You might know Jossie Ochoa as the first runner-up on Nuestra Belleza Latina 2014, but the beautiful Guatemalan-American was a "fan fave" for more than her poise and good looks. The 23-year-old has always been one to give back, and last year she took her altruism to the next level when she started Mision Guatemala.
Through the foundation, Ochoa raises funds to provide impoverished youth across Guatemala with necessities like school supplies, hygiene kits and food. In 2015, she used her celebrity and social media to garner enough money to gift 1 thousand bags to little ones in her parents’ home country.
“It’s a mission,” the Los Angeles-based Ochoa told us. “And it’s an honor to do this for a country that most of us, including other Latinos, rarely mention.”
The beauty queen sees pageantry as her channel to fulfilling her destiny: giving back. A proud guatemalteca, she wants to represent her gente, keep others aware of their struggle and lead a loving, compassionate community to help.
Ahead, we speak to this Inspiring Latina about Mision Guatemala, her passion to pay it forward and advice to other mujeres who share her humanitarian spirit.
What is Mision Guatemala?
It’s a foundation I started a year ago with the help of my family. I wanted to help children that needed it the most, and there is so much poverty in Guatemala. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and just wanted to give back. We prepared backpacks with school supplies, hygiene products and snacks, and I think it was a great experience for everyone: the children and those who helped out and made it possible. I just want to make my community proud and give back.
Why did you start it?
With my pageant experience, I was always volunteering and helping out with other organizations. I always had the desire to have my own, and my family helped push me to do it. God gave me a platform to be a voice for my community, so I knew that I needed to do this for Guatemala. There isn’t enough Latinas showing up for my country, so I had to.
You use the donations to purchase items like food, school supplies and hygiene kits, things that are pretty accessible to us here in the U.S., for the kids there. How essential are these materials to them?
Very! I went into the poorest small towns, where there’s no electricity and no water. There, kids really need the simplest things like notebooks and cereal boxes, things we take for granted.
Photo courtesy of Jossie Ochoa
You actually provide these items directly to the children, too. What is their reaction like?
Yes. It’s something I’ve blogged about. One of my biggest struggles going into this was making people believe that I was going to do this. We Latinos have trust issues with organizations, and for good reason, so some thought I was just going to steal their money. I wanted people to see my experience, so I photographed it and wrote about it. The kids were so happy. Some of them hopped onto the pickup truck I was on to get more supplies. Some moms to newborns even asked for bags. Everyone was gathering like it was a piñata. It was all so touching. Giving them that experience was life-changing for me and just beautiful for those who helped make it possible.
You are planning another mission this year. Ultimately, what is your hope for Mision Guatemala?
The first one was so small. It was a trial, but it went amazing. This year, I’m more prepared. I know what to expect and want to work with local schools that need the help. That’s why 50 percent of the profits are going to go to schools and the other 50 percent will go to the children in these poor areas. I want to reach a massive community, and I have more time and more preparation to do that this time. My campaign will kick off on September 15, Guatemala’s Independence Day, and it will continue throughout the U.S.’ Hispanic Heritage Month. During that time, I will be traveling the country and speaking about Mision Guatemala and collecting donations. I plan to make the next trip back before Thanksgiving.
Aside from the items, what’s a message you want to instill in these children?
Overall, it’s about giving. There are so many horrible things happening around the world that we forget the simplicity of life. Sharing love, which seems so small, is what fulfills us as human beings. I want to teach them the power of giving, of love, compassion and of connection.
This isn’t the first time you do humanitarian work for children. In the past, you've raised awareness about kids living with cancer and have done several toy drives for underprivileged youth in California. What is it about children's issues that move you?
I just feel like children are exposed to so many things. When you’re a kid, your environment creates who you are in the future, and these kids are the future, so we need to do right by them. I know this is effective because it’s what I had. I grew up in Korea Town in LA, and it was the community of Koreans speaking with me, inviting me to church and motivating me that impacted me. It’s amazing that I can grow up and do for others what they’ve done for me. It’s a chain.
Why do you think it’s important for U.S. Latinos to give back to their home countries?
Growing up, I heard kids denying their culture, saying things like, “I was born here, so it doesn’t matter what happens back there.” For me, it never mattered that I was born in the U.S. What happened in my parents’ country was important, and they made sure I was aware of what was going on. I grew up low-income, but every Christmas we got a big box and sent a lot of things back. It’s a gesture to be kind and give love; it’s comforting. I know I can’t do much, but my giving back can change people’s mentality, not necessarily their lives, but the way they think.
What advice do you have for Latinas who want to give back to their community but are unsure how?
I believe in the power of will. If you really want to do something, visualize it and have a plan. Help is there. It starts with a vision. If it’s in you, visualize it, manifest it and do it. Our minds are powerful. If we want it, make it happen. I hate the words “I can’t do it.” You can and you will. Believe in yourself and get rid of doubt, which, as a woman, I know can be difficult, but it’s possible. Stop listening to negative thoughts.