KP Fresno psychologist Laura Lencioni, PsyD, and her family started a nonprofit organization to make lives better in rural Nicaragua. Pictured above: Dr. Lencioni (left) with local community liaisons.
When Kaiser Permanente Fresno psychologist Laura Lencioni, PsyD, travels to La Concepcion, Nicaragua, she doesn’t pack light.
That’s because Dr. Lencioni and her family are traveling with bags — most recently with 15 green military-style bags to be exact — filled with donations of socks, underwear, shoes, clothes, school supplies, and wellness items for children in rural areas of Nicaragua.
Because her husband’s family lives there, Dr. Lencioni has been making the trip for about 13 years. About five years ago, she and her husband brought some of their son’s toys for the local children.
“It was a very eye-opening experience,” she said. “The schools didn’t have books; there wasn’t a blackboard on the wall — just a table in the middle of the room. I came home, and told my sister and my co-workers about the experience, and people started giving me things to bring on my next trip.”
One Box is Born
Over time, Dr. Lencioni and her sister Gina, who is a teacher in the Bay Area, founded the nonprofit One Box for Hope. This enabled people who contribute to their outreach to get a tax deduction for their donation.
The mission of the nonprofit is to provide clothing, school supplies, and building materials to underserved residents in rural La Concepcion, Nicaragua. It is a jungle-like area with uneven dirt roads, and most residents walk barefoot for miles carrying large buckets to get water.
Dr. Lencioni’s entire family — including her children, ages 2, 4, and 8 — travel to Nicaragua at least once a year with donations. Last year, they brought more than 500 pairs of shoes and 50 backpacks filled with school supplies.
They work with local liaisons to schedule specific days to distribute the donations.
“Our liaisons identify where there is a need and let us know how many children to expect. There are so many babies there and so many younger children who need clothes,” Dr. Lencioni said.
Helping a Family in Need
Dr. Lencioni is proud of a recent home expansion One Box for Hope was able to provide for a family of eight who shared one small room for sleeping and living.
“We saw this family regularly because they lived on a farm near our family’s home. We raised $3,000 and worked with a construction company to complete the work. We came in under budget and are planning to purchase them other needed items, and we will work toward installing a bathroom,” she said.
Many of the people the Lencioni family meets in Nicaragua become friends, and they have watched some children grow up over the years, like 9-year-old Camilla.
“The first year we went to do this work, one of my co-workers donated a Raggedy Ann doll. The smile on Camilla’s face (then 4 years old) was huge. She ran up to my son and hugged him. The look on his face was priceless,” Dr. Lencioni said. “Every year since, we’ve seen her. It’s such a highlight.”
Even though it’s hard balancing all of her priorities — family, work, and school — Dr. Lencioni said the outreach in Nicaragua makes her appreciate things more.
“We have several pairs of shoes in our closet. We’re fortunate we can offer that to our kids. It’s even as basic as water. In Nicaragua, people are walking miles to get water, bathing in creeks. It helps put things in perspective,” she said.