MIM Service-Learning Project 2020: Annette Cruz

Student Bio

Image courtesy of Juliana Pereira

My name is Annette Cruz, a Sophomore at the Honors College of FIU. I am an Elementary Education major, seeking to work with children in the future.

Who

I volunteered with the Lotus House Women’s Shelter. This organization dedicates its time to helping homeless women and children in reforming their lives. By offering essential needs and services, such as food, shelter, mental health support, and educational resources, Lotus House is an organization that many women and children depend on and are grateful for.

Why

I selected this volunteer opportunity because it was mandatory for my class. However, a mandatory obligation turned into a deliberate effort to help as much as I could. My eagerness to contribute my time and effort continued to grow throughout the day. I kept wanting to help the more I heard about the organization’s cause and witnessed the residents passing by. I have had a privileged life, even though I may not realize how privileged I am. I have a loving family, a roof over my head, a stocked fridge every week, and an education all my life. When your life is filled with all these blessings, it’s hard to imagine how life would be without them. Lotus House offers these blessings to the people who don’t have them. Even if my contribution was only for a day, I was grateful and humbled to be a part of the Lotus House’s cause, helping give its residents a small piece of a blessing, a safe and clean space.

How

I was waiting for the elevator with classmates to descend to the first floor as it was time to leave. A little boy approached us and asked for help with his homework. As per volunteer policy and limited time, we were unable to help him. Knowing he was living in the Lotus House, the little boy probably found the help he needed, but I looked at this little boy and felt a profound ease that my work had been for good that day. I’m an Elementary Education major. I am supposed to help children succeed. Although it may be an unconventional way to help children succeed, I rested assured that providing children with a safe and clean space would allow them more time to focus on their education rather than being sick, especially during these times of living through COVID-19. I always found it annoying when my mom would clean the house. Cleaning the house was always associated with interrupting my activities. She would turn on the vacuum and I could no longer hear the TV. She would mop the floor and I could no longer walk around my house because the floor was wet. I couldn’t finish whatever I was doing because she was constantly telling me to remove everything from on top of my dresser because it needed to be dusted. I know cleaning is important and a clean house means a healthy environment, but I always dubbed my mom as a cleaning fanatic. However, I never appreciated it as one should because I wasn’t the one doing the cleaning. It’s a different perspective when you have a cloth in your hand wiping furniture. Residents can’t focus on cleaning because they need to focus on themselves first. Therefore, I was able to connect with this opportunity in a way I never expected. Seeing the faces of gratitude on everyone’s faces, both residents and employees, I didn’t want to leave my volunteering responsibilities half-done. I wanted to give it my all.

Where & What

On March 11, 2020, I started my day by clearing out the docking area of the Lotus House for future deliveries. They were expecting deliveries with supplies to safeguard against COVID-19. I then helped separate the items my classmates and I removed from the docking area. I assisted in separating the items into two piles. One pile was for the items that were being donated to the thrift store and another pile was for trash. From the docking area, I transitioned into the toy storage closet, where I helped organize a rack of shelves. I helped create an area of shelves reserved for adult accessories, such as shoes and fanny packs, while relocating toys to appropriate shelves. Once this task was completed, I joined in cleaning and sanitizing the employee lockers that were filled with dust. This was located in the same area as the docking area and toy storage closet. My final responsibility for the day was to help sanitize the furniture on the residential floors, floors 2-5. The furniture I sanitized included the lounge area and playroom of every floor. At the end of the day, I stayed an extra hour to help the kitchen staff prep food ingredients for dinner.

When

Summary

My experience with this volunteer opportunity was wonderful. Everything worked in unison and a great amount of work was able to be completed. What definitely worked was that all the volunteers were separated into different groups. In other words, we all divided and conquered. However, I think what worked the best was everyone’s attitude throughout the day. All the volunteers were eager to participate, the employees always had a smile on their face, and the residents were grateful to have the help. Everyone was welcoming and knew we were there to support them in whatever they needed. Overall, volunteering at the Lotus House was an unforgettable experience. I had the chance to help people less fortunate than I am, but, in a way, the Lotus House helped me too.

Citations

Lotus House. “Where Hope Blossoms.” Lotus House Shelter, lotushouse.org/.

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