Soldier in Iraq Fighting War on Poverty

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (March 12, 2008) - Many 20-somethings prefer to spend their modest income on things like cars, computers, and clothes.  But Rojelio Pelayo, a soldier stationed in Iraq, is anything but an average 20-something.  He recently gave away most of his paycheck so he could help a family he’s never met and probably never will.

Lying in his bunk one night just weeks before Christmas, the 24-year-old Pelayo, who makes less than $3000.00 a month as a Specialist with the California National Guard, started thinking about how lucky he was.  Sure, he was away from his family and living in a war zone and something bad could happen to him at almost any time, but he still had a roof over his head, a comfy pillow, and plenty to eat.  So, the young soldier from La Puente, California did something astonishing.  He logged on to the Internet, whipped out his credit card, and donated $2,600.00 –enough to build a home for a destitute family –to Food For The Poor, a Florida based nonprofit that, last year alone, built more than 6,300 homes for the truly needy in the Caribbean and Latin America.

“Imagine the kind of person who volunteers to serve our country, counts his blessings while deployed to a combat zone, and then donates almost all of his pay so he can build a home for a family he’s never met,” says Angel Aloma, Executive Director for Food For The Poor.  “The world would be a better place if more of us were like this young man.”
Pelayo, however, says what he did wasn’t anything special; it was just the right thing to do.  “The day we die all we’re going to take with us is a handful of dirt,” he says, explaining that what really matters is what we do for others, not what we do for ourselves.  And, he says he gave so much of his paycheck to Food For The Poor because he wanted to be sure that his contribution made a real difference in the life of someone who needed help.

Throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, thousands of families, trapped by poverty live in dangerous dilapidated shacks and hovels made from cardboard, tin, or whatever they can salvage from a dump.  These makeshift shanties offer no shelter from the weather.  Rain pours through leaky roofs to turn dirt floors into rivers of mud and when the sun shines down, it is like an oven inside. 

But Pelayo’s donation is making a difference for at least one of the thousands of needy families in the Dominican Republic.  There, Food For The Poor has turned Pelayo’s generosity into a real home complete with a concrete floor, a reliable roof, solid siding, windows, and even a covered porch.  It’s just one of the more than 46,000 homes that Food For The Poor has built since it started its mission in 1982.

Food For The Poor is the second largest international relief and development organization in the nation and the # 1 charity in Florida.  With more than 96% of all donations going directly to programs that help those in need, Food For The Poor provides nourishing food, safe shelter, necessary medical care, educational materials, support for orphans and the aged, and much more to the poorest of the poor in 16 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America.  To learn how you can help, visit  

Hugh Graf
Public Relations Coordinator
(954) 427-2222 x 6610