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Border crisis spurs action: Belmont teen collects donations for refugees
August 04, 2014, 05:00 AM By Angela Swartz Daily Journal

Julia Tognotti eats breakfast with a 17-year-old boy from Honduras at the Kino Border Initiative. The boy traveled two months to get to the United States-Mexico border.

Tognotti organizes a shipment of donations at her father’s Brisbane office.

What started as a mere interest in a fourth period Spanish 3 class has transformed into a full-fledged charity project for 17-year-old Julia Tognotti of Belmont.

Tognotti, an incoming senior at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco, started learning about the thousands of child refugees at the Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico border fleeing and trying to escape violence, drug cartels and gangs. In mid-June, she headed down to the border with her dad and two friends to see if they could help with the growing immigration crisis.

“I watched a documentary on kids traveling up from South America and started realizing how young these kids are,” she said. “I begged my dad to go — every week I reminded him. … I collected donations, then started getting some money and ended up having 12 boxes.”

Once at the border, she realized how quickly the children go through all of the items, so she decided to regularly ship boxes of tennis shoes, women’s undergarments, sweaters, jeans, toothpaste and other necessities to the children. While volunteering at a shelter for migrants in Nogales, Mexico called Kino Border Initiative, she met a boy who struggled to get up north from Honduras. She just shipped 14 boxes to them the other day. Local neighbors in San Mateo and Belmont have donated more than 3,000 items to this cause.

“I had no idea that so many people would donate,” she said. “Every day we opened the door (to our house) and there were bags on our porch. It took me eight to nine trips to put all the bags in the car. It was really overwhelming, but it was amazing.”

Tognotti is glad to see the positive effects of her work. As part of her first shipment, she included a bunch of T-shirts she had lying around.

“I saw people around the town wearing them,” she said. “It was great to see them being put to good use.”

She stayed in Arizona and crossed the border each morning to help the refugees.

The teen is no stranger to volunteering. She spends a good amount of her time as a volunteer for the National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy, a horse therapy center in Woodside, the American Cancer Society and the Haven Family House in Menlo Park. She is also part of the National Charity League. She hopes to work in nonprofit sector after college.

“I want to go back there (the border) and bring more kids down from SI (St. Ignatius),” she said. “It’s more of an educational trip than service. It’s very important for young people to learn about this — we’re going to be the ones voting.”

Still, although there is much discussion about the legal and political issues surrounding immigration, she notes that she is not taking a position on immigration, nor assisting anyone to break laws or gain entry into the United States. She said she wants to help people in need and suffering, and to raise awareness about their situation. Americans hear about refugees all over the world, but many Americans do not realize that they have their own refugee crisis on the southern border, she said.

Tognotti hopes to go back to the border at the beginning of the fall. To find out how to help, visit Donations can be sent to: Monster Products c/o Julia Tognotti, 455 Valley Drive, Brisbane, California 94005.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 105



Tags: border, tognotti, about, people, started, refugees,

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Border crisis spurs action: Belmont teen collects donations for refugees
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