A Very Special Camper

You would love 10-year old Sofia
if you met her.

She is smart, funny and endlessly kind . . .
in spite of a life that’s been filled with hardships.

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Last winter, she fled from her native Venezuela with her mother and younger sister due to deteriorating living conditions and rising crime in her neighborhood.

They are safe now but money is tight. Sofia’s mother used to be a teacher in Venezuela… now she works in a cafeteria. Her father who is still in Venezuela sends money to the family every month, but the Venezuelan dollar is weak so his money doesn’t go far.

In June, Lifting Up Westchester received a letter from Sofia’s teachers. They had raised $190 to send Sofia to camp. They knew it wasn’t enough but they also knew that Sofia’s family couldn’t afford to pay even a small portion of the camp fee - Sofia had sometimes told them that she couldn’t go on field trips because there was no money to pay for them.

Sofia’s teachers wondered if we could help.

Because of the generosity of our donors, Sofia was able to receive a camp scholarship and attend our Brighter Futures Summer Camp. She spent four weeks playing kickball, swinging from the monkey bars, splashing in the pool and making memories. Camp gave her a brief respite from her troubles at home and allowed her to just have fun.

Sofia doesn’t speak much English but that didn’t stop her from making friends . . . all of the campers liked her. Perhaps it was because she was always smiling.

On the second week of camp, Sofia won the award for Camper of the Week. She burst into tears!

We can’t think of anyone more deserving of the award.

Tara has been a resident of
Westchester County her entire life . . .

She never imagined that one day
she would become homeless.


Born and raised in White Plains, Tara was a junior in college when an unexpected family emergency forced her to take a leave of absence.

Her mother had fallen and broken her hip and Tara needed to act as her caretaker during a long recovery period. Tara never returned to complete her college degree however she later registered at Manhattanville College and became a paralegal, a profession she practiced for over 20 years.

Just as things seemed to be turning around, Tara was diagnosed with cancer. She had two major surgeries that ultimately affected her ability to walk and she had to find a new apartment with fewer stairs and more handicapped accessible features. The search was difficult but there was a silver-lining; after months of chemotherapy and radiation, Tara’s cancer was in finally in remission.

Though her health was improving, she was still not strong enough to return to work.   Bills and rent continued to pile up. Although she was able to secure some support from Social Security and Disability, it was not enough to cover all of her expenses.

 Eventually, Tara found herself homeless.

With nowhere else to turn, Tara entered the Volunteers of America emergency shelter. From there, she was transferred to Samaritan House, Lifting Up Westchester’s women’s shelter. During her stay there, Tara’s Case Manager Denise worked to find housing that was both affordable and could accommodate her health needs.

“I really love my case worker, Denise – she was the first person in a long time since I had become homeless that treated me with respect, dignity and was always listening and trying to help me get back on track.”

Just as she settled into her new apartment, Tara learned that her cancer had spread. She became very ill quickly. Extended stays in the hospital became routine and Tara yearned to return to the comforts of her own home.

Denise made her wish a reality by arranging visits from a Home Health Aide from our Neighbors Home Care Services Program. Tara’s aide helps her remember all of her appointments and Tara cannot imagine life without her.

“I knew I was ill but all I wanted to do was come home from the hospital…
Lifting Up Westchester made it possible… Lifting Up Westchester has saved my life.”