Archive by Author

Building a Future- Block by Block

29 Jan

Over 20 years ago, a movement to transform the lives of children and families in Central Harlem began on one small block. The driving force was a non-profit organization called the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), and in the beginning, no one believed that they could succeed. And it isn’t hard to see why. The area was poverty stricken, crime ridden, and filled with an overall sense of hopelessness. The odds were completely against their favor, but somehow, they succeeded- and succeeded big. Today, the HCZ’s efforts spans to almost 100 blocks.

On January 21, 2013, the Miami Children’s Initiative (MCI), an organization modeled after the HCZ, began its own transformational journey in Liberty City. As the world woke up to celebrate MLK day, MCI mobilized almost 200 volunteers and residents to begin transforming its first block. After speaking to residents and community leaders, it became clear that a physical transformation was needed to take place in Liberty City before the more personal, intrinsic changes could occur. The streets were dirty and a lack of beauty in the area left residents without any inspiration to work towards their dreams.

         

Over the course of the day, volunteers and residents planted flowers and shrubbery in front of 39 apartment units, about 30 flowering and fruit trees, and 3 vegetable gardens. They rid the block of trash and gave the entire area a complete makeover. Kids played in the “kid’s zone,” getting their faces painted, listening to volunteer readers, riding the play train, and painting garden stones. The energy was high and despite the huge amount of work that went into the day, everyone had an amazing time. Overall, the day was a huge success, but the true victory was in the process. As you looked out at the scene, you saw volunteers from organizations like AmeriCorps Public Allies and VISTA, Teach for America, I Have a Dream Foundation, Girl Power, Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast- TOP (Teen Outreach Program), along with individual volunteer’s, partner with residents who live on the block to make these changes happen.  District 3’s Commissioner Edmonson also picked up her shovel and came out to help the cause. We may have all had our individual affiliations, but on that day, we truly became one single force to be reckoned with.

When you go out on that block today, the change is tangible. It looks and feels like a place where you want to raise your kids, a place where a child wants to grow up. And this is just the beginning. MCI hopes that, like the HCZ, in 20 years it will look out at Liberty City and see almost 100 blocks completely transformed.

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Life is the ultimate opportunity

16 Dec

 

tree of life

The sky isn’t the limit- our imagination is. To me, opportunity means that anything is possible, all you have to do is believe.

‘Tis the season

20 Nov

If you had told me 6 months ago that I would soon be working at a non-profit organization and loving every minute of it, I would have looked at you like you were one twist short of a slinky. Back then I imagined that my holiday season would be filled with studying for stressful law school exams and prayers that winter break would finally arrive. Instead, I find myself surrounded by the smiling faces of my co-workers and the joyful presence of kids who deserve all the wonders that the season has to offer.

The cliff notes version is this: Ever since I was little, I wanted to be a lawyer. When I got to college I majored in legal studies and excelled in all my courses, but something was missing. My LSAT came and passed, my applications were ready to be sent, but my heart told me that something wasn’t right.  I decided to take a brave leap of faith, and instead of sending in those law school applications, I sent in an application to the Public Allies Miami program. I knew that I was starting a new chapter in my life, and something told me that Public Allies was exactly what I needed to begin my journey. Thankfully, I was right.

I was placed with the Miami Children’s Initiative (MCI), a non-profit organization that aims to transform the lives of children and families in Liberty City, Miami. Children here may be growing up in the midst of poverty and violence, but they are just as vibrant, beautiful, and full of potential as any other child in the world. Working with these kids brings a smile to my face everyday, but nothing highlights the positive impact that non-profit organizations have on the community quite like the holiday season. While most kids get dressed in fancy costumes and run through the streets on Halloween, kids in Liberty City don’t get the same experience. While many kids get all the presents on their wish list during December, kids in Liberty City are lucky to get even one toy. Non-profit organizations like MCI strive to change that, and seeing the look on a child’s face when they are handed a Halloween costume or a holiday toy makes it all worth it.

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MCI staff members handing out Halloween gift bags filled with candy, books, and school supplies at Charles R. Drew K-8 Center

As we begin to carry out our holiday initiatives like our Halloween Character Day event and Toys-for-Tots distribution, I realize that I have never felt more confident in my decision to take the path less travelled. Non-profits and the Public Allies program do amazing things for communities all over America all year round, but there is truly nothing more inspiring than being a part of this amazing community of leaders and change makers during the holiday season