It’s now, or never

This week threw me through a loop. I never thought I would experience homelessness, yet alone have dinner with homeless people.  I learned and felt so many new things going on this trip that I would never have learned if i didn’t go.  Now, after the class is done, it’s time for me to plan what I am going to do with all of this knowledge. Considering I am just about to enter my second semester of freshman year there is not much I can really do to help this cause, or any cause for that matter, besides volunteering or word of mouth.  But isn’t that all you really need to do?  I was told today by the Vice-President of the SecondHarvest food bank that the best way for a non-profit organization to be successful is to involve the community as much as possible. This inspired me that I can contribute even though it is only in a small way.  That’s the myth I want to debunk: that just because you are a student or someone who can’t donate a ton of money doesn’t mean you can’t contribute to something that you are passionate about. Okay, it’s decided, I will do anything I can, no matter how small the contribution is.

So now I challenge you to go out and be engaged, do anything you can, and   try to engage the rest of the community as well.  Then maybe, just maybe, we can give these organizations a fighting chance.


1,000 Thank you’s

It’s unfortunately arrived. The last day of our amazing intersession experience. I’m feeling some bitter-sweetness about this moment, actually. I’m glad the fresh new semester will be starting up in a few days, but I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to do even more service opportunities with our immersion. However, the small taste of service I got this week has definitely inspired me to keep the ball rolling.

Waking up today, the entire class met back in Reeves lodge to talk about final thoughts about our experiences from yesterday. Then, we were able to speak with a panel of some of Central Florida’s most influential non-profit leaders; The President of the Coalition for the Homeless, the Vice President of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orlando, and a prestigious politician from Seminole County is also a professor of communications courses at the Holt school at Rollins. They were there to answer any questions we might have still had after our immersion, and I learned a lot from their insigthful answers. I’m really glad we got the chance to talk to them.

After the panel, we were all given the instructions for mapping out our action plans. What is an action plan, you ask? It’s a plan for what you aim to accomplish with service and volunteer work on a personal, group, and community level. Our entire group worked together on it, to come up with individualized goals, which I personally hope to achieve by the end of next semester, and then combined our interests to set group goals that we hope to accomplish before the end of our four years at Rollins. After a bunch of brainstorming, we were able to pull together an interactive prezi (a word that got Kate upset, since she felt like she was getting a present every time she heard the word, then would get let down) that summarized what we aimed to do.

This was my personal goal:

After embarking on this amazing experience, I hope to use the knowledge I’ve accumulated over this immersion to volunteer more of my time to service projects held by Rollins, as well as to start making the effort to begin service opportunities that are most important to me. As a biochemistry major, I am very passionate about healthcare for the needy, so I would like to find a clinic that offers services and check-ups for the needy that I could volunteer for. I am also going to make a conscious effort to raise awareness about the ideas of poverty and homelessness in the minds of my family, friends, and peers.

When we finished working on our homes with Habitat for Humanity, Tom the contractor gave us all our paychecks: a check made out to us for 1,000 Thank you’s. While I originally planned on putting them all in my savings, I think I’d rather give a few away to some people that absolutely deserve them This journey has been one I will never, and I mean NEVER, forget. I would just like to whole-heartedly thank Dr. Cavenaugh, Jerrid, and Meredith, along with the contractors at the Habitat for Humanity site, Alan and the homeless individuals who shared their stories, Jenn and the volunteers at the Coalition for the Homeless, and the guests who spoke with us on the panel. Thank you for allowing me to go on this journey, and helping me learn so much about my ideas of service, my community, and myself. And finally, thank you to everyone following this blog. Hopefully you enjoyed taking the journey with me.

— Katia

All Wrapped Up

So today was the last day of our Intersession course, bringing our learning experience on the topics of hunger and homelessness to an end. However, it would be an injustice to forget about the things we saw and talked about during this week, so we created action plans in order to give a purpose to our new awareness.

On a personal level, I made my action plan to continue to remember the issues of homelessness and talk about it with people who may have misconceptions about people living on the streets in order to correct the stereotypes. On a group level, we discussed action we can take both on campus and in our surrounding community. Finally, we came up with an action plan on a societal level; We all agree that we hope to one day hold occupations that truly make a difference in the world and don’t ignore social issues.

I would like to leave you with a couple videos of one of our discussions during the week that sum up a lot of the surprising things we learnt and the serious truths revealed to us.

Video – Discussion Part 1

Video – Discussion Part 2

My last fun fact for the week: One of the things I would really love to do at some point in my life would be to run a rescue for neglected/abandoned horses.

Bye for now! (I will hopefully update this blog in the months to stay current on the issues and let you know how the action plans are panning out.)


Make Things Happen

It may be the last day of this intersession, but in my eyes this class will last for the rest of our lives. This experience was not only about seeing what is occurring and helping out for a couple of days in the “bad side of town”. The bigger objective was to jumpstart our determination for positive movement. This trip will never be forgotten, because now everyone in the class is beginning to plan ways to change what we saw and experienced.

We were given the task of creating an Action Plan which we hope to follow for the rest of our lives. We started out with personal things that we would like to start as soon as possible. People chose causes that were important to them, like homelessness and animal rights. I chose to broaden my audience when I teach how to combat our current environmental problems. As I described in a previous post, the past few summers I have taught environmental aspects to children and I want to bring some of the lessons to students on campus. I am not sure of the logistics yet, but will hopefully get the ball rolling on this project soon.

As a group we decided to propose two main ideas to help our local community. The first is to use extra meal plan money at the end of the year to buy food for the homeless. Thinking about how I will have about $800 extra at the end of the year myself, this will make a HUGE difference for local food banks if many people do the same. If only 200 people donate an extra $500 worth of food, the local banks will get $100,000 worth of food. Our campus is much bigger than 200 people, so this project does not seem too far fetched. The other project was to ask local restaurants to charge a 1% surcharge on all bills over $100 that will be donated to the nearby shelters. This will make a monumental difference for the shelters, because Miami created a similar program that gave 9 billion dollars to shelters each year. This is another small thing that people can do that will positively affect a great number of people.

As you can tell, I adore marine animals (:

The final step in our action plan is to pick a job that will create positive change in our world. I aspire to be a marine biologist at an aquarium where I can continue to educate children on our environment. By working with the education program at the aquarium I will promote progress and the children will be able to create a better future for the environment. It will start a chain reaction which will hopefully end in a well-respected world.

I am going to end my final blog post with a quote by Nicholas Murray Butler. Hopefully it will inspire you to make changes just how I have been inspired by this immersion trip.

“There are three kinds of people; those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.”

“Run Toward That Which Disturbs You”

Looking back upon this last week of life-changing experiences, it feels good to have some sort of concerete ideas on what I plan to do after this course is over.

Before we embarked on this trip, I was under the impression that most homeless people fell under the demographic of lazy drug users. This myth was, obviously, debunked. It turns out that women and families are the predominant category of people to fall into homelessness. There are many shelters for women and children. However, now that I’ve expanded my view, I am left wondering what there IS for those single men and single women without children. They should inspire sympathy and compassion as well. They are human beings and need shelter and food. Perhaps they are not as high up on the urgency scale for revitalization, but they still need a bit of help at this point in their lives.

As amazing as the Coalition for the Homeless is, it’s obscene that a non-profit organization is basically forced to carry the burden of a government organization. Something is definitely wrong with the priorities this country holds when its own government can’t even ensure that every citizen has the basic necessities. However, this is not something I can change by myself, at this point in my life.

Therefore, there are a few things I’d like to implement in my life, as I move forwards, that I will make every effort to abide by throughout my daily life.

  1. Always make eye contact with the homeless and other disadvantaged individuals, even if it makes me uncomfortable.
  2. Listen to their stories and show some compassion.
  3. Work with Habitat for Humanity (I may have been sore, but I got such a sense of accomplishment out of it that I’d love to do it again.)
  4. Involve the College Democrats in service projects, in addition to the already existing political projects.
  5. Work with local restaurants to add a 1% surcharge on meals over $100 and donate that money to local causes.
  6. Use left over meal plan money to buy non-perishable items from the C-store and donate them to Second Harvest Food Bank.
  7. Eventually choose a vocation that involves bettering the world through some form of service. In my case, it will most likely be changing public policy and getting to the root of these problems through the means of politics.

Eventually, I will be a check writer for something, somewhere. I may not yet know what that is, and I have plenty of time to figure that out, but I do know that in my heart, I will always want to ease the suffering in the world, and I will do so in my own special way.

As Meredith likes to say: In service, progress is an important key word. It's unrealistic to expect to change the world with one service project, but progress can always be made.

As this week comes to a close, I am grateful for the eye-opener that was presented to me as a result of this immersion. I would encourage everyone to learn a little bit more about homelessness before making uneducated stereotypical remarks. But most of all, I would encourage everyone to find a cause that they are passionate in, and pursue ways to improve that cause. Everyone has their own unique qualities and passions, and those can easily be put to good use making the world a slightly better place.

For now, I bid you all adieu with the title of this post: run towards that which disturbs you. That is the best way to discover what your service niche is in the world. It was said to me this morning at the panel and it really caught my attention. Enough so, in fact, that even though Kate used it as her blog title as well, I decided to use it anyways as I planned, so much it spoke to me. But I will continue to use it as my motto, and hopefully will discover how I will make the world a better, safer, more caring and peaceful place.

“Run Toward That Which Disturbs You”

And such, our week of immersion ends. As one of our last activities of the week, we participated in a panel this morning on a number of subjects that kind of summed up what we learned and what we experienced this week. We met and spoke with panelists from the Second Harvest Food Bank, the Seminole County Government, and Coalition for the Homeless (which we toured and volunteered at yesterday). Topics discussed included the apparent ineffectiveness of VA services, the role that government does and should play in monetary, food, and health care assistance, and what we, as individuals, can and should do to relieve the problems that we learned about this week. An idea that really struck me during the conversation today was what one panelist told us that his mentor once told him: “Run toward that which disturbs you.” This struck a chord with me as an excellent way to find a cause to volunteer your money, time, and effort toward throughout your entire life. What is it in our society that sickens, disturbs, and frightens you? THAT is what you should devote your service efforts to. For me, it’s environmental and animal rights issues. For someone else, it’s hunger and homelessness. For you, it may be something entirely different. But regardless of what it is, find that that. Find that thing and do something– anything– to change it. That is how you make a difference. One cause, one effort, one step at a time.

welcome to Service Street


xx Kate

The Last Day

Today, we met with a panel of people who work with various organizations related to homelessness. We were able to ask questions and we learned a lot about governmental policies concerning homelessness. We also discussed action plans and things that we could do to lessen homelessness individually and as a group. We were all able to create individual action plans and well as group action plans. One of the examples that influenced our planning was the current Miami policy that places a surcharge on restaurant meals totaling over 100 dollars. The money gained from this surcharge is donated to homeless organizations. Through this surcharge, Miami was a le to raise over 9 million dollars for the homeless in one year. This seemed like a great way for everyone to give a little to create a huge difference.


The work we did today was a lot different from the manual labor we’ve been doing.

If there’s one demographic of people that can always make an emotional impact, it’s children. And that’s just who we worked with today. We went to the Orlando Coalition for the Homeless. After a short tour of the extensive facilities, we set up some arts and crafts for the kids.

We didn’t even have to do extensive recruiting – the mothers just came pouring in with their adorable children. There was picture frame painting, jewelry making, bookmark decorations, and plenty of love going around. The kids were undoubtedly the cutest little humans, with paints all over their faces and clothes but absolutely loving it.

It was sad because I realized that they don’t often get to do fun things for themselves, don’t get to have a normal childhood. The children always manage to extract sympathy and understanding from even the most stoic people, because of their obvious innocence and endless cuteness. And yet they don’t have a stable home, stable surroundings, consistent caregivers. It was heartbreaking.

I really enjoyed watching Becca Kleinman discover her motherly nature. She is going to be the most adorable mother ever.

The Easy Street Is Not So Easy

Why would anyone believe that a person would specifically choose to be homeless? I can’t comprehend how some people despise people without homes on the basis of this belief. Would you ever want to be homeless? Of course not! It is wrong to discriminate against people just because they don’t have a home.

The movie “Easy Street” confirmed my belief that homeless people need education and help finding jobs extremely badly. This movie showed how food for the homeless in St. Petersburg is easy to find due to the abundance of organizations offering food. Homeless people in the movie explained that if you were hungry in St. Petersburg then there was something wrong with you. These people need to be educated and helped in order to get them up off of the streets. The problems that they face while on the streets must be addressed along with the causes of why they are there.

The Coalition for the Homeless addresses both the problems faced and causes of being homeless. They provide food, shelter, and hygiene for these people without anywhere else to go. On top of this, many of the services they provide help the homeless prepare for a future like job interview help, education classes, and daycare. This is the kind of program that I believe will help make a large difference if there were many located around the country. Each branch would contribute to making the rate of homelessness decrease greatly.

Each day makes me more and more grateful for what I have been given in life. Today when we got to spend time with the children at the homeless shelter it broke my heart that I knew that they didn’t have the necessities in life. I love working with kids after working at a summer camp for a couple of years, so I definitely plan on retuning as a volunteer.

A Little Piece of Love

Just when I think I’m done with getting emotional about this journey, Dean Cavenaugh, Jerrid, and Meredith find a way to bring it all back to the surface, and I have to say I love them for it. Once again, I got up this morning knowing that we were going to have an eventful day, and once again I underestimated how much it would affect me (I think I’m noticing a trend here, what about you?).

After driving though downtown Orlando, our final stop was at the Coalition for the Homeless headquarters for Central Florida. Walking into the area, I could see fathers, mothers, grandmothers, and children all roaming around the grounds. The first stop we had when we got there was at the front desk, where we met Jenn, who works at the coalition. She was extremely sweet and easy to talk to, and made us all feel welcome and comfortable. After some brief introductions and a little description of what the Coalition stands for, Jenn gave us a tour of the facilities. As we were walking through a hallway towards the back door to the daycare center, a man walked into the building pushing a cart with boxes for the coalition, and behind him ran an adorable little boy. I only got a glimpse of him as he ran by to catch up to who I assumed was his father.

After taking a look at the daycare center, then an area of the building where residents get the chance to earn degrees while staying in the coaliton (which I thought was amazing, by the way), we learned that we were going to get to do arts and crafts with some of the mothers and children. That actually got me excited; I was hoping we would get a chance to lift up their spirits in some way, even though our impact on them may be small. When we walked into the dining area to meet the kids, I saw the little boy from the hallway. He looked so sweet, I immediately started talking to him, and eventually sat next to him to work on crafts. His name was Nelson, and he is the most amazing little 4-year old. Not only is he super polite, always saying please and thank you, but he is extremely smart as well. I got him paints to work on decorating a picture frame, and he couldn’t find the color pink, so he immediately starting mixing white and red to make the color he wanted. It was so much fun to talk to him. He is just such a bright kid. I also met Nelson’s dad, who came to sit with Nelson and I and make a frame of his own. He was also extremely kind, and ran to get us anything that we needed, from paper towels to wipe paint stains to a bucket of water to clean the brushes.

As Nelson got more and more comfortable with me, he eventually moved onto my lap to work on his painting, putting coat after coat of pink paint to make it perfect, paying special attention to every corner. While he worked on that, I made him a frame with his favorite colors, blue and green, and he helped me pick out the letters of his name from a sticker bin to put on the frame. When he finally declared that his frame was finished, he turned to look at me, held up the frame, and said “I made it for you!” It was at that moment that my heart just melted. Here was this incredibly amazing little boy who unfortunately didn’t have much in this world besides his parents, who spent so much time and attention on this frame, and he had been making it for me, a person he had just met. Looking at this sweet little boy, it took all I had not to break down in front of him. When it was time for him to leave, I handed him the frame I made for him and walked him to his father, who was now across the room. Before they left, Nelson wrapped his little arms around my legs, and I immediately picked him up and gave him the biggest hug I could manage. As he said goodbye, his father thanked me for spending the day with his son, and all I could think was no sir, thank you.

Children like Nelson are plentiful at the Coalition for the Homeless. After meeting him, I know for a fact that I will be back to the coalition as a volunteer, and I think everyone who can should do the same. Here’s a link to the website for the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida. Please check it out: