. An overloaded sugar cane truck veered into their land and crushed 2 cars head on.

Sofia was the youngest of the three daughters of Chela and Leo, owners of Kokobongos Restaurant. She had been married to her childhood sweetheart, Oscar, for three years. Oscar was in the car, but uninjured. Sofia and Oscar were both attending High School at La Prepa Saturday Adult Education Program, and she worked in a local resort as well as the family restaurant.

Sofia was very bright and extremely motivated. She was taking English classes four mornings a week and participating in EBACH, the scholarship student's club. She was to graduate in 2010 and planned to go on to University and get a degree in psychology or law.

Alicia, another young woman from our village, the daugher of Gloria of the restaurant Tres Hermanas, was killed also, as well as her 3- year-old daughter. Gloria's mother, who was also in the car, died in the hospital several days later. Chacala has been devastated from these deaths, and we all have been in mourning since the accident.

It was heartbreaking to watch the three caskets being carried into the church on the day of the funeral mass. People overflowed into the church yard and the surrounding streets. When the funeral procession passed through Las Varas on the way to the cemetary, people were lined up on the streets there to join the procession. Both young women and the child were known and loved by so many.

This family has had more than its share of tragedy. Chela and Leo are pillars of strength. Carolina, Sofia's oldest sister, was home from University for the week, Karina and her husband, Orlando and their baby are here, as well as Mario and Hector, her younger brothers. Rosaries are being held at the family restaurant twice a day for nine days, as is the tradition here.


Last Friday, a fundraising dinner was held at Casa Pacifica. Mary Jane Rintelman and Ben Laird, of Marina Chacala, have taken the reins of a new fundraising committee, and gathered about 30 people from Marina Chacala at the dinner to hear about Cambiando Vidas and our programs. They heard mostly, of course, about our need for donations and scholarships sponsors. Mariana told the group that we currently have 3 students who have lost their donors due to the economic conditions in North America, and we have 9 more on the waiting list. Some of them have been participating in EBACH and working in the community service program for over a year. The delicious Italian dinner was prepared by volunteers Serena and Richard Laskin, Karina Shecter, and Marcel, visitors to Chacala and supporters of Cambiando Vidas.

Amazingly, Chela and Leo, Sophia's parents, and Carolina, her sister, and Mario, her brother, arrived after dinner to speak to the group in Sophia's honor about the importance of the program to their family. Alonso and Gaby, other star students, also spoke about their experiences in the program.

The dinner was a huge success and we are hoping for many donations.

Alonso, past president of EBACH with Mario, Chela, and Carolina, family of Sophia


The cost to sponsor a student is $720 a year. You can share a student for $360. Please see more details about this on our website at We are grateful, of course, for donations of any size.

You can make a contribution by mailing a check to Cambiando Vidas, 245 Mt. Hermon Rd., PMB 312, Scotts Valley, Ca. 95066 OR by using PayPal on our web site, THANKS!