“You’ve supported me, now it’s my turn to get to support you!”

By, Amanda Knight

Mycah walked up the steps of our apartment one night. When I opened the door she was wet from running through the rain and I quickly invited her in as we both embraced.  In her hands, she held a gift bag and her usual big beautiful smile.  She handed us the gift and told my husband Gavin and I that we needed to open the gifts in front of her so she could see our reaction.

As I opened the gifts, I took out beautiful baby onesies full of colors, with dragons, cute sayings, and adorable prints.  Since Gavin and I announced our pregnancy, these were some of our first baby gifts so the feeling of gratitude was especially powerful.  But the clothes didn’t stop!  More and more outfits, all thoughtfully selected. I noticed a card still in our bag.  I eagerly reached for the card, but she stopped me. “…You have to wait until I leave to read that,” she said.

Instead, we chatted about her upcoming summer job. She was looking forward to returning to work at Kids Across America—an inner city summer camp. This would be her second year to serve.  Gavin and I were happy to congratulate her in person on her amazing grades in college (straight A’s!), her leadership on campus as a Resident Assistant, and her involvement at her church.

After chatting, we realized her ride was still waiting for her in the parking lot.  We thanked her and hugged goodbye.  She ran back through the rain while Gavin and I both sat down to look again at the beautiful clothes that God had blessed us with. It was more than just gifts we were admiring, but more importantly, the beautiful relationship that God had been molding for so many years. The relationship had impacted both Mycah and me!  It was humbling to think back on all the Bible studies, outings, trips, and stories Mycah and I had gone through together.  I gave God praise and then remembered the card still in the bag!  As I opened the card, I read Micah’s note. These words stuck out boldly:  “You’ve supported me…now it’s my turn to get to support you.”

In my training as a social work major, there was always talk of boundaries, which indeed are especially important. Some understand boundaries to mean no contact with people you serve outside of work hours.  As Christians though, I think there are significant times when we need to evaluate if our boundaries are keeping others from using their God-given gifts for the kingdom.

Those of us who are used to giving, or “providing services,” often can feel very awkward receiving.  But in the same way that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” we cannot be selfish and always be the giver.  We must also allow others the opportunities to serve and to give, even if that means we are the receiver.  It is indeed a humbling place to receive.

It reminds me of the feeling Peter must have had when Jesus said He must wash Peter’s feet.  Peter’s initial reaction was, “No Way!  You can’t wash my feet!  Jesus, no!  I serve you! You don’t serve me.”  When we are usually the ones that give, it can feel so wrong receiving–like things are out of order. But we need to remember that Jesus told Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  Then Peter said, “Then not just my feet but my hands and head as well!”

We don’t always know where we will see the Lord in our everyday lives.  If we are open to both giving and to receiving, we may see Jesus through the interactions of people all around us.

Amanda, far left, with a group of TML Alumni.

Connected Stories: Connect to the life of a child through reading

The ability to read is not just essential for getting a good education; it is essential to life! Reading helps students grow their imaginations and build empathy skills as they envision themselves in the stories they read seeing the character’s life experiences through a new lens. At Touching Miami with Love, we provide all kindergarten through eighth-grade students thirty minutes of Literacy Class every day. Additionally, we have five Reading Interventionists between our two sites working individually and in small groups with our most struggling readers. Through our partnerships, we can provide bonus incentives for improved reading. One of our partners in this effort is the Bubba Gump Shrimp Restaurant. They offer us the opportunity to bring five students a month for a free meal at their restaurant. One parent recently commented, “I’m so glad that you can reward my daughter for her improved reading. I’d love to be able to take her to Bubba Gump’s as a reward, but I just can’t afford it. It’s so nice to know TML can take her for me. Thank you!”

We’re excited to add another component to our reading program this summer. In collaboration with our all-day summer programming, we are launching CONNECTED STORIES. In this initial project launch we are inviting TML supporters to take part in one or more ways:
• Come to our Overtown Site and read to children Fridays throughout June and July
• Purchase books from our Amazon book list
• Host a drive or donate to our children’s book drive for gently used books
• Volunteer to assist in sorting and preparing for our book giveaway at both sites.

CONNECTED STORIES is our way to connect to the larger community to the work of Touching Miami with Love and instill in the children the importance of reading. We hope you can join us! Find out more HERE

 

University of Miami Program Comes to TML

University of Miami’s Mailman Center for Child Development
The scenario is a common one. Mom is in the grocery store line anxious to check out after enduring aisle and after aisle of her young child begging for everything from juice boxes to her favorite cereal. The candy is now the latest in a string of battles and Mom has had enough. If this scenario sends waves of memories I bet you wished you had an expert voice in your ear guiding you through this and other tough parenting situations. For parents in Overtown and West Homestead, that expert guiding voice is now a reality. Touching Miami with Love is excited to be partnering with the University of Miami’s Mailman Center for Child Development in an innovative evidence-based treatment for young children with emotional and behavioral disorders. PCIT stands for Parent-Child Interaction Therapy and improves the quality of the parent-child relationship by changing parent-child interaction patterns. This parenting education program includes a blend of parent education and parent coaching.  During live interactions with their children, therapists coach from an observation room with a one-way mirror into the playroom, using a “bug-in-the-ear” system for communicating to the parents as they play with their child. Concluding each session, therapist and caregiver together decide which skill to focus on most during daily 5-minute home practice sessions the following week. Substantial research has demonstrated the effectiveness of PCIT for families with children between the ages of 2 and 12. In addition, PCIT has also been shown to work with children with autism spectrum disorders, chronic illnesses, and developmental concerns. So what does this mean for TML? UM’s PCIT program rents two converted rooms at both TML West Homestead and TML Overtown sites as therapy space in order to provide PCIT services to families in our community. Given the large number of children we serve at our sites and the daily access of parents picking up their children from our programming, we were excited to answer University of Miami’s call for partnership for PCIT. They recognize we are trusted by community members and our programs and services are already regularly accessed by families. For families being served by TML and UM PCIT, the PCIT therapists provide after-school behavioral consultation to TML when children or youth are exhibiting significant behavioural difficulties that may be impacting their ability to learn or perform academically. Additionally impactful for our children, when TML students in our year-round out of school program are exhibiting disruptive and/or aggressive behaviors or are at-risk for child maltreatment, our staff are able to provide a warm hand-off linkage approach to the PCIT therapist on site. The PCIT therapist then discusses services with the family and initiates the treatment engagement process. UM Therapist at our Overtown site coaches a parent as they interact with their child. Therapy sessions like these would usually cost families thousands of dollars, but through this unique partnership and the funding support of The Children’s Trust our communities’ parents have free access to this most advanced intervention for parents. View a video of what an example of PCIT with UM looks like HERE.

UM Therapist at our Overtown site coaches a parent as they interact with their child.

Hungry Teens Find a Place at the Table at TML

We are always encouraged by the generosity, creativity, and passion of our supporters. An article recently came across my news feed about why teenagers were always so hungry. Thinking of our son’s first weekend home from college and his constant grazing, it resonated with me. Reading deeper researcher Susan J. Popkin shared about the immense gap in food insecure teens. She wrote, “It’s easy to line up little kids and give them a backpack filled with food,” says Popkin. “But you can’t really do that with teens. There are stigmas about not wanting to stand out. I think they’re often seen as too hard to get to.”

We recognized the difference dinner could make over five years ago when we began providing meals each night of our youth programming as we re-created the family dinner hour. Not only were evening meals providing nutritious food to hungry youth in Overtown and West Homestead, it also created space for caring staff and volunteers to be a listening ear for young people. As we tried to match our resources with hungry youth, we found a new opportunity to engage the community at large and our project “Guest Chefs” was born. Individuals, church small groups, companies, and even families have joined us in providing one night of meals to our youth. We ask that groups do not just provide the meal, but stick around and chat with our youth too. It’s led to great conversations and open eyes on both sides of the table.

One partner church has taken being a “Guest Chef” to a completely new level. Several times a year, a small group of people from the church gathers to create hundreds of servings of dinner. It’s part of their outreach event, City Serve, and Christ Journey Church has created some huge fans of their cooking! We’re grateful for all those in the TML Family who use their time, talent, and treasure to bless the children and youth we serve.

Open Doors Lead to Open Hearts at Touching Miami with Love

Our doors are always open for you to see the impact of your giving and we invite you to stop in and see us in Overtown or West Homestead. When you do, here is just a glimpse of what you may find.

Our Spiritual Formation Directors (Amanda in Overtown and Martin in West Homestead) will be guiding the children through weekly devotionals that proclaim how they were fearfully and wonderfully made. Some of our children’s program instructors are leading engaging and educationally enriching lessons on literature, fitness, and enrichments in science topics, literature, or history.  Others are teaching the kids a drum cadence or dance lesson or are cooking up a culinary arts lesson.  You can peek in the window and see our Reading Interventionists; five in all at both sites.  They meet with students in one of the tutoring rooms where students get needed help with reading skills.  Our Case Managers will likely be just returned from their daily time in our partner schools where they met with teachers and shared lunch in the cafeteria with our students. Over the course of the afternoon, they will meet one-on-one to encourage the students and ensure that they are on track with their individualized Success Plans we create each year with students.

Our middle and high school students are working on TML’s laptops as they do their homework every afternoon and if you have time to stay for evening programming you’ll find staff setting up for dinner as we serve a full sit down dinner to begin each night of youth programming.  After dinner, our staff will then lead Creative Arts sessions, and on other nights Social Skills classes. Our Spiritual Formation Directors lead devotions for youth, challenging students to connect with the God who loves them.

We stay busy with nearly 450 children, youth, and adults actively engaged in our year-round programming and we couldn’t do it without your support.