Today, the second day of World Orphan Week I am honoring Neida Sandoval. Who does not know Neida Sandoval? She is one of Miami’s most beloved community leaders and personalities in Hispanic broadcasting in the US as well as in Latin America. She has over 30 years of experience in journalism and has won many awards and accolades for her unwavering dedication and tireless philanthropic work. She was born in the picturesque town of Las Minas de Oro, Honduras. She is known for her brilliant wit, determination, charisma and transparency, both in her professional career, humanitarian efforts and as a dedicated loving wife and mother of two vivacious twins, Abito and Ali.
I will never forget the first day I met Neida. My father, Edward Cornely fell in love with Honduras and eventually relocated our family to San Pedro Sula, Honduras in 1970. My adventure seeking father was friends with Neidas parents. On weekends he would load my brother, sister and I into his supped-up jeep and whisk us around the Honduran countryside. One weekend he took us on a gold panning expedition in Las Minas de Oro. We pulled up next to Neida’s house while she was the lone little girl playing with her entourage of big brothers. She looked at me and I waved back at her from the rear of the jeep. Little did we know back then that we would end up going to highschool together. And little did we know that we each shared a secret passion that would remain with us for life. Caring for orphans. We only discovered each other’s passion for abandoned children a couple of years ago. Neida never knew that I used to canvas the community of San Pedro Sula in search of street children. I would bring them food and clothes. Some, I would bring home with me; to the chagrin of my father! I even took some of these children to our local orphanage only to have them escape as I would soon find them back on the streets. I was not the only teen doing this in San Pedro Sula. Karl Henry Holtz and Jacqueline Diday were two of my co-conspirators and partners in caring for the homeless street children of San Pedro Sula.
Charity work and in particular orphan outreach has become one of Neida’s greatest passions in life. While I was the Chair of the Friends of the Orphans Southeastern Region, Neida was the honorary host of ceremonies for our All the World to One Child Gala Event. Her charity work is ongoing as she continues contributing to a host of several philanthropic causes, including the “Fundación Teletón” for disabled children, the “Casa Renacer”, “Fundación Amor y Vida” shelters for people living with HIV/AIDS and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Over the years she has actively contributed and participated alongside other artists and celebrities and has raised millions of dollars to combat childhood hunger and for the United Nation’s
World Food Program. Just last year Neida was made the Ambassador for the SOS Villages of Children in Honduras. In her new role as SOS Ambassador she has been instrumental in securing money as well as in-kind donations for the SOS Villages of Honduras.
Neida, I thank my lucky stars as we continue on this miraculous journey called life as friends and kindred spirits. May our paths continue intertwining, Connecting People, Transforming Lives… Bridging Humanity.