Monday, January 3, 2011

Greater Miami Jewish Federation, Miami Heart Rehab Center, Belafonte Tacolcy Center, Panel: Faces of Homelessness

The morning started with a trip to the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, where we met with Jeff Levin (Chief Financial Resource Officer) and Michelle Labgold (Chief Planning Officer). We discussed the Jewish community as a whole (one tribe) and Jewish philanthropic work. It is interesting that the money donated to the Jewish Federation is distributed within the Jewish community as well as the around the whole world, regardless of faith.
We continued our day by visiting the Miami HEART Rehabilitation Center. There, we met Rabbi Fred Klein (Director of the Chaplaincy Program at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation) who gave us an overview on what HEART Rehab does for its community. We split up into smaller groups and visited patients that were currently participating in the rehabilitation program there. This was also interesting because us, as strangers, really could see how a simple act of kindness could go a long way and touch a lot of hearts.
After enjoying our lunches at Morningside Park, we went to the Belafonte Tacolcy Center, where we were introduced to Alison Austin (CEO), about her work and the Freedom School fundamentals. We learned about the backgrounds of the children in the area and how the Tacolcy Center, as well as other groups, work to help the community and the children. We were moved to see the amount of energy exerted by the staff to show the local children that learning is fun. It was incredible to meet the children and see their energy. It left us hopeful that in our volunteer experiences, we would be able to excite children and help them learn the way the Tacolcy Center does.
This evening, after dinner we had an incredible experience; something that I think it is safe to say none of us have ever experienced. A group called VISTA came to speak to us about homelessness. We had three speakers who told us stories of their lives. Every person in the room was memorized by what they had to say. It was incredible for them to open up to us and tell us of their lives and where they were born, the immense hardships they went through, and how they overcame everything and got to where they are today. The stories brought some of the speakers to tears, as well as many of the listeners. It was an experience that im sure none of us will forget any time soon. We all learned that everyone has some good in them and can make something of their lives even if they have gone through a lot.
After everything we went through today, we are excited for all that tomorrow holds for us. Let the adventures begin!

Holli Epstein '13 (University of Delaware)
Samantha Friedman '13 (University of Delaware)
Rina Binder-Macleod '12 (University of Delaware)
Alli Chojnacki '13 (Temple University)

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