RSF couple devoted to helping foster children

Rancho Santa Fe residents Vivianne Villanueva Dhupa and Sarit Dhupa have become devoted to their mission of helping foster youth in San Diego County through their support of Promises2Kids.

Promises2Kids (P2K) is a nonprofit originally founded as the Child Abuse Prevention Foundation of San Diego County. Since 1981, the organization has supported foster children and provided help for children removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect. There are about 3,000 foster children in San Diego County and P2K works to help them overcome the difficulties of their past and grow into happy, healthy and successful adults.

Vivienne has been a member of the Promises2Kids Board of Directors since 2015 and the Dhupas are passionate about the organization as they can see first-hand what their generosity can do and how it can change a child’s life. As education is very important to them, they are especially committed to the Guardian Scholars program.

Rancho Santa Fe residents for the last two years, Sarit is a veterinary surgeon and Vivianne runs her own pet cremation company, Peaceful Paws, as well as the pet hospice Into the Sunset Pet Transition Center in Sorrento Valley. Both are passionate about animals and are involved in the FACE Foundation ( Foundation for Animal Care and Education) as well as the Rancho Coastal Humane Society.

Vivianne has born in Mexico City where she lived until her family moved to Texas when she was 4 years old. As a student at a Catholic school, she learned early on about the importance of giving back and was a teenage volunteer candy striper at a hospital,assigned to the pediatric oncology department. A 15-year-old girl seeing children getting chemotherapy and children in pain was “heart wrenching” and left a lifelong impact on her.

“It really fortified a passion inside me for helping children,” said Vivianne, noting that becoming a mother only made her passion stronger and she became involved supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Growing up in East Africa, Sarit’s childhood experiences were much different than many American children.

“While we led a comfortable life, the reality of our environment was never far away. My parents always emphasized the need for us to give back to those that may not have as much,” Sarit said.

His father was one of the first OBGYN physicians in East Africa and his mother was a member of various charities — both set an example for him to think of others first.

About two years ago, Promises2Kids CEO Tonya Torosian approached Vivianne about becoming a member of the board and as the Dhupas learned more about the organization, they had no hesitation about jumping in feet first to help those children. Vivianne said the services and programs P2K provides create drastic changes in the lives of youth, “You can see your money at work and you really see the outcome.”

“I am so honored to have Vivianne on our board of directors,” said Torosian. “She not only provides leadership as a board member, but she is actively involved with the youth we serve through many activities throughout the year. Next week, Vivianne, Sarit and their son are all volunteering at the youth shopping event. The event offers foster youth the opportunity to shop for the holidays, with one of our generous donors providing the funds for every youth’s gift.”

Promises2Kids programs include the Polinksy Children’s Center, an emergency shelter for abused or neglected children, Camp Connect, Guardian Scholars and Foster Funds.

Foster Funds includes the Something Special Fund that supports foster children’s special requests or wishes such as sports equipment, an instrument or music classes, class photos or college application fees. Camp Connect offers a four-day summer camp in Julian and monthly day camps that reunite foster children with their brothers and sisters to help maintain their family bond when it is not possible for them to live together in the same placement.

“While all programs at Promises2Kids are phenomenal, Guardian Scholars is the one closest to our hearts,” Sarit said. “My father worked extremely hard to educate his children and send us abroad for our advanced studies.I will forever be indebted to my parents for setting us on a path to success.If our support can do the same for a struggling foster child, why wouldn’t we do it? “

The Guardian Scholars program has an over 80 percent success rate for the former foster youth who participate and receive a college degree compared to a national rate of 8 percent. The program supports foster youth who wish to attend a university, community college or trade school with resources like financial assistance and mentorships, scholarships and college prep courses. More than 300 youth have been provided scholarships and over 90 percent of Guardian Scholars will be first-generation graduates in their families.

“It provides the encouragement, support and direction that a parent would normally provide,” Vivianne said. “Some of the stories we hear from the kids…We have nothing to complain about. We have people that love and care for us. Some of these kids have been through unimaginable circumstances. Education is the biggest gift that we can give our children to create a brighter future and help them break that cycle.”

Promises2Kids also has a Junior Guardian Scholars program for foster youth still in high school, providing mentoring, SAT prep, college planning, financial aid and college application workshops.

The Dhupas are in the process of selling their businesses and plan to contribute more time to the Guardian Scholars program, which they hope will be able to grow even larger and help more students fulfill their dreams of higher education.

With their 10-year-old son Kiran, the Dhupas are looking to instill the same spirit of giving back that they learned at a young age.

“Our family has been blessed in so many ways, we have a healthy and happy son, we have families that love and support us. We have a network of friends that are like family,” Sarit said. “We feel that our son and his peers live in a protective bubble. They go to great schools and have loving families. We want him to understand that life isn’t always easy and there are some hard and ugly realities out there. We also want him to appreciate what he has.”

The Dhupas took their son with them to the P2K holiday shopping event when he was 9 and he watched as many of the kids were happy just to be able to buy simple necessities for themselves and their siblings. He has also been able to meet foster youth and hear their stories.

“These kids don’t have anything. I don’t want to shield him, I want him to know life is a hardship for some people and it’s important to give back,” Vivianne said. “As he gets older, I want him to be more philanthropic. I feel it’s a duty.”

Kiran’s parents’ influence has already rubbed off on him — this year he and fellow Del Mar Pines Elementary School fifth graders held a coat drive at school and were able to donate 200 coats to the homeless.

“The Dhupas are an example of true philanthropy. They give of their time, talent and treasure to many causes,” said Torosian. “ I am touched by how much they care for our children, and how they teach their son, through their own volunteerism, that when you volunteer to give back to others in need, you are strengthening your entire community.”

To learn more about Guardian Scholars and Promises 2 Kids , visit promises2kids.org

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