For our service project this semester I chose to help with this year’s Deering Seafood Festival. The main idea was to create a presentation for our group of FIU students to inform the public of the pollution that washes up in the area, especially around the chicken key area. I myself participated in a total of 3 cleanups and had the honor of guiding the group during one of the cleanups, as well as aided in the development of both the presentation to be given at the festival and the creation of the sculpture piece. A large reason for my dedication to this project is due to my great respect for the outdoors and nature itself and I have my ideals in the preservation of that nature that I love and respect so dearly.
It was thanks to Nicole Patrick, a fellow FIU student and Miami in Miami classmate, that put together the logistics and grouped us all together towards the cleanups and set up of the Deering Seafood Festival.
The plan was to get together on most weekend mornings at the Deering Estate, where we were allowed to rent out the canoes on site and paddle together towards the island about a mile away. Nicole had usually organized us into four groups each assigned to a specific section of the key. This would allow the teams to more efficiently clean up the island.
The amount of trash during the first few visits was impressive and the items one would find tended to be stranger than usual. Off the top of my head I can say we found a small airplane, large pieces of bamboo, and even a ritualistic doll.
At the end of each cleanup day, the trash was packed up into those yellow sandbags as seen above. The general garbage was disposed of at the estate, while anything that was considered to be usable for our presentation at the Seafood Festival was kept to be put together in a sculpture to help inform and bring awareness to guests at the festival.
As the date of the Deering Seafood Festival loomed, a group of us decided to get together at the university and try to brainstorm what the general build of the sculpture would look like based on what we had brought in.
After some observation at our trash inventory we agreed to build a model turtle based on the garbage collected over our visits to the estate. We used a carboard cut out as the base and layed out the trash to fill in the space. Then we stuffed the turtle with crushed water bottles to give it a more life like appearance.
Surprisingly enough we were able to finish it within our first meeting and planned to further develop a backdrop and presentation to go along for us to share with guests at the Festival. Sadly, as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic the Deering Seafood Festival was postponed and then later on canceled. Regardless of the suspension of the event, I hope the ideals invested into this group remain strong and are shared with others so that importance of preserving nature are held to a high regard amongst the general public.
Hello! I am Fauzan Sheikh. I would describe myself as a person with a solid set of plans and a set direction for life. Currently I am a Junior headed to my Senior year in Florida International University enrolled in the Honors College. My area of studies is in Construction Management and I am enrolled in the Moss School of Construction at Florida International University working on their bachelor’s degree program. My profession is Estimating as I am the Assistant Estimator currently at Zahlene Enterprise Inc., which is a construction company located in Medley, FL. I was born in Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan, raised in Miami, FL, and I currently live in Pembroke Pines, FL. Being enrolled in Miami in Miami with professor Bailly as my instructor, has truly opened my eyes to what Miami really is.
Lotus House is an Organization that was built upon viewing the needs of so many women and children that are displaced primarily in the City of Miami that need immediate assistance and attention for survival. Lotus House provides sanctuary, support, education, tools and resources that give women and children hope and the will for self-betterment. The Sundari Foundation Inc. is a non-denominational and non-profit organization that has been working hard ever since it was created to help the poor, homeless, and disadvantaged women and children. The Sundari Foundation was created by a small but very eager group of volunteers who were committed to help aid the women and children in their community.
This opportunity to serve the community and return the blessings that are given to us to those who may not be as blessed was given to me by the FIU Honors College through the Miami In Miami class. Serving the Lotus House is not part of my major or my predicted career, but it is something that I undoubtedly enjoy very much. Being a Muslim, my faith is Islam. Islam teaches us to return to those in need and it is part of our religion to the extent that if we can help and we do not, we are not considered proper Muslims. This was not the first time that I was volunteering for an organization that helps the poor and needy because I am a normal attendee for Project Downtown Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, which is also an organization that feeds the poor and homeless every weekend. Having prior experience from Project Downtown I very much understood the purpose and the necessary ethics required to fulfill this volunteering opportunity at the Lotus House.
We arrived at the Lotus House on the morning of Wednesday, March 11th, 2020. Upon arrival at the Lotus House I saw just from the first 10 minutes of being inside the facility, how important organizations such as these are for the face of humanity. Before we were even given instructions on what our agenda for the day would look like, I saw women and children all around myself and none of them looked sad or even close to looking depressed. This made me realize how ungrateful I can be even though I have everything that a human can need or even want. We were instructed to take good care of ourselves and make sure we disinfect ourselves regularly because Covid-19 was just at a rise at that time. Blanca and I were put together as a team and we were assigned to clean all glass panels on the doors and windows as well as disinfect and sanitize all door handles and chairs in the lobby since that was the highest traffic area and people are constantly coming in and out. After I was done disinfecting, I was given a mop and bucket. I now held the mop and bucket for the first time in my life and I thought I knew how to use it, but I was not very good at it. Blanca showed me how to drain the water out of the mop itself, so it is not too wet nor too dry. Having to mop floors in specific made me realize how privileged I was to not have to do that throughout my life.
After everyone finished their designated assignment and I completed thoroughly disinfecting and mopping the cafeteria we could get in line to serve ourselves with food once the people deserving of the benefits were done eating. Not only does the Lotus House provide food for the people in need, it also provides quality foods that are high ion nutrition and great for health. I picked a fish sandwich for myself with a side of salad and a side of soup.
After I finished eating, I was asked to once again wipe down the handles of the entrance and exit doors. While I was doing that an elderly lady called me to come up to her. She complimented my hair and told me how she loved how shiny and silky it looked. I carried on a conversation with her and she told me how difficult her life was, and she wouldn’t know when her next meal would be. She was truly grateful of the Lotus House and satisfied with the services provided to her.
Becoming exhausted from cleaning floors, wiping windows, and disinfecting door handles had never felt so satisfying. We had just as a class helped the people who truly need the assistance. This was a class that would bring even those with the highest of egos down to earth and make them realize what they have is a blessing and not just something given or something they deserved from the womb. There are millions of people out there that do not know if they will eat, or even worse, if their children will eat today. There was a warm feeling in my heart after leaving the Lotus House that stayed present for quite a few days.
“Where Hope Blossoms.” Lotus House Shelter, lotushouse.org/.
My name is Vivian Acosta, and I am a psychology student at Florida International University. I volunteered at Lotus House on March 11, 2020 and this is how it went:
Lotus House is a women’s shelter located in the heart of Overtown. This organization doesn’t only house homeless women and children, but it also supports them, hands them the resources they need, and gives them hope. Lotus House offers health care, mental health support, healing programs, education, assistance with benefits, and training to its residents. The organization also provides its residents with clothes and meals. These disadvantaged people are cared for, supported, and encouraged to grow and blossom. They are given the tools needed to slowly heal from their past traumas and become their self-actualized selves.
My Miami in Miami course professor, John Bailly, had the great idea of dedicating one of our class meetings volunteering at Lotus House. Professor Bailly doesn’t only teach us about the history of Miami, the places, and culture– he also highlights the societal issues, the flaws, and the weaknesses the city has: gentrification, poverty, and homelessness to name a few. He also encourages his students to give back to the community, which is why all of the students in the class had the opportunity to volunteer at Lotus House. I was excited because I had never been to a homeless shelter, and I am aware that the homeless have been through difficult times, so I just wanted to help with anything I could to serve them. These people didn’t receive much support in their past, but Lotus House opened their doors and changed that.
Ever since I was a little Vivian (age-wise), I always enjoyed helping. Knowing that my contribution made peoples’ tasks easier or that I made others’ day a bit better was satisfying—which is one of the reasons why I chose to major in psychology. Many people at Lotus House have faced adversity time after time. All of those bad experiences lead to trauma. I couldn’t help them heal their scars, Lotus House does a great job at that, but I did try to make them feel appreciated, and to get a smile out of them– this may not solve their problems, but radiating some positivity surely makes a difference. They all seemed so grateful, and I found it very gratifying
WHERE & WHAT
When we arrived at Lotus House, we were divided into different groups because there were various activities for us to help with. Some people helped to sanitize different rooms in the building, others helped in organizing a garage room, and I had the opportunity to work in the kitchen!
I was surprised by how hard the people in the kitchen worked. The chefs and cooks work from 5 am to 4 pm non-stop! I imagined that they only worked a little bit before breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but I underestimated the time and dedication that goes into the preparation of approximately 200 meals! The chefs begin to prepare breakfast at 5 am, then they serve it. By the time breakfast is over, it’s time to start making lunch, and then they serve it, and so on. Lotus House offers free meals to the people they house, and the general homeless population. Lotus’ Kitchen also prepares meals to take to the homeless outside of the building.
At first, I was assigned simple tasks, such as preparing the to-go boxes– six chicken nuggets, three fish sticks, salad, one biscuit, a cup with salsa, and one strawberry tart per box. Then I was cutting vegetables! Lots of them. The time went by very quickly. The people working in the kitchen were extremely friendly. The atmosphere was such a positive one that I was enjoying my tasks, and don’t tell anyone but… I don’t like to cook! But somehow I enjoyed it that time. Perhaps knowing that my contribution was towards something significant and altruistic, made me want to give the best of me. I enjoy helping, and I had a lot of fun learning how to prepare different meals and interacting with the kind staff.
Soon it was lunchtime! My classmate Daniel and I became lunch ladies! We served fish burgers, corn soup, salad, and cookies for lunch. We also had vegan options. Serving lunch was a unique experience. I made small talk with people and made sure to give them what they wanted, and if we didn’t have it, I offered alternatives. Every single one of the people who we handed a plate to did not forget to say the magic word. And it never got old. Each time it felt more and more rewarding. They were all so grateful. When we finished serving lunch, I saw everyone sitting and chatting, laughing, and having a good time. They all seemed so jovial and relaxed while they were enjoying their meal. A lady was even carrying a speaker blasting Latin music! I wanted to join them. “I should enjoy the little things like they do,” I thought to myself.
According to the End Homelessness website, 3,516 people are homeless on a given night in Miami Dade County (“Florida”). The reasons that led to people’s homelessness vary– lost jobs, substance addiction, eviction, family abuse, etc. Many are homeless due to the gap between housing prices and income. Regardless of what the reason was, the homeless share similar, heartbreaking stories of what they went through. They’ve experienced a fear of the unknown, hunger, solitude, and many more unpleasant feelings. They have all been through difficult times, and the least we can do is offer our grain of salt to make their day a little better. They deserve support, they need healing, and after their scars begin to heal, they will eventually blossom to who they are meant to be in life (“Where Hope Blossoms”).
The residents at Lotus House are warriors. They have been treated unfairly by life and got back up, but that doesn’t stop them from appreciating life. They all seemed so grateful, even though they have plenty of things to complain about. Seeing them enjoy their meals and socialize as if they were in the middle of a festivity made me compare it to how I spend my lunchtime. I reminisced what my last lunch was like– I saw myself holding my phone with one hand and a fork in the other. I don’t even remember what the meal I had tasted like—shame on me. We are so used to being in a rush, under stress, and in our minds that we don’t allow ourselves to enjoy the things that do matter. Having a plate on our tables, having a bed to sleep in, and a roof to live under is taken for granted—the only time when we will realize that those were actually big things is when we no longer have them. This opportunity made me realize that I should get my mind off the half-empty mentality and spend more time savoring the half-full glass– those “little things”…
People who have been through rough times seemed so happy, and sometimes we feel like life is being unfair to us just because things didn’t go as planned– we lose our minds over minor inconveniences. This experience made me realize that I haven’t been as grateful as I should and that many times we lose ourselves seeking happiness when, in reality, we can find it in the simplest things.
“Florida.” National Alliance to End Homelessness, endhomelessness.org/homelessness-in america/homelessness-statistics/state-of-homelessness-report/florida/.
“Where Hope Blossoms.” Lotus House Shelter, lotushouse.org/.
Jena Nassar is a first-generation freshman student at FIU’s Honors College pursuing a B.S. in Nutrition. Upon completion of her bachelor’s degree, she hopes to gain her M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies and work in neonatology. She enjoys traveling, experiencing new cultures, and learning about conservation. Alongside her professional aspirations, she hopes to one day combine her experience and passions to contribute to humanitarian relief efforts abroad.
Friends of the Sea
Friends of the Sea is a nonprofit organization that hosts monthly beach cleanups at Hollywood Beach in Hollywood, FL . The organization aims to bring awareness to the community of the detrimental effects single-use plastic has on the environment.
Hollywood Beach is a place that has grown to be really special to me. My family, friends and I have been visiting the beach together ever since I could remember. We’ve celebrated many occasions and have made countless memories along its beautiful shore and boardwalk. I selected the beach cleanup as a part of my service project because I want to help bring the beach one step closer to the clean and beautiful sandy shore I remember growing up.
As this is a student-led nonprofit organization, many students within my community were spreading the word about the cleanup through social media. I had been seeing and hearing a lot about the work these incredible volunteers do on the beach each month. Their photos showed the amount of waste picked up each time they went out — it was absolutely astonishing. Seeing the difference they could make on Hollywood Beach in a single day, I knew I wanted to get involved.
WHERE & WHAT
The cleanup began at 9:30am on the shore of Hollywood Beach. Upon arrival, we were provided with rubber gloves and reusable bags. I had attended the cleanup with my sister, and we were told to walk across to whichever part of the beach we’d like, trying to stay away from other volunteers to maximize the area covered.
Right off the bat, we began to find litter peeking out from beneath the sand. Bottle caps, empty bottles, straws, destroyed shoe soles, wrappers, glass, old sunglasses, paint cans and countless other oddities were scoured along the shore. We even discovered, to our dismay, a used condom.
It wasn’t long before our bags were already roughly half way full with trash. As we were instructed to meet back at the starting point by 12:30, and we had gotten pretty far, we decided it was a good time to begin heading back. On our walk, my sister and I came upon a large, beautiful seagull laying on its side. As we approached it, we realized that the seagull was lifeless. Once we got past the initial sadness of the majestic bird laying limp on its side, we decided we wanted to bury him beneath the sand. We buried him in a remote area surrounded by plants, a spot we felt surely no one would ever dig into. Although it might seem silly to have a “burial” for a bird, the thought of leaving him to be pecked at, or to rot with people all around him broke our hearts.
We discovered the seagull in the area we had just previously walked through, so we assumed he had just died recently. He did not appear to have any external injuries, so we were perplexed as to how he could’ve died. Seeing the state of the beach, we couldn’t help but wonder, maybe he died from ingesting too much plastic from the ocean? Just the thought of the possibility reiterated to us the reasons why organizations like Friends of the Sea are crucial in creating awareness on how the actions of humans are affecting wildlife.
Upon returning to the group, all the volunteers compiled what they had collected into a large pile. We sorted our collections into recyclable and non-recyclable piles.
The Friends of the Sea beach cleanup was an incredible experience and I cannot wait to take part in the next one! What surprised me the most during the cleanup was that plastic bottle caps were to not be recycled. The City of Hollywood recycling facility does not have the capacity to recycle bottle caps. So when organizing a cleanup it’s important to reach out to the city’s recycling department to determine what they will and will not accept. Nonetheless, as a group, we had collected 67.5 pounds of waste from Hollywood Beach! This is far more than I had expected the group to collect, but it truly shows the impact a group of people can have when working toward the same goal together.
I also volunteered for…
16th Annual Seafood Festival
The Deering Seafood Festival is an annual celebration known for its fresh fish and seafood, celebrity chefs, and kid-friendly activities. The festival includes a section called “Discovery Cove,” which is dedicated to hands-on science. As a part of the FIU Honors College, our Chicken Key Cleanup crew were offered a table at the event to showcase an Eco Art Exhibit. Our goal was to bring awareness to the state of the bay and inform people on how they can help with coastal cleanups.
Our plan was to create a sculpture of a sea turtle entirely out of the waste collected during the chicken key cleanups. On a piece of cardboard, we drew out the shape of the sea turtle and cut it out. We then began laying out the items that had been collected on Chicken Key– various bottle caps, plastic bottles, cans, sandals, and more. We slowly began to pile each piece onto each other, seeing what could be used as the head and what could be used for flippers. The turtle shell design was made from a mosaic of broken glass bottles and colored caps. The flippers were made from weather-beaten slippers.
Admittedly, it was daunting to see the buckets of old bottles and broken glass and think “we’re somehow supposed to turn this into a sea turtle?” But I am incredibly proud of the way it turned out! The 16th annual Seafood Festival was scheduled to take place on March 29th, 2020, but due to the outbreak of Covid-19, was rescheduled to October 18th, 2020. Until then, the turtle will be in safe keeping!
The Lotus House
The Lotus House is an organization committed to ending family and child homelessness. They aim to improve the lives of women, youth, and children by providing education, sanctuary, support, and resources to empower them and help them blossom. On March 11th, through the Miami in Miami class, my classmates and I spent the day at the Lotus House offering our help to them in any way we could.
As a part of the sanitation crew, we helped in disinfecting nearly all the surfaces on the first floor of the center. We began by sanitizing one of the classrooms, wiping down each table, chair, handle, and cubby. We then moved onto the children’s playroom and my classmates and I disinfected each and every surface. Later in the evening, as more and more families and children began to appear for lunch, I realized how vital it is to thoroughly sanitize the room– especially with the looming threat of Covid-19.
During our time at the Lotus House, we had the opportunity to speak with the incredible, empowering women working there. Many of the staff members who shared their stories with us came from similar backgrounds as those at the center. It was an unbelievably humbling experience to get to work alongside these women for the day. Even if we just played a small part, being any part of making the lives of those at the Lotus House better is an opportunity I don’t take for granted.
“Where Hope Blossoms.” Lotus House Shelter, lotushouse.org/.
“My goal is that whoever collects my work, is conscious that these neighborhoods are being erased. Whether it hangs in a doctor’s office or living room, the painting is there to tell a story.”
My name is Carolina Machin and I am currently a junior at Florida International University studying communications and political science on the pre-law track through the Honors College. I work as a legal assistant as well as serve as a senator for the FIU Student Government and a Peer Mentor on campus. I one day hope to become an attorney advocating for the voice of those that are not heard in my community. As a child I grew up in a Cuban-American family and the hardships I faced are what inspired my career aspirations. I enjoy giving back to my community and traveling whenever I can. I have been able to see some beautiful pieces of work not only around the world but also in my own community within Miami. Through Professor Bailly’s course I have completed service and traveled within my own city. In this specific task I was able to interview a creator whose art is inspired by some of his own experiences with the Cuban culture in Miami. I will continue to use the skills I have gained from this course in any area of study I move on to.
Growing up, Eddie Arroyo was surrounded by the Cuban exile community as he lived in Little Havana. He was witness to the change that his neighborhood saw with the arrival of these refuges. Arroyo noted that many moved out and left to other regions of the state because they felt overpowered by the Cuban community. This time in the 1980s was a time with much political tension and much uncertainty regarding what the city would look like moving forward. Coming from Peruvian and Colombian parents, Arroyo was not from Cuban decent and tried very hard not to be confused with someone that was in order to avoid getting picked on. Learning English quickly and even adopting some derogative terms such as “reffy” to playfully name call were just some of his attempts to assimilate. These memories are especially crucial in his childhood and continue to be in adult life. Continuing his education, Arroyo studied at FIU to receive his bachelors degree. During his time at the university he created bonds with professors who would ultimately help him with his career even a decade later. John Bailly was in specific, was especially influential to Arroyo. He provided his students Yale practices at FIU. A very intense professor with a curriculum that challenged Arroyo to take his skills to the next level. In 2001 he received his bachelor’s degree from FIU and began to pursue an art career full time. It was at his first art exhibition at a small gallery, that Arroyo realized the lack of connections he had within the art community. This is when his passion for art journalism began, with writings, criticism, and visiting openings.
Growing up, as discussed in the previous section, Arroyo was conflicted with how he would be perceived as a Spanish speaker. He wanted to make it known that he was not Cuban although he did speak Spanish. Because of this he did what he could to assimilate to American culture in Miami. During this time the Mariel boatlift was going on and this impacted his childhood due to the dynamic in his community, Little Havana. He grew up in this neighborhood although many chose to leave, and to this day his work is heavily influenced by that. Arroyo is conscious of this fact. Although not completely conscious of the things that influence him because he recognizes that there are many strings that pull on us and we don’t even notice, but he tries his best to be aware of the things that have affected his personal identity.
Living in Little Haiti, he interacts with his community and doesn’t simply use his home as an incubation space because of the affordable cost of living. Interacting with his community continues to influence him in making new work and his neighborhood is commonly seen in his most popular pieces. Arroyos personal identity has been influenced by his community from his early childhood memories until today. Living in the same city has helped him view the changes and reactions that the city has in the face of adversity. Through an economic recession and now perhaps another one, Arroyo will continue to document how all of these things impact the area that surrounds him.
Arroyos personal identity is very much a part of what makes his personal identity. Whether it be growing up in little Havana, coming from south American parents, or trying to assimilate into the American culture, all of these cultural aspects shaped who he is and what he creates. Identifying with many artistic movements, influence is a big part of his identity as an artist. One specific historical influence being Edward Hopper. When Arroyo was tasked with creating his exhibit at the Whitney in New York, he began to apply the great question of “What is American art?” in his own work but this time being “What is Miami art?” This technique helped him approach what art is today and more specifically what is American about Miami. Through his work Arroyo hopes that he is able to answer these big questions. This is one of the reasons why he chooses to document gentrification, it not only shows what’s happening in Miami but also what’s happening in America.
“What is Miami art? What does Miami have to offer the world? I used Edward Hoppers technique and approach into really answering what is America today? and what is American about Miami? Through my work I hope people get the answers to that.”
Subject of Artwork
Through Arroyos paintings he depicts gentrification and the toll that it takes on communities, especially in Miami. Many of the his most successful paintings are actually of buildings that no longer exist. Through this he hopes to bring gentrification into the conversations of those viewing his work. Growing up in Little Havana and now living in Little Haiti, these are two of the most affected communities by gentrification. Many people choose to live in these areas because of the affordable housing yet with gentrification the cost of living continues to rise in these areas specifically. Arroyo has been successful in doing this in my opinion. It especially seems evident by the praise he has received and coverage he has gotten on multiple platforms from all around the country. The more successful he becomes as an artist, the more he will help inform people on the realities of gentrification. Although his inspiration for covering this topic is his own community here in Miami, gentrification is a real issue all around America. This ultimately leads back to his answer on what Miami art offers to the rest of the world. In Arroyos work alone, Miami is offering the world perspective on gentrification in a city mostly comprised of minorities.
Formal Elements of Artwork
Arroyo makes use of formal elements of artwork through lighting and color. He uses formal elements in the most reductive way possible. In a way, this is why he believes that his paintings will likely find their home in a doctor’s office or above couches in someone’s living rooms. The paintings are not necessarily meant to challenge people on the surface. When Arroyo started painting things like landscape and portraits weren’t something people wanted to do. His work is high concept but the way that he presents it is not. Once he became aware that one way or another his paintings would end up being displayed in places like doctor’s office, he wanted there to be a meaning behind them. The lighting is about depicting a mood of a subversive thing happening through the work. If he paints a building that doesn’t exist for economic reasons, whoever collects the work, Arroyo want them to be conscious that the exact building in the painting is in the transition of being erased. You may go into an office one day and he hopes that the owner shares that the building no longer exists. Since the beginning of time painting has been there to present a narrative.
Exhibition and Project History
Arroyo has exhibited his work in several galleries and museums but the most recent being the Whitney Museum in New York. Other than the Whitney he also has seen his work in the Girls’ Club Collection, Bridge Red Studios, Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, Florida Atlantic University, Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, and the Little Haiti Cultural Complex. Through these exhibitions as well as his many lectures that he has given around the country, he continues to spread his message on gentrification. Arroyo is painting history in Miami that applies to a problem being faced in many other places. Presenting historical paintings that don’t highlight larger than life leaders, but rather the common man protesting something in his own city. One of my favorite pieces by Arroyo depict citizens protesting in front of a sign that reads “Be Unpredictable, Be Real, Be Interesting, Tell A Good Story!” I think it’s almost magical how well this quote that was already on that building wall fits with the painting. The citizens are being real, interesting and this painting tells an amazing story. This draws me to find out more about what the story behind the painting is and what is happening. If every person has this same reaction when they see one of Arroyos pieces, I think he has achieved his goal as an artist.
Through my interview with Eddie Arroyo, I gained a new perspective on art and its creation. Art doesn’t need to be a very upscale or exclusive thing. It can simply be a painting that you create and see it going in a doctor’s office. If someone learns something when they see it at their doctor’s office, then you have informed one more person on an issue that is important to you. Eddie himself was extremely approachable, even meeting with me virtually on a weekend due to the pandemic currently happening. Not only that, I was the second student he allowed to interview him for this project. Arroyo not only provided me with a perspective on his childhood in Little Havana but also on the Cuban-American community that I had never thought about. As a Cuban-American myself, I always worried what Cubans felt when coming to a new country and the struggles they faced. I never thought about how non-Cubans were being affected by the amount of people that were immigrating into Little Havana specifically. My mother lived in Little Havana when she first came to American and it was around the same time that Arroyo describes. In just one interview I learned so much about art, gentrification, exiles and the life of those around them. In the future, Arroyo hopes to continue working on his advocacy work through his art in order to continue to make a difference in his own community.
**All images not taken by Carolina Machin have been hyperlinked accordingly
**All direct quotes were made by Eddie Arroyo on the date of his interview with Carolina Machin on March 28th, 2020
Alexandra is a current junior in the Honors College at Florida International University. She plans to pursue a degree in Accounting and earn her certifications and licenses to become a CPA. Born and raised in Miami, she enjoys giving back to the community she has called home for so many years.
Volunteering at Lotus House Miami
a blanket of hope by alexandra rodriguez
The institution I volunteered with was Lotus House Miami. They aid women and children in the community, while combating homelessness. As human rights advocates, Lotus House continues to change the lives of many families every day.
Although we went to Lotus House as a class, I still found this place to be incredibly special to me. As a woman, seeing a place like Lotus House helping and empowering females was inspiring and invigorating. It’s also remarkable to help women in a community that we both call home.
Since our Miami in Miami class decided to visit and volunteer at Lotus House, I was able to here about their impact and generosity. Thanks to our professor, John W. Bailly, I had the pleasure of meeting the powerful women that operate Lotus House. Working closely with these women meant that I was able to establish connections with them. After this experiencing, I look forward to visiting and connecting with them in the future.
Where and What?
On the day of visiting Lotus House, we began our day by listening to the stories of the volunteers that make everything possible. One of the women that spoke told her story and how she used to benefit from the help of Lotus House. Now, she is able to give back and help women who were in her position. After that, we split up in to groups and began different tasks. My group began by clearing out the garage/unloading station. We were told that the floor and area had not been cleaned for years; they desperately needed our help to finish this mammoth task. After removing all the garbage and scrubbing down the floors, we were left with a shiny, new area. All the other volunteers that came in later that day had something remarkable to say about the newly cleaned space.
While cleaning the floors, we were told that a few new mattresses had been delivered and had to be placed in different rooms. We quickly took the mattresses up the elevator and replaced those who really needed it. I was told that some people had been asking for new mattresses for months, but they only get a certain amount delivered every couple of months.
After finishing up with the cleaning and unloading mattresses, my classmates and I began cleaning the chairs, desks and computers on every floor. Unfortunately, during the time, COVID-19 was becoming a serious virus. Lotus House wanted to take precautions and make sure all the areas were organized and sanitized, especially the floors with children. We wiped down computers, book shelves, sofas and anything and everything we possibly could.
I like to think of Lotus House as a “blanket of hope.” I thought about this when I came across blankets with notes, stacked up on a shelf. I asked one of the volunteers what these were for and who made them. She explained to me that those blankets were donated for people who were homeless on the streets and have no supplies. The notes attached to each blanket were hand-written by children, urging the homeless to remain positive and hopeful. I had never seen such a personable touch to a donation before. The homeless people in Miami not only need supplies and tools but also words of encouragement and happiness. It’s true that as human we need some physical, material items to survive, but we also desperately require emotional words to heal our souls.
“Everyone needs someone to provide emotional support. If you can’t find one. BE ONE.”
“Where hope blooms” is the motto for The Lotus House is an organization, it is a known shelter for women young or old. People who do not have family support and need that structure to help them push through the most challenging times in their lives, but do not have it are offered a place to rest at the Lotus House. Their mission is to end homelessness and provide women the tools they may need to be successful as well as become independent. The Lotus House offers women a chance to work at a shop called the Thrift Chic Boutique. Here they can work to sell clothes to improve their social and customer skills needed in the workforce. The proceeds go to paying their interns at the Lotus House. It is one of the many programs that develop the skills that women obtain while at the house.
On March 11, 2020, the class took a trip to a women’s shelter called Lotus House, never having visited a women’s shelter before it was an eye-opening experience. The women who ran the day to day operations at the lotus center were graduates of the program and had seen the success that this journey offered. So long as the women took this opportunity and utilized the advice given to them, they would be sure to find that the support given to them would aid them in more ways than one.
Individuals may not be aware of the extent that the organization’s staff, volunteers, and the women themselves had to undergo in order to reach their goal of independence. It is the reason that an essential tool for these organizations is the support that they get from people who have the means to help out and the right mindset. On this class day, we were tasked with different objectives. Some students were moving packages and other objects into a moving truck. Other students, such as myself, were in charge of sanitizing different rooms that often held the crowd of many of the women. The sanitation crew was split up into smaller groups and assigned rooms to clean. The salon was one of the places that I was put in with another classmate named Gabriela Lastra. Randomly, while we were chatting about the day’s tasks, a cat came into the salon, and it did not seem to belong to anyone, nor did anyone see it. It was a comical occurrence and sparked up even more conversation. After the salon, we moved to the bathroom, where we met up with the remainder of the cleaning crew, and it was interesting how the bathrooms were open to both men and women.
Towards the end of the day, it was lunchtime, and we observed more of the women and their children as they came in and waited in line for a nutritional meal. It consisted of corn soup, a fruitful and colorful salad, and finally, either a fish sandwich or a veggie burger. Two students volunteered for the task of serving food to people who waited in line and added that to their experience while at the Lotus House. When one learns new things about the organization and how they can make an impact, it motivates others to take action and get involved in their communities. Furthermore, after seeing first-hand what those actions can do for other people, it can make someone feel just as good as the person receiving help.
“The Lotus House Thrift Chic Boutique.” Lotus House Shelter, lotushouse.org/education/.
Hi there! My name is Carolina Machin and I am currently a junior studying communications and political science on the pre-law track. I currently work at a law firm as well as hold leadership positions on campus in hopes of building myself up as an applicant when applying to law school. Through Professor Bailly’s course I have been able to look at Miami through different eyes as well as develop greater critical thinking skills when observing our society.
Ever since my freshman year of high school, I have devoted myself to what I call my own non-profit. “Tu y Yo Si Podemos” is a program I started in order to teach pre-k students English before entering elementary school. I tutored at a learning center, Lil Pirates Learning Center, where majority of students were hispanic in low socioeconomic status.
I chose this specific volunteering project because growing up I personally struggled with learning the English language. When I first entered primary schooling I was placed in an ESOL program because I never had any sort of English lessons prior. In order to help children not face the challenges that I did when I began kindergarten, I created this program and have proudly helped over 10 students assimilate smoothly into the school system. This cause related closely to my passions as well because as an attorney in the future I hope to practice family law and always continue to give back to the community.
I connected with this opportunity by researching and then meeting with a few different learning centers while I was in high school. I spoke to them about my project and many directors seemed to be interested in what I could offer their students although there were a few rude institutions that were just bumps in the road. I ultimately decided to stay at this particular learning center because the environment was exactly what was necessary for my volunteering. The children were so open to learning and the teachers supported me in anything I needed.
Where & What
Throughout the course of my volunteering, the specific things that I have done have changed. Originally I would visit once a week because I was young and could not drive myself. Then I was able to move up to a few times a week and now while in college I visit 1-2 times a week, a few hours each visit. I start off my lessons with the children 1:1. We work on flash cards, learning basic things like colors and shapes in English as well as counting. After I finish the individual lessons, I like to finish with a short story where I read to all of them together. This subliminally reminds them that they’re all going through the same process as well as helps them put together the things that are learning into understanding what the book is about. This is more or less what is looks like on a weekly basis for me. This semester specifically, I have been able to devote more time every visit due to the way my class schedule is laid out. I hope to continue this project for the years to come and eventually pass it down to someone just as passionate.
Overall, my experience through this project has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Getting to see the improvement that children make so quickly when learning a new language has shown me that with determination anything is possible. Although not everything is always picture perfect, the hard days make every virtue even greater. I hope to continue this project in order to impact the lives of others, even if its only one person.
Gabriela Lastra is currently a senior at the Florida International University Honors College, majoring in Criminal Justice and applying to law school. She spent the summer of 2019 traveling in Europe, first on a study abroad trip in Italy with Professor John W Bailly and then on her own in Spain. Having moved to Miami in middle school, she is unfamiliar with much of the local history of both the city and the state and jumped at the opportunity to learn a different facet of it through Professor Bailly’s unique Miami in Miami course. She hopes to continue traveling and never stop learning about all the amazing things that are hidden in all the corners of the world for those who look further than skin deep.
A Day of Service: Lotus House Shelter
The Lotus House is a shelter for homeless women and mothers with their children. The Lotus House Shelter, located in the heart of the historic district of Overtown Miami, opened its doors in 2006. It is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to help women and mothers with small children who are experiencing poverty and homelessness. The facility has grown from house to village in the 14 years since its doors opened, helping countless of women with counseling programs, job training, and even a thrift shop where the guests of the village can work.
In Professor John Bailly’s Miami in Miami course, as in the Florida International University’s Honors College, we have learned so much about the world around us and about ourselves that it defies description. We have been encouraged to ask questions, to explore, to become the best versions of ourselves, and most important of all lessons, to be a part of our community. This year I have been privileged to participate in several community service projects through the Miami in Miami class. Amidst the global pandemic that has been paralyzing our planet since last November,we cannot forget that we are not the only ones affected. I arrived at the Lotus House through Professor Bailly’s class as he arranged for the class to have the opportunity to volunteer there for the day.
Where & What
On this particular Wednesday, the last in-person class of my bachelor’s career as I graduate this spring, we met at the Lotus House around 10 am. Here we got to meet some of the incredible women who make this place keep working, themselves former residents of the Lotus House. We received a brief explanation of how the facility runs and some of the different programs they offer to help residents get back on their feet and prepared for life after the Lotus House. We were led down the hall from the main reception area into a loading area. From here we were split into two teams; those who would stay at the loading area and the sanitation team. I volunteered for the second group. My small team of 8 was responsible for sanitizing all the rooms on the first floor of the shelter, including the dining room where all guests of the Lotus House gather for meals, the hair and nail salon, the children’s art and play rooms, and more. Though it seems fairly routine, in a place with so many vulnerable residents who come in and out and all inhabit the same limited space sanitation is vital. Everywhere anyone could conceivably lay their hand, no matter how improbable, must be cleaned for each spot we miss is a chance for anyone in the shelter to get sick. After a busy morning, we also got the chance to meet some of the residents during the lunch rush. The facility is filled with dozens of women of different backgrounds who all come together in one place to try to have a better life. After the lunch rush was over, we cleaned up one last time before saying our goodbyes.
To be a global citizen is more than knowing things and seeing the world, it is also learning to give back. Doing this, spending a day during such difficult times doing something good for someone else, even something small, was an incredible experience. In times of adversity is when most we must reach out to those around us, to help those who need it. Schools and businesses closed as our city prepared for lock-down, but during this time is when the work the Lotus House Shelter does is most vital. During times of strife it is easy to get caught up in our own problems. There is always someone in the world who is fighting a battle tougher than ours and that is something we shouldn’t forget. It was a humbling experience, but it was also an empowering one. Those women are incredible, and they are fighting against incredible odds to have a better life, for themselves and for their children. Meeting the women who dedicate their lives to helping people in the position they were once in was also incredibly humbling. These women made it; they are the proof that the system can work if you take advantage of the chances you are given, and once they made it they came back to extend that same chance to others. To them, and to all the people in the world like them who are selfless and strong and kind I say thank you. We could all stand to learn more from people like them.
My name is Blanca Alcaraz and I am a senior at Florida International University. Growing up my community shaped, they helped me become who I am today and if there is one thing that I have loved doing my entire life, it’s been serving my community. I have always loved to give back and if there is one thing that has been consistent in my 21 years of living, it has been my community service. I have volunteered in many places and I have had the opportunity to give back to many communities but what I have gained is even greater. I think it’s the reason I continue to do it, because I learn do much from the experiences and because I once was in the shoes of those who are less fortunate so that inspires me to give back.
For this project I was able to work with Lotus House, an organization whose purpose is to improve the lives of homeless women and children. Located in Miami Fl, this organization offers support, education, sanctuary, tools and resources that empower and encourage the women in the center to better their quality of life in every level. They are advocates and visionaries founded in 2004 with what started out as a group of volunteers and in 2005 they acquired their first building in the heart of Over town
Why, When & How
It is not my first-time volunteering at a center like this, I have also collaborated with organizations like Camillus House and many church organizations as well. These places inspire me, they make me want to be a better person and they bring a sense of awareness. Being exposed to the true situation many communities go though, really makes you want to help. I was able to participate in this project through a class excursion with my honors professor John W. Bailly. Together as a class we visited the Lotus house on March 11th, 2020 and for an entire day we were volunteers, doing anything and everything they needed us to do.
On this day we went into the center and met lovely people, the director of operations and many people of the staff shared their story and gave us a tour of building and explained how the organization works. I was part of the cleaning crew that day and along with a group of classmates we began to disinfect the entire first floor of the main building at the Lotus House. I wiped windows and doors from top to bottom in the cafeteria, front lobby, children’s playroom, salon and main office.
We were also able to mop the floors with a Zamboni like mop and as we cleaned, we got to talk to some of the women that were part of this organization. As I did my job, I was able to get a glimpse of the vast amount of people that the organization serves. I also got to be a part of the staff on duty during lunch time and I thought it was a really nice experience. I was able to watch these women in fellowship with one another and how they enjoyed every meal forgetting about the troubles that were right outside.
This was an experience that overall showed me how much we can help our community if we can all come together to help those in need. This organization has proven that a little goes a long way and that giving back is not a seed that falls on dry land, because as of right now most of the staff members were once women who found themselves homeless and the Lotus Village lent them a hand. This is an organization we need to learn from, a place that has succeeded time and time again, so we need to raise awareness together, as a community, as a whole.