Not all gifts will be delivered by sleigh this year, some will come by way of vessel! On Wednesday, December 19, 2018, the Port of Hueneme concluded a three-month long effort to fill a shipping container with donated school supplies and goods to help children in need living in Guatemala. In partnership with the ILWU Local 46, Chiquita, and El Lustrador Foundation; the Port launched the “Fill the Container Challenge” at their Annual Banana Festival back in September.

René Corado of El Lustrador Foundation and Oxnard Harbor Commission Secretary Jess Ramirez pose with René’s granddaughter at the “Fill the Container” kickoff at September’s Banana Festival

“This summer, it was brought to my attention that there was a need for these children in Guatemala to have school supplies and clothing so they could go to school and have a chance at a better life,” said Jess Ramirez, Oxnard Harbor District Commissioner. “It really hit home for me, and I am grateful that our Port and ILWU Local 46 was able to spearhead the effort and bring real help to these children in need. We not only want to help our children have the chance to learn and chase their dreams, we want children all over the world to be able to as well.”

Local student volunteers, Port Commissioners and staff and other community members pose in front of the Chiquita shipping container during the donation sorting event earlier this month. 

The Port stepped up with the community to donate enough supplies and goods to fill the entire 40 foot long container. They also needed to sort and pack the donated supplies to pass customs inspection once it arrives in Guatemala. The inspirational effort concluded on December 8 as students and volunteers from across Ventura County lent a hand to help sort and package the supplies and goods.

Local student volunteers and other community members sort, fold and box donations bound for Guatemala earlier this month. 

“It was a wonderful sight to see not just the amount of donations we received, but how many of our youth came to help pack and sort the supplies for the container. We had students from all over Oxnard, Camarillo, Port Hueneme, and Ventura give their Saturday to help,” said Kristin Decas, Port of Hueneme CEO & Port Director. “Their willingness to give to children they have never met living in another country is inspiring, and really put us all in the holiday spirit. I want to commend our community, customers, and labor partners for coming together for this cause.”

Oxnard Harbor Commission Secretary Jess Ramirez (7th from left); Oxnard Harbor Commission Vice President Jess Herrera (11th from left); Port Director & CEO Kristin Decas (9th from left); René Corado, El Lustrador Foundation (4th from right); Warren Shelton, ILWU Local 46 Union President (12th from right); ILWU Local 46 Dispatch John Merrill (8th from left); Nives de Luca, Chiquita (far right); Port staff; Ports America and other partners of the Port

The container and space on the vessel, donated by one of the Port’s customers Chiquita, left the Port of Hueneme aboard a Chiquita vessel on Wednesday headed for Puerto Quetzal, the major West Coast Port of Guatemala. Upon arrival, Port delegation will meet the container in Guatemala and see its delivery to the school children living at the Zona Tres trash dump on the outskirts of Guatemala City. The Port has partnered with El Lustrador Foundation to disperse the goods and supplies to over 200 children and families living and working in Zona Tres.

El Lustrador was founded by René Corado, who currently resides in Oxnard, CA. He himself was born in Guatemala and lived as one of those children living off the trash dump. Once in the United States, Rene vowed to not forget about where he came from and those he left behind in Zona Tres. He has dedicated his work to be able to help pay for the children of Zona Tres to attend school and find a way to a better life.

Oxnard Harbor Commission Secretary Jess Ramirez speaks at the container sendoff event

“I want commend the Port for their leadership to shine a spotlight on this need,” said René Corado. “The contents of this container not only will help the very low income children of Guatemala with material things, but it will also show them that there are good people in the world and that it is worthwhile to continue to work for their dreams.” El Lustrador Foundation provides scholarships for these children to attend school in the afternoons and help their parents on the trash dump in the mornings. Over 200 students and their families will directly benefit from this container of supplies and goods coming from the Port.

René Corado, El Lustrador Foundation; Nives de Luca, Chiquita

Guatemala is a top trading partner with the Port of Hueneme, importing and exporting over 313 million tons of cargo annually. Most of the cargo is bananas and various fresh produce, including those from Port customer Chiquita.

Nives de Luca, Senior Manager of Port Operations for Chiquita said, “Chiquita aspires to be a ‘Good Neighbor,’ and is committed to making a difference in the community. We want to leverage our global recognition and the reach of our Blue Sticker, especially when it comes to promoting the health and education of children in need. We are thankful to the Port of Hueneme for inviting us to participate in this event.”

The leadership of the ILWU Local 46 were also present to wish the container a safe journey down to Guatemala, many of the union members brought in donations and assisted in packing the container itself.

Warren Shelton, ILWU Local 46 Union President stated, “I want to thank everyone who participated, especially the community and the union, and everybody else. Because it took a lot of people to make this happen. I know the Port staff worked really hard…Thank you Chiquita for hauling it there, and getting it there. And, then we also have the other part of this, people going down to Guatemala to volunteer to distribute this. I wish all those guys a good trip.”

Caption for top photo: The container carrying donations to Guatemala is loaded onto the Chiquita vessel